This will be the first in posts about the seven qualities you want to nurture and curate to lead to happiness in retirement. Those qualities are: CURIOSITY, RESILIENCE, PERSPECTIVE, GRATITUDE, TIME MANAGEMENT, ADAPTABILITY, and A 10 YEAR OLD’S JOY, otherwise known as, WONDER. Not only do these traits keep an attitude within bounds of happiness, but they also are essential to mastering a time of life when stressful situations and losses enter into the picture, particularly unexpected stresses. One thing about many people, if they are fortunate they have an adequate warning regarding an impending retirement, with some still looking forward to the day when they are not obliged to return to their current work scene again. Others may suffer an unexpected and accelerated end of their work life, due to health issues or economic ones, and there is little time to prepare psychologically for the big life change ahead. But having intentionally fostered these 7 qualities well before retirement, and maybe especially in one’s 50s and 60s, will provide a huge boost to one’s spirit and psyche when it’s time to retire.
I am concentrating on curiosity first because it’s an innate, natural tendency in every human, from the time they were able to lift their head off the bassinet mattress. If you think about an infant or a small child, their curiosity is how they learn about the big and small worlds around them–naturally exploring, first with their eyes, then with their hands and mouth, and ultimately crawling and propelling forward on two wobbly legs to discover, “WHAT’S OVER THERE?” When a young child discovers language, the verbal curiosity begins. “WHAT’S THAT…? WHY DOES…? HOW COME….?” and natural learning connections are formed. There has been a concern that as one ages, those neural pathways and connections cannot be created, or as some say, “my brain’s hard drive is full!” but actually, the more one attempts something new, be it a physical activity or mental pursuit, the more neural pathways will be created and thrive.
So, what inhibits our curiosity as we grow, and how can we change that to embrace the questions and pursuits that are interesting? A couple of phenomena occur throughout the progression of life that inhibits our curiosity. One is that most people at age 5 or 6 got into an educational system where the information/content was delivered (not retrieved), we absorbed or learned it, and that information in large part was rarely or one time applied, as we moved through the formal education years. If there was an opportunity to get an in-depth look at a topic or subject of personal interest and spark, that plunge into further exploration would compete with the time allocated to all the other requirements of the student. The same was mostly true in traditional careers, where one began in apprentice or learner’s mode, and initial curiosity was pursued and satisfied, but inside the job it wasn’t relevant to progress to be curious. This inhibition or tamping down of curiosity is something that can and should be reversed, especially as one ages, but most particularly in retirement.
One of the key advantages of post-career life is the availability, to an extent, of more time. There is time to pursue new hobbies or passions, time to travel, write, create and be social. But it is also a stage where the absence of a daily routine or structure of career requirements, can cause the empty canvas of time to loom large, threatening the quality of this new life. Knowing that possibility, it is time to exercise and grow/develop the inner curiosity we all had as younger people throughout the different phases of life. One key feature of a curious mind is the need to ask questions and seek answers on anything that sparks more than a passing interest. A good place to start is to be curious about yourself, your life, your opinions, hopes and dreams. What shaped you? Which direction would you like to go if you have the time and resources?
How can one or two events, encounters or issues everyday lead to your greater curiosity? It might be research on an article you read or learning how to get the beetles off of your garden plants, or even a new word you’ve read and never seen before! Leonardo da Vinci, one of the great geniuses of his time, cultivated and actively curated his curiosity about all things, every day of his life. And it was with this active curiosity, that several other desired qualities for happiness- in life and retirement- result: Perspective and Wonder.
The old journalists’ adage of asking the 5 W’s- who, what, where, when, why, as well as how, is a good place to begin to pursue the curious life. Right now, the newest technologies and businesses are labeled as “disrupters” because they’ve asked these questions, applying them to the traditional business models–asking, what works or doesn’t work? How can we do this better, differently? Why hasn’t a different approach been done before? How come a new thought process hasn’t been embraced yet? WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF……? Curiosity lends itself naturally to exploration and learning, and certainly to a sense of happiness and satisfaction in this new phase of life. What are you curious to discover, learn, explore, know? Start today–it will change your world!