Many retirees I work with find an unexpected challenge post-paycheck: how to structure their new calendar. When you retire (or, as a friend of mine likes to say it, when you “shift into a work optional lifestyle”), your daily routine changes. Depending on what kind of schedule you had before you retired, your new schedule may feel completely different! It isn’t a matter of being more or less “busy.” It’s what you do with your hours and days.
Psychologists tell us there are a few common elements that we can incorporate into our lives to bring a sense of security, fulfillment, and even joy. Susan Bradley, founder of the Financial Transitionist Institute, boiled these down to “the 3 C’s.” She calls them “a fresh way of thinking about structuring your life in retirement to enhance wellbeing.” Here they are:
Community: The social element of retirement.
Susan says, “The science on being connected is irrefutable: it is important, even if you are an introvert, to make people a part of your life.”
Finding your community can be challenging in retirement. The co-workers, clients, students, or whoever else you used to work with might no longer be a part of your daily life, and that can feel jarring. Successful retirees seek out other communities. For some, it’s a church or religious group. For others, it’s an educational group, like taking a class to learn a new skill together. For others, it may be spending more time with family.
It doesn’t have to be a large community; this can be simply “your peeps.” The people you like to hang around with. After all, it has been said that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. So, choose your peeps wisely. They influence who you are, and who you become.
Control: Being the boss of your income, your health, and your schedule.
There are certainly quite a few things that you aren’t in control of, and sometimes retirement exacerbates that feeling. So, it’s important to recognize where you do have control, and celebrate that space of autonomy. This may look like declaring Saturday “grandkid day” and arranging your schedule accordingly. Or it may look like deciding to take control of your health by taking a hike each morning. It may look like setting yourself a holiday budget, and making a game out of how many things you can do for free or inexpensively this holiday season. There are all kinds of possibilities for you to feel a sense of control in your life.
Interestingly, this sense of control can also create a sense of freedom, which allows you to feel empowered to make changes and adjustments when necessary. And this, in turn, can give you a feeling of more control.
Contribution: Having a purpose; being a part of something bigger than yourself.
Did you know that volunteering your time or expertise raises your “happiness setpoint”? This is the “average” level of happiness we tend to experience. Raising it means we tend to feel happier, even on a tough day.
I observe that those who are most satisfied in retirement are those who have found ways to “give back.” You can volunteer to help tutor struggling students in a subject you adore. You can offer to lend a hand at a food pantry or animal shelter, if that appeals to you. You can be a mentor to a younger member of your family. All of these have the same goal: to pass along your experience and make the world a better place. And that’s incredibly fulfilling.
Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” In retirement, you get a greater opportunity to do just that.
But being aware and intentional about how you schedule your days and weeks has so many potential positive effects on your life that it can be a worthwhile exercise at any life stage. After all, at any age, we could all use a boost of Vitamin “C”!
Curious about how to define YOUR 3 C’s and get them into your schedule? I’d love to help! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org