Nancy left a great comment on Retire Happy – Part III, which I thought really should have a post to reply to the questions.
Q: I enjoyed your ideas. Kinda made me think: what if we all did way more of that? How would it affect our spending? -ie., if we regularly really absorbed, drank in the moment. Would we feel less compulsion to spend?
A: Speaking from experience, working on being happy has been wonderful to my quality of life overall. I’ve also noticed that my spending naturally dropped off a bit as I stopped buying things that really didn’t generate much enjoyment for me and started spending more time with my family.
Perhaps the most useful thing that has come out of my work on being more happy is I don’t obsess about savings and retirement planning as much. Retirement is no longer this thing in which my life will instantly be better, but rather now just the next phase in my life after my current one. You have to remember retirement is not a magic pill that will solve all your current problems in life. All retirement allows is the freedom to choose what you do with you time without needing to worry about the monetary compensation. Concentrate on being happy in your current life and you will make your retirement the next phase of your life rather than an escape from your current life.
Also I’ve come to realize that retirement itself is just a title and can mean many different things to different people. For some people retirement is just a scale back of their current work load, others a change in career and for some a complete absence of work. There is no one answer.
PS: The site over haul is basically done. I’ve moved some things around and added a new section to the left sidebar near the bottom called ‘Tools.’ Here I’ll be placing some links to useful retirement information and calculators. If you have an idea of something I should add please let me know with a comment or email. Thanks everyone for your patience during this over haul to the site.
In Part I we covered making a dream list, while in Part II we looked at how your spending your leisure time. Today we are going to take a lesson from young kids. Yes that’s right, kids. Why? Watch a young kid at a park or anywhere for that matter and you will notice they seem happy most of the time. So how do they do it? Simple the just live in the now.
They don’t worry about what’s happening tomorrow, next week or even the next 10 minutes. They simply just enjoy what they are doing right now. So how can do the same thing? Concentrate on your what your doing during your leisure time and shut out those thoughts about everything else such as: “What should I make for dinner tonight? Did I pay that bill? I should look at the tire on the car. Did I forward that email to my boss about that project I’m working on?”
I know this sounds a bit strange, but it really does work. Think back about the last time you were really enjoying something. Chances are you were thinking about much of anything else at the time. You might also notice that when you are really enjoying an activity how quickly the time passes, which is also a good indicator that you were concentrating.
So how do you improve your concentration? That is a entire book on itself, so I’m not going to get into too many details here. I’ll describe a method that works well for me. When I’m doing something that I want to concentrate and I get a stray thought. I merely note that it happened and then gently push the thought to the side. Keep doing that for every stray thought and after a while you will notice the number of stray thoughts will keep dropping when you doing things. This does take a while, but it is worth it in the end.
PS: You might have noticed the site is a little bit messed up at the moment. I’m trying some modifications to my template which has had a few unexpected changes which I’m trying to resolve this week. Don’t worry I have a back up of the original template so is I can’t get this one working right I will switch back by next week. – CD
Alright, you’ve started your dream list from Part I. Good job. Now it’s time to look at your present life and see how you are spending your non-work time. Think back about the last twenty four hours. What did you do when you were not at your job?
In this exercise you are trying to isolate your leisure time, so make broad categories for everything else and try to track everything to the nearest half an hour. With you leisure time, stop and replay that time in your mind. Did you enjoy it? How much: a little, some what or for not being sex that was really good? Next try to define if it was passive or active. Passive leisure time takes no input from you (for example, TV or a movie). Active requires you to do something like reading, writing, talking to someone, or building something. Basically most activities outside of TV or a movie are active.
In the end you will have a list like this:
5:00pm to 5:30 Go for a walk with family (really good, active)
5:30 to 5:45 Prepare dinner
5:45 to 6:00 Eat dinner
6:00 to 6:45 Watch news (some what good, passive)
6:45 to 7:30 Read Blogs (some what good, active)
7:30 to 8:00 Put kid into bed
8:00 to 9:00 Play computer game (a little, active)
Now isolate out how much time you spent on passive activities. How much did you enjoy it? If it only ranked ‘a little’, this is good area to look at. Otherwise, some passive leisure time is good for you, but just make sure your actually enjoying what your watching. If you only like it ‘a little’, you might want to consider cutting back on the passive and dropping in more time on some you did enjoy a lot. Then you do the same analysis of your active leisure time and start to drop out those items you didn’t enjoy that much. Depending how much time you free up you might be able to start working on your dream list.
The above exercise is just to show you where your time goes. We have time management training for our work, but why don’t we use that to improve our happiness with our leisure time?