An Active Retirement is Not Just Keeping Busy

The quality of the activities you choose can determine your retirement happiness.


An active retirement is not just keeping busy, but engaging in quality activities that make your life worthwhile. If we attempt to fill our newly found free time with quick distractions rather than quality activities, we may eventually become bored. Here are some of the key ingredients of quality retirement activities to help guide your planning:

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Find something you are passionate about. If I am going to do something for the next 30 years, I better enjoy what I am doing. I don’t want to do something merely for the sake of doing it. Since retirement is my time to do what I want to do, it is the perfect time to focus on what I am passionate about. Passions differ and can change over time, but you know when you are passionate about something. You want to tell the world all about it, you can’t wait to get back to it, and while you are doing it you could not be happier. Whatever that “it” is for each of us, we need to find it and pursue it.

Find something that challenges you. If an activity is too easy, it will get done too quickly. Rising to meet a challenge engages our capabilities and focuses our attention. Successfully dealing with a challenge gives us a feeling of accomplishment and worth. Retirement can be a time of discovery if we engage in activities that push us a bit.

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Find something that helps others. There is a satisfaction that we can realize by stepping outside of our comfort zone to help someone in need. Heartfelt gratitude expressed for even little things will warm the coldest heart. Some of us are courageous trail blazers who travel to foreign countries to help those in need. Other people just take the time to talk with a homeless person waiting on the curb and listen attentively to their story, empathizing with their situation, and showing that someone cares. Whether it is a little or a lot that you can give, try it. You might like it.

Find something that is long term. If we are fortunate, retirement will be an extended proposition lasting many years. It is advantageous if retirement activities are not quickly completed and require time and diligence. Life-long learning and progression are ingredients that keep us sharp and engaged. Learning a new language is a never ending journey and taking up a musical instrument will give you something to practice indefinitely if you are patient and persistent. I think that something becomes long term when it is more about the journey than arriving at the destination.

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I am learning that avoiding boredom in retirement cannot be accomplished by engaging in an unlimited quantity of activities. Rather, a satisfying retirement will be determined by the quality of the activities I choose.

Dave Bernard is not yet retired but has begun his due diligence to plan for a satisfying retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.