In our Radio Olderhood Podcast yesterday I talked about the fact that I had seen children standing on the side of the road holding up signs that said “Honk if You Are Happy”, and this got me thinking about the state of being happy.
For some of us happiness is like a rare and fleeting gift. It blows in one door of the house, does a couple laps around the living room and slips out under the garden gate before sundown, not to return for weeks. For a very lucky few, happiness literally resides in the backyard, or the toolshed or the bedroom and they can visit with it any time they wish. For these people the question becomes, not “are you happy?” but rather; “how happy are you?”
And then there is my little dog Sunny, who lives permanently in the land of “what shall we do next?” He is happy running in circles, eating, chewing or sleeping; but his happiest moment of all is when he is watching me to see what “we” are going to do next. Show him his leash, or the car door and he positively wriggles with excitement in anticipation of what is to come.
The only time Sunny ever appears unhappy is when he cannot work out what to do next. And just maybe there is a lesson there – just maybe happiness resides in “the doing of things”.
If this is the case, then perhaps our whole attitude about planning for, or being in, retirement is flawed.
Think about it – we literally spend years at work plotting our financial escape so that we can do nothing. In doing so, we miss the simple joy of having something to do that provides for our needs and then we miss the camaraderie and sense of usefulness that we took for granted when we did work.
Would we not be wiser to appreciate our time at work as a paid opportunity to figure out what we want to do when we no longer have to be there? Would it not be smarter to plan how we will fill our days in great detail? Would we not be happier if we retired from our places of employment and woke up the next morning ready to begin a life doing exactly what we had always wanted to do?
But what if you are reading this and you are already retired? Well, there is no doubt that you have the time to figure out what you want to do. I don’t want any excuses regarding fixed incomes, bad backs or babysitting grandchildren – where there is a will, there is a way.
Let me say that again – where there is a will, there is a way – to be happier all you have to do is figure out the “what”.