Habits are an integral part of our life. They shape the person we are. They determine where our life will take us. The Farnam Street Blog says,
‘Nothing will change your future trajectory like your habits.’
We cannot live without habits. They provide a sense of structure and familiarity. They are the anchor of predictability we need to function at our best. Imagine how exhausting life would be if we didn’t have them. Our minds would be in constant turmoil, wondering what we should do next.
Habits can either help to propel us forward or stand in the way of progress. Some compulsive habits, more commonly known as addictive behaviours, are destructive, damaging our health, destroying our confidence, diminishing our creativity, and denying our worth.
Habits make otherwise difficult things easy. Let’s say you want to read more books. You could create a habit and always carry a book with you. Or your lack of self-discipline hinders your ability to save money. You could create a habit of putting $50 in a super saver account every week.
Some habits are observable, revealing known patterns of behaviour.
Immanuel Kant was one of the most influential philosophers of the 18th century, and his work in metaphysics and ethics has had a lasting impact to this day.
Kant was also a man of stable routine. In A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros we read,
‘At five o’clock it was time for his walk. Rain or shine, it had to be taken. Kant went alone, for he wanted to breathe through his nose all the way, with his mouth closed, which he believed to be excellent for the body. The company of friends would have obliged him to open his mouth to speak.’
Kant always took the same route, so consistently that his itinerary through the park later came to be called ‘The Philosopher’s Walk’.
In wartime, even benign habits can put you in danger. In her novel, The Last Hours in Paris, author Ruth Druart explores the challenges faced by French citizens living with the enemy. Sebastian Kleinhaus was a translator in the German army. Like many servicemen, he experienced the upheaval of leaving his homeland. Wartime altered everything, even how he thought about his habits. We read,
‘Sebastian knew it wasn’t good to have regular habits in wartime. It meant people knew where you were and who you were mixing with.’
Habits are routines that are practiced regularly and are an essential requisite for retirement. They alleviate the pressure of having to make decisions over inconsequential matters. Habits free our minds to focus on our most important priorities. By creating positive habits, we can enrich our lives.
(1) Seek inspiration:
One of the best ways you can stay motivated in life is to be inspired. People find inspiration in nature, art, music, spiritual experiences, or ideas.
Inspiration is a feeling or impulse, especially of an exalted kind. It brings with it a surge of enthusiasm and optimism. We feel alive.
Retirement can leave us feeling empty. Our life may lack purpose. It may seem devoid of meaning. But retiring from work is not retiring from life.
Retirement provides us with an opportunity to redefine our life and to refocus our energy. It is about finding purpose and a renewed passion for living. The daily pursuit of inspiration is an important part of healthy ageing.
Reading is one activity many people find inspirational, and retirement is a wonderful opportunity to grow our reading habit. Good books open our heart to a sense of wonder, uncovering hidden desires, unleashing hidden potential, unmasking hidden purpose.
Some would argue inspiration favours the young. Author C.S. Lewis sees it differently. He says,
‘You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream.’
(2) Learn something new:
Retirement provides an opportunity to pursue new hobbies and learn new things. The advantages of learning in retirement can offer a person many benefits, such as improving mental health and enhancing creativity.
Every Monday morning, I attend a men’s group at our local church called ‘Blokes’ Barn.’ The format is simple. One of the men (or a guest speaker) gives a talk on some aspect of his life or a subject of interest.
I recently gave a talk on Maori Politics. There were some in the group who thought the subject might shed light on the political changes indigenous Australians are advocating. Despite having lived in New Zealand for 11 years during the 80s and 90s my knowledge of the subject was limited. The preparation was time consuming, but I welcomed the challenge and enjoyed the research element and preparing a PowerPoint presentation that would engage my listeners.
The experience confirmed to me that expanding your understanding of a topic or learning something new can enhance your wellbeing and help with personal growth.
(3) Keep a journal:
Writing a daily journal is one way to organise and structure your life.
The journal I envisaged for 2022 would capture what I was reading, either the Bible or works of fiction and nonfiction. I was curious to know whether there was a discernible connection between the two sources. Despite many people considering the Bible outdated or irrelevant, I thought this probable, as my interest extends to certain universal themes like – love, loss, hope, courage, pain, suffering, grief, loneliness, death, survival, redemption, beauty, nature, and life.
I purchased a weekly planner from the local newsagent. My journal would be part diary and part notebook. If I came across something of interest in my reading, I would write it down. He is a sample of what that looks like.
R.W. – Raynor Winn ‘The Salt Path’
R.S. – Rebecca Solnit ‘Orwell’s Roses’
An example of a discernable connection:
March 21 ‘Do not destroy the trees’ Deuteronomy 20:19
‘Trees are an invitation to think about time and to travel in it
the way they do, by standing still and reaching out and down.’
(4) Feed the birds:
Birdwatching is an inexpensive interest that keeps your mind active and healthy. Watching birds is like watching children in the playground; you never know what they are going to do.
Our current home has many different garden beds, some of which are raised. We have tried to create an environment that supports the local bird life.
- The pittosporum hedges provide shelter and nesting options for the smaller birds.
- The birdbath, situated on our front lawn and visible from our kitchen window, is visited regularly by a variety of birds looking to satisfy their thirst or have a splash.
- Food scraps, bread and excess porridge are thrown out on the grass for the birds to inspect. Surprisingly, porridge is enjoyed by many birds including the Australian Raven, Spotted Dove, Noisy Miner, and even the striking Blue Faced Honeyeater.
- Our Callistemon (bottlebrush) Tree is currently in flower. The Rainbow Lorikeets like to hang on the swaying branches, feeding on the nectar. (Watch the video)
(5) Show appreciation:
Retired men are often grumpy. The causes of irritability are varied and include – the economy, inept politicians, the news cycle, TV programming, societal norms, noisy neighbours, ill health, reduced movement, loss of memory… Growing old has its challenges. It is easy to fall into a habit of criticising and complaining. It does little to lighten your mood.
Researchers have discovered that gratitude is the surest pathway to health and happiness. Developing an attitude of gratitude makes us the sort of person other people want to be around.
Author and lecturer Brene Brown says,
‘Gratitude is an emotion that reflects our deep appreciation for what we value, what brings meaning to our lives, and what makes us feel connected to ourselves and others.’
Gratitude is a conscious, positive emotion that involves being thankful and appreciative. When we are grateful, it alters our outlook, helping us identify the good things in life, bringing with it a sense of peace and joy.
Author Amy Collette says,
‘Gratitude is the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.’
(6) Be creative:
Retirement affords us time to express our innate desire to create whether that’s writing, pottery, art and so on. Responding to our creative impulses is energising and makes us happy. It allows us to live more purposefully.
Nurture your creativity. I think it sad when people view their creative pursuits as an indulgence and a drain on their finances.
I enjoy writing. In his excellent book First You Write a Sentence, Joe Moran says,
‘To be able to write a sentence that someone else might read voluntarily and with pleasure is the work of a lifetime.’
One of the habits I want to develop in 2023 is to have a diary/notebook in which I write one good, acceptable, interesting sentence every day.
(7) Be active:
I walk. I garden. But I am not as agile or fast as I used to be. In a running race, I am good over the first ten metres, but then the grandchildren accelerate, leaving me a distant last.
The medical profession reminds us that one of the absolute best habits to have in life is to exercise every single day without fail. Often it is a case of finding the right form of exercise for you – walking, dancing, swimming, jogging, bicycle riding, tennis… Staying active helps prevent illness.
Unfortunately, many retirees become increasingly sedentary, sitting in their deck chair, staring into space. It is time to get active.
You know what they say, ‘Move it or Lose it.’