"What is your ideal lifestyle?"
In my role as a retirement expert, I often ask this question, and it always evokes a range of reactions. Some of the most common are confusion, bewilderment, surprise, and tension. We're not conditioned to state our most heartfelt desires aloud and so, I've found, many people don't even dare to think about them.
In general terms, though, most of us want the same things: We want peace of mind. We want to feel valuable and be important to our families, friends, and community. And we want to have the resources we need to live comfortably. But while our needs may be universal, the way we frame them for ourselves is not.
For example, to you, "living comfortably" may mean having a six-bedroom home in a gated community in Boca Raton and a pied a terre in Paris; to your neighbor, maybe it's a goat farm in the Shenandoah Valley; and to the couple down the block, perhaps it's a rose-covered cottage on Nantucket. It's important to figure out what your definition is, because you can't work toward a goal until you've identified it.
Below are five tips I use to help my clients realize their dream lives. I hope you'll use them, too, to create a life that will make the time ahead of you the happiest you've ever known.
5 Tips for Creating Your Ideal Lifestyle
1. Aim high. People who plan only for comfort feel underwhelmed when they retire. Aim for both comfort and joy. Your life will feel unbalanced if either side is neglected, so creating ways to be joyful should be a priority. The criteria for a joyful life is highly individual, but identifying and incorporating the elements that bring you joy will enrich your life on every level.
2. Know that insights come in new environments. To be efficient, our brains categorize tasks. Unfortunately, they can be so efficient that they border on lazy. You need your brain to work for you, because creating a lifestyle requires evaluation and self-reflection. Give the process a boost by breaking out of your routine: Go on retreats and vacations. Visit museums and attend lectures. Go to expos. These activities "wake up" your brain and can help you gain new insights into yourself, your life today, and the ideal life you hope to create.
3. Take control of the process. You are in control of designing the life you want. Don't make the mistake of ceding your choices entirely to routine or circumstance. It may be tempting to make excuses based on constraints and obligations, but ask yourself: "Do I want my excuses? Or my ideal life?" Think of change as exciting, not just scary, and work around your areas of concern creatively.
4. Apply everyday creativity to designing your lifestyle. People who successfully design a life they enjoy don't have lives that are free of problems, but they are better at finding solutions to problems. You can boost your own creativity by asking yourself open-ended questions. For example, say you want to travel but haven’t saved enough to do it. Ask yourself a creative question, such as, "How can I create a lifestyle where I can travel and get paid for it?" Then brainstorm options, alone or with supportive friends or family members, and pursue the best ideas.
5. Expect passion and a greater sense of purpose when you identify and begin working to address your individual needs. The renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow found that the happiest people were those who best understood and fulfilled their own needs. Self-reflection is a necessary and highly enjoyable step toward inviting more happiness into your life, and the energy you invest in the process has a way of coming back to you. That is to say, the more fully engaged you are, the more passionate you're likely to become and the more easily you'll be able to identify what matters most to you.
Having spent 14 years on Wall Street, Julia Valentine knows how to advise her clients about their financial needs. But she believes a successful retirement requires more than financial savvy. She created The Joy Compass website and book to help people create lives of vitality and joy, and to use earlier years as the foundation for even better ones.
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