A 68-Year-Old Man Shares His “Non-Retired” Secrets to Living a Happy, Regret-Free Life
At the end of 2015, I felt stuck. After my near death experience, I had to quit my job and retire early to prioritize my health.
My health improved, but for the rest of my life it didn’t. I felt bored and without a purpose in retirement, and my relationships suffered. I began to wonder, “Is that all there is to it?”
In search of answers, I signed up for a 30-day silent retreat at St Bono’s, a former Jesuit school in North Wales that is now the center of a spiritual retreat.
At first, spending 30 days in silence was harder than I thought. But I was finally able to meditate on how to live a happy, regret-free life.
Here are four lessons I took home with me:
Before quitting, I was a control freak. The idea of ”giving up” any part of my life was unthinkable.
St. Bueno’s in Denbighshire, Wales, has been a retreat center since the 1980’s.
Photography: George Jerjian
But during an exercise in Saint Bueno, I was asked to think about what I really control. I realized that one unexpected event could send my life into chaos. I thought about the amount of time I spent worrying about outcomes I couldn’t predict or control.
Now, when I want something good to happen, I imagine it has already happened and feel grateful for it. This mindset helps me move forward. By focusing on taking the next steps, I no longer focus on the outcome.
Research has shown that gratitude prevents toxic feelings like envy and regret, reduces stress, and improves happiness.
During the retreat, I was in a difficult period of my life. At some point, I was asked to think about all the houses I’ve lived in, and what good and bad things happened there.
It became clear to me that no opportunity in my life could have come without the previous crisis, so I must appreciate every moment.
Try this exercise: Write down all the great times in your life, or the moments you’re most proud of. Then, next to it, list the difficult moment that gave you the skills or created the opportunity to achieve those goals.
Money always comes first in my career. I never stopped asking questions like: “What should I do based on my interests and feelings?”
But during the retreat, I had nothing to think about but My feelings.
Three weeks later, I broke down in tears thinking about all the people I had hurt. But on the last day, tears came from a place of joy and love. I realized that my real fear was to hurt others, and that my passion was to help people.
I spent a lot of time alone in Saint Bueno reflecting on my life and the beauty of nature around me.
Photography: George Jerjian
In the years since withdrawing, I have chosen not to retire and serve retirees in my coaching business.
Ask yourself, “What am I most afraid of? What activity am I losing track of in time?” Try answering these questions five times, each time giving a different answer. The answers may surprise you.
For 60 years, I’ve built who I am on what my parents, teachers, employers, partners, and friends wanted.
I never considered my identity outside of those external pressures. I spent decades lost and ashamed of who I really was.
Think if there is something in yourself that you are hiding from the world. Try to hug this thing. For me, it was kindness and understanding that changed my life.
George Jerjian is an author “Dare to discover your purpose: retire, reshoot, rewire.” An Emmy Award-winning producer and author of ten books, he holds a business degree from the University of Bradford in England and a master’s degree in journalism from New York University. Follow him on Twitter @ George Jerjian.
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(tags for translation) Career Advice