If you follow my blog you know that a couple of my recent posts feature the practice that I call right-sizing. What I hope you’ve picked up on is that right-sizing is actually a way of life—at any age—not just those entering retirement. For anyone just joining us, I define right-sizing as creating a life that uniquely fits and satisfies you and your family with the greatest amount of joy and contentment and the least amount of stress or worry. While the lifestyle offers tremendous benefits to those of us in midlife or contemplating retirement, every person who is interested in a more simple, meaningful, and happy life will benefit. The first post “Step One” focused on the consciousness behind a right-sized life, while “Step Two” got down to the nitty-gritty of finances. In this, the final step to right-sizing your life, I want to throw out a few random thoughts that can help to increase your understanding and awareness. Finally, I’m hoping that each and every one of you who reads this post will offer at least one small suggestion you already practice, or think will benefit you, so that we can all learn and grow together as we right-size our lives.
So here are a several thoughts that I think round out a right-sized life:
1) Find role models for the kind of life you want to live. If you watch a lot of TV chances are the role models you find there are living extravagant, overly dramatic and unrealistic lifestyles. What we can’t see is the day-to-day pressures many of those “personalities” go through struggling to pay their bills or learning to live with other people in a loving and meaningful way. On close examination the “lifestyles of the rich and famous” come with their own set of complications and headaches.
I suggest instead that you look around at the people you know (or maybe have only recognized from a distance) who are living a happy, content and stress-less lifestyle—and then follow their lead. It’s also likely that if you ask those people how they have accomplished their lifestyle, they will be more than happy to share with you what has worked for them. Gradually, as you surround yourself with others who are living the lifestyle you long for, not only will it become easier, your contentment will grow.
2) Research locations to find the right-sized place to live. There are a number of people in retirement who are convinced that they can only afford to retire in another country to happily live the lifestyle they crave. While I have nothing against living anywhere you’ve always wanted to live—I know you don’t have to go international to live a simple, rewarding and relatively inexpensive lifestyle.
By my own example, I live in Southern California in a resort type location and we’ve worked to drastically reduce our living expenses. Truthfully we planned it that way. You can read some of our steps in previous posts if interested—but what’s most important to note is that we could not live anywhere in the world for less money while enjoying our high quality lifestyle, than where we live right now. Sure we had to scale down the size and scope of our home as well as forgo certain amenities—but by carefully “right-sizing” we made sure that our home offered dozens of alternate low or no cost benefits that made the trade-off easy in our minds. Every single one of us has that option but it does require intention.
3) When you love your work (or life) you’ll automatically reduce the need to spend money. I think if you pay attention you will find that people who dislike what they do tend to spend more money trying to find happiness to offset the struggle/stress they have at work (life). On the flip side, when you love your work (life) you will spend more time doing that—Why not? It makes you feel purposeful and happy!—and you’ll be much less likely to spend money self-medicating by shopping and buying needless stuff to overcome your unhappiness.
No matter what your age, start looking for work (or life practices) that satisfy your soul on at least a few levels. The more your efforts provide you with satisfaction, and bring meaning and purpose to your existence, the more you will be able to recognize the simple and everyday things that offer you the greatest happiness and peace.
4) The only person who fixes your income is you. Far too many people complain about their income—especially many who are retired and call it “fixed.” But the question remains, who fixed your income? Unless you were forced to quit or retire due to health reasons, there are still dozens of ways to continue to contribute to the world in meaningful ways. Besides, if you make an effort to find work that you enjoy and feel it has meaning and purpose—you might be surprised at the unique opportunities that show up and how much extra income can flow into your life.
5) Make gratitude a habit that you practice every day. While I realize that this suggestion could be added to just about every article I post on this site—it HAS to be included when writing about right-sizing. Not only does gratitude make you feel better about your self and your circumstances the minute you start doing it—it also puts the focus on all the incredible good filling your life right now. The big problem is that we often tend to overlook and become conditioned to everything that is good and working well in our lives—and let the problems occupy our main attention. Instead, when you make gratitude your habit, your mind zeros in on the good and overlooks the less desirable. That my friends, leads to a much happier right-sized life.
6) Storyboard the right-sized life you want to experience. Ever heard of storyboards? (Sometimes called a vision-board) A storyboard is a visual way to subliminally remind ourselves of what we would like to experience in our life. How do you do it? Get a big piece of construction paper, fill it with photos and words that describe your right-sized life in 5 years from now, and then hang it on a wall in your house where you will walk past it every single day. We hang ours right next to the garage door entrance to our house.
Thom and I have made several storyboards throughout our lives. The latest one was made right before we decided to right-size our home and start practicing a more simple and sustainable lifestyle five years ago. Of course that didn’t mean we wanted to sacrifice—my storyboard was loaded with fun events and travel opportunities. But to fulfill our right-sized ideas we added things like solar for our home, a hybrid car, a raised bed garden, and certain technology tools that made our lives more enjoyable. It also included pictures of us involved in healthy activities, having friends over for dinner, going dancing and taking walks in nature. Five years later just about everything on that board is now a part of our lives. This summer we are working on a new board to help us visualize the next five years. Maybe it’s time for you to make one of your own.
7) Find Your Tribe. Nearly every study done on successful aging points out that those with strong social ties live long and happier lives. My father was a great example. For most of his life he was deeply involved with the local Elks Club. While such membership organizations aren’t as popular these days—it was very important for my father. I am convinced that his heavy social connection to this club contributed to his long, happy and relatively healthy life. Whether your tribe is family or friend related it doesn’t matter—what matters is that you feel connected and close to a circle of friends. Find your tribe to live a right-sized life.
8) Love the one you’re with. Let’s be honest here—if you aren’t deeply in love with your significant other and prefer being with him/her more than anyone else, then retirement could be challenging for you. I have a difficult time understanding women who constantly complain that when their husband retired that it drove them crazy. What? If you consider your partner nothing more than a bothersome roommate—that’s another discussion altogether. But if you really, really want to enjoy a right-sized life, make sure the one you live with is someone you prefer to be with above all others. (And yes, that means your kids or your own parents too.) Sure its great having a wonderful relationship with your children, your family and girl-friends/guy-friends—but in this day and age a live-in relationship should be a partnership of choice—not an obligation or convenience. If not, find someone else to connect deeply with and make them your right-sized life partner.
I’m sure there is more I could say about right-sizing, but for those who are interested it’s time to “be the change you want to see in the world.” Of course, no matter how many ideas I offer, if you aren’t ready or don’t see the value, none of these will make much difference. However, if you suspect that the life of routine and always wanting more continues to make you unhappy, or you’re stressed all the time, give these ideas some thought. And if you are considering retirement in the coming years, please remember your happiness in retirement will have less to do with how much money you have saved, than your deep awareness of what it is you value and the steps you take to enjoy it. In the end, I’m fairly convinced that you’ll find out, just like Thom and I did, that a SMART and right-sized life is just the practice you need to stay happily alive for the remainder of your life.
*Please comment below with at least one thing in your life you consider “right-sized” to offer each of us more ways to experience the benefits.