I never stopped doing anything [when I retired],
I stopped getting paid for it.
— Bill Chavanne
Be Happy While You Are Alive Because You Are a
Long Time Dead!
(COPYRIGHT © All Rights Reserved — Excerpted from the book
Really Important Things You Already Know, But Keep Forgetting by Ernie
Think about this quietly and carefully whether you are retired or not: Years from now, as
you review your life, what will you regret not having done? Clearly, it won’t be to have worked longer and harder
at your career. Just as telling, it won’t be that you didn’t watch more TV in retirement.
No doubt you don’t want to leave this world with songs unsung that you would like to have sung.
Thus, shouldn’t you start singing those songs today? Most people go to their graves regretting things they haven’t
done. The easiest way to become one of them is by joining society’s chorus instead of singing your own songs.
For this reason you may want to think of the top-10 reasons to retire
early. Your retirement
sentiments may turn out to be much different thereafter.
Some things are important and some aren’t. It’s essential that you know how to tell the
difference. If your life is a good case study in perpetual stress and turmoil, there’s no point in declaring: “I
may not be here for a good time, but I’m here for a long time!” What’s the point of being here for a long time if
you aren’t going to enjoy yourself?
Henry David Thoreau warned us: “Oh, God, to reach the point of death and realize you have never
lived at all.” Instead of wasting your time regretting what you didn’t do in your life, use the time to pursue some
of them now. Most people who reach sixty-five or beyond look back on their lives in later years with regret. They
wish they had set their priorities differently. They wish they hadn’t been as concerned about the little things and
had spent more time doing the things they had wanted to do.
In a recent survey a number of individuals, all over sixty years old, were asked what advice
they would give themselves if they had life to live over. It may do you good to pay attention to the following six
of their suggestions:
(1) Take the time to find what you really want to do with your life.
(2) Take more risks.
(3) Lighten up and don’t take life so seriously.
(4) It’s best to suffer from the Peter-Pan syndrome — relive your younger days. What
were your dreams when you were young?
(5) Be more patient.
(6) Live the moment more.
The good news is that it is never too late in your life — or too early, for that matter — to
change direction, to be what you might have been. Of course, those who are resistant to change at thirty will be
even more resistant to change at ninety-three. Don’t be one of them. If you keep doing what you have been doing,
you will keep getting what you have always been getting — well into infinity and beyond.
Some people die at forty-five, but they have experienced a heck of a lot more happiness in those
forty-five years than others who have lived to be ninety or one hundred. The reason is that they mastered the
moment while they were alive. In this regard, a Scottish proverb advises, “Be happy while you are alive because you
are a long time dead.”
For independent-minded individuals, freedom contributes to a lot of their happiness. But freedom
isn’t the ability to do what others are doing. On the contrary, freedom is the ability to do what the majority in
society are afraid of doing on their own. Only when you are able to be creative and significantly different — even
wildly eccentric — will you be free.
You don’t want to end up on your deathbed pleading, “Lord, give me one more shot and I’ll give
it all I got.” As the saying goes, “Get a life.” Not just an ordinary life. Get a great life. Get a focused,
satisfying, balanced life instead of one filled with nothing but watching TV and other passive activities.
Spare lots of time for family, friends, and leisure. Most important — don’t forget to spare time
for yourself. Nothing that is human should be foreign to you. Make the small pleasures in life your biggest
priorities. Wise people realize that the simple pleasures — nature, health, music, friendship, etc. — are the most
Have some perpetual small enjoyment in which you indulge daily. Never miss it, regardless of how
busy you are. This will do wonders for your mental well-being. Indeed, it will do more for your happiness than
acquiring the biggest and best of possessions.
Call forth the best you can muster for living life to the fullest regardless of how limited your
funds. The Greeks say, “When you are poor, it is important to have a good time.” So take the opportunity to drink
quality wine or champagne with your friends at least once a week. This is especially important when you have
something to celebrate — and even much more important when you don’t!
Freedom and happiness are easier to attain than you think. Take your lesson from children. Don’t
fret about the future. Don’t regret the past. Live only in the present. The happiness you have at any moment is the
only happiness you can ever experience. Reminisce about your great yesterdays, hope for many interesting tomorrows,
but, above all, ensure that you live today.
Consider each day you haven’t laughed, played, and celebrated your life to be wasted. “Keep a
green tree in your heart and perhaps the songbird will come,” states a Chinese proverb. You were given three
special gifts when you were born: the gifts of life, love, and laughter. Learn to share these gifts with the rest
of the world — and the rest of the world will play happily with you.
In the same vein, don’t lose touch with the craziness within yourself. Often one gets a
reputation for mental stability simply because one doesn’t have enough courage to make a fool of oneself. Is it
more important to live with zest or to have people think nice things about you? The point is, if you want to be
truly alive, forget about what people think.
Always question what your neighbors say or do or think. It is unwise to use the conduct of the
majority in society as a viable precedent for your own life. Do so and you will be setting yourself up for much
disappointment and disillusionment. What the majority pursue are seldom the things that bring happiness,
satisfaction, and freedom to any individual’s life.
Resist accepting society’s way of living as the right one. Your primary duty is to be yourself.
Invent a lifestyle that expresses who you are. In the end, there is no right way of living. There is only your
Determine your direction clearly before you choose the speed at which you want to travel. In
Western society, most people today are in a hurry to get to places not worth going. Speed in life doesn’t count as
much as direction. Indeed, where there is no direction, speed doesn’t count at all.
To a large degree freedom entails nonattachment to what others can’t do without. Zen masters
tell us that people become imprisoned by what they are most attached to: Cars. Houses. Money. Egos. Identities. Let
go of your attachment to these things and you will be set free.
Give up the idea of finding the seven secrets to living happily ever after. The secrets for
living a full, rewarding, fulfilled, and enlightened life are not really secrets. These principles have been passed
down through the ages but the majority of humans tend to discount them and follow principles that don’t work. “In
the end these things matter most,” revealed Buddha. “How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did
you learn to let go?”
When a friend offers to spend time with you either today or tomorrow, always choose today. No
individual gets out of this world alive, so the ideal time to live, love, and laugh with your friends is always
today. Spending as much time as possible with your friends is solid proof of your intention to live your life now —
while you have it — and be dead later — when you are!
It’s essential that you identify the resources most important for your present-day happiness.
When money is lost, a little is lost. When time is lost, much more is lost. When health is lost, practically
everything is gone. And when creative spirit is lost, there is nothing left.
Get the picture? Life is a game in many ways. It is important to play the game here and now, in
the present. Find a version of the game worth playing — a version that you truly enjoy. Ensure that you laugh and
have fun, even when the score is not in your favor. You have to play the game of life with gusto, and if you get
really good at it, you will miraculously transform your world — forever! After all, it’s all in how you play the
game, isn’t it?
Note: This article first appeared in the book 101 Really
Important Things You Already Know, But Keep Forgetting and was also
featured in the book 65 Things
to Do When You Retire by Sellers Publishing.
About the Author
Ernie J. Zelinski is an international
best-selling author, professional speaker, and prosperity life coach specializing in creating inspirational
life-changing books, websites, e-books, and seminars. Ernie is the author of the international bestsellers
The Joy of
Not Working (over 315,000 copies sold) and How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free
(over 425,000 copies sold), two life-changing books that have helped hundreds of thousands of individuals around
the world achieve a more wholesome life.
Ernie's core message — that ordinary people can attain extraordinary results and make a big
difference in this world — is at the heart of his work. Ernie deeply believes in the powers of creativity and
well-intentioned action as the most important elements for attaining personal prosperity and financial freedom.
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There is life after retirement, and it is BETTER.
— Catherine Pulsifer
If we wait until retirement to enjoy ourselves,
there may not be enough of ourselves to enjoy it.
— Mike Hammar
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