Why Success In Retirement Depends On Adopting New Habits

Ready for some new habits?  If so, you’ll have plenty of opportunity in retirement to develop them.   Retirement means stepping out of your comfort zone on so many fronts. So many things will change. Success in retirement depends on adopting new habits as you learn to cope with all the changes that come your way.

If you could instantly change only one habit what’s the first thing that you’d choose? My experience with retirement coaching tells me you’ll pick something health related. So many people want to change their eating habits or their exercise habits when they retire. It’s common to look at retirement as a clean slate and the perfect time to improve overall wellness.

Let’s say you’d like to exercise more when you retire. Assuming  your retirement offers greater time flexibility, you’ll be able to work in more frequent exercise. Maybe you plan to walk more, go the gym, or take up a new sport. All sound like great plans and no doubt you’ll have time to make it happen. But what will it take to start?

Instead of just thinking you’ll begin this new exercise program as soon as you retire, take it a step farther. Be smart about it and figure out how to create this new habit and begin.  Waiting until you just “feel like” it guarantees failure.

What makes you think being retired creates enough motivation? If you’re like most people, you’ll think of plenty of excuses to put off exercising.   Once you retire, your time feels unlimited and it becomes so easy to say you’ll start tomorrow. Here’s the thing, this thought process applies to plenty of other activities that new retirees intend to start.

Your interests might be journaling, writing a book, finding a great place to volunteer or trying out a new career. You may want to simplify your clutter, visit more with friends or even plan a trip. Regardless of what you want to do, you’ll be more successful if you can do a little something everyday to make this happen. Create a habit to do these things on a regular basis or even to set up plans to get yourself started.

Once you retire, it’s easy to just put things off because you keep thinking there’s always tomorrow. Put off too many things and all of sudden your retirement begins to feel like it’s lacking something. What happened to all those great things you were planning for when you were still working? If you don’t get some habits or routines established for yourself, not a lot is going to get off the ground.

To make something a habit, figure out what has worked for you in the past when you’ve tried to create one. Is finding a way to make this habit more convenient going to work better for you? Are you better at doing things late in the day or early in the morning?

Maybe you are someone who always looks for a reason NOT to do something. Try to squash excuses early on. What about rewards? If you want to start something new, will it work for you to have a specific treat associated with doing it? Join a group to support your new habit and you’ll instantly have others holding you accountable.   

Know that retirement offers a lot of flexibility and appreciate this gift of time to do more of what you like. Don’t let the seemingly endless amount of time create indecision on where to start.

The choices available can feel overwhelming and prevent you from doing the things you’ve been looking forward to. Recognize that success in retirement depends on adopting new habits. Get a few routines established for yourself and don’t fall into the trap of putting things off until “tomorrow.”


The Retirement Style Blog routinely discusses a variety of retirement transition issues. For a full framework of retirement resources, please visit our Retirement Success Series. To speak with a certified retirement coach about your personal needs, please contact us.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Paula

    I would like to share a great read:

    Habits Die Hard-10 steps to building successful habits by Mac Anderson & John J. Murphy. It was life changing for me. Hope you’ll check it out.

  • Deborah Williams

    Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Kathe Kline

    Great info! I think I might discuss it on the Rock Your Retirement show.

  • Deborah Williams

    Thank you! It would be wonderful if you decide to share it.

  • Patsy

    I retired after 28 years teaching. I am completely lost. There are things I would like to do but I feel like I’m stuck and can’t move forward. Any advice would be welcomed…

  • Deborah Williams

    Hi Patsy! Congrats to you on retiring! After 28 years of teaching, you deserve a break from planning and decision making. Sometimes we try way too hard to get everything in order and can feel frustrated (or stuck) when nothing happens. My advice to you is to just stop pushing and trying to sort things out. Give yourself a little time to just live in the moment and recognize that you deserve a little break between your demanding work life and whatever is coming next. After a month, choose just 1 thing that you’d like to do and either try it or investigate what it would be like for you. Don’t feel like you need to map out your entire retired life asap. Let it evolve and allow yourself to enjoy the journey. Start with a small step towards one thing you are interested in and see where that takes you.

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