I recently came across an article in an industry publication that offered some of the best or recommended Ted talks for readers.
One from the list that resonated with me- as someone who studies retirement from a non-financial perspective as well as having live through the past year like everyone else- was one titled The Happy Secret to Better Work.
The presenter, Shawn Achor, provides a humorous look at his research on the topic of happiness leading to success.
Mr. Achor also has written a few books on the topic. One is The Happiness Advantage . Although I have not read the book yet, the talk is based on part of what he writes about in the book. As the Amazon description notes- “It isn’t only about how to become happier at work. It is helpful when trying to excel in a world of increasing workloads, stress, and negativity It’s about how to reap the benefits of a happier and more positive mind-set to achieve the extraordinary in our work and in our lives.”
The Amazon description of the book goes on to say:
“Our most commonly held formula for success is broken. Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard, we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work.”
While the focus of the talk is about happiness as it relates to success- success in terms of progressing through our work life, what he talks about can also be applied to preparing for retirement.
In working with clients making this transition, they often assume that having accumulated the right level of money and reaching a certain age, they should be able to retire happily.
The ‘retire’ part happens, but the ‘happily’ part doesn’t go along with the ‘retire’ part. People end up bored, restless, directionless, and sometimes depressed- something is missing. They are unhappy because they don’t know why they shouldn’t be happy- they have the freedom to do what they want, when they want, and with who they want.
Therein lies the problem.
If we assume that getting to retirement will lead to happiness, we are chasing something that we think will lead to happiness. Success in retirement should include happiness. As the Ted talk points out, finding happiness first will lead to success in many areas of our lives-I believe this also is true for finding success in retirement. People often have this backwards.
If we instead identify work that is meaningful and brings us happiness, the term ‘retirement’ or ‘retire’ or ‘retired’ will have an entirely different meaning.
Don’t get caught in the trap of believing that retirement will lead to happiness. Instead, find happiness by identifying those things- work, leisure, relationships, experiences- that will create a meaningful retirement. That will lead to happiness in retirement.