Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 606 Habits

This is retirement talk. I’m Del Lowery.

My father-in-law always drank a beer before dinner. Said it was a habit; couldn’t stop; didn’t want to stop. He got me started. Not drinking beer. I got started on that one long ago all on my own. He got me started having one before the evening meal. It tasted so good at the end of a work day, or, any other kind of day. Years went by. It became a habit. I enjoyed it. The years passed and the pounds accumulated. I stopped the habit – and the pounds – they stopped accumulating. That is a good thing for a guy my age. Along with retirement comes slowing of our metabolic rate. Our body isn’t running as fast as it use to. We tend towards gaining weight. I don’t like that. So…I tried to develop a new habit. Gone was the evening beer. That isn’t a lot to ask – not really. And the pounds started to fall away. I soon hit my desired weight marker. Then the beer habit returned. However this time I made up for it with changes in my food intake. That beer habit returned but the weight did not.  

I think it was Aristotle or someone of that stature who said “We don’t have good habits because we are good but we are good because we have good habits.” That line sticks in my mind from somewhere in the past. I sometimes get it confused and have to think about it but it is worth memorizing. “We don’t have good habits because we are good, but we are good because we have good habits.”

Retiring is a time of change. We are forced to change our routines or habits and the concept of who we are. We can become someone different than who we have been. Which direction will we go? That is the question.

I always think of exercising when I think of habits. Those of us that exercise regularly know that once the habit is established it is a hard one to violate. We have to have it; on a regular basis; a daily basis.

Of course, we all know that exercise is good for our health.  Articles in the paper report endlessly studies that support the practice. Advertisers appeal to this basic, “truth” constantly. We hear people saying, “I need to”, or, “I know I should, but…” always referring to exercise

It doesn’t seem hard, or difficult, to those that have developed the habit. For over thirty years, in our house when the clock strikes eleven in the morning everything is just dropped. It is time to bike, row, lift weights, go for a walk….something where we are moving. By the time people retire the importance of health takes on new importance. We know that without health nothing much matters.

For many years we were in a rowing challenge with our kids and families; one in Alaska and the other in California. It is sponsored by Concepts 2; a rowing machine company. We all bought these things years ago and every January the company starts the year off with a rowing challenge. It is the “Big Dippers”(Alaskans) verses the “Outsiders” (people who don’t live in Alaska). The race would heat up. We rowed and plugged our numbers into the computer every day. We rowed and rowed day after day and  at the end of the month the habit was established well enough to carry us through the remainder of winter. As years ticked by the habit came to an end when grandchildren left for college and messed up the balance in team members. We had to establish new habits and we did.

My high school psychology teacher told us that we should develop a habit of reading at least one book each month. Now that doesn’t sound like a lot, but – months can slip by without any books being read. Other things just slide in and steal our time. We get swept away. A few years ago I vowed to overcome this little habit of letting reading slide. I knew my psych teacher was right. I should have the reading habit, but… So one day I thought I will try to read at least 10 pages every morning – before breakfast. Not during the day. Not in the afternoon. Not in the evening. Things have a way of getting put off. Then the day is done; and no reading has happened. The morning habit has been a good one. My psych teacher was right, without books, life would be a mistake.

We could all give examples of habits that we carry with us: coffee consumption, when we retire at night or the hour we rise in the morning, the time we spend watching TV or the time we spend with no sense of what we are doing. Wasting time would be another name for it.

Raymond Chandler wrote some of the best American detective, or mystery stories. A friend of mine recently told me that Raymond Chandler didn’t start writing until he was 45. He decided to sit down four hours each day and write or do nothing; absolutely nothing; no music, no sounds, no company, no phone, etc. He wanted to become a writer. He did established the habit and it lead to him, in fact, becoming a writer; a great writer. That’s an amazing story in and of itself.Now we have that plus his excellent  books.

Retirement is a great time to establish new habits.

This is retirement talk.




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