68-year-old who 'unretired' shares his secrets to living a happy, regret-free life

68-year-old who ‘unretired’ shares his secrets to living a happy, regret-free life

At the end of 2015, I felt stuck. After a near-death experience, I had to quit my job and retire early to prioritize my health.

My health improved, but the rest of my life did not. I felt bored and purposeless in retirement, and my relationships suffered. I started to wonder, “Is this all there is?”

In search of answers, I signed up for a 30-day silent retreat in St. Beuno’s, a former Jesuit seminary in North Wales that’s now a spiritual retreat center.

At first, spending 30 days in silence was harder than I thought. But I was eventually able to meditate on how to live a happy, regret-free life.

Here are four lessons I took home with me:

1. Trying to control outcomes will make you miserable.

Before the retreat, I was a control freak. The idea of “letting go” in any part of my life was out of the question.

Nestled in Denbighshire, Wales, St. Bueno’s has been a retreat center since 1980.

Photo: George Jerjian

But during an exercise at St Bueno’s, I was asked to think about what I truly had control over. I realized that just one unanticipated event could send my life into chaos. I reflected on how much time I spent worrying about outcomes that I couldn’t predict or control.

Now, when I want something good to happen, I imagine that it has already happened and feel grateful for it. This mindset helps me move forward. By focusing on taking the next steps, I am no longer focusing on the outcome.

2. If you’re not thankful, you’re not thinking straight.

3. To find purpose, follow your passion.

Money always came first in my career. I never stopped to ask questions like, “What work should I do based on my interests and feelings?”

During the retreat, though, I had nothing to think about but my feelings.

Three weeks in, I broke down weeping thinking about all the people I had hurt. But on the last day, the tears came from a place of joy and love. I realized that my true fear was hurting others, and that my passion was helping people.

I had a lot of time alone at St. Bueno’s to reflect on my life and the beauty of the nature around me.

Photo: George Jerjian

In the years after the retreat, I chose to unretire and serve retirees with my coaching business.

Ask yourself: “What am I most afraid of? What activity do I lose all sense of time in?” Try answering these questions five times, and each time provide a different response. The answers might surprise you.

4. We are not always who we think we are.

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