Retirees who explore new interests and have an active social life are more likely to find joy — and even greatness — in the newfound freedom of retirement.

History is filled with fascinating individuals who accomplished greatness after their careers ended. Researchers, psychologists and life coaches universally agree that retirement is not a place to wind down a life of experiences, but rather, it’s the starting place of increased greatness.

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, “The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.”

Retirement, often portrayed as a time of endless relaxation and leisure, can bring an unexpected challenge: boredom. As retirees transition from the structured routine of their professional lives to the newfound freedom of retirement, many struggle to find a sense of purpose and fulfillment. This lack of stimulation can lead to a range of negative consequences, affecting mental, emotional, physical, social and even financial well-being.

One of the primary reasons retirees experience boredom is the sudden loss of purpose and identity. After years of deriving meaning and value from their careers, retirees may find themselves questioning their role in society. The absence of daily goals and accomplishments can leave a void that is difficult to fill, leading to feelings of apathy and a lack of motivation.

Finding inspiration in Benjamin Franklin

To combat boredom, retirees could take a page from a remarkable figure who aged like fine wine — Benjamin Franklin, who was known for his contributions as a statesman, inventor and author. After a long and illustrious career in public service, Franklin retired from active political life at the age of 42. However, retirement did not dampen his spirit or diminish his desire to contribute to society. Instead, he utilized his newfound free time to delve into scientific pursuits and engage in philanthropic endeavors.

During his retirement, Franklin devoted himself to scientific exploration and experimentation. He conducted various studies on electricity, inventing the lightning rod and making groundbreaking discoveries in the field. His experiments and inventions revolutionized the understanding and practical applications of electricity, earning him international recognition and acclaim.

But Franklin’s accomplishments during retirement extended beyond the realm of science. As a well-known advocate for education and intellectual development, he played a pivotal role in establishing the first public library in the United States, the Library Company of Philadelphia. This institution continues to thrive to this day, fostering knowledge and learning for countless individuals.

Furthermore, Franklin utilized his retirement years to contribute to the political landscape and shape the future of his nation. He played a crucial role in the drafting and signing of the United States Constitution, leaving an indelible mark on the foundation of American democracy.

Franklin’s achievements during his retirement years illustrate the incredible impact an individual can have even after stepping away from their primary career. His insatiable curiosity, thirst for knowledge and dedication to the betterment of society propelled him to accomplish greatness during his retirement.

Another inspiring retiree

Another inspiring example is Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie book series.

Wilder began writing her iconic series of children’s books in her 60s, well into her retirement years. The series, based on her own experiences growing up in a pioneer family in the American Midwest, captured the hearts of readers around the world and continues to be cherished by generations. It also led to the popular 1970s TV show by the same name.

During her retirement, Wilder drew upon her vivid memories of life on the prairie to create a captivating narrative that transported readers to a bygone era. Her stories not only entertained but also provided valuable insights into the challenges and joys of pioneer life, fostering a sense of appreciation for the resilience and resourcefulness of early settlers.

Wilder’s decision to embark on a writing career during her retirement was a testament to her lifelong passion for storytelling. Her books became a literary phenomenon, inspiring readers of all ages with tales of adventure, family bonds and the triumph of the human spirit.

In addition to her writing, Wilder played an active role in preserving and promoting American history. She became involved in various historical and literary organizations, advocating for the preservation of pioneer heritage and the recognition of the importance of literature in shaping our understanding of the past.

Wilder’s literary achievements during her retirement years not only brought her personal fulfillment but also left a lasting impact on children’s literature and the understanding of American history. Her stories continue to captivate new generations of readers, instilling a sense of wonder and appreciation for the pioneering spirit.

Wilder’s story serves as a reminder that retirement can be a time of creative exploration and the pursuit of long-held passions. It shows that age is not a barrier to artistic expression or the ability to touch the hearts and minds of others.

Her example encourages us all to embrace our creative endeavors, whether it be writing, painting or any other form of artistic expression, during our retirement years. It reminds us that there is no expiration date on our dreams and that we can achieve greatness at any stage of life.

What you can do

The average retiree might not be able to achieve the greatness of Franklin and Wilder, but there are some things they can do to ensure they don’t become bored in retirement. Retirees can plan for this new chapter of life and spark a renewed sense of purpose by setting personal goals, exploring new hobbies and interests and finding ways to give back to the community through volunteering or mentoring.

Engaging in lifelong learning opportunities, such as taking classes or mastering a new skill, can keep the mind sharp and stimulated. Without regular mental exercise, cognitive abilities may decline, increasing the risk of memory loss and even early stages of dementia.

Maintaining social connections is also crucial for retirees. Joining clubs, attending events and regularly meeting with friends and family can help retirees feel connected and supported. Engaging in group fitness activities or joining a sports team can combine the benefits of social interaction and physical well-being.

It is important for retirees to be mindful of their emotional state and to recognize the signs of boredom before they lead to negative consequences. The acronym BLSTHD (Bored, Lonely, Stressed, Tired, Hungry and Depressed) can serve as a helpful reminder to check in with oneself and address any potential triggers.

With the right mindset and strategies, retirement can truly be the golden years filled with happiness, well-being and endless possibilities for greatness.