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None of us are perfect. That’s life and we all know it. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve our quality of life. That applies to us physically, mentally, and spiritually. Doing so can make you healthier, stronger, smarter, and happier.
I have this innate tendency to not become complacent. I want to continually work on bettering my quality of life. I want to become the best person I can be.
I know that I’ll never be able to attain perfection but I also know that the more I continue to improve myself, the happier I tend to be.
One of the pluses of early retirement is that I have more time to focus specifically on working on this and taking action.
Today I want to tell you what I’ve found to be the three biggest characteristics that have had the most profound effect on improving my quality of life.
3 Attainable Characteristics That Drastically Improved My Quality of Life
#1 Persevere learning and betterment
I believe that once you stop learning, you start to rot. Your brain needs constant training. Once you stop putting it to work, you’ll start to go downhill.
I’m not necessarily advocating additional formal education – I’m talking about focused learning in general.
That could be as simple as regularly reading non-fiction books to learn a subject you don’t know a lot about. Perhaps it could be taking online classes for topics that interest you. Maybe it means learning a new musical instrument. Or it could be working on new projects in life that you’re hoping to become more versed in.
Sometimes I’m dismayed by how many folks go to work, do their job, come home, watch movies or TV, play on their phones, and go to bed. They wake up and repeat the cycle.
This isn’t healthy! You need to expand your brain by putting it to work.
Funny enough, my tendency to not become complacent has worked to my advantage for this one… I just have more time to focus on it now that I’m not working 40+ hours a week.
I had a hard time adjusting after I left my full-time career. Your first thought might be that I wasn’t ready for all this extra free time… but it was exactly the opposite. I had so many things I wanted to start learning and doing once I retired and there just aren’t enough hours in the week.
A lot of that “lack of time” has to do with the biggest reason for my early retirement – being able to spend more time with my daughter as she grows up. So working on being a better Dad is always front and foremost and that takes up a lot of time (which is a good thing!). It took me a long time to realize that I needed to find balance in my life, which I’ve gotten better at over the past couple of years.
Outside of that though, I continue to focus on learning new things and improving myself mentally and physically. Here are a few of the different avenues I’ve focused on over the past few years to improve my quality of life:
⯁ Learning Spanish – I’ve conquered app after app on this, took Spanish Level 1 and 2 courses from the Great Courses, and worked on speaking Spanish with many of the locals in Panama. I can’t imagine I’ll ever be fluent, but I’m going to keep going even though we’re now back in the U.S.
⯁ Working out – I’ve exercised pretty consistently 5 days a week now for several years. This was something I never did before growing up so this is new for me. I let the Fitbod app design my workouts and just do whatever it tells me to for the most part. Working out is not my favorite thing to do, but I look better and feel better so it’s worth it.
⯁ Reading non-fiction books – I rotate my reading from fiction to money/retirement non-fiction to non-fiction books that aren’t money-related. While fiction books are good to expand your imagination, I’ve learned so much from the non-fiction books I’ve read over the years.
⯁ Learning to play instruments – I started to learn to play the harmonica but took a break on it recently since we had so much going on. I plan to get back to that once we get settled in our new place. I’d also like to get back to playing the keyboard, which is something I dabbled with in my teenage years. There are a number of The Doors songs I’d love to learn!
⯁ Listening to The Clark Howard Podcast – I used to listen to a lot of financial podcasts but now I generally only listen to one. The Clark Howard Podcast is the one podcast where I learn at least one new thing with every episode I listen to. Everyone should be listening to this show. I usually listen to this while working out and kill two birds with one stone.
I also plan to take an online financial accounting course once we get settled. It’s called Financial Accounting Fundamentals and is offered for free through Coursera. About 14 hours of course material all focused around accounting… sounds like one heckuva party, right? Yeah, I don’t think so either but it’s an area I’m weak in and I think it’s something valuable to be versed in.
The point is that continuing to work on improving yourself changes you. Not only does it make you stronger physically and mentally but you just feel better overall with more motivation in your daily life.
#2 Try new things / Adventurous spirit
By far, I think this is one of the best ways to increase your quality of life. “Stepping out of your comfort zone” is a phrase you hear tossed around quite a bit so it tends to get watered down somewhat.
However, until you actually start doing it on a more regular basis, you might not realize just how powerful it really is.
Getting out of the rut and doing something new and adventurous can change you in ways you can’t even fathom.
In our case, moving to Panama in 2019 was an extreme example of this. We had never lived in another country before – this was completely new to all of us. But it turned out to be an amazing experience.
We met so many new and interesting people and learned quite a bit about Panamanian culture. We tried unique food and restaurants. We visited fascinating sites throughout the county. We saw and listened to animals, birds, and bugs that we don’t have in the U.S. We really just had a great time overall. I wrote a post called 41 Fun Activities We Did in Panama that goes over a lot of the enjoyable things we did there. It was an incredible experience.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect – especially when we first got there. The culture and the stores are different from what we were familiar with and it took some getting used to. Plus, it can be hard to be away from friends and family and to start from scratch in making new friends.
But our time of over 2 ½ years living there is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. Our quality of life went up drastically during our time there. The whole experience opened our eyes and made us appreciate other people and places so much more.
I’m not saying to pack up your stuff and move to another country (though, if you want to check out Panama, I highly recommend the folks at Retire in Panama Tours to help you get a much better feel for the country!).
What I am saying is to consider doing something new and different in life. Maybe that’s something adventurous like white water rafting or going on a safari – or even something like bungee jumping.
My random decision to train and climb Volcán Barú in Panama turned out to be an incredible experience. This was completely out of my comfort zone but if I had stuck with “what I know” and passed on this, I would have missed out on something beyond memorable.
Even if adventure is not something you’re comfortable with, there are so many paths to explore that can change your life. I know people who have joined Toastmasters to get more comfortable with public speaking. That can also help with betterment, my first characteristic for a better quality of life.
Maybe it just means going somewhere different for your annual vacation. Or maybe it’s finding a new campground if you’re the outdoorsy type. Take a cooking or painting class if that piques your interest.
Have a terrible singing voice? Who cares – try doing karaoke sometime and have some fun! Life’s too short to worry about what other people think!
I’ve always been slightly adventurous, but I’ve noticed since I’ve taken on the old Arby’s slogan “different is good”, my quality of life has improved. It’s fun to try different things – it won’t always work out the way you expect but at least you can say you tried it.
#3 Enjoy life, laugh a lot, and don’t take it too seriously
Not taking life too seriously is something that I came onto decades ago. I don’t want to go too far down this rabbit hole, but I believe I have bipolar disorder, though I’ve never been formally diagnosed. I probably should have gotten help years ago but it’s something I’ve learned to manage a little better over the years.
Regardless, at one point in the 10th grade, I spent several months contemplating ending my life. While reflecting on life one evening though, I finally had what turned out to be a life-changing realization. Instead of ending my life, why not just change what I don’t like about it and myself and just have some fun? If that didn’t work, I could always go back to plan A later, right?
Fortunately, it worked out well.
I went from being the shy kid to being a lot more sociable because, well, what did I have to lose? I had more fun, joked more (a lot more), and laughed at everything. I took some more chances in life and just changed my whole attitude and outlook on life.
My quality of life instantly became worlds better after this change. It’s also served me well, over the 20+ years since that transformation.
It’s easy to take life too seriously and stress out over everything, but what does that really get you? Nothing.
Yes, I still have my share of stress (probably more than I should), but now I’m able to step back and think, “Is this really going to matter that much a year from now?” That usually helps me bring it down a level relatively quickly.
I’m not trying to insinuate any solving of depression for anyone – that’s way out of my league and different for everyone. It’s also something for a professional to handle. All I’m saying is that for me, this change in attitude made my quality of life worthwhile.
We’re all in this fishbowl of life together. We might not always agree on everything but we’re all people.
Have fun. Don’t take things too seriously. Laugh often. Not only will that increase your quality of life but it will also spread like wildfire to those around you. People love to be around happy, fun people, so work on being that happy person.
Embrace weird and have fun – you’ll enjoy life a lot more.
P.S. That also means stop watching the news. It’s poison and doesn’t add to your quality of life. It’s designed to bring you down and make you scared and stressed. You don’t need that in your life. Believe me, even without that venom in your life, you’ll still be in the know but so much happier.
That’s it, friends – the 3 characteristics that have truly improved my quality of life over the years. The great thing is that these are all mindsets that anyone can work on to improve their own life as well.
Do you agree with these? What other characteristics would you add?
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!