How many times have you been surprised at how quickly time is passing?  Did it seems like the holidays were just yesterday and now its already time to start shopping  and dragging out the decorations (this does not apply to taking down the lights, that really was yesterday!).  Did it seem hard to believe that your daughter was already graduating high school, college, or having a baby?  Life seems to fly by, unless you are waiting for something like retirement, and it doesn’t seem possible to slow it down.

We spend our lives rushing around, working too many hours, taking kids to Little League and planning vacations packed with activities that cause us to need another vacation just to unwind.  We stop taking the time to really enjoy the things we do.  The quantity of our experiences seems to to be more important than the quality.  But looking for quality in our experiences is the key to slowing down time.

In our working life, it is understandable that we are hurried.  Career, kids, school, paying the bills, etc., all take big chunks of our time.  We have little left to that is really our own.  But in retirement, we have nothing but time.  No demands from our job or kids.  We can lead a more simple life with fewer hassles.  Still, many retirees have trouble slowing down.  They still feel the stresses and anxiety they experienced in there careers or while raising families.

Honestly, it takes effort.  We have been conditioned to keep moving, striving, positioning.  We have developed habits that cause you to need to be busy, to move quickly and never let up.  Those habits are hard to break, but we need to break them.  If we begin to pay attention to what we’re doing, really taking in our surroundings and noticing the little things, we can slow down time.

While it takes effort, its not hard to do.  Take up a hobby that requires a lot of concentration or requires you to slow down.  I build scale models, play the guitar and smoke cigars.  Yes, smoking cigars!  It takes an hour or more to smoke a cigar and if you aren’t concentrating on it you can’t really enjoy all nuances of a fine cigar.  Find your own activity that causes you to slow down and focus.  Watercolor painting, crossword puzzles, gardening and woodworking are all great examples.

When you take trips, don’t drive like a bat out of hell or take the red-eye flight just to get there sooner.  Stop at roadside fruit stand or souvenir shops.  Take flights with a few stops and enjoy the flight, look out the window, chat with your fellow passengers.  Take an extra day or two, drive instead of fly or take the long way.  You’re retired, what’s the hurry?

Take walks and actually look at the flora and fauna.  Sit on your porch and take in the view.  Go downtown and have a leisurely lunch and talk with your spouse or people watch.  Watch honeybees or birds go about their business.  Just do anything to slow down and really experience your experiences instead of just going through the motions.  Pretty soon, that will be your new habit.

One day you will be sitting at a cafe or at the mall and wonder what is so urgent that all of these people are rushing around hardly noticing all the interesting things you see.  Time will have slowed.  It is not the number of experiences we have in our lives, but the richness of them that make us happy.  Learning to find that richness, that depth is part of what retirement is all about.