Sunday, February 7, 2010

Turn Mole Hills into Mountains

If you're questioning how you will use your extra time in retirement, one answer is to make everyday events into something bigger. In other words, turn a mole hill into a mountain. Studies on happiness suggest people receive lasting gratification when they make a situation more challenging, take pictures to remember the event and reminisce about it at a later date.

A good example of how this works is what I did on New Years Eve while visiting my parents. We didn't have special plans to celebrate the occasion. Even if we had plans, a snowstorm would have kept us home. It looked like it was going to be just another quiet evening with dinner followed by a movie or playing cards. That's when I suggested we make a bigger deal over the dinner.

Instead of eating at the kitchen table, we placed a tablecloth over a card table in the living room. The table was set with china, candles, and a "Reserved" sign. My dad started a fire in the fireplace. And we dressed for the occasion. To capture the evening forever, my dad learned how to use the remote control on the digital camera so that we could all be in the pictures. The extra effort it took to do this added to his sense of accomplishment.

Sure we made a bigger fuss over the evening than we needed to. We turned a mole hill into a mountain. But, by doing so we created a lasting memory that gets better with time. This is what my dad wrote in his weekly email to the family:

"HAPPY NEW YEAR! Trust your New Year was as enjoyable as ours. Patrice and Dave celebrated New Year's Eve with us. We had reservations at a special table by the fireplace. We ate a late meal by candlelight. It was quite romantic for couples in their fifties and eighties. We didn't stay up to watch the new year come in, but we did dress up for the occasion."

If we hadn't turned a mole hill into a mountain the evening would have been just another night. The gift of retirement is you have time to turn mole hills into mountains. By doing so you will create lasting memories that continue to bring you happiness for years to come.