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Getting Better: One Step at a Time!

I am a member of a Facebook group focused on retirement and, needless to say, most of the current posts are about managing life in the context of this pandemic. Pat, one of the group members, commented:

Now is the time to try new things, to indulge yourself a little (don’t use it as an excuse to be lazy) and to be grateful for all the good in our lives. Even without the virus, we are not promised tomorrow, so make today the best day you possibly can.

Pat’s comments reflect my own beliefs about the importance of focusing on making our lives as meaningful as possible right now, and not waiting until the pandemic has passed. My last Fact-YOU-al post (Socially Isolated? Now What?) reinforces Pat’s comments that our attitude and commitment to continuous learning in retirement can make a difference. This current post builds on this idea.

Australian researchers (see reference below) believe that retirement is a process and suggest that people need access to different resources (like health or social support) to both manage and to be more satisfied in retirement. The researchers wanted to know, of the many different resources they examined (e.g. finances, health, relationships) which were most important to be better prepared for the transition to retirement life.

They conducted a study with retirees (n = 550, with the majority having spent just over five years in retirement) looking at three stages of retirement: pre-retirement, ending work and adjusting to retirement living. What they found was that, of all the resources that the study participants had, the one that was most important to all phases of the retirement process was a sense of mastery. What is ‘mastery’? Mastery is when people have the skills or knowledge needed for a particular task. With mastery comes feeling more prepared, feeling more in control and feeling more confident. In turn, these feelings help us to take action in new situations or when experiencing difficulties.

It is important to note that the resources that help ensure a successful retirement are the same resources that help us cope effectively with unplanned events (like this pandemic). So what does this mean for right now? How can we begin to build a sense of mastery while in self-isolation?

As a small example, I have no flexibility and, despite many people telling me that yoga is good for me, I have avoided it for decades (because I was sure I’d be terrible

at it). Now in self-isolation, I noticed that one of the TV channels has a couple of different yoga programs. I’ve committed myself to focusing on ‘getting better’ at only one of the many different poses. The one I’m working on is ‘mountain pose’. I have to say—after 3 days of focused effort I feel less wobbly! This increasing sense of mastery helps me feel more confident to do even more to take better care of my (aging) body.

This requirement for self-isolation provides us an opportunity to focus our time, attention and efforts on knowledge and skill-building which will, in turn, increase our sense of mastery. With access to online learning platforms, including e-books (check out Everything Retirement’s great free e-books!), we can gain information and start building skills. In a sense it doesn’t matter what you decide to try to master; regardless of what you try, experiencing mastery will boost your confidence and sense of control… and the desire to tackle other, perhaps more difficult, challenges associated with planning for a fulfilling life in retirement.

Trying to find a sense of mastery in your life, but don't know where to start? Check out the resources on the Need to Know page. The Personal Strengths and Interest Inventory worksheets may be particularly helpful in identifying areas that you might be able to feel or develop a sense of mastery in.


Muratora, A. M., & Earl, J. K. (2015). Improving retirement outcomes: The role of resources, pre-retirement planning and transition characteristics. Ageing & Society, 35, 2100-2140.

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