At every stage of life, self-discipline breeds success. Disciplined students excel in school. Disciplined workers boost their productivity. Disciplined savers retire with more money.
But once you retire, does discipline even matter anymore?
You might figure you’ve earned the right to indulge yourself in retirement. Eat more. Sleep later. Procrastinate at will.
Ditching your discipline, while alluring, comes at a cost. Preserving your mental and physical wellness in retirement requires willpower and prudent decision-making.
Freedom vs. Discipline
Yet the opportunity to escape the confines of a well-ordered life might seem too good to pass up. You’re finally free. You can prioritize what you want, when you want, without anyone lecturing you or bossing you around.
But here’s the bad news: The new you can actually turn you off.
A Canada-based retirement life coach, Poier cites three benefits of maintaining self-discipline as you age:
Your relationships can atrophy if you put less effort into thinking of others. Neglect those close to you at your own peril.
“Without discipline, relationships suffer,” he said. “It takes thought, time and energy for them to grow and flourish.”
While you can’t control every aspect of your health, going to pot won’t help. If you lower your guard and adopt poor habits, there’s a damaging ripple effect.
“A decline in your health impacts not only you, but also your loved ones and caregivers,” Poier said.
It’s easy to lapse into a cynical mindset in retirement. You’re bored. You’ve lost your professional identity. You fear getting old(er).
Shifting to default mode—where you lament your lost youth and bathe in regret for the past and dread for the future—can upend your remaining years. Imposing self-discipline can overhaul your attitude so that you stave off hopelessness and despair.
“Without even realizing it, your thoughts can go from being positive to negative, from optimistic to pessimistic, from empowering to self-limiting,” Poier warned. “If you’re not careful, you can walk around with a very negative attitude. You have to have the self-discipline to be aware of how you’re thinking because your attitude determines what your life is like.”
The Power of Self-Discipline in Retirement
As you enter retirement, it may be tempting to indulge freely and let go of all responsibilities. However, it's important to consider the potential downside: dying sooner. Research shows that longevity and self-discipline go hand-in-hand.
But self-control is not an all-or-nothing trait; it exists on a continuum. Taking small steps to exert discipline can significantly enhance your retirement experience. Making a modest commitment and sticking to it can lead to long-lasting gains.
Whether it's dedicating 15 minutes a day to walking or establishing a foolproof system for taking medications as prescribed, a disciplined approach improves your daily life. Even if you don't immediately see an increase in happiness, these small measures can reduce short- and long-term issues that might compromise your well-being.
As a form of self-improvement, Baumeister suggests setting goals and holding yourself accountable. Engage your peers as accountability partners and integrate new behaviors into your daily routine.
Once discipline becomes a habit, even the simplest tasks, like reading a set number of pages each day, will become automatic and no longer a struggle.
If you still doubt the importance of self-discipline as you age, think about your legacy. What kind of impression do you want to leave on your family and friends?
While many individuals plan to leave a financial legacy, creating and leaving behind a meaningful life story can be even more powerful. It takes self-discipline to craft your personal legacy.
By modeling self-control, moderation, and a disciplined lifestyle, you inspire others. This is yet another reason why people will admire you now and for years to come.