Finding happiness in retirement

What Are Your Strengths?

I grabbed the pack of notecards on which I’d carefully written the word, “Strengths” leaving room for each teacher to list their own strengths. My plan was to have teachers identify their strengths and then share them with each other and me. I’m only going to be working at the school for 3 months and I needed a quick and dirty way to get to know the teachers. As I was about to stand and head for the mailboxes, a 5th grade teacher poked her head in the office door and said, “Oh good- you’re here. Julian just kicked a chair across the room and the sub and I can’t get him to leave the classroom.” Julian’s teacher had emailed several of us the day before and said she’d be absent and asked us to support the substitute teacher to keep peace in the classroom in the midst of Julian’s possible melt-downs. I told Katie that she could go back to her own classroom and that I’d just stay in Julian’s class for the last hour of the day. As I entered the classroom and noted the look of relief on the sub’s face, I scanned the faces of the kids. Julian was reading a book and all the others were reading, writing, or playing math games together. It was a calm scene, only because Julian thought he’d won today’s battle and didn’t have to face any consequences. Knowing that I’d deal with him after the kids left for the day, I sat down at a table of 3 kids near Julian’s table. After a quiet exchange of greetings with the kids, the girl next to me asked, “Why did you write ‘strengths’ on those cards?” I told her that I wanted to find out the teachers’ strengths and I was going to put the cards in their mailboxes and we were going to talk about the strengths on the upcoming Institute Day. She looked up at me and gave me the sweetest smile and said, “What are your strengths?”

I just love kids, and one of the reasons is their candidness. I told her my strengths and she told me hers. She said that last year she had moved and switched schools and realized that she has the ability to make friends easily. My new little friend also listed “patient and kind” to her strength list. She didn’t mention academic skills, but I told her that with her strengths, I was sure that she’d be successful at school and when she grew up and had a family and went to work.

What strengths have you developed in life? We grow because of our experiences. The people that we work and live with shape who we become. The skills and knowledge that are developed in school has helped you, but it’s your character strengths and  people skills that have shaped you. Use your strengths in retirement to create and nurture yourself and others. If you’re fortunate enough to have grandchildren nearby, you probably have already figured out that we bring a fresh perspective that we wish we’d had when our own children were growing up. Seek out volunteer experiences (there are many that don’t require repeated commitment) and share the strengths that you’ve developed. And, by all means, persist through creative efforts. You have the time and don’t have to worry about making money from your art. Hopefully, your life experiences have helped you to care less how others judge you. Your energy can go toward creating and experiencing the joy that comes with the effort.

What are your strengths and how are you using them to create a happier retirement life?

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