Most of us have spent our lives learning.

We went to school, we had role models and we discovered many things simply by doing and stumbling and doing again. We have learned from our friends, our parents, our spouses and partners and our children.

As a result, our knowledge and skills are awe-inspiring. Still, given all that we do possess, there are five vital things we really need to know at this stage of our lives.

How We Like to Spend Our Time

Most of us have spent so many hours working and taking care of other people that we may have lost touch with what we really like to do with a bit of open time. As we get older, it is important that we know what brings us joy and peace. Whether we like to sit with a good book or watch a movie, take a walk, babysit our grandchildren or take a quick trip, we need a go-to activity that helps us rewind and rejuvenate.

We’re all so accustomed to doing what someone else expects of us, that many of us have lost track of what feels good to us. If you can’t remember what activity brings you joy and contentment, make it a priority to find out. You deserve it, and you – and everyone in your life – will be glad you did. One thing that brings us joy, and so much more, is an honest and truthful friend.

Friends Who Will Give an Honest Answer

It’s great to feel that we have support of the people in our lives, to be patted on the back and encouraged. The best friends, though, are those who will tell you the truth no matter what. We all have many people in our lives, but the ones who will always tell us the truth are those we we can turn to no matter what.

If you’re considering a change or a move in your life, it’s those people you want to sit down with and unveil your plan. They will hear you out, ask you questions and give you an honest answer. Make sure you know your go-to people so you can call them when you need them. Still, the real work always begins with us, which is why it is also vital to know our strengths.

How Great We Are

Knowing your strengths – your inner resources – is like knowing you have a delicious casserole waiting for you in the refrigerator when you’re hungry. No matter what happens in our lives at this point, we will have an easier time navigating if we remember all the great things that are true about us.

We’ve lived long and happy lives, but we didn’t get here by magic. We used our intelligence, wits, problem-solving skills, interpersonal acumen and humor to navigate our way to this lovely part of the journey. Stay in touch with those resources so you can draw on them whenever you need them.

As entrepreneur and publisher Malcolm Forbes once said, “Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” It’s important that we truly value what we are as we make our way through the many new iterations of this period in our lives, in part because it can give us the confidence to set limits for ourselves.

What We Don’t Want to Do

When I first retired, lots of people gave me advice about what worked for them. Most of that guidance had to do with finding a way to “give back,” or volunteer to help others. Fortunately for me, I knew that one of my strengths was that I already gave a lot of time and energy to people in my life – including teenagers who need help with homework and older friends who need weekly assistance. This reminded me that I didn’t really want to volunteer.

This is just my example, but we all have certain things we don’t want to do or activities in which we don’t want to engage. We’ve worked hard these years and there is no reason to spend this part of our lives with days full of undertakings we don’t enjoy.

This doesn’t mean we’re off the hook completely, but knowing our limits will help us all to structure our days and weeks in ways that serve us and other people. This is particularly important when we think about what we want to do next. More than anything, I wanted more time for myself.

Our Dreams

It isn’t easy to narrow down our interests to one or two areas, but we all have some kind of bucket list of adventures or quests we dream about engaging in some day. The best case scenario is that we will remain healthy and active enough to bring those dreams to fruition, but in many ways, simply nurturing our aspirations plays a huge part in keeping us going.

And our dreams belong to us. Just because your husband has always wanted to hang glide or your best friend wants to write a romance novel doesn’t mean you have to want that for yourself. Conversely, some of us have been so busy with kids and careers we haven’t thought about our own dreams for a long time.

Now’s your chance. Make a list of what you’d love to do and then start figuring out a way to make those dreams come true. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

How do you like to spend your free time? Do you know what you don’t like or want to do? To whom do you turn when you want an honest opinion? How do you want to spend your time in retirement? What resources do you possess inside yourself? What is on your bucket list? Please share in the comments.

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