Re-Imagining Retirement: Consequential happiness

Sharon Ralph

I recently was putting serious time into trying to come up with a new name for a project I was working on, when I came up with consequential happiness, as a possibility. I liked the ring to it; however, it would probably need some explaining, right?

I’m actually amazed and disappointed, at the same time, that even though America was born with the declaration of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” what’s happened to our happiness? Huh? And, several scriptures speak of joy, fullness of joy, that your joy may be full, etc. Where? When?

As a retirement coach, helping people reconnect with their joy and happiness is a significant part of my job, I’ve learned!

Consequential is defined as following a result or effect, of the nature of a secondary results. So, when my mother told me helping others made them feel good, what was convincing, was when she said I’d feel good too: consequential happiness. Other consequences: We plant a garden for the byproduct of having fresh salads on our dinner table, right? We study for our classes so that we pass the tests, learn and get good grades.

But what happened being able to quickly name a dozen things that result in happiness, as the end result? Hmm, I water my petunias and geraniums so that I have color on my deck and that makes me happy. What else? I sew so that I can say, “I made it myself” and it feels good to be creative. I go for daily walks so that I keep flexible, keep regular, pet dogs and watch everybody’s flowers grow!

I’m overdue for a vacation and new experiences; that’d be a great example of consequential happiness. How about putting in the effort to meet new people for the consequential happiness of having more friends, someone to play bridge or golf with, or share a plate of cookies with? Smiling and greeting others on my walk helps make (a consequence) Edmonds a quaint little city, right?

When I was doing my podcasts, a guest came up with nine positive personal consequences of volunteering! Even sitting on your front porch can have a positive consequence of greeting passersby.

Could you begin to see a positive consequential happiness to being a listener to your weird neighbor kids or a senior living alone? Perhaps a consequential happiness could come from leaving a legacy. Maybe a legacy of happiness, even, how about it?

Maybe the reason this topic comes to mind now is because (consequence) of a book I’m reading. The main point is to enjoy everything. It’s really got me thinking. One morning I asked myself as I reached for my shoes, “do I enjoy my shoes?” Hmm, interesting thought. Do I enjoy my clothes? Why? Do I enjoy my kitchen? Do I enjoy my body? It’s helping me make a lot of little changes, long overdue, that’s increasing my joy.

So, what can you do in the pursuit of happiness? Get out of debt, maybe? Share your garden produce with neighbors? Let’s become intentional about what we are doing, and could do, to be pursuing happiness on a daily basis, and not let it be mindlessly forgotten.

I intend to live my life dream so that I’m in love with Life. What is that for me? My happiness comes from the joy of unleashing other’s dreams all over the world. What about you?

— By Sharon Rolph

Sharon Rolph is a 25-plus-year resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds and earned her masters degree in applied behavioral science and bachelor’s degree in administration from City University. Her career includes many years at GTE and Boeing in Everett and Tukwila. She presents What Do I Want to Do in Retirement? Connecting with Purpose in Retirement workshops at senior centers.


  1. Brava! It made me happy just to read this short article and to know some people are actually thinking of such things. I will try to expand my awareness of the diverse Happinesses consequences of my own actions.

  2. Similarly, “Tiny Habits” a book by BJ Fogg, will help a person make really tiny changes that are habits which lead to much bigger changes, increasing joy and happiness.
    Right now there are online mini-workshops on how to use Tiny Habits to cope with being home-bound, with increasing happiness, feeling less anxious, dealing with house-bound kids, staying upbeat, and more.

  3. Sharon hit a home run, very well written: I base it on James 1 v2 Count it all joy! Open your hearts and souls to see the needs of others and see it bring you happiness and them JOY! When you understand her meaning of tiny changes throughout your life and focus on other things besides YOU, wow, you can increase your happiness. People are all about them self gratification and ME, Me, Me. Turn it around what can ME do for others and you will experience JOY which is LOVE and LOVE is Holy Spirit living in YOU…..

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