Success stories are regular features of our Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement newsletter service, where we share profiles of people who have become financially independent. One of the most remarkable stories we've come across is that of Billy and Akaisha Kaderli. At age 38, they left their fast-track lives and started traveling the world. Here Akaisha and Billy encourage you to stay focused on your retirement dreams.

We recently learned about some research on the link between happiness and productivity. Not only do those with a high sense of well-being make better decisions, they also communicate with others more effectively.

So what does this have to do with your retirement plans? Even though the economy is down, that doesn't mean you have to be as well. And in fact, if you want results from your efforts, you're better off looking for the silver lining.

If you have dreams of retirement, it's hard to maintain focus and discipline when you no longer believe the retirement you want is possible, or when the media continues to tell you how awful the world is without a chance of it becoming better anytime in the foreseeable future. This inclination toward the negative has a direct effect on your mind's ability to see opportunities or solutions to the challenges you currently face.

So instead of giving into gloom and doom, try these suggestions on for size:

Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve credit for surviving the meltdown as well as you did, for deciding to get out of debt, downsizing your expenses, or continuing with your investment plan -- anything that has allowed you to keep moving forward with your life. Sure, you might wish things were different, but the situation is what it is right now. Choose to make the most of it. Sometimes life has to hit us on the head to make a point clear, and berating yourself only makes it more difficult for you. Congratulate yourself instead! See where you have succeeded, and count up all the places where you have benefited or learned something new.

Define a vision. So maybe your retirement dream has had to be revamped. Life happens. However, having a defined vision helps you achieve it, and it gives you something concrete to work toward. Redefining it keeps it alive and even more reachable. Without a specific goal, you could just be wandering around in the proverbial desert. You may find that you need to be creative -- either to get your savings back on track or to adapt to the style of retirement that you can now afford. Look in the areas of highest expense: housing, transportation, taxes, and food. See where you can rearrange your expenditures, both present and future, so that your dream becomes real to you. Sit down, clear out the cobwebs on your retirement vision, and renew your commitment.

Open up and focus on your course of action. It's easy to want to close down and hide in a hole when things aren't going well. Having a willing attitude allows you to see the opportunities that are actually in front of you. You will be more able to take advantage of them when your eyes are open than when your head is hidden in the sand. Focus on the course of action you need to take and the skills you are learning in this process, and choose new strategies to make your goals happen. In this manner, you will be moving forward with the scenery changing around you instead of keeping yourself within the darkness of fear and confusion about your future.

Use the Internet to connect with others on forums for information useful to you. Research sites on relocating to tax-friendly states or perhaps overseas. Consider becoming car-free and taking public transport or hiring a driver once you are retired. Contemplate the benefits of becoming a mentor or working part-time in retirement -- for the social connections, to keep your mind alive, and for the extra income.

It's easier to take action when you are already moving along, and to change that activity if things don't pan out. It's a lot harder to get up and go if you have roots growing out of your feet. Even making a small choice gets the process going.

And remember Billy's maxim: "A body in motion tends to stay in motion. A body at rest tends to rot."

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Fool contributors Billy and Akaisha Kaderli write regularly for Rule Your Retirement. They retired in 1991 from the brokerage and restaurant businesses to a life of international travel. Visit their website at, and check out their new CD book, The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement. For links to financial forums, tax-friendly states, housing alternatives, retirement jobs and more, take a look at their Preferred Links Pages. The Fool has a disclosure policy.