Now, one thing that we hear about all the time for people who are reaching ‘retirement age’ is how they don’t know what they will do with themselves, and even that they become scared, presumably of the changes coming. I’ve seen this in my own family. How ironic it is that we spend our whole lives working away while society holds up the retirement carrot in front of us, yet it seems that quite often it’s not until retirement is imminent that many people start to face the reality of what their days will look like from here on out. It was always so far away, that many of us had never stopped to ask ourselves what it is we want the most. What would we do if we could do nothing else? It’s tragic that we hold up ‘doing nothing’ as the goal for our whole careers only to realize that having nothing to do is actually man’s worst nightmare.
Oprah once said, “you can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once.” And that will be even more clear in your retirement. You can’t afford to do it all. You can’t afford to regularly travel to expensive resorts, and to jet set every few weeks, and to dine out regularly. But the reason you can’t afford them might not be what you think.
First we must ask ourselves what it is we would actually do if we were able to retire in 5 years, next year, tomorrow? After all, you’re going to require a lot of focus, resolve and mindfulness in order to achieve your goal of early retirement. So while you’re planning your escape, one of the very first things you should do is ask yourself what is it that turns you on? What lights you up? What creates that little spark in your heart that makes you want more and more and more? Make a list of some of the things you either already love or would love to try to explore more.
Here’s my current list for life in the Baja:
- mountain biking
Wow. That took about 20 seconds and there’s way more on my list already than I have time for. That’s right, time. I also may not be able to afford to pay for them, but more importantly, even when I leave work, it would be pretty tough to find the time to meaningfully explore all of these things and still have any relationships in my life.
I already surf most days and only find myself wanting to do more the more I go. When we improve at things and begin to move towards mastery, what I like to call ‘the happiness loop’ emerges. That is, the reward we get from learning feels good, and is an addictive feeling.
I have all the equipment already so for now that will stay my ‘go-to’ thing. But by eventually saving up for some fishing gear, and maybe even a mountain bike one day, I may also be able to pursue mountain biking, (‘offroad’) triathlons, fishing and cooking. So all I am really left without is the most expensive options, dirtbiking and kitesurfing. But remember, money is not the only limited resource here. When it is clear that time is much more limiting and valuable than money, ‘saving’ for a dirtbike or for kitesurf gear suddenly seems illogical.
So does your list include expensive things that you think you’re saving for but could never actually possibly have the time to do even if you were retired? Or maybe some of them you’ve already purchased, and you don’t use them because you’re too busy working even more and for longer to pay for them? Don’t put the cart before the horse. Get real about what you have time for and what you love to do, both now and in the future.
Find things you love to do that light you up and make you happy and dive deep. The more you do them and the more that feeling inside you lights you up, the more you will want to do them and the less time you will then have for all the other things on the list. Also, this spark of joy inside you will make you yearn for that self-sustainable nest egg to fund your pursuits even more.
In the last week since I blew in to Baja from work in Canada I have spent about $2000 pesos, or about $140 CAD and have rarely been more fully content. I have a full quiver of surfboards to choose from and there’s waves here almost every day. I have surfed, eaten fresh and simple foods, seen friends here and there and even had a few beers and a couple of meals out at taco joints. And it’s in realizing how you can be happy with so much less than you have been brainwashed to think that you realize how much power you have to control your own destiny and pursue your wildest dreams, or the most beautiful and simple little life you can dream up. But change is not something you can continue to avoid for ‘without change, nothing changes’.*