Quick! Think of something you’re putting off. Something that’s important to you, but not so important that you’re putting all your energy toward it right now. Something that’s been relegated to “someday,” or to “after I reach financial independence.”
For us, that thing is fitness. We stay moderately active these days, at least for working stiffs, but we know we’re not in the shape we want to be in, to be able to climb high elevation mountains and hike long distances without getting injured. And when we think about why we aren’t dedicating more time to getting into our best shape, the answer is one of those vague we don’t have time answers.
Of course we have time, even with all the work travel. We just choose to spend it in other ways. This blog, for one thing. Seeing friends sometimes. Getting enough sleep most of the time.
It’s been awfully technical around the blog lately, and we’re itching to get back to the feelings behind all of it. So today we’re tackling a big one: Excuses. Let’s go!
We’ve written many times before about how important it is not to live solely for tomorrow, and to enjoy today. We all know that tomorrow is not a guarantee, and it’s tragic if we put everything we dream of off until some future date that may or may not ever arrive.
But let’s be practical.
We simply can’t do everything.
We can’t do everything even when we’re retired and have a lot more time on our hands, so we certainly shouldn’t expect ourselves to be able to do everything while we’re working a full-time-or-more job and maybe side hustling too.
The “Pick 3” dilemma that Randi Zuckerberg posits totally resonates with both of us. Basically, if you’re an entrepreneur (or in any other super busy or high pressure career), you can only pick three priorities out of:
Work is already consuming one of those, so what are the other two? For us, it’s been sleep and friends (and we count YOU in that — we’re totally in this for the community). We know we’re neglecting family, we know we’re neglecting fitness, and while we’re not exactly okay with that, we accept it. For now.
But, we’re starting to think of early retirement as our “pick 4” season of life. When we can scratch work off that list and actually prioritize all of the others — sleep, friends, family and fitness.
But Those Excuses
It’s nice to cut ourselves a lot of slack and all, and to acknowledge that we’re in what we hope ends up being the highest stress time in our lives (not because we want more stress now, but because we hope there’s less later!). But let’s be real about this fact, too: We still make plenty of excuses.
I definitely had 45 minutes this afternoon when I could have hopped on my bike. Mr. ONL definitely hit the snooze bar long enough yesterday to have gone for a jog. If we really wanted to make fitness a priority, we’d do it. Excuses.
It’s the excuses that have let me overlook the gradual creep of pounds that have come from the unfortunate convergence of more career pressure, lots of work travel and entering my mid-30s. I’m starting to do something about this, but I know it will come at a cost — so far the cost has been sleep. For years it has been easy to tell myself, “I hate the weight gain, but I don’t have time to deal with it right now. I’ll deal with it when we quit.” Excuses.
The very fact that we can’t do everything may in fact lead to more excuses. Like, “Well, the Pick 3 lady says we can’t do all that stuff, so I shouldn’t feel bad about not going for a run tonight!” Slack is important, but any climber knows that too much slack is a very bad thing.
The End of Excuses
JD Roth‘s story, which he recently told on the M.O.N.E.Y. Podcast, is a perfect example: After he reached FI, he lost the weight he’d been letting creep on (sounds familiar), he got his life back in order, and he started traveling. As he put it in the podcast, there were no more excuses once he had time on his hands. He had to take care of what was important.
And perhaps more than anything — more than traveling the world, climbing tall peaks and getting out our creative yayas — we crave that feeling of being able to get our life in order. To know that we’re taking care of ourselves and each other. That we’re getting enough time with family, especially our aging parents. That we’re supporting our friends. That we’re getting enough sleep.
Our life is mostly in order now. We’re pretty good at being adults. But there’s still stuff that falls through the cracks, and self care is often top of that list. Some of that is circumstantial (work eats up too much time and brain space), but some is just an excuse. And not having all of that stuff solid now makes us feel like our lives are built on a shaky foundation. We can’t wait to strengthen that foundation instead.
The Mindset Shift We’ll Have To Make
The biggest change we’re beginning to anticipate when we transition to early retirement will be starting to think — for perhaps the first time in our lives — solely in terms of the present. We’ve always been future oriented, and we know we’re not the first ones to feel like a big portion of our lives has been lived in suspended animation, waiting for our future to begin. While we might not have known for most of that lives what that future would be, it will be here soon!
Our future is our early retirement. After that, it’s only the present.
There will always be future concerns, of course, but very soon, we won’t be aiming for some future thing anymore. We’ll be living the thing that we’ve been aiming for, the culmination of our whole lives essentially. (Whoa, that’s humbling. No pressure to make it great!) And we’ll have to knock off that pesky habit of living for the future. We’re already good at being fully present in isolated moments, but we’re always dreaming of the future. It could be a hard habit to break.
But break it we must. And with that future mindset, we also hope to toss the excuses mindset. Because early retirement is now or never time, do or die time.
What excuses do you make that you’re game to share? Anything major you’re putting off until FI? Any secrets you’ve discovered to stop making excuses, or to stop focusing so much on the future? Please share it all in the comments!