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Don’t Wait. Do It Now.

I always struggle to find words — not just the right words, but any words — after something horrible happens. That’s why I said nothing in Monday’s post about the unspeakable horror that took place against the LGBTQ and Latino communities last weekend in Orlando, despite how much our hearts ache over it. This blog isn’t a place where we take political stances, and I let that get in the way of expressing something human, which is that we mourn the victims and detest all forms of hate. Now, I regret waiting, even if it was just to say this simple thing.

As ever, this massacre is a reminder that terrible things can happen at any time, and we’re never guaranteed tomorrow. (Though if you want to see fewer of these things happen, you know, write to your senators and member of Congress.) The last thing any of us want is to get to the end of our lives filled with regret: regret that we didn’t say that thing we needed to say, regret that we didn’t do what made us happy, regret that we weren’t open about who we are and celebrating that with pride, regret that we waited too long.

So today, a call to action. There’s some early retirement in here, but early retirement is only one little aspect of our big, rich, complicated lives, and there’s so much more to living a full life than watching those pennies pile up.

In short: Don’t wait. Whatever you’ve been putting off, stop putting it off. Do it now.

OurNextLife.com // Don't Wait // Stop putting off whatever you're putting off and live your joy now

There’s More to Life Than…

… [insert your goal here.] For us, our big goal is early retirement, but as all-consuming as that goal can be, there’s still more to life than that. Just as we can’t live entirely for tomorrow while living a joyless today, we can’t forget to keep that perspective: early retirement isn’t everything.

Early retirement won’t change who we are as people. Sure, it will make us less busy and, we hope, less stressed. It will give us more time to do what we want to do, but it won’t make us better human beings. We have to decide to be those better human beings.

Early retirement won’t make things perfect. We’ll still feel pain, mourn losses, get cranky, waste time and fight sometimes. We’ll still have to choose how to cope with those inevitabilities.

Early retirement won’t guarantee that we get any more time on the planet than anyone else. It won’t magically make us healthy if we’ve been neglecting our health during our working years. We still have to make the right food choices and put in the time exercising. And even then, we can’t escape life’s randomness.

Early retirement won’t say things for us. If we want to express something to someone, we simply have to find the courage to do it. If we are sad or angry about things we see happening in the world, we have to speak up.

And while we’ll have more time in retirement to pursue our passions and better ourselves, there is absolutely to reason to wait on this critical stuff. We may not be able to tackle everything at once, but we can definitely do what’s most important.

Don’t Wait to Take Care of Yourself

Has anyone else said to yourself things like:

When I reach FI, I’ll get back in shape.

When I reach FI, I’ll catch up on sleep.

When I reach FI, I’ll finally start doing yoga/meditating/going to therapy/whatever else I need to do to heal myself.

Life is too short. You’ll never regret taking action now to take care of yourself, but you may one day regret waiting.

Last month I wrote Financial Independence Means No More Excuses, recognizing that we all must prioritize how we spend our time, and that we can’t do it all. But also that excuses get in the way of doing what we need to do for ourselves. For too long, I’ve let my work travel be an excuse for why I couldn’t get back to a high level of fitness and endurance. I told myself that I’d get back into the mountain-climbing shape after we quit our jobs. But that excuse never felt right to me, and I realized that on the current trajectory, I was going to have to spend the first year of our early retirement just rebuilding my fitness.

Spurred on by that realization, I recently decided to stop looking at the barriers and start focusing on the opportunities. And the result is this:


Instead of wasting time in the late afternoon and early evening, I’m hitting the trails. There’s no longer a question about whether I’m hiking or not: If I’m home, I’m on our local trails, and if I’m traveling, I’m hitting the pavement. I walked six miles around Chicago starting at 9 PM one night two weeks ago. Today I hiked seven miles up the steepest trail I could find with a weighted pack. I’ve forced myself to make this my new normal.

I’m not bragging. It took me way too long to do this, to really commit to putting in consistent high mileage most days. To stop making the excuses I’ve been making for years. And it’s definitely a trade-off: I have a lot less time to read blogs and books (though more time for podcasts), I have spent less time with friends and I’m behind on sleep.

But the biggest positive of all is: I do not feel regret every day that I wasted another chance to get healthier. I feel better about myself, and I just plain feel better. If I die tomorrow, I’ll have the peace of knowing that I was taking real action to better myself.

And whatever it is you need to take care of yourself, the weight of the effort required to make a change is quite likely lighter than the weight of the regret of doing nothing. If you feel inspired, stop reading and go outside right now. I’m not joking. A walk around the block could be exactly what you need.

Don’t Wait to Live Your Joy

The very best part of focusing on my fitness for real is this:

My afterwork hikes have become my favorite thing. Work is stressful right now, but getting out into the fresh air makes me feel better without fail every single day.

We are unabashed lovers of the outdoors — it’s a huge focus of our to do list in early retirement, and it’s why we moved to the mountains. But for so long, work has forced us to think of the outdoors as coming in discrete increments, in expeditions we sandwich into too-short vacations, or outings we can only take on the weekend. Making time for the outdoors every day, not just on special days, has brought massive joy to my life.

This is definitely a “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” moment: in our perfect world, we’ll be living a life of capital “J” Joy. Having lots of unstructured time, traveling frequently and seeing new places, filling our days with creative pursuits and outdoor adventures. We don’t have time for all of that right now, but we can still prioritize the small “j” joy. For me right now, the daily fresh air satisfies that.

So maybe you can’t live your full, perfect Joy now, but don’t wait to live at least your little joy.

Don’t Wait to Say What Needs Saying

When tragedies happen, it’s a stark reminder that not only is our own time not guaranteed, but neither is that of the people we care about. So if there’s something you have been meaning to tell someone, do it. Even if it feels like you’ve already waited too long. Even if it feels like it’s not your place. There are few bad times to express love, support, friendship, compassion, empathy.

And if you’re angry about how something is going in the world, don’t just carry that anger around with you. Speak up. Not just on social media, but to the actual people making the decisions. Then say it again, and again and again. It’s the only way anything will ever change.

Don’t Wait to Be You

Whatever that means to you. Live as your full self, and don’t be afraid to share it. The world desperately needs more of us to share our full selves in all of our imperfection and differences. There’s so much more beauty in diversity than in sameness.

Thanks for reading this manifesto of sorts. This is my “say what needs saying” for right now. No comment-spurring questions today, but as always, I’d love to hear from you guys. The community here always makes me feel better about the world. :-)

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64 replies »

  1. Great post. There is a balance between a big goal and living every day fully. My nephew died when he was 24, and that was 11 years ago. Turned my life around. So, yes, do it, mindfully, with respect and passion, now.

  2. Well said! Lost two colleagues this year – who were my age (younger than 50), both to very sudden illnesses. Started doing many of the things you said. Do what you want now and say what you need to say. Words to live by!

  3. Wonderful post! It echoes so much of what I think. For a few years my husband and I were racing to FI, but we realized that wasn’t a good idea, because we should enjoy life and the little moments. And so we are slowly learning to slow down. But, I’ve realized that we also can’t focus solely on life after FI – we need to incorporate those dreams into our life now, because we never know what the future will bring.

    • Thanks, Professor SSC! (I’m totally sticking with this name for you.) ;-) I love how you guys have redefined your path to your FFLC to create space for enjoyment now, and for following your heart to your dream job. You guys are definitely role models for doing it right. :-)

  4. Love the video. That type of scenery each night would certainly help to unwind for sure. So many things to be thankful each day. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Great read and great work getting out there and walking/hiking! This post was good timing and a good reminder. With the tragedy the country just faced we all need a moment to step back from the daily grind and be thankful for what we have. Wow, I got real sappy there. But I mean it! Retirement might not make me a happier person… but it will mean I can be with my family more and that’s what is important right now.

    The Green Swan

    • Embrace the sappiness. :-) Reflection is good for all of us! And you’re right — early retirement will give you more time, but no reason you can’t prioritize the things that are most important to you now. :-)

  6. Awesome post! In general, it’s a tough balance for those of us working to find early retirement… you have to be careful that you don’t cut yourself off too much now because you’re focused so much on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There’s always a possibility that you don’t make it to the end of that rainbow.

    You’re so right that you need to live a full life now and not put things off. Nice job on the trails and hiking! You’re inspiring me to get off my rump and try to get some more exercise in each day!

    — Jim

    • Thanks, Jim! So true… we way never make it to the end of the rainbow. (Though if you do, please send back pics of the leprechauns.) Of course we can’t do everything at one time, but we can do the things that are truly important if we prioritize them. And yeah, get out there and get some fresh air! I promise you’ll enjoy it. :-)

  7. Nicely said, Mrs. ONL, and I cannot possibly agree any more than I already do. Like you said, life is extremely short, much too short to spend it slaving away in an office for basically your entire productive life. Whether that means early retirement or something else doesn’t really matter, and this gets to the heart of why I am more of a risk taker than many others may be with this. I don’t want to spend another day working a full-time job that I don’t like because you never know what tomorrow will bring. Money is easy. But if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, things might change drastically for you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

    Good on you for prioritizing your health and getting out there on the trails every day – it also helps you to enjoy the place that you live. I’m at the gym practically every day for the very same reason as you. Life is short, be healthy. Or perhaps more aptly said, “Life is too short, do what makes you happy”.

    • Thanks, Steve! I’m starting to toy around with a new formulation of the phrase, maybe something like: “Life is short, do what’s important.” We can’t all be happy all the time, and I don’t buy the “Do work that makes you happy” advice that so many seem to espouse these days (Hello, privilege much?). Work is WORK, and they don’t pay us the big bucks because it’s all fun all the time. But if we can all focus on doing what’s important to us, I think we’ll be better off. And then we can decide what that looks like: focusing on our health, our relationships, making a difference in the world, etc. Lots of room in there for early retirement! ;-)

      • LOL — As I have learned when you have a different last name from your husband, you get called EVERYTHING. Mrs. HisLastName. Miss MyLastName. Ms. MyLastName. Mrs. MyLastName (which still sounds like I’m married to my dad every time I hear it — not awesome!). Mrs. Hyphenated-LastName. Bottom line: Messing up the salutation part does not bother me one bit. :-)

      • Hah! My boyfriend occasionally gets called Mr. MyLastName :D It goes both ways. Actually, he’s been called Mr. MyLastName, but I’ve never been called Mrs. HisLastName, probably because I usually book things, haha. We also regularly get called husband and wife without having the same last name (e.g. traveling at Christmas last year or whenever we have contractors by and I own the place, so he gets called Mr. MyLastName), all of which amuses me greatly. I’m glad you have such a great attitude about it! :)

      • Indeed — and Mr. ONL gets called Mr. MyLastName plenty, too. But he’s a modern fellow and that doesn’t bug him. ;-) And yeah, I could get uppity about it, like when older relatives send us Christmas cards addressed to “The HisLastNames” (this includes relatives on MY side, btw!), but I decided it wasn’t worth the energy, and I’d focus on stuff that matters. :-)

      • OMG – even from a husband standpoint – like Leigh pointed out, I also get called Mr. Her Last Name, usually by service people. I realize they’re trying to be polite, so I don’t mind, plus it’s great for screening the random phone solicitors. :)

      • It’s true! I didn’t represent Mr. ONL’s side, but he’s been called Mr. MyLastName plenty of times, and I think once I even shouted, “Ew, no! That’s my dad!” which I’m sure completely confused whoever called him that. Hahaha.

  8. I have a hard time with people who are martyrs about their job and how they never HAVE time to take care of themselves. No, they don’t MAKE time. In the end, it’s just you and your body. You either take care of it, or you don’t. Great post!

    • Thanks, Tonya! You put it so perfectly: You either take care of yourself or you don’t. We all have the same amount of time, and you just have to force yourself to make time for what’s important.

  9. “I walked six miles around Chicago starting at 9 PM one night two weeks ago. ”

    I couldn’t get past that you were in Chicago and didn’t grab coffee or lunch with me!!!!

    • I know! Bad me. It was a short trip where I was literally booked from 7 am to 9 pm, and was barely able to squeeze in this walk! I promise I’ll let you know if I’m back in your neck of the woods, and we’ll hang out at FinCon! :-)

  10. I adore the phrase “my new normal”. I have incorporated quite a few “new normal” things into my RE life…. but not daily walking. You have me thinking again on how to just do this! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • The answer for me was: Just go out the door! I didn’t start with seven miles a day, but I got there pretty quickly by just making myself walk every day. Now five miles seems too short, and I’m craving more time outside. Maybe I’ll be up to 10 miles a day soon, though I’m not sure I can find *that* much time! :-)

  11. I love this post. I am very much a live-in-the-moment-because-there-might-not-be-a-tomorrow type of person. My mom was really young (actually my current age) when she was diagnosed with brain cancer and things were never the same after her surgeries, chemo, radiation, etc. She fought and she lived longer than expected, but many of those years, there was no quality of life. I learned something from this unfortunate event and am trying to live life to the fullest each day.

    My co-workers are always commenting how they can’t believe I don’t stock pile my PTO and sit on a large balance. They state how it would make them nervous to have as little as I do, but I take my time to get away and enjoy life now because what does it matter how much time off I’ve accrued if something horrible happens and I’m not around anymore to use it? Live for today and plan for tomorrow…just don’t count on tomorrow. If you really want to do something…start today.

    • I’m so sorry that you went through that with your mom. :-( But glad that you took such an important lesson from it! I think it’s great that you’re taking all of your vacation time and enjoying life in the present!

  12. Thanks for the reminder to not neglect the now. I am constantly battling between my mission to keep hustling our way out of debt and with finding time to enjoy the present with my family. There’s a balancing point somewhere, I’m just still trying to find it.

    • It IS a constant battle, and I don’t mean to downplay the very real struggles that people face trying to fit in everything that’s important. But sometimes we just have to decide to make something a priority! :-)

  13. Our close friends are losing their dad on each side way to young and this advice was echoed by both of them.

    Thanks for touching on this topic

    • How sad. :-( I feel like this advice comes up again and again when people are facing the end — people never regret going for something, but they often regret not acting.

  14. There is a phrase for living that says:

    “It is not the breaths you take in life that are important. It is the moments that take your breath away that are the most important”

    It is upon us to fully embrace and appreciate these awesome moments as we live our lives today because once they are gone or those we care about are gone, there is no going back. They are often fleeting, are truly special and in our crazy rush of going about our lives, they often get under-appreciated.

    Living this way through good times and difficult times is surely the best path we can take.

    • Thanks very much, Mackenzie. I don’t know that we can speak for anyone else, especially around something so hard and complicated, but I needed to say this, and I’m glad it resonated with you!

  15. We are also struggling to find the right words to deal with the recent massacre, but instead we have cowardly chosen to remain silent. Thank you for having the courage to speak about this in such a powerful and thought-provoking manner.

    You have yet again, accomplished the task of reminding us that as we strive to reach our goals for the future, we must not allow ourselves to forget that we must live for today. We now have several members of our family fighting terminal cancer. Another, recently died in a car crash barely out of high school. These are very important reminders that our time on earth is not for us to decide. Thank you again for the tremendous post!

    • Don’t beat yourself up about it — speaking up is hard, especially when a tragedy like this one happens that is so politically charged on all sides. If only we could all just relate to each other on this as human beings, instead of bringing an agenda to it! :-(

      But thank you for this comment. Felt very exposed putting this out there, but comments like yours make it feel worth it. :-) I’m so sorry to hear about the people in your family with terminal cancer, and your relative who died recently — so young! Sending you good thoughts!

  16. We definitely got serious about early retirement when my cousin who was one of the healthiest and just generally most awesome people we knew got cancer and within 2 years died in her early 40’s. Within a month after her death we had our daughter. Up until that point, we knew we wanted something different for our lives, but were too busy and not dissatisfied enough to really figure out what. When something really bad or even good but life changing happens you really have 2 options. You can feel bad or overwhelmed about things or you can use it as an opportunity to better yourself, the world or whatever is appropriate for the situation.

    Also agree 100% that you can’t wait for the perfect plan to get started. We had no idea how to achieve FI or even what we really wanted when we got there when we started. However, I’m very glad we did b/c just having a general goal and plan and then starting in motion towards it has allowed us to take control of our finances and lives and learn a tremendous amount about ourselves. We have made more progress in the past 3 years than we had in the previous 10 years of drifting.

    • Wow, I’m so sorry about your cousin. :-( Though I’m glad that you used that sad experience (and the birth of your daughter!) to propel you in a better direction. And your description of the FI path that you got on after that totally reminds me of my belief that the journey to FI is the destination in and of itself. Like, yeah, of course we hope we reach our objective, but just aiming for FIRE has improved our lives and made us more mindful in so many ways. Like you guys feeling like you were drifting, we were definitely on a more aimless and unsatisfying path before, too.

  17. Such sad news about Orlando – such things happen with increasing frequency now but we must all try not to let those events shape the world. You are also right to balance your focus on FI. Neither of my parents made it to retirement and they had such plans – they should have lived a little while they could. Also thanks for the reminder to get outside and enjoy a walk. I live in Snowdonia National Park, North Wales,UK. I’ve been spending a little too much time reading your blog (which is great) so I made time today to put down the iPad and went up the mountain.

    • You completely made my day that you deliberately put down the iPad and marched up the mountain! Hooray for getting outside — especially in what I imagine is a very beautiful place!

      How sad that your parents never got to realize their retirement plans. :-( But what an important reminder not to put everything off until retirement, and to make sure to enjoy life in the present!

      Thanks for your nice note on the blog — so glad you’re enjoying it! :-)

  18. I’ve been trying to see my parents one weekend a month this year and it’s been working! We also always go on a minimum half hour walk every day we visit them which we never did before and it makes the visits much better. We also FaceTime with my in laws every week or every other week. They’re not getting any younger and it’s scary how little time we might have left together. I worry that by the time I could fully early retire, those early years of it might be spent taking care of my parents in their old age rather than spending the time with them now.

    I’ve been making a huge effort this year to exercise. It was much easier when I lived and worked in the city, so I didn’t do the best job last year, but I’m making up for that this year and determined to get in better shape again. Next up: an appointment with a nutritionist to see how we can better improve our food intake! Honestly, exercise and health is one of the things I would improve a lot on in early retirement.

    • I’m so glad to know that you’re making such a big effort to spend more time with your parents, and to talk more with your in-laws. :-) That’s a time investment you’ll always be glad you made.

      And yeah, I completely get it on diet and exercise. I think it helped me to finally realize that it was never going to be easy to eat well and have the level of fitness that I want, even in early retirement, and so I just had to decide to make it a priority, despite work and travel and everything else. Fingers crossed that I’m forming some good habits now! And major high five for taking the step of going to see a nutritionist!

  19. Thank you so much for your thoughtful post. It’s so hard to know what to say when faced with horror. I think you did a great job being personal and not political!

  20. I get the trying to be here in the now instead of putting things off until “retirement”. I’ve seen way too many examples of relatively healthy people having heart attacks or other unexpected health issues and being gone months before retirement, 2 weeks after retiring, or like the Elephant Eaters example, just way too young, period.

    It makes you think about early retirment, but nothing changed our trajectory as much as having kids. They were our catalyst to actually figure out what we wanted to really do and how could we spend more time with them, even though our non-PF blog selves already had retirement at 45 – based on Mrs. SSC’s spreadsheet anyway.

    Like your health realization, last summer I realized that if I wait until ER/FFLC to get into better shape, I could be a blob by then, and why make it harder on myself and not just start now? Hence more running and ultimately, the half marathon. And I’m signed up for another FLAT one in the fall, but that means summer training, Eewwww…. it only felt like 100 when I ran last night – at 7:30pm… :)

    • It definitely seems you guys aren’t alone in having your kids be the financial catalyst! And yeah, seeing people go way before their time. That is definitely my biggest irrational fear, and a big motivator behind hurrying the heck up! (Plus I have other health issues in the family that may still affect me — so, you know, that’s actual, legit fear.)

      I’m super glad you’ve gotten into running more, at stoked you entered another half! Thumbs up on making it a flatter one this time. :-) All of my races have been flat, and I think that’s been a good decision! Though if we decide to do any in the future, Mr. ONL insists we need to do them near home, which means both hills and altitude. Eek! Maybe just stick to hiking and biking. :-)

      And I’ll trade you on weather! Last night it was 45 degrees with wind whipping when I started my hike at 5 pm. By 7:30 when I got home, it was under 40. It was summer two days ago, but this is just how it goes up high, apparently.

  21. This is an amazing post!
    Extremely inspiring. It’s true that tragedies do put life in perspective.
    I feel as though I’ve been on the same train of thought as this post lately. What’s the sense in waiting to pursue what you love? What’s the point of working your entire life just to stack more zeros in the bank?
    And like you said, there’s no point in waiting to be yourself. There’s no point in waiting to get healthy. Truly awesome post. That said, I’m going straight to the gym after writing this comment… Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks, Graham! You made my day, saying that you’re heading right to the gym. :-) I can’t help but think a lot about this question of what’s the point? What’s the point of money if we’re just going to keep it in the bank and not spend it to enjoy life or help those we love? What’s the point of delaying all joy to the future just so we can save now? I’d never advocate living with a total YOLO attitude and blowing all your money, but finding some balance is so important. None of us know how long we have…

  22. What a great post. One of the things I put off CONSTANTLY in relation to other “to-do’s” for each day is making time to exercise. And not just walking exercise (thanks to our pup Russell, we’ve got walking several times a day built into our routine) but REAL exercise that builds muscle, get s the heartrate going and makes one stronger. And although I don’t plan to wait until ER to start exercising (because 8 more years of waiting would NOT be in my best interest), I still do need to make it a priority today instead of waiting. Thanks for the motivation!

    • I know how tough it is to prioritize it, but it’s something we all just have to decide to do. If it helps, I’m not trying to address everything right now. I’m not doing intense cardio or lifting weights, but just focusing on the type of fitness that’s most relevant to my outdoors goals — fast hiking up big hills for longer distances, with increasing weight. I think if I *also* had to find time to spin or run *and* lift weights, my head would explode. So again, it’s not perfect, but it’s so much better than what I was doing!

  23. As so many others have said, life is short–that only hit home after my dad passed away. We’ve made so many changes so far this year that we’re really proud of. Prioritizing what matters feels great. Let’s keep the momentum going!

    • I’m still sad about your dad’s passing. :-( But how wonderful that you have embraced the “life is short” spirit and made some changes that make you feel proud. I agree — let’s keep that momentum going! :-)

  24. I’m so glad you wrote this. My girlfriend and I were together when we found out and we just clung to one another and cried. Our community is under attack. It helps us a lot to know that we have allies who will act on their convictions.

    • I would never try to insult the LGBT community and say that it was an attack on “humanity,” because it was clearly a hate crime against gay people, many of whom were Latino. But I will say that we have been heartbroken since we heard, and have had a hard time thinking about anything else. I’m sure it’s not the same as what you’re feeling, but there are lots of us who care and feel the pain in a real way, even if it wasn’t an attack against a community that we’re a part of. Sending so much love!

  25. There are times I definitely struggle with enjoying today because I’m so focused on the future. Some days I need to slow down and appreciate what my family already has instead of always hustling to make our lives even better years from now. My daughter will only be little so much longer. Great post :)

    • I think that’s something we all struggle with. Though I’m sure you feel it more acutely because you’re watching your daughter grow up so quickly!