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Embodying Our Best Selves Way Before We Reach Early Retirement

If you’ve been reading here, it will come as no surprise that we care a lot more about happiness than we do about money. Money is definitely an important tool that enables happiness by letting us work less, theoretically — theoretically because we’re still in the working more phase of things, and working less is, as they say, still but a twinkle in our eye. But we trust we’ll get there.

In the meantime, because it wouldn’t be especially helpful just to spend all our time checking our account balances (certainly not after last week’s Brexit vote), we’ve been spending a lot of the lead-up to our early retirement reflecting on happiness — what it means to us, and what it will take to achieve it in a lasting way.

Finding Lasting Happiness

If there’s something we know — more than all the financial wisdom we could share, or investing advice we could post (truly there’s not that much: live below your means, invest the rest in low-fee index funds) — it’s that happiness doesn’t happen by accident. Or, at least, lasting happiness doesn’t happen by accident.

Happiness is something we choose, and something we create for ourselves by our attitudes and how we interact with the world. And, like so many things, it’s something we can practice and get better at. It’s not a destination — something we magically achieve when we reach financial independence. That we also know because we technically hit FI and didn’t become happier overnight. Instead, it’s a journey.

And instead of viewing that journey in two parts — first, we’ll save up to retire early, and then, we’ll find happiness — we’ve been seeing it more and more as all one thing, a process that’s happening in our financial accounts and within us on parallel tracks.

For us, happiness right now means not waiting to become our best selves.

It’s why we decided last year to stop complaining about work, because we don’t want to be complainers, it’s why we moved to the mountains to make it easier to get outdoors, and it’s why we’ve been trying to treat free days and weekends as an early retirement dress rehearsal instead of a chore fest. But there’s even more that we’re doing — some things more successfully than others — to be our best, happiest selves now.

OurNextLife.com // Embodying Our Best Selves Way Before We Reach Early Retirement // Mountain Living, Adventure, Financial Independence

A lot of what we’re currently working to improve in ourselves sprung out of the first quarter of this year. We had a pretty kick-ass 2015 financially, we exceeded our goals for the year and got ahead of schedule, and yet we were borderline miserable in the first quarter because work was so busy and we were traveling so much. We didn’t get to ski much this winter, we weren’t being active enough in general, we weren’t spending much time with our friends, and we were basically collapsing into the weekends. Seriously, if you found us anywhere else but asleep on the couch at 9 p.m. on a Friday, you’d have our permission to be shocked.

It was a wake-up call. We’d made some good improvements in recent years, like the choice not to kvetch about work, but we realized that we needed to make some very conscious decisions about how to be happier if we weren’t going to burn ourselves out en route to early retirement.

Embodying Our Happiest Selves

I so often think back to Maggie‘s line that “retired you is still you” that I couldn’t even tell you anymore what post she wrote that in. But it clearly struck a chord for me. It’s a reminder that I need, especially in my stressed or angry moments, that there’s not working me who is one person, and retired me who will be a different person. If there’s something I’m doing now that I don’t like or which doesn’t bring me happiness, that’s not going to change automatically at retirement just because work is gone. I know I use the word “magically” a lot, but there’s truly no magic: if I don’t choose to change those bad habits and reactions, then retired me will be essentially the same as working me, just minus the work.

In that spirit, we’ve both been working hard to curtail our bad habits and replace them with good ones. It’s definitely a work in progress and probably always will be, but it feels good to take ownership of our own happiness in the present, and not view it as some far-off finish line that we hope to reach at some future date.

The Attributes of Our Happiness

Does this happen to anyone else? You see someone in public do something, maybe it’s something like sigh exasperatedly when they see someone else do something inconsiderate, and you think to yourself, “I never want to be the type of person who does that!” And then not long after you find yourself doing exactly that thing. No? Just me? Okay, well that definitely happens to me.

I could let it bug me, but I try hard to use those realizations as teachable moments when I resolve to do better. Even recognizing our own bad habits, or the things we do that defeat our own happiness, can be really tough. So any moments of awareness like that are a gift, as uncomfortable as they might be, and I try to be grateful for the insights. (“Try” is the operative word — it’s never easy to see ourselves in an unflattering light!)

One thing that we’ve both been doing is thinking not about the negative qualities we don’t want to embody, but instead thinking about the positive ones we do. By making a mental list of them, it’s easier in the moment, especially in the crappy moments, to come back to that well of positivity and respond the way our best selves would.

Here are the attributes we’re working to embody:

Ready with a laugh — We are both people who laugh easily in general, and it’s one of the things we each love most about the other. At this point, more than a decade into our relationship, we have developed such an intricate system of inside jokes that we are basically just laughing at all times when we’re not in stressed out mode. But stressed out mode is hard to fend off sometimes. We’ve been working to stay ready with a laugh more of the time, and I’ll give you my best example. Sometime last year, I decided that I wasn’t going to let work travel stress me out anymore. Worst case, if I missed a flight, I’d get stuck overnight somewhere, and even that rarely happens. Most of the time, some snafu results in nothing more dramatic than a worse seat on the next flight. No big deal in the scheme of things. But I decided to go a step farther, and treat all travel as one big comedy of errors, and to laugh off things like delays for mechanical issues (which, by the way, I’m in favor of — please don’t fly me on a broken plane. I’ll wait while you fix it). I know that travel is stressful for most people, and so I try to spread the love, helping people see the humor in the situation and pulling up info from my app, like that the flight they are connecting to is delayed, too, so they won’t miss it. And for the little, mundane stuff, like getting whacked by someone’s suitcase when they pass down the aisle, I could do that big exasperated sigh, or I could laugh about it. Choosing laughter has made things so much better.

Active — Being active in the mountains is pretty much our reason for being, or at least a major component of our life’s purpose. But this past winter’s wake-up call was a moment of realizing, “We’re not currently active people. We’re people who talk about being active.” And that realization sucked. But we’re glad we had it, because it’s gotten us off our butts. Now the unwritten rule is, if we think, “Oh, I could go for a bike ride right now,” or “It’s great weather for a hike,” then we have to go do those things, even if we only do them for 10 minutes. And so far this spring and summer, we’ve been crushing it. I’m averaging six miles a day of hiking over the last two months (!!), though I’ve also basically stopped reading books and have not had a lot of time to see friends. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to make these trade-offs but, you know, no magic.

Patient — Patience is a virtue I definitely don’t possess in excess, though Mr. ONL is better on this front. I am bad at playing the waiting game to early retirement (Are we there yet???), I’m bad at waiting for people at work to do things right, and customer service… let’s just not even go there. But I’m trying to get better at this because I know my impatience doesn’t bring me happiness. In those moments when I can channel my inner Maya Angelou and be the gracious person that I aspire to be, I come away feeling much better. So, this one is definitely a work in progress, but thinking forward to early retirement helps a lot. Instead of getting frustrated when a junior staffer at work isn’t getting something, I try to remind myself, “This is a great mentoring opportunity that I’ll miss once we’re retired.” It helps.

Not stressed about money — This one is seriously Earth-shattering for me. Since the Brexit vote, I haven’t looked at our account balances at all. Not one peep. What’s crazier is I haven’t even been that tempted. It’s just been a moment of “Yep, I know we lost a whole bunch of money on paper, but it’s meaningless. Markets go up and down.” (How I feel about the actual Brexit vote is another story, and I am deeply sad about it, but we’re just talking money right now.) Even six months ago, I would not have thought it possible that I could get to this level of comfort with market fluctuations, being as naturally risk-averse as I am, but practice really helps. So if you are in still in that place where you can’t go long without looking at your account balances, just keep reminding yourself that numbers on any given day are fairly meaningless, and trust that it gets easier. It does.

Not stressed in general — This one is the biggest attribute Mr. ONL has been focusing on, and the results are definitely noticeable. He has always felt the pressure to be the “provider,” even though we both work and earn good livings (full disclosure: he has always earned significantly more than I have), and we could definitely get by just fine on my income alone. But he has long tended to internalize work stress and to get into his head a lot when work is busy, and this year he’s making the conscious choice not to bottle that stuff up, or even to let it get to him in the first place. I honestly didn’t think it was possible, just because I believe strongly that partners shouldn’t try to change each other, and that seemed like a quality that was intrinsic to him. But, turns out, it’s not, and his conscious choice to be a more chill guy even in the face of other stressed out people is something I deeply admire. Now just gotta keep that up for the home stretch…

GratefulEmbracing gratitude is not new for us, but it would never be a complete happiness list without talking about being grateful. We totally buy into the adage that it’s not happy people who are grateful, it’s grateful people who are happy. And we can always find new things to be grateful for. Even simple things like being grateful for the cool river on a hot day this past weekend, or small personal kindnesses. Of course I’d rather if today was another weekend day, but I’m determined to be grateful that I get to do meaningful work for a good salary — and that gratitude will make the day better.

The Attributes of Your Happiness

So many questions we’d love to hear from you guys on! Do you ever find yourself falling into that trap of thinking, “This will be better/easier or I’ll be happier after I reach FIRE?” Have you made any strides toward embodying the qualities that equal happiness for you? What qualities do you wish you could embody more, and how can you take some little step today to be embody them? Let’s discuss in the comments!

55 thoughts on “Embodying Our Best Selves Way Before We Reach Early Retirement

  1. I hadn’t thought things would be easier, but I think there will be fewer things and more space and time to enjoy what’s left. We also grew tired of chore-filled weekends, so we are trying to create some space now. Like you mentioned, even if we’re outside just 10 minutes, we are 10 minutes closer to being who we want to be!

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    1. You’re totally right that there will be more time for enjoyment, though I often struggle with the delineation between more time in the future and that somehow meaning that I’ll be a better version of myself as a result. So awesome that you guys are making more time for non-chores (that’s a thing, right?). ;-) And absolutely true — 10 minutes of anything fun is 10 more minutes of living your best life!

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  2. Great idea to not wait til retirement to enjoy life. Let’s all enjoy it now! I really look forward to when you reveal more about your work and job responsibilities. I’m getting more and more curious, however respect your reason to wait.

    The Green Swan

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    1. Haha — I wish we could share more! There are soooooo many more posts we could write if we could divulge our jobs and industries, but sadly, we have to wait. :-) We’ll share as soon as we can, though!

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  3. Patience is definitely a skill I could work on. My boss is particularly patient and positive, which makes working with him so much easier and so appreciated. Looking up to him as a model is a good way for me to improve on this.
    To not stress in general, I find that meditation (or simply seating still) for 10min every morning does miracles. Seriously, when work or life becomes too stressful and I hear myself saying “there’s so much to do and so little time!”, I know I need to take the time to seat still and relax.
    On general happiness, I’m currently reading a book “Man’s search of meaning”. This is one of the best books I’ve read so far and a very good way to put things back in perspective. We are so spoiled with our 21st century lives! :)

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    1. I think impatience is something a lot of us can relate to. :-) What a great point about emulating role models — I now have a wonderfully patient boss as well, and agree it makes for a more positive work experience! I love that you make a meditation practice a regular part of your life, too. High five for that, seriously. And thanks for the book recommendation!

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  4. I am definetely not a patient person, but improvements have been made over the last few years (still a long ways away from patient zen mode)

    I can definitely relate to this post on being stressed about money, I haven’t checked out accounts either, where I would have check 5 times last Friday a few years ago.

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    1. Nice job not checking our accounts! There is a part of me that’s morbidly curious about how much we lost, but so far that part isn’t winning. :-) And I hear ya on the patience front — it’s definitely taking me a while to improve on this front!

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  5. I could definitely use more patience. Sometimes with the kids I can just get so short fused and I definitely need to reign that in. As far as the Brexit, I was about to invest a few hundred $$ from my allowance into stocks a few weeks back and then thought, “Wait… if that Brexit vote is leave, I should wait a few weeks and get a better deal!” (Yes, I didn’t spend so much that I have extra to invest, holy cow!!) Who was scanning stocks this weekend and waiting today to see if there’s much more of a drop before I buy – this guy! lol
    I’ve been trying to get more active and make it a habit even though we’re in full summer mode now. Summer is our “winter” where you want to stay inside more because it’s really hot, really humid, and it’s easier to put on summer lbs than winter lbs here… We joined a gym to offset Mrs. SSC’s loss of her coprorate gym access, and it’s been nice adding swimming to my lineup of exercise.
    I realized yesterday as I was finishing up a 4.5 hr tree pruning session, that I like yard work and it will be nice to be able to do that at a time when I’m not losing time to hang out with the kids as well. Both are fun, and relaxing, but it sucks realizing the afternoon is gone, and it’s almost a work day again. No more “stay at home days” as my oldest calls them. I’m looking forward to more time to do stuff and not feel like I’m missing out on other things.

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    1. Nice foresight on the Brexit crash! I was one of the suckers who believed the polls and thought “remain” would win. I’m super sad about it, but I guess the silver lining is the current stock sale for the lucky few in a position to take advantage of it.

      I hadn’t thought about the seasonal difference in hot places, but it makes sense! I am a huge wuss about heat so I would definitely be huddled up in the air conditioning, too, if I had to deal with the heat and humidity combo. :-) And if you like yard work, you wanna come out here and help us??? The battle against pine needles is never ending! But thank goodness you enjoy that stuff since it’s probably always going to be a necessity. :-)

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  6. Gratitude is one of my most important values – it’s what I meditate on to center myself. Last month was crappy financially, but it was an abundant source of gratitude too, because several years ago, it would have been devastating, rather than annoying.

    I’ve deferred a lot of things for career success, which I don’t regret. I think it was worth making the investments that I did to end up where I am now. On the other hand, it’s become very clear that I can’t keep going at the breakneck, burning the candle at both ends all the time speed that I’ve been working at. Mostly, I’ve neglected my physical health. I know I’ve got to start eating better and being more physically active, but when I look at everything else on my plate (hahaha), I just feel overwhelmed.

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    1. I think that’s super awesome that a financially crappy month is now just annoying — congrats! (And you have my sympathy, too! Crappy months are still crappy.) :-) We can totally relate on prioritizing career for a long time, and I was for sure feeling overwhelmed earlier this year. What helped me was just doing one thing at a time, instead of trying to do everything perfectly at once. I started making little amounts of time for hiking (let’s be honest — it’s walking) ;-) and then got more and more motivated to hike longer and farther, and then that motivated me to clean up my eating. But go easy on yourself and aim for those baby steps. :-)

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  7. Most people should not wait until retirement to be happy. That’s because most working life stretches over decades. I was miserable over the last 2 years of work and I kept pushing through it. It was short term pain and I knew life will be better afterward. If it’s 2-3 years, you can probably endure the pain. Anything more than that will drive you nuts. It’s not good to be so stressful for so long. Anyway, life is infinitely better after I quit my job. :) Take it easy and enjoy the journey if you can…

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    1. We have always viewed our sprint to the finish as a period of acceptable pain and stress, but that changed earlier this year. We realized that even though we only have a year and a half left, we wouldn’t make it if we kept pushing ourselves to that level. So that’s what’s behind all of this. I think some amount of “short-term pain for long-term gain” is fine and maybe even good to make ER more satisfying once we reach it, but we can’t make ourselves unhappy in the process or turn ourselves into people we don’t like. :-)

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  8. Thanks for this reminder that everything we do is a choice, as is how we react to the world around us.
    We probably could retire now, but we’ve chosen to work part-time and increase our nest egg to feel more comfortable with this decision. We’re ‘semi-retired’, I guess you could say. So when we’re at work, we still don’t love it, but when we remember that it’s our choice to be there it makes things better.
    I’m also choosing to start a new career that will be more satisfying (life coaching). Hopefully it will bring some income eventually but it’s also nice to have the pressure of a day job and a nest egg to decrease the stress.

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    1. I love how you’re viewing your decision to keep working, reminding yourself that it’s YOUR choice for your own peace of mind. That makes work something you opt in to, which I think is way more meaningful than working by default. I also love that you’re starting a second career that has huge potential to help people! I hope your new business is successful and more satisfying! :-)

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  9. Patience is something I’ve worked on over the last few years. I’ve learned to not let things or people bother me that are out of my control. Such a waste of time and energy. It has served me well. Developing a plan for our finances really helped reduce stress in our lives too.

    Still need to improve on the fee time. A lot of weekend are spent just chasing chores, which is never fun.

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    1. That is all wonderful progress, Brian! You touched on so many things — patience, not letting things out of your control bother you, getting your finances in order… high fives all around! :-) And yeah, free time is so limited, it’s hard NOT to fill most of it with chores!

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  10. Money can stress us all particularly when we are attention to detail people and looking to have the road map neatly laid out with every gas station and turn marked. My 401k dropped on Friday to the level it was on May 24. Perspective. Gonna wait a few more days methinks before sending some additional greenbacks over to Vanguard to take advantage of the buy opportunity.

    Work stresses have been a royal pain in the derrière for me over the last few years and gotten me into very difficult situations that I don’t have the courage yet to write about. Maybe one day. I hear you completely on where Mr. ONL is coming from. It can be extremely hard on spouse, family as well as self.

    Patience is not one of my virtues. Boy, it is a tough test of my characterto wait two more years until FIRE. But that is worth it since growth as an individual only comes from tackling the things you are not so good at. I am learning that in my new role every single day at Mega Pharma Corp.

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    1. Of course now I’m so curious about the tough work stuff you’ve been dealing with — hope you’ll find a way to write about it one day! And yeah, I suspect that patient people aren’t especially inclined to pursue FIRE, and so we’re probably not alone in our impatience. (Isn’t it in part our impatience in the first place that made us question the status quo and conventional wisdom?) But I do agree that the waiting game is a great time for personal growth if we approach it with that spirit, because it forces us to do what we’re not naturally good at.

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  11. The best thing that I’ve come to learn about happiness is that it really isn’t a journey. It’s a choice. Sure, I might make decisions that will help me sustain and grow my happiness. But even if things really suck, I can find something to be happy about. It might be fleeting, but it’s there. Naval Ravikant has done two podcasts on the Tim Ferriss Show. If any of your readers haven’t checked them out; they are mind altering. “Happiness is a skill that you develop.” Mind. Blown.

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    1. You’re so right. I think what I probably should have written was: Happiness is a choice. Learning how to make that choice over and over is the journey. …because that’s what I meant. :-) Haha. And thanks for the podcast recommendation!

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  12. Some of this sounds quite a bit like a post I’m putting up on Wednesday about this type of stuff being a journey. But for now I’ll just say that my main focus after we finish paying for Tim’s teeth is to build up savings a bit more, figure out how to funnel more into retirement but above all to focus more on doing productive things with money than worrying about all the things we can’t do right now financially.

    We’re so behind in some aspects because, well, chronic illness is an income/savings killer. But there’s nothing I can do about that. So once we’re past the furor of reaching and paying for the dental implants… I want to remember to breathe. To realize that we’re finally going to be working more on positive goals rather than saving a bunch of money… and watch it all get sucked away, thereby starting at 0 again.

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    1. Looking forward to your post! I think people who have never dealt with chronic illness have no idea what you guys have to wrestle with, and how much more of an uphill battle you face on finances, too. I think it’s really admirable that you’re making space to breathe in the midst of all of that, and focusing on positive goals. <3

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  13. Great topic! Our character and attitude really have much more to do with the “good life” than money or work. I have definitely been noticing my lack of patience since becoming a parent, and also how controlling I can be. It’s ugly to see this stuff in myself, but like you said, it’s better to know and focus on the positive traits you want to embody. If I stayed oblivious I wouldn’t be more patient, I’d just be oblivious and impatient!

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    1. Thanks, Kalie! Thanks for your honesty in responding — it’s one thing to recognize our own negative habits, but I really appreciate your openness in sharing them here. I bet if you are aware of those less positive habits, that they’re not as bad as you see them. :-)

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  14. We are really working hard each day to “choose happy” and we find this to be much easier when we are active each day. There are times when we catch each other “getting negative” and it is really easy to do at times. Every day is a good day and when you watch things like the terrible flooding in West Virginia this week, it is hard to complain about anything. One area where we need to work is to not be stressed about money. We have some gap years to cover until one pension kicks in – and it is hard to think about dipping in to savings, etc. to get us there. But we have “enough” – so we are moving in that direction!

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    1. I’m totally with you on finding it so much easier to choose the happy path in a day with physical activity! And please share any lessons you learn in adapting to your “gap years” — I’m definitely concerned that it won’t be easy to start spending the money we’ve saved, even if we know we have “enough,” so I’m all ears!

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      1. We moved most of our money to a very stable holding in the stock market and I am sure people might think it is way too conservative (or that we are losing money)…but I slept fine the other night and know exactly what is in my account. It went up the last few days. We need it for expenses and college and just can’t accept the volatility. We’ll keep you posted!

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  15. Achieving my dream of owning a house and a dog has really helped me appreciate life. I just have to look out over my backyard – the trees, the chickens – and I can feel myself relaxing.

    Trying to find a happy balance with cleaning and chores. Heard a great quote the other day via an older woman who said she couldn’t believe how much time she used to spend cleaning – now she just takes off her glasses and everything looks cleaner :P

    A basic level of tidiness, and hygiene is a must for me, it stresses me out otherwise, but I definitely don’t want to lose too much free time to cleaning! Not when there’s a vege garden to plant, walls to decorate, etc :)

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    1. Haha — that quote is priceless and perfect! :-D Sadly, I have 20/20 vision, so will have to wait a few years until I can make the dirt disappear. ;-) It’s so wonderful that you feel so at home at your house… and with your dog! Dogs are a central part of our happiness, too, so I completely get it. But I love your mission not to spend too much time cleaning without things getting filthy — I’m sure it’s true that no one gets to the end of their life and says, “I wish I’d spent more time scrubbing!”

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  16. Love this! I was just talking about this with someone the other day – life moves so quickly and I want to make each and every day a great day. I agree very much that the day you achieve financial independence isn’t going to trigger some happiness button inside you. It’s all about intentially cultivating the life you want today and choosing to see the world in a positive light.

    I also read a quote once in a book that said “act the way you want to feel”. It sounds silly but it definitely helps me turn my attitude around sometimes!

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    1. Hi Bethany! I feel like I’ve heard that quote before too, “Act the way you want to feel,” and I totally buy that. It’s a little like “fake it til you make it,” which I also completely believe in. Can’t find something to be happy about today? Pretend! And most likely you’ll end up actually feeling happy. :-)

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  17. This may sound horrible, but it’s the truth: The person I don’t want to be . . . is my mother. She is 59 years old and hasn’t worked in years. She collects disability when there are plenty of jobs that she could do. She has declared bankruptcy. She has trouble paying her bills, but continues to buy miscellaneous crap that she doesn’t need. She spends all day watching television and goofing around on the internet. She doesn’t do any exercise, so she has some weight issues, and constantly complains about her back. I think that should paint a pretty good picture. I have tried to help her, but she’s not interested in changing anything. The only positive about her situation is that it motivates me to work hard, stay active, and fix our finances. I don’t want to end up like her.

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    1. Quietly laughing to myself over here… because I can relate! I will definitely be retiring before my mom, though I do think her finances are in better order than yours. I’m sorry, truly. That must be rough on a lot of levels to witness. I think it’s super impressive, though, that you’ve used her example to motivate you to create a different path for yourself. That’s pretty amazing. :-)

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  18. This is a great post and I can relate to it, I do sometimes get stuck in the, ‘this will all get better when I retire’ moan. The one thing we have stuck to is that saving for FI has never been everything. Mr BOTRA and I have always spent money on getting away to the great outdoors as well as saved and we have been out walking and cycling. This is mostly because you never know, we could get knocked down by a bus tomorrow and I don’t just want to be someone who dies with a lot of money in the bank and who never did anything. I hope people will remember me as someone who was an active person.
    As for the BREXIT vote … I can only apologise to you for all those British people that voted for it (rest assured Mr BOTRA and I were remain voters). Life feels very uncertain here in the UK at the moment and personally I am very sad and anxious and I am spending time comforting my European friends who feel rejected … but I’m hanging on to our plans.

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    1. Oh, trust me, we’ve done the magical thinking around early retirement plenty of times, too! :-) I think it’s normal, but also important to remind ourselves that we still have to opt in to happiness. I love that you guys have always balanced things and continued to be active and adventurous even while saving — that’s much like our philosophy, just with far less paid vacation time on this side of the pond! :-)

      Sending good thoughts to you as you weather this period of uncertainty in the UK and Europe! I’m glad you’re sticking to your plans, and I hope there aren’t too many geopolitical or economic barriers put in place by the Brexit!

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  19. “For us, happiness right now means not waiting to become our best selves”. I absolutely loooove this!! I think especially now that I am 39 *cough, cough*, I think more and more about the next phase of my life and what I want that to look like. I think this will be my new mantra ;)

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    1. We’re right with you… Mr. ONL turns 40 soon, and I’m just a few years behind. :-) I love that you’re thinking so intentionally about your next phase of life (though isn’t 40 the new 30?) ;-) and shaping it how you want it to be!

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  20. I have learned to let go of perfectionism, the main culprit when it comes to rocking my serenity boat. The siding didn’t come out perfectly, the paint is not the exact shade I envisioned, there’s weeds cropping up in the garden, too long of a wait at the latest medical appointment, incompetent customer service, too much clutter, on and on and on it goes. Life isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect, I still make mistakes and get frustrated and waste money and do many others things poorly or not at all or sporadically. I can’t spend valuable time beating myself up, or punishing myself for past mistakes, or grinding everything good to a halt because I need to suffer to make up for some perceived past error in judgment or shortcoming. I’ve tripped and fallen plenty of times, and I’ve learned the sun still comes up in the morning. We could have saved more money. We could have bought a less costly to maintain home. We could have rehomed some of our pets. The list of could haves, should haves, would haves has no end. I’ve learned to let it go, embrace the outcome (whatever it is), and just move on. Put one foot in front of the other, live in the moment and enjoy the journey. There’s not enough time in the day to make amends for every mistake I’ve ever made, and for today I’m okay with it. I’ve mellowed a lot in retirement, but I’m not that combo Martha Stewart/Warren Buffett yet, and as much as I aspire to that, there’s very little chance it will ever happen! I have to settle for being the best version of me I can muster up on a daily basis.

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    1. I have a secret theory that Martha Stewart is actually miserable and filled with anxiety about living up the standard she’s created for herself — ha! So it’s a good thing not to be her. And I love your philosophy of letting go of perfectionism and — you didn’t say this, but it’s clearly in here — keeping things in perspective. It’s so important to remind ourselves which of our many concerns are actually important and which ones just seem important, but sounds like you’re doing a great job at all of it!

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  21. I try to approach life as a grand opportunity for personal growth. (I was horrified to learn that a friend a decade my junior does not believe people change or learn after college). My favorite skills are empathy and curiosity. I’m struggling in some ways with growing my empathy right now because I’m impatient. It is a vicious circle that I’m focusing on turning into a beneficial circle.

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    1. What a great way to approach life! I love that. And totally agree with you that we can still grow and change, and you picked two great ones: empathy and curiosity. I’ve always been curious, but empathy is something I keep improving at. :-) I agree with you — I think empathy and impatience make odd bedfellows, so another good reason why I’m working on patience. :-)

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  22. Great thoughts on happiness and living a fulfilled life. So many of us, even in the “life is more important than money” crowd, still put all this weight in a vision of our future selves — when we’re retired, when we’re financially independent, when we’re out of debt — rather than working on being our ideal selves now.

    I forget where I first heard it, but a line that struck a chord with me was “Start living the life of the person you want to be.” Whatever you imagine your ideal self to be, all it takes to become it is action.

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    1. Thanks! We are as guilty of that future thinking as anyone, so this definitely comes from a deep level of understanding of that mindset. :-) I LOVE that line: living the life of the person you want to be. That might be my new motto.

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