Last week's post was about lifestyle even though I knew that meant it would get less reads - finance focused post are much more popular. Despite being less read, those that commented were in favour of lifestyle posts, perhaps because the doubters simply didn't read it so were never going to comment.
One comment was that "lifestyle posts are more interesting and delve more into the psyche of freedom, purpose, and personal values...the things that make reading a post actually interesting".
If I had to come up with some words synonymous with early retirement, then "freedom", "purpose" and "personal values" would be a pretty good start. I might add "choice" to the list too.
Back in 2018, I gave a talk about my financial independence and retiring early journey to Simplyfi.org, a non-profit community who support each other to achieve financial independence. This graphic shows some of the words that I associated with early retirement back then, all of which still apply now.
For "purpose", my ideas have changed since my early days of retirement when I thought purpose had to be a big and probably altruistic thing. It can be that, but it doesn't have to be. I now lean towards my purpose being multiple things, quite possibly smaller things that may well change over time. If there is some aspect of altruism somewhere in the mix, so much the better.
Another slide from that 2018 talk touched on what I do. I'd listed my activities under a general heading of having a purpose and also noted that the purpose was a work in progress.
At that time, finding a purpose seemed to be a big deal. But as I said earlier, I'm now quite relaxed about it, comfortable for purpose to be a series of smaller things that change over time and not needing to be one big and perhaps altruistic thing.
I'm not convinced you even have to be able to define or explain your purpose. If you get out of bed each morning looking forward to the day ahead and the things you're going to do, then it seems to me that you have a purpose.
For some reason, I was thinking about this as I ran, gasping for breath, up and down the Route de la Plagne (the flattest road I have found) for my Tuesday interval run session. My session: warm up, then 1km at 4:15 mins/km, 400m at under 4:00 mins/km and 100m recovery - repeat 4 times and then cool down. Not a long session, but I'm finding it tough going to hit those paces, as my heart rate of between 177bpm and 185bpm confirms.
So does running count as being part of my purpose and, if it does, am I cheating on the purpose thing by including it? Maybe some background about my running can help answer that:
I'm being quite dedicated about my running to give myself the best chance of performing to my ability for my April marathon
I'm committed and organised about it. I've made a training schedule, although snow and ice don't always cooperate
Some of the sessions are designed to be very challenging, so I need to work hard at it
I wake up on run days kind of looking forward to it, albeit with a bit of trepidation if it's going to be a toughy
I find it weirdly fulfilling, at least I do once I'm back home after I've finished my workout
It is one of the targets I've set myself for this year (run London marathon in an OK time and use that as a springboard for a faster time later in the year)
If a purpose is something that gives direction, motivation and a sense of reason/being then my running and marathon targets are ticking at least two of these.
While thinking about this post, I read an article that talked about different varieties of purpose such as:
Survival reasons - meeting the physical means for food and shelter
Personal Accumulative reasons - attaining wealth, status and success
Altruistic/Idealistic reasons - trying to improve the situations of others
Personal Development reasons - improving existing, or developing new, skills
When I was younger, survival and personal accumulation reasons were of greater importance. While they're not totally irrelevant now, they're not too far from it. That leaves altruistic and personal development areas, with my running falling within the latter.
Other than an excuse to include a picture of me running in the snow (from today's longer run), I promise there is a point to this post. Finding a purpose can be a big concern for people considering early retirement or perhaps recently early retired. My experience is that it shouldn't be. It's not the big scary thing that you might imagine, but more likely a series of different and smaller things that you'll discover over time and may also change over time. I worried too much about it and hindsight tells me that I didn't need to.