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Early retirement - losing direction, purpose and motivation

It's fair to say that I have a positive view of early retirement. I'm in my seventh year of it and haven't regretted it for a second.

That's not to say there aren't occasional challenges. For example, I'm still trying to find the right balance between the early retirement that I want and the life that my wife wants to lead - I'd assumed our wants for the next stage of our lives would automatically align, but that was an incorrect assumption. Another, perhaps simpler, challenge is how to deal with the times when I feel a lack of direction, purpose or motivation.

That's the case today - I don't feel that I have the same sense of drive that I normally have. This has happened before. I often have a similar feeling at the start of January, I suspect a result of abandoning my normal routines over Christmas, and it then taking a while to get back into my early retirement stride.

On the basis that I'm writing this in August, it's difficult to blame Christmas! But I guess it is possible that my current malaise is a result of a change in routine - over the past month, I've hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc with friends and also had visitors to stay, all a lot of fun, but also different from my routine. However, this isn't the first time I've taken time out to do something, and we often have visitors, and these things don't automatically lead to a problem, so I think there's something else.

Early retirement challenges
Ouch...not part of this year's early retirment plan!

That something else is that I've fractured a bone in my ankle. It's only a little fracture, and only on a small bone (the round sticky-out bone on the outside of your ankle, the lateral malleolus), but enough for the doctor to prescribe no sport for six weeks, so no running and no cycling (well, maybe I can cycle after four weeks). I don't count myself as a fitness fanatic, but it is something I normally do four or five times a week, and taking this away has certainly affected my routine and perhaps also my sense of direction or purpose.

Why am I writing about this? It's to recognise that not every early retirement day is perfect. But then, to also say that if there is a part of early retirement that isn't feeling as good as it could, there's usually something quite easy that can be done to make things better. I'm a believer that we have a lot of control over our own destiny.

In my case, I like routine, and injuring my ankle means that a chunk of my normal routine is temporarily off limits. I can sulk about the lack of direction, purpose or motivation that I'm feeling, or I can try to do something about it - unsurprisingly, I'll choose the latter.

So, what to do? While not exactly exciting, my targets for this year include trying to understand French capital gains tax and inheritance tax (there's also a property wealth tax to think about), so I can use the time that I would have been running or cycling to investigate these topics. While doing that, I've realised that our wills need updating, so I'm spending some time to fix that too. There are also some other things on my to do list that I can pay a little more attention to.

As I said, these aren't the most exciting of activities, but they will help get me back on track in terms of giving me a little more direction, motivation and purpose. Plus, I can also choose some more exciting activities to address, for example, we're thinking of taking a holiday in November, so some planning for that can tick the more exciting box.

In terms of some tasks being less exciting, it's worth remembering that in my pre-retirement job as an accountant, not every day was exhilarating (to put it mildly!), so it's okay to have a few quieter early retirement days too.

In the seven years of my early retirement so far, I've vacillated on whether "purpose" is important. On balance, I come down on the side of saying that it is, but that purpose doesn't have to be the big, and perhaps altruistic, thing that I once thought. I've found that a combination of smaller things can work well to give me sufficient direction and motivation.

Of course, if I follow the doctors' orders, it won't be too long before my ankle is fixed, and I can be out running and cycling again, and presumably complaining about how unfit I've become. Added to that, I'll hopefully have checked off my understanding French capital gains and inheritance tax target, updated our wills, and planned a holiday for November. I already feel that I have more focus. Positive thinking!

As I said, the idea behind this post is to recognise that not every early retirement day is perfect, and that's quite normal and absolutely fine. Hopefully, the takeaway is that these moments are usually temporary and, with a little thought and effort, easily fixed. When I wrote a similar post back in 2019, I ended it by saying "I think this has been a slightly weird post...thanks for listening". That same message seems to be an appropriate closing this time round too😀


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