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Getting early retirement advice from Confucius

Although I'm very happy in my early retirement, last week's post questioned whether I'm missing some satisfaction. It was a thought manifested during one of my runs.


My Confucius run

A week and a few more runs later, my thoughts had moved to Chinese philosophy, or at least that was the subject of the podcast I listened to as I ran. And if you think that's me trying to sound more intelligent than I really am, you'd be right, but it's fun to pretend👨‍🎓


The podcast touched on the subject of being comfortable in and of ourselves, to be accepting of who we are. Then it compared this to the thinking of Confucius. My understanding is that Confucius says that such thinking can limit us, arguing that we flourish when, instead of accepting things for what they are, we recognise that we can change things, including ourselves.


I hope I've got that right, sometimes simply breathing while running is hard enough, so it's possible that I missed the finer points of Chinese philosophy. I know I can listen, and I know I can breathe, but sometimes while running I have trouble doing these two things at the same time - Sally says it's a male thing, and it's not only when I run!


The podcast reminds me that I have a choice. Of my conclusion that my early retirement is happy, but perhaps missing some satisfaction, I can:

  1. Accept that I've got things pretty good. I'm happy in early retirement, love the freedom and flexibility, and if that comes with a bit of a satisfaction gap, then that's still OK. I'll just be Zen🙏 about it, or

  2. I can say, hold on a second, what about that Confucius thing? Yeah, I want to keep that happiness, freedom and flexibility stuff, but why accept that I can't have the satisfaction bit too? Surely I can change that, I just need to figure out how.


Option 2 sounds better to me. To add an Italian theme to the Chinese, Rome wasn't built in a day, so I haven't found a grand solution to my satisfaction question in the last seven days. But reflecting on my satisfaction question has encouraged me to make a start. So far, that's involved:


  1. Just recognising the situation feels like a good step to take. Acknowledging it means that I have a chance to do something about it.

  2. Reconnecting with targets that I've let slide. This week I've done some French tuition each day. Nothing major, but there is a satisfaction that I'm no longer completely ignoring this target.

  3. I'm making getting ready for winter a mini, short-term project. Hopefully we'll be able to travel back to the Alps in mid December which is exciting, and I've been comparing medical/travel insurance options to cover the mountain activities I do, researching ski touring gear, as well as watching YouTube ski tuition during my lunch break, which is one of the times that YouTube is allowed!


I know that doesn't sound very exciting, but it's the same as not trying to keep up with the Joneses - the key is remembering that it doesn't matter what other people think.


Beyond these small steps, I can start to wonder about bigger things too.


  1. What I want my early retirement to be? I want to not waste it and for it to include adventure (at least my version of adventure). In the years ahead, I want to have a sense of excitement about what I did. Translating this into specific tasks and plans is more difficult, but it's something I want to tackle.

  2. While travel isn't currently an option, there's nothing to stop me making some outline plans for when we can travel again.

  3. My campervan conversion idea might currently feel stalled, but I'm not ready to give up on it. Or perhaps a tiny house is a better alternative, or a cabin? There's something in this genre that's held my attention for some years, despite my complete lack of DIY skills. This would be a big and complicated project from many standpoints - practical, logistical and relationship (I'm pretty certain Sally doesn't dream of these things!). But it's something that I want to keep on my list of possibilities.


Early retirement advice from Confucius

Right now, I don't know what will close that satisfaction gap, but my new friend, Confucius, has given me a timely reminder to stick with my goals.


"When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps"

I'm pretty sure that Confucius wasn't thinking about the FIRE community when he spoke those words, but they're certainly applicable. My goal is to have a happy and satisfying early retirement. If I'm not finding sufficient satisfaction, the answer isn't to change my goal, it's to adjust my action steps. Something that applies wherever you might be in your FIRE journey.


I guess there might be some who will say this post sounds negative, me complaining about things not quite being perfect. It's not meant to be. In my mind, neither this, nor last week's post is negative - I'm having a great time, and this is about me thinking of how I make it even better.


I like reading what She's FIRE'd has to say, and her post this week is about her Retirement Bucket List. That's reminded me, I wrote about some bucket list ideas too, so I'm going to check those out to see what I can be doing about those. Yep, these reflective posts aren't negative, they're a chance to see how much better life can get.

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I'm finding the early retirement journey to be part of the experience. Nothing is ever completely perfect for all of the time, so why should early retirement be any different. I believe the trick is to recognise that and to continue looking for what makes us happy.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you will be able to travel again soon - do you still have your plan to take RB40 Jr out of school for a year while you travel?

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I think it's perfectly fine to add some goals. You don't have to be 100% happy. It'll keep you going. I'm enjoying early retirement, but life could be better. I'd love to travel a lot more. We'll do that when our son goes off to college. I'm sure once we travel more, I'll have other goals.

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At least you didn't think I'd taken advice directly from Confucius, that would have made me around two and a half thousand years old!🤣 Being in the UK isn't grabbing me yet, perhaps because all bar 10 days have been spent either in quarantine or our current lockdown. So, not much different from your friends in Paris, except no need to fill in an Attestation. To be fair, the rules for exercise are also less strict than in France, so this lockdown does feel less strict. I think I'll have to see how I find it post Coronavirus to give the UK a fair hearing.

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I laughed when I read your title- did anyone retire in Confucius' day? But that wasn't what your post was about. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about what I'm doing and wondering if there isn't a better or more efficient or more satisfying way of doing things. I do tend to analyze things to death, but I think periodic reflection and tweaks (to whatever I'm doing) if needed, have improved my life. Besides, I like to.

Are you glad you're in Britain? I spoke to a friend in Paris earlier this week and she said they are locked down and writing themselves grocery shopping permission slips again...

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Thanks for the feedback. I enjoy reflecting on what I'm feeling, how do I think I'm doing. I imagine some people see this as a negative, some would say that if I have to do this, then I shouldn't have stopped working, but I enjoy it and see it as part of the process of maximising my early retirement.


It sounds like your first phase of early retirement is going well, which probably isn't a surprise. Interesting that you're enjoying being back in the UK. I like the familiarity of being in the UK in that I know how things work and I can get things done easily, but I haven't really settled yet - I guess I'm yet to…

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