As 2017 comes to a close, and the prospect of a whole new year lies ahead, I find it’s always an excellent opportunity to reflect on the many changes a year of life can bring.
Looking back on 2017, I was struck with what a big year it has been for our little family. We welcomed a second beautiful son into this world, spent lots of quality time traveling to see friends and family, hit our goal of being mortgage free, found ourselves financially free and took the plunge into “retirement”.
With so many big changes, there has definitely been some equally big periods of adjustment that we’ve had to work through.
It’s an amazing feeling to no longer be tied to a work schedule, to have total freedom over what we do with our time. But, it’s also very weird! There’s something inherently easy about having to be somewhere for 10+ hours out of each day. Knowing exactly what you need to do and when, without having to think about it.
It still feels weird to no longer have the structure that a typical job brings to life. To no longer set the alarm clock. To no longer have “work clothes” that occupy half of our closet space. To truly have to think about and decide what we WANT to do with our time each and every day. Strangely, at first, the freedom came with a sense of pressure. Pressure to not waste this amazing opportunity. Pressure to read more books, learn new skills, do exciting things.
People would ask us what we had been up to since we retired, and I felt a sense of pressure to tell them exciting stories about all the amazing things we had been doing. But really, there were no impressive stories to tell. I wasn’t learning five new languages, training for a marathon, or about to embark on a world tour. We had just been living life, at a much slower pace, and enjoying the moment.
I used to wonder about people who I worked with that retired, but would then return to work after only few months. Why would you work for 25, 30, 40+ years only to reach retirement just to return to work force? Now I get it. Freedom can be daunting. Especially for people who have spent the majority of their lives working a regular job, in a structured environment. All of a sudden your daily purpose isn’t decided for you, you have to decide it for yourself. And as humans we don’t always thrive on the ability to have endless choices. If all you’ve ever known is the structure of a job, it’s a big adjustment to suddenly be responsible for deciding your own day to day purpose.
As I’ve learned over the past few months, it takes time to adjust to that freedom of choice. And part of that adjustment is that you need to be content. Content with your lifestyle, content with your day to day routines and hobbies, and content with your relationships.
Not to say that you can’t change or add to all of those things in retirement, you certainly can. But once you “retire” from your job, the day to day still happens. The kids still need to go to school, lunches and dinners still need to be made, and laundry still needs to be done. It just happens at a much slower, more enjoyable pace.
Retirement or Financial Freedom doesn’t necessarily translate to a life full of amazing travel and once in a life time experiences day in and day out, it’s still life. So you need to be content with the core of that day to day life. The small things.
As uneventful as that may sound to the people who are hoping to live vicariously through our “retirement”, I love it. I love that I get to wake up and make breakfast with my boys, and not be rushing around trying to get ready for work.
I love that I get to walk to Starbucks for my morning coffee, instead of sitting in the drive-thru stressing out because the long line-up is going to make me late for work.
I love that I can sit down with a book at the end of the night, instead of ironing “work clothes”.
I love all of those tiny, little, innocuous things. They are the best part of having reached Financial Freedom. Once I figured that out, I no longer felt the pressure to do something big and wonderful with my time. I was doing what I wanted to be doing. And that was enough.
A big part of finding that space of contentment was practicing daily gratitude. Gratitude for the small things that bring me happiness. Gratitude for the time to savour the little moments that could have previously slipped by me unnoticed.
Practicing the expression of gratitude is a big trend right now. There’s gratitude journals, daily gratitude mantra’s, and all sorts of apps to go along with it. And although most trends come and go, this is one that I think has substantial merit (okay maybe not the app part). But when you regularly express gratitude, it requires you to take an assessment of what’s happening in your life, AND look for and recognize the positive.
It literally forces you to escape the loop of taking things for granted, and causes you to inwardly acknowledge the things in your day to day life that you are thankful for. It’s not all about the big things, or huge life events, it’s about appreciating the little day to day things that bring value and happiness to your life.
The more you hone your ability to recognize the positive, and appreciate the small stuff, the more likely that you will find that elusive place of contentment.
So as you move forward on your journey towards Financial Freedom, I would encourage each and every one of you to practice daily gratitude. Whether you choose to write a one line note into a journal, or just take a moment to inwardly recognize something great about your day, it is undoubtedly a worthwhile investment of your time.
As I reflect on 2017, I feel immense gratitude. Gratitude for the big changes and the small. Gratitude for all you amazing readers who have found value in this blog, and for the opportunity to help others reach their goals of Financial Freedom.
From our family to yours, we wish you a very merry Christmas, and a New Year that will bring you ever closer to a contented financially free life.