Tag Archives: Happiness

The New Groove

It’s been almost a year and a half since I left my job and just now I feel like I’m finally hitting my new groove to my life.

That might come as a bit of surprise to some people, but I would say honestly it really does take some time for you to adjust to your new retired life.  The reason is you tend to go through a series of phases when you retire.

The first is the most obviously: the initial high of being retired.  Let’s face it when you finally leave work after all that planning it feels fantastic.  Your walking on air and the world seems to be brighter and happier.  That phase can last anywhere from days to months or if your really lucky up to a year or so.  Then it wears off and while nothing has really changed you start to  think:is this all retirement is?

Ah welcome to being disillusioned.  The next phase of your retirement.  Here is where things start to go wrong and you often don’t know why.  I personally hit this phase in six months (as you can see here). It was a crappy place to be. You can feel unhappy,  anxious, lonely, and even in more severe cases outright depressed.  I personally never got that bad but yes I did hit a low spot there where I was seriously doubting my decision to retire early.  And yet oddly enough this phase of doubt doesn’t really get talked about all that much.  What causes it?  Basically you are missing things from your work life and you didn’t really understand how important they were for you life such as:  a structure to your days, work friends, a sense of contributing to something bigger than you, and even goals with feedback on how well you did on your goals.

Yet after that low point you have a choice.  You can give up and get a job again and return to something like your old life.  Or you can push forward to building your new retired life.  Here is where you start to make adjustments to your new life.  You can add new activities, more social interactions, and even more structure to your life.  You can search to do something you find meaningful and gives you a sense of progress on a goal.  And know this search might take some time but don’t give up on it.  Then finally after a time you will hit your new groove.

Which brings me back to where I started this post.  I finally have a bit of routine to my life that makes me happy.  I’m not bored or lonely.  I feel productive working on writing material for my book which matters to me.  I’ve finally built a new identity of the retiree not the worker without a job that I started at after I left work behind.

There is a long process to get to this point.  It doesn’t come easy and while it can take years to get to a new groove it is possible.  Just stay the course and give yourself some time.  After all, you are retired right?

So retirees, how long did it take you to find your new groove?

The Importance of Day to Day

Okay, you are ready to retire.  You have your financial plan all sorted out, you have your first post retirement trip planned and you have even started to disconnect from your workplace by saying no more often.  Yet, despite all of this you really haven’t done the one thing that will matter most when you actually retire.

What is that?

Well, I think the single most under rated things people can do for their retirement is planning out what you day to day existence is going to look like.  Pardon? Day to day? Why the hell does that matter?!?

It matters because let’s face it after the first big trip is over and the initial emotional high of retirement wears off (and yes it will wear off at some point) what you are left with is asking what am I going to be doing next Tues at 3pm.  No that isn’t a terribly exciting question but it is an important one to ask yourself if you want to have a happy retirement.

Retirement more than anything else is about drastically altering your day to day existence.  Your job will be gone and now you will have all this time to do things but how exactly are you going to decide what to do and when to do it?  And if you haven’t given any thought to how you will live day to day, you might find yourself bored, anxious and unsure about living your new lifestyle.

So really what are you doing next Tues at 3pm after you retire?  No idea…you might have a problem coming up.

I’m not saying you need to know exactly what you are doing but you should have an idea of what you could be doing.  What hobbies will you be working on?  What goals that matter to you do you want to complete?  When do you want to get those goals done?  What exactly is your day to day going to consist of?

And it is perfectly find to just focus on relaxing initially but eventually you will get the itch to do more than try to clear your Netflix to watch list or finish reading a 15 book series.  These things are fun but since you don’t actually create or work towards anything concrete they don’t fill you up in the long run.

And it might be tempting to consider the fun answer of: I’m doing nothing.  Nothing is fine when you need to relax but you also have to consider that being happy also means accomplishing something  meaningful to you.  Now exactly what that is can be hugely subjective but the key is to have something long term that you are working towards.

What exactly are you going to be doing with your life now that you are retired?  For me, one of my big things is writing books.  Why?  I really love reading and writing books.  It’s really time consuming work to do and yes it is frustrating at times but I enjoy the result.   But that is just my answer, you need to find your own and while you don’t need to know exactly right away giving the matter some thought  can significantly improve our odds of enjoying your retirement.

After that then you can look at building out what your day to day will consist of.  Keep in mind you can fill it with many things and keep changing it up.  I, for example, like to cycle through hobbies.  So this week I might focus on playing old school video games, next week will be focused on building terrain for our D&D game and the week after I might focus on reading a few books.  The point is I like the variety of hobbies and it allows me breaks on them when I get stuck on something.

So what do you plan to fill your day to day with?

Life After FIRE – One Year Review – Part III

I was considering stopping my one year review with the last post but then it occurred to me that I didn’t really get into something I feel is VERY important for retirees in general: self motivation.

The problem is summed up like this: your workplace typically provided you with lots of external motivation to do things.  If you don’t do your work: then you get called out on it and potentially put on a ‘plan’ to improve or face being fired from your job.  If you don’t complete something on time, you typically have to provide a reason why, a revised due date and again might lose your job if you keep doing it.  And due to this highly developed structure you typically don’t need to provide much self motivation to do your work.

But now imagine you don’t have that workplace any more and in fact there is no one checking in on your progress or lack there of on anything.  So if you don’t do anything on a project and just play video games all week and at the end of it you might feel guilty but there often is no initial consequence for not working on the project.  All your external motivation is gone in retirement for the most part and suddenly you have to use all internal motivation on everything which isn’t a muscle that you have developed all that much prior to leaving your workplace.

So this can be a very significant problem for any retiree and after a time it is easy to fall into a series of bad habits and then feel mildly depressed about the entire retirement lifestyle.  While I personally didn’t get that bad about things I did underestimate how significant this can be during my first year off.

You see I’ve always been one of those people that thought they had a decent amount of self motivation.  I didn’t typically need reminders at work about much of anything and I was proactive on keeping people informed on changes of status of projects I was working on.  But I did forget for a while the often quoted cautionary tale for engineers: what happens when you give an engineer an unlimited project budget and no deadline? They never finish the project because they keep improving it.

Thus I fell into a trap of endless research on my next book and kept delaying starting on writing it.  It was only over the summer when I finally told myself this was getting nuts did I start with writing out a table of contents and then start writing every weekday to actually get some progress done.  And so far that has helped, I can have weeks where I fall off the wagon a bit and not get as much done as I should but overall I’m much further ahead then I had been for the last four months or so.

So this is your cautionary tale for any retiree: do not underestimate how important self motivation is for getting anything done.  Feel free to use any and all tricks you need to keep it going: offer yourself rewards for getting things done, tell others about your deadlines so they can help remind you to keep working, sign up for specific training or appointments in the future to help drive you to get something done.  What ever you need, feel free to use it.

In the end, if you want to get anything big done you are going to need to figure out how to manage your own internal motivation.  And this is key because one of the major components of long term happiness is working towards a project you find meaningful.  You need to accomplish something that you care about and it doesn’t matter what that project is (running a race, being a better parent, helping out in your community) you need self motivation to get there.

This concludes this series of posts on my one year of FIRE.  Of course, please  continue ask any questions you have in the comments.