Dear Future Self - Have You Been Living Your Life To The Fullest? Really?
Do you even know what living your life to the fullest really means for you?
It’s funny, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks trying to write a post about renewable energy and the passive income sources it provides us. Spoiler alert – it’s pretty cool to have your house make a decent annual wage.
To be honest though, it’s been a bit of a slog and too much like ‘work’. So although I know I have interested readers, they’re going to have to wait a little longer. I’ll get there. Probably.
It’s something I’ve learned about writing and blogging that for me there’s no point in forcing it. It doesn’t turn out well 🤣
Asking us to consider what we would tell our future selves if we got the opportunity. An interesting twist on the age-old “what advice would you give your younger self”.
So here goes…
Why Does Living Life To The Fullest Matter?
Sound financial planning, decision frameworks and the like are all well and good but at the end of the day, for me at least, they are just tools.
Important for sure and skills well worth developing. But they are all in purpose of one thing – achieving your aims in life.
Get the destination ‘wrong’ and no matter how well executed the plan, you are going to be disappointed with the result.
And my destination has long been to live life to the fullest, in a way that’s meaningful to me
Honestly, it’s one of those things that just seems totally obvious to me. Why would anyone want to live a life where you spend your time on things that you don’t perceive as adding value? To either yourself or others that you care about?
I’m a big fan of being totally honest with yourself. It’s not always comfortable but it’s the only way I know how to live a genuine life.
To me, living life to the fullest is the best way to try to ensure I end up with a life without regrets.
It’s actually fascinating though when you read more about it. There have been a number of studies talking to older folk.
Asking them about regrets in their lives. Very few of them are financial in nature.
Instead, the overwhelming focus is on relationships and experiences. Of not being afraid to take a chance. Travelling more (yes please!), exploring, trying new things out.
So, future self, take heed. If there’s one thing I want to pass on to you it’s this;
Please don’t take your time for granted – let’s use it the best we know how
But what does that actually mean?
Time Is Precious - Use It Well
It’s interesting to see I’m not alone in this desire to make the most of my time here on this planet.
Monevator mentioned it in his recent post about crossing the finishing line. Finally making that leap and retiring early. I quote;
I feel like I’ve been handed a precious opportunity that I mustn’t screw up. Like it’s all on me now
That pretty much neatly sums up how I feel about having been able to retire early at 43.
Having my financial freedom now is such a huge opportunity. I don’t want to waste it. Funnily enough I’ve written before about how life after retirement is what you make it.
Money can do a lot for you. But it only really takes away excuses
It’s still on you to make the good stuff happen
If I imagine my future self in twenty years, I’ll be 65. Literally the age most people (government goal-post moving not-withstanding..) would normally be retiring now. Beginning that new stage of life.
But, dear future self, you were handed this amazing opportunity. Twenty years of early retirement. That’s a long time. I really hope you have made the most of it.
After all, you can’t get that time back. Well, barring some new amazing creation from Musk or the like. Never say never?!
It reminds me of back in my very early days of working when I handled a lot of legacy natural gas contracts. They almost invariably had what was known as a “Use It Or Lose It” clause.
Basically, it meant exactly what it said on the tin. I could go into far more detail here but I suspect I’m the only one interested. The key point for the purposes of this post is that the purchaser either used the gas – or gave up the right to it.
Time is the same. There is no ‘pause’ or ‘save’ option in life as in my trusty PS3 games
As much as I would love it, there’s no ability to try out different paths to see which one works best. Resetting if I don’t like the outcome.
Instead, time marches relentlessly on. And that’s why it I think it’s so important to try to live your life to the fullest.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘I’ll do that next week/month/year/when x,y,z happens…’ Trust me, I get it. Life is busy. I’ve been there.
I am however one of those irritatingly positive people who firmly believes there’s always a choice. When you have the ‘right’ goal in mind, you can choose that small step towards it.
But that does rely on knowing what that goal is. So what does ‘living life to the fullest’ mean to me?
Is it endless days of blissful luxury…sitting around in gorgeous places, sipping excellent wines….like this? Sometimes – but read on, dear future me, you may be surprised yet…
Halfway Through With Lots To Do
I suspect a lot of people groan deeply at the idea of navel gazing your way through what life means to you. There’s a lot of what I consider unhelpful material ‘out there’ and it’s become a pretty jaded area.
You know the kind, they tend to exclaim gleefully “the answer to life is this one simple thing…” or “all you need to be happy forever is this…”
Usually accompanied with a “Click here to buy your happiness for the special offer price of $4.99”. Or £6.99 in UK since we always seem more expensive..
In fact – can I buy two and be twice as happy? 🤣
So relax, if you know me at all from reading about us, you’ll know there’s going to be no claim to have all the answers here. And defn no glowing buttons with a price tag.
I actually don’t believe there’s a single answer to living life fully anyway
What brings meaning to me is going to be totally different for you
Instead, what I think might actually be useful to share is how I go about framing my thinking (/navel-gazing) to help turn it into something useful. Actionable. Are you still listening, future-self?
We all change over time, no denying it. What I thought was important twenty years ago often now seems largely irrelevant. So it seems a pretty good guess that my future self will likewise consider different things as a worthwhile use of my time.
And all said and done, that’s it in the proverbial nutshell for me.
Living life to my fullest for me means proactively deciding on what I consider a worthwhile use of my time.
And then doing it
It’s why my idea of living life to the fullest isn’t a constant blur of hedonistic pleasures, gamboling from one to the next. Neither is it a lifetime dedicated to helping others or continually challenging myself.
Instead, it’s a mix of everything above and more. Getting the balance right is important for sure.
But what really matters is I try to specifically choose and understand why I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing
That’s why a few beers out with friends or exploring a new country counts just as worthwhile to me as when I put time into online volunteering or this blog to try and help others.
I value these ‘indulgent’ activities as much as what most would consider more lofty aims. As seriously, get real – I’m never going to be a Mother Teresa and I don’t want to be.
But if I spend all my time purely on maximising my entertainment, it starts to feel a little empty. It’s getting the balance right which makes it work.
And that’s why to me, this kind of framework approach works better than a specific bucket list, fixed for life. We change, we grow – so should our thoughts on how to spend our time.
However, it’s that second half of my approach “And then do it” that turns this sort of thinking from a nice long list into actually using my time well
And for that, you need to prioritise, time-bucket things, get specific on the what and how. All the usual helpful time management type stuff.
So what does my current view of what I hope my future self will have done with this opportunity I’ve given her look like? (And yes, that was as weird to write as I bet it was to read!)
You Can't Have It All - So Have What Matters
Well , now that I’ve FIRE’d it’s actually surprisingly simple right now and I don’t think many surprises to anybody.
- Travel. We still have a lot of that original spreadsheet to work through of where we’d like to get to experience, do and see. This one is a whole list by itself!
- Staying connected with friends/family. Speaks for itself
- Trying new things, be it food or hobbies
- Taking care of my body and staying fit
- And entirely contrary to above, enjoying eating and drinking out and about. As said, it’s all a balance, right 🤣
- Helping others and making a small difference somehow
- Physical challenges – there’s a fair number of long hikes we’d like to tackle
- Continue to learn and grow. Through new skills and meeting different people, communities
- Live somewhere outside the UK
It’s a long list, especially on top of the usual basic day-to-day living stuff.
Fortunately I’ve always been a natural prioritiser. Once I know what I want I can figure out what it will take to get there and if it’s still worth it. Those skills were pretty useful on my FIRE journey for sure.
But you’ve probably also noticed this list is more about themes than specifics. And that’s because to start with – I want to understand the why, not the what. To understand why I think it’s a meaningful activity.
It’s also purposely not a “do everything in the world” list
Whilst it may be popular to encourage people to think “you can have it all” – it’s simply not true
I mean, think about it, it makes no logical sense to tell people they don’t have to choose.
You can have as much money as you like but there’s just not enough time to do everything.
Time is a resource, same as anything else.
We all have to prioritise how we use it
So from that grand list of what’s meaningful to me – I come up with specifics for each one for each year. That way I’m forced to prioritise and break it down into how I’m going to progress each one.
I’m not quite as dedicated as I Retired Young, who does an awesome job with his tracker spreadsheet. But I do ok.
For example, travel unsurprisingly continues to feature highly on my priorities.
Pre-Covid we had a pretty good approach going which was to split our travelling time between some new places each year. As well as returning to firm favourites for longer stints to get to know them better.
That way, I get to tick both my “continue to learn & grow” box alongside the much easier “enjoy time with S” box. All whilst having testing out places for our next potential home.
What I like about this approach though is that I know why I’m doing what I’m doing
Unfortunately, it also makes it far easier to tell when I’m not getting on with what I currently think is important..!
Hey, we’re all human and it’s so easy to go for the distractions in life. Guilty as anyone for sure. At least with this kind of framework I can tell the difference. And so look to cut out the noise better.
David at Raptitude, an old favourite of mine, has just started a new experiment doing exactly that. It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on with cutting out the distractions. Focusing on what matters.
Because at it’s heart – that’s all I’m telling my future self.
Focus on what matters. Don’t waste your time. It’s precious.
It’s worked well so far for me. During the tougher times on my FIRE journey, I always knew why I was doing it. And that I believed it would be worthwhile.
So if I’m talking to my future self – I really hope I’ve stuck by this approach.
Because it’s my best guess at how to try and make sure I use this fantastic opportunity of early retirement well. To live my life to the fullest and minimise regrets. And try not to screw it up 😉
So, future self – I hope you are listening. Let’s give it our best shot eh?
Oh, and btw I’m sorry if that crypto thing really takes off…..missed that one…never mind eh…more important things…