I’ve been doing basically the same job since I finished high school…I’ve done it in a couple of different locations, but I’m still doing the same thing, day in and day out. Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful to have it! It pays the bills; it gives me a decent amount of vacation time and some money to spend while I’m taking those vacation days. But a few years ago, I started to think about where I’m going…what’s down the road…and what’s holding me back from achieving the freedom I really yearn for. At first, I told myself what was holding me back was that I wasn’t old enough – I hadn’t accomplished enough to be “done” working. Then something shifted in me and I started thinking about all the things I want to do and whether there is enough time left to do them all. So it’s starting to feel like I’m tied down by this job because it’s my revenue stream and necessary to make ends meet.
In one of the FB groups I belong to, someone was asking whether or not he should take his social security payment as soon as he’s able to and put up with the reduction for early drawing, or wait till there’s no penalty for taking it. The answers are seriously divided – some very adamant that he should wait so he maximizes the amount he can get for the rest of his life, others equally adamantly say take what you can get now and enjoy it while you can, because you don’t know what tomorrow brings. I guess the bottom line there is that you have to decide what’s best for you. If you need the extra income to do what you want to do now, then you should take it. If you wait, you’ll have more to spend later, but later might not happen…though it doesn’t really matter to you at that point, does it? We never really know how much time we’ve got left, do we? There’s a lot to be said for planning and preparation, but taking advantage of what you’ve got in the moment also has its benefits.
Why do you need to think about what’s tying you down? As long as you’re making your way through your day, what’s the big deal, right? Life will continue and you’ll come out the other side. Yeah – that’s true…but my point is that just “coming out the other side” isn’t a goal to strive for. For most of us, we’ve waited a long time to get to this point. The whole idea of a life “Beyond Retirement” is to get up each day excited about what’s ahead of you! And you can’t do that if something is tying you down, or holding you back. So the sooner you figure out what the anchor in your life is, the easier it’s going to be to figure out a way to cut it loose so you can make your plans without that shadow always in the background.
So, back to what’s tying you down. I want you to take a moment and think about where you’re at right now.
 Are you still working? If so, do you enjoy getting up and going to work? If you answered yes – or at least not a resounding NO – then that’s not tying you down, is it? But if you said no, what don’t you like about your work – is it the hours, the actual job, or just the fact that it takes you away from doing something else? For me, this is where I’m starting – the job is okay. I like the people I work with, I’m pretty good at what I do, but doing it all week (plus commuting time) is taking its toll…there are lots of things I’d prefer to be doing in those hours.
 What about after work and on weekends…what do you do with your free time? Do you wish you could do more – or different – things? Do you basically do nothing because you’re too tired from your work week? If there’s something missing from your off-work time, you need to examine why that is. Are you doing the right activities, or should you maybe try something different? Not being happy with yourself takes on a lot of forms…and that unhappiness will penetrate into all parts of your life.
What I believe we need to do to get out from under these ties that bind us, is make a plan and stick to it. If you’re not retired yet, but only seeing it on the horizon, you’re in luck because you have some time to implement the plan. If you’ve already retired and you’re wondering how to get the most out of these years ahead of you, it’s time to start today!
Naturally, your plan will be different from mine in the details, because what is important to you will be different than what I hold dear. But the basics are the same.
Action # 1 you’ve already done – figure out exactly what’s holding you back, what your “anchor” is
Action # 2 – determine what your end stage is going to look like and put a date on it…this is the only way you’re going to take action.
Action # 3 – start listing the steps that have to happen to get to the end stage, from the goal back to where you are now. You do it from this direction because it helps you focus on the positive changes (where you’re heading) instead of the negative stuff (all the work to get there.)
For example, if your anchor is a financial debt that means you have to keep working, your end stage could be the disappearance of that debt, or even better, the appearance of a surplus AFTER the debt is gone. Then the steps you need to take to achieve that end stage can be as small or as large as you want them to be, so they can take as long or short an amount of time as you want, but be sure to put a concrete date on it. Keep in mind that no real change happens inside your comfort zone – if you really want to see a difference, you need to feel at least a bit of discomfort to achieve it. So, the debt is holding you hostage. The penultimate step to being free is the step where you’re ready to make that last payment. How do you get to that step? You make some changes in your lifestyle to reduce your outflow of money. How large those changes are depends on how uncomfortable you’re willing to be. Some people downsize their accommodations to the very minimum that’s still livable. Others cut all their expenses except those that are physically impossible to do without. Maybe another step would be adding additional income streams; there are some ventures that don’t require a lot of your time after they’re set up, and there are others that will be exchanging your time for money – not always a good option. You want to try to find something that doesn’t put another anchor in the water…or at least if it does, it’s a temporary anchor that you can pull up whenever you want to.
If you can stay focused on the end result and you’re willing to work at it. ultimately, the ties come off and the anchor disappears. The feeling when that happens is definitely FREEDOM!
I guess it all boils down to your level of comfort…if you’re not currently uncomfortable enough, you’re not going to make any changes. So you need to take a long look at the person in the mirror and decide: are you satisfied just coasting through the years ahead as a passenger in your life, or do you want to be the driver? I say, be the driver! It’s way more satisfying being in control of the journey.
If you’re already living your dream life – shoot me a message and I’ll get you on my podcast to tell us all about it and how you achieved it!