Three years ago, Adam and I crafted a new plan. We were about to adopt three kids and we were expecting a baby in a few months. I looked at our investments, our rental income and his military pension and said, “It’s good enough.” Now work was optional. I didn’t know what the next year would hold. But he put in his notice at work and we planned a year-long mini-retirement to figure it out.

How Do You Win?

You know that feeling at the end of a great day, amazing weekend, a perfect day at work or good vacation? It’s this sense of deep satisfaction and contentment. It’s fulfilling and happy.

One of my goals with this mini-retirement was to test those days, weekends, work and vacations. See if I could figure out what the formula was that created those for me. What elements of my habits, activities, relationships, and schedule added to that sense of fulfillment and what things took away from it.

Ping Deep Motivations

One of the exercises I do with people I mentor is helping identify deep motivations. When we have a goal, what are the deeper motivations for that goal?

If you can recognize those deep motivations, you can make sure your daily life hit those motivations. Failure to figure that out is the source of the midlife crisis. When you follow a plan for a few decades that you think will bring you meaning, and contentment only to figure out once you “arrive” that the outcome you were shooting for doesn’t ping any of those deep motivations. Without those deep motivations being pinged, people are left adrift, bored, apathetic, overwhelmed, tired, and eventually hopeless.

Arriving at your goal and not getting any of the joy you were anticipating is a confusing and disillusioning outcome.  

The more our daily behavior pings these deep motivations the happier and more fulfilled we are.

I used the term “work optional” when we left, but “retired” never set quite right. Simply because we like doing things. I like doing things that ping those deep motivations and I didn’t want to paint myself into a corner with narrow terms.

My goal was never to stop. People often assume retirement means quitting something, leaving or stopping. While we did leave our old 9-5 jobs, it wasn’t for leaving’s sake. We left to start something. We left to give space for new things to grow. I didn’t really know what that would be when we started.

But it was time for a new phase.

I wanted to create a life I would never want to retire from.

Something that was such a perfect fit that I would call it my best life ever.

There would be 4 basic characteristics to this life I would never retire from:

  1. It gives me my most ideal lifestyle
  2. It’s let’s me “win” in my pillars of meaning
  3. It pings my deep motivations and values
  4. It’s fun, restful, and challenging

We started with the mentoring questions to gain a rough idea. Then we really started testing and scaling up those theories. Was this daily schedule our ideal day? How did we like traveling for 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 10 weeks? Look at things I want to Be, Have, Do.  Do I want to “be” these things? How much fulfillment do we really get from “doing” things? Which things seemed like a good idea, but didn’t really work?

Over the last three years, we have been testing, taking notes, pivoting, and scaling up those things that really worked.

No More Life Delayed

Of course, life changes. I surely hope I change and grow. And this life I never want to retire from will change with it.

But it’s not life delayed. I’m not grinding through today to get to a “better” day at some point. I’m actively trying to make today the “good old days.” I want THIS week to be the one I reminisce about in old age because I was “living the dream.”

Money is part of the equation. But it’s not the whole story.

If you think, “If I just had more money, bigger investments, more passive income, this life I would never retire from would all fall in place.” Maybe. But most likely not.

Nothing has “fallen into place” for me. My best life ever is something I’m building each day. I’m crafting and working towards it. We are almost three years into this process! While I feel that I’ve made great strides, I’m far from done.

It’s easy to say, “I’d love to start working out when I retire and be in the best shape of my life.” That was one of my goals and I started putting real effort into that 2 years ago. It didn’t magically fall into place even with a lot of effort on my part.

So last year I hired a trainer. Trainer Nate. I’ve endured his creative and horrible workouts for a year now. I’m closer to my best shape ever. But nothing has been easy about this. And I’m not done! What the heck! Now I shake my head because I might have another year or two ahead of me to really find my peak fitness.

Then the really cruel joke starts. I’m still not done. I’m going have to work my butt off to stay in my best shape.

More money will solve some of your problems. And it will enable you to find new problems. Like Trainer Nate. Nate is my new problem. A twice a week, 60 minutes of smiles and giggles kind of problem (Ok, it’s really sweat and exhaustion).

Build Your Best Life with Passive + Passion Income

I would love to say: Once you hit financial independence, everything magically gets better and falls into place. Your marriage is awesome, your kids listen, you pick up a meaningful side income, you lose 20lbs, you have fun getaways with lifelong best friends and your house is never dirty.

Financial freedom makes your best life possible, but it doesn’t make it happen.

You make those things happen. And they all require hard work and intention.

Build up your passive income.

Build up some passion income.

But make sure you are building your best life. There is no prize handed to you at the end of the road to financial independence.

You hit financial independence and there is just a big pile of lumber, sheetrock and cement waiting for you.

Now you get to finish custom building your life.

Custom Built Life

You can’t buy your best life off the shelf and expect it to fit perfectly. You can’t follow someone else’s plan and get something custom. You can’t outsource the work. (Even if you need help like I need Trainer Nate. But trust me, I am the one doing the work in the gym. He’s just smiling and counting as he doles out the next workout.)

Hopefully, you have started custom building your best life long before you hit financial independence. Because crossing that “finish” line is really the start. Now you get to fully build out a life you would never retire from because it’s such a perfect fit to everything that matters to you.