The question of what my life purpose or identity is comes up frequently when thinking about an early retirement or early reset. It is an interesting question to explore. I explored it myself, and even had a life coach a couple years before I left corporate America.
I discovered with my life coach that I didn’t really want to know what I’d do because I’d just want to go do it sooner. Or, maybe it was just subconsciously that I didn’t really know what it’d be anyways so why not just live it and figure it out?
I see this topic come up over and over. In the USA our identity is so tied up in our career and status. It’s difficult to separate employment from our identity, so for the first year post-reset, you’ll probably still come back to it.
I’m a retired nomad, or as I like to say for the shock factor, “I’m jobless and homeless.” I’m also still an engineer even if I don’t practice it because my mindset is still one of an Industrial Engineer, meaning I want to make things more efficient. That part of my identity hasn’t left me even though I left my career and I’ve developed new identities that better suit me.
As for purpose, the real question is why do you feel like you need a purpose post early retirement? You’ll naturally find something that better suits you. You’ll fall into routines, and you’ll have time to explore hobbies. Knowing what comes next is a security blanket as you jump off into the unknown, but it’s just that — unknown. The focus should be on enjoying life and living in the moment.
The first year post early reset is going to be all about embracing the feelings. It takes time to decompress. But you’ll likely want to pinch yourself when you’re doing something you never could have done on a weekday while working. That feeling of “It’s Tuesday and I’m out [fill in the blank-hiking, kayaking] instead of being in the office”. Even when I had COVID I still thought, wow I’d rather be relaxing fighting COVID than stressing about needing to be in the office or finish/missing work deadlines.
While I don’t think finding a specific purpose is necessary, exploring different areas of your life could be a good way to push yourself to make small, but impactful changes and one such tool I was taught about during life coaching is the wheel of life. I think it’s a powerful tool for thinking about how life is connected. If you make a decision to improve one specific category it could be negatively or positively impacting other areas of the wheel. It can also be customized to your priorities in life.
For example, ‘Career’ is no longer a focus of mine, but being more creative is so I’m learning more about drawing, painting, and calligraphy. If I wanted a paint class in a group setting it could improve my social aspect, but could be expensive and therefore reduce my financial section. I also might consider adding a section for travel since that’s something I value.
I haven’t determined what purpose I have in life, or if I really think anyone needs a life purpose, other than maybe to maximize life enjoyment. However, I do like using the wheel of life to determine different areas that I might feel are lacking and setting little tasks to do in different categories to improve myself, recently
- Physical: Listening to my body on what I want to do for the day, but also what activities are available in whatever location I’m visiting. Regularly walking over 10 miles a day and listening to my body when I’m full both have helped me lose weight.
- Intelligence: Learning about any topics that interest me through books, podcasts, or movies. While traveling through SE Asia, I’ve read books and visited sites to learn about the history of Pol Pot and the Vietnam War.
- Creative: I’ve started working more on practicing calligraphy and sketching.
While you’re transitioning into life post early reset, I encourage you to not seek what is your life purpose. One day, if you’re meant to find it you might, but it’s such a large task to place before you’re really living this phase of your life. Instead, evaluate the key areas of your life and use those to guide changes you want to see in your life.