When you are occupied by work and spent most of your waking day working and then doing the stuff around work that needs to be done, it is easy to come up with excuses as why you are not pursuing the goals you actually have in live.
It is always easy to say you are too busy working to actually start on your own projects. Or whatever activity you are day-dreaming about, while thinking you would do it with more free time. But can you imagine that it might become a little scary, once you take the time restriction away? I do not mean the occasional week or two away from work, where your main goal is to relax and recharge, so that you can bear the burden of work again.
I mean “early-retirement-never-having-to-work-again”-free. Free time, to yourself and your own projects, for month and years to come. Then you better come up with a really good excuse or you will feel awful for not actually pursuing your dreams. Either you are the person who can easily live their life just relaxing and not having any long-term goals, or you will have to set those for yourself. As I personally do not know anyone who falls into this category, this will apply to almost anyone. And as you are reading this, I think it particularly applies to you. I guess you are someone who is eager to learn and live life on your own terms.
In the FIRE-Community (Financial-Independence-Retired-Early) an initial adjustment period is quite well known. Here I will link you an article from someone who has been going through that phase. I guess it is something different than going through this phase when you are in your 30s or 40s compared to the usual retirement age in your 60s. You are most likely still fit to take on bigger long-term projects. Even with a lot of self-development work like meditation and self-inquiry, you will most likely still search for some additional direction and engagement through some form of work. A meditation-habit is almost a necessity I would say. It quiets down our usually over-active minds and makes you aware of your more true desires. Meditation also trains the mental capacity to recognize urges and negative emotions when they spontaneously arise.
Additional Self-inquiry work will reveal your more true motivations and desires. After that, you have now clearly defined one or more major life goals outside of regular employment. Will you be able to pursue those goals once time is no longer a constrain/excuse?
This is the point where early retirement becomes really interesting. Why else should one pursue the timely freedom that early retirement extreme provides, if not to pursue some higher goals in life? You would clearly not want to retire an empty life. Many will have plenty of things that they could occupy their time with, like family and friends, sport and fitness, cooking and eating, culture and travelling. After some time a thought is certain to arise: “Okay, all of this free time and the experiences are nice, but I need something more meaningful to do in the long-run…”. If you are not sure what this might look like for you, than go figure that out first.
If you have already a long-term project planned that might provide you with a certain sense of meaning than be prepared that it will become reality with early retirement. And this takes real action and merely thinking about is no longer enough.
I will you give you an example of myself. For a long time I have been thinking about becoming (mostly) self-sufficient in food-production. Not reading all the theory of permaculture and how to grow food is nice, but once I have the time and financial means, I will actually have to go out one day and build the farm and plant the food forest. I am excited about it and that vision keeps me focused on my goal. I am still in the phase of anticipation for that work to become reality. But I am already intimidated by the thought, that one day, after reaching financial independence, I actually have to quit my job and start working on that dream.
Having a clear idea about what you are going to fill your days with after early retirement will help you in several ways. If you are still in the working-phase of early retirement, it will keep you focused and motivated. And if you have already achieved your time-freedom, it will provide you with a long-term and hopefully meaningful goal towards which you can invest some of your time. It is therefore important, no matter where you are right now in your journey, to become clear about your goals, wishes, desires and derive a set of concrete actions from them. That will prevent failure in both the pre- and post-retirement phases.
In the light of personal development, financial independence can be a great facilitator, when the possibilities it offers are actually not wasted. But in the end everyone is free to choose how they spend their time. And not being a mindless consumer is certainly good behavior for the earth and our society in and of itself.