The greatest thing about early retirement is having the time and freedom to do what you want to do, when you want to do it. But when creating our early retirement lifestyle it’s easy to fall into the comfort zone rut. Ruts are easy to fall into and hard to get out of. We constantly tip-toe the ruts in life’s path. But because we are still going in the direction we want they sneak up on us and we fall in.
Unfortunately we can be rut-unaware because we are actually enjoying what we are doing as we fine-tune our early retirement lifestyle. When we are no longer obligated to a boss or work it’s easy to get a little lazy and stick with what’s comfortable. Same goes once reaching our retirement freedom goals. The comfort zone rut isn’t bad because of what we do while in it. It’s more about what we miss out on as we happily skip along early retirement easy street.
I Love My Comfortable Early Retirement Lifestyle a Little Too Much
I just recently had an OMG moment. We had a long planned vacation where we had an out-of-state family wedding to attend followed by a 10 day beach vacation. I came face to face with the fact that I didn’t really want to travel. The kicker is I really enjoy visiting with distant relatives. Not to mention hanging out among palm trees and the ocean. During the weeks and days before leaving it messed with my sleep and added stress as we prepared for the trip.
Then it came to me. What it really was about is that I love the early retirement lifestyle at home that I have created for us. I didn’t feel like taking a vacation from it. I was in a comfort zone rut.
We did go on the trip and during our travels I realized the importance of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I took account of what I would have missed and what I have been probably missing lately and neglecting in everyday life.
Being obligation free and having the freedom to always choose ‘easy and comfortable’ over ‘not sure’ meant a lot less spice in my lifestyle. I not only enjoyed our vacation but I met many interesting people. I had great conversations and gained new insights that I would have never experienced if I had elected to stay home in my comfort zone rut.
Here are a Couple of My Observations:
A Break in Routine Can Be a Good Thing
The thing about early retirement lifestyle routine, even when it’s all freely and happily entered into, is it becomes simply a habit. We no longer make a cognitive choice. Not that it’s bad since we do enjoy what we are doing, but in the grand scheme of things it is limiting. It is both enjoyable and comfortable but at the expense of passion and excitement. There are things to be learned from stretching beyond the comfort zone.
What I will now consider in life and restaurants is to go ahead and occasionally pick something different from the menu instead of always picking the same things that I know I like. There will be some selections that will pleasantly surprise me and others not so much. But I will never know if I don’t taste what is available to experience.
Be Open to New Perspective
It isn’t surprising that we gravitate more freely to what we agree with or how we see things. We move toward what closely matches our own identity and thinking. Our ruts can leave little chance of exposure to anything different. We never challenge our views and the ways we see things beyond our perception from a distance. Stretching past our comfort zones allows us to see things from the different angles and have a better understanding of the world around us.
This is where I see traveling in retirement adding tremendous value above just getting a leisure fix. However, I think keeping an open mind and ditching the comfort rut in our day-to-day offers a chance for gaining new perspective too. I don’t have to adopt newly encountered perceptions outside of my own. But I experience personal growth by advancing my understanding.
Appreciate Our Early Retirement Lifestyle
I never stop appreciating my hard-won early retirement. But after removing myself from my comfort rut and a lot of self-reflection, I now feel like in some ways I took for granted everything I really do have. Sometimes it takes the stress of being uncomfortable to place value on the life we get to live. I believe it enhances our gratitude when we turn off the autopilot of routine and habit. I love the living part of my early retirement lifestyle. But it takes a lot of things to pull it off. Like Heath, home, loved ones, etc. When something disrupts my comfort or plans I would get agitated. But there isn’t time for that. I shouldn’t choose agitation and frustration to be in my early retirement lifestyle and instead focus on what I do have with appreciation.
By regularly counting my blessings I will appreciate my early retirement lifestyle and all that I have even more. I don’t use a smart phone. But I always see many people walking or sitting at the coffee shop, even in the company of someone else, with their head down looking at their phone. I believe the comfort zone rut is similar. It’s where we can be preoccupied with our comfort zone existence without recognizing everything going on around us nor interacting fully within our world. There is value in appreciating what we have and the moments we are in.
Comfort Zone Rut Caused Social Isolation
I am fortunate to have a decent sized social circle. It consists of people I really enjoy having in my life. But it’s obvious to me that it isn’t growing and it may be shrinking due to some more distant relationships being neglected. I think in a way my comfort zone rut has caused a certain social isolation because I no longer reach out to people I care about who are a little more distant from me.
It’s easy to stay connected to people who are in close proximity. The comfort zone rut takes the path of least resistance. We can be blindly satisfied while we neglect others we care about. Early retirement when we are young and active means having the time to whatever we want. Part of that should be occasionally taking time to reach out to everyone we care about both near and far.
What It All Comes Down To
Having the freedom to do what we want to do, when we want to do it, in early retirement doesn’t mean we should only choose what’s comfortable. It is too easy to live an autopilot existence, playing it safe, so to never feel uncomfortable. Life is short and there is so much in the world, even within our community, to experience beyond our comfort zone habits.
I loved my early retirement lifestyle so much that I didn’t really want to vacation from it. I forgot how much I need to have some discomfort in my retirement in order to grow, keep things interesting, and improve myself. It’s now clear to me that comfort is an easy rut to fall into and I will be more cognizant about the daily choices I make. The comfort zone rut will sneak up on me again. It will take a constant effort to recognize it happening and snap out of it.
I think we all could choose to keep our heads up to look beyond our comfort zone and add a little more spice, passion, and excitement to our active early retirement lifestyle. I know I need to occasionally push myself to pick something different from the menu, care for all my relationships, and constantly count my blessings.