Have you ever read a job description that describes a perfect candidate as, “A self-motivated go-getter with a can-do attitude…” (Or something to that effect)?
I bet you have. The phrase is so ridiculously common that it can be found on every single job description in the world (if my quick informal survey is to be trusted).
I’m sure every single one of those jobs wants that mythical unicorn “go-getter”, but most of those “go-getters” are only motivated to do well at work.
Most of those “go getters” will go home every night, sit on the couch and watch several hours of TV. That’s not my idea of self motivation.
The great irony is that truly self-motivated individuals don’t stay in a single job for very long. Either they’ll advance quickly, change jobs when they get bored, start their own company, or maybe even decide to retire early.
In this continuing series on early retirement, we’re looking at the essential skills for success in early retirement. We try to answer the question, “What skills are necessary to make a success of a financially independent life?”
Now, in part 4 we’re going to discuss how human motivation changes once you reach those pearly gates of financial independence.
Yes, today we’re talking about self-motivation!
Once you finally pull-the-plug on gainful employment, there’s no longer a boss riding your ass like some kind of crazed-angry cowboy with a bullwhip.
Instead, personal motivation must rise from the depths to drive your life forward.
Are you ready?
When I was just starting out in life, everything was about survival. Make enough money to pay the bills, and buy groceries. If there was any money left-over, I’d save it for a not-so-sunny day… because in my life, there have been plenty of rainy days.
I never had a social safety-net like the “Bank of Mom and Dad” to help out when things went awry. If I ever ran out of money, I’d find myself living on the street. You learn to plan ahead for disaster when presented with incredible life-options like this.
My motivation was simply to “not starve” when the lean times came.
Eventually, life did get better though. I managed to pay off my loans, and started putting away real money every month. At that point, my motivation in life became: Do well at work, and build wealth.
Building wealth set the stage for the next 15 years of my life.
I focused on learning in my spare time. I went to night-school and eventually got a Master’s degree. I literally read hundreds of business and investing books over the course of several years — all in an effort to improve my financial life.
Some of those books were actually life changing, and continue to improve my life to this day.
The financial results turned-out pretty incredible. Eventually I got to say “I quit” to working a normal job.
So what motivates me now?
When you no longer have a job, suddenly time becomes yours again.
Instead of pandering to that boss at work, you can now anything you want. Want to stay in bed all day eating ice cream and watching Netflix? Yep, you can do that.
Thinking about traveling the world and seeing planet Earth? That’s a real possibility. How about starting new hobbies and building new skills? Those are great ideas too!
But they aren’t going to happen unless you drive-it. Instead of a boss cracking the whip over your head to get work done, personal motivation has to take-over and drive life forward.
Are you ready to take the wheel of that insane-clown car and do something interesting with your life?
Without a purpose, you could finally get through that entire Netflix queue … but I won’t recommend it.
Eventually you’ll get sick of watching TV, your body will grow weak, your arteries will harden, and your brain will turn to mush.
This is why many retirees often say you should retire to something, not from something. To be successful, you need to have a plan, goals to accomplish, and a purpose to drive life forward.
Become that “self-motivated go-getter” for your life. Give yourself a larger purpose — Build a post-FIRE plan for life that builds happiness, keeps you active, and challenges you to try new things and make new mistakes.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a veg-out day once in awhile. You can!
Everybody needs a break sometimes, but it shouldn’t be everyday.
But what about social interaction? Well, YOU are going to be filling all that spare time. You ALONE in some cases. If you’re the kind of person that gets lonely or depressed, this could be a real issue.
I recently wrote about this in my 1-year retrospective — Early retirement can be quiet. Extremely quiet. Like zombie-apocalypse quiet (minus the zombies).
It can be very disconcerting for the unprepared. Everyone else is going to be working. They won’t have time to go on that hike during the day, or work on that cool project with you.
You’ll most likely be doing most things alone, at least until you build new social connections outside of work.
For some, this might sound depressing. For others, it could sound like heaven-on-earth. It really depends upon your personality type.
A job comes with built-in social connections. Once you leave work, you’ll need to build a new social network yourself.
Whatever your personality, I recommend staying extremely busy. Eventually you will build new social connections, but it does take time.
This is why self motivation is so important in early retirement — Everything (even your social network) is now entirely up to you.
These days my motivation now revolves around a few main pillars — Family, Projects, and Building Wealth.
Taking care of my family is obviously my main priority, but the others aren’t far behind. Projects like this blog, or building things fill my time that isn’t dedicated to family. These projects keep me interested, learning and growing as a human being.
So far, the future looks excellent. Every day is an exciting adventure with the boys. There’s always more things to learn, more books to read, and new projects to complete.
Life hasn’t gotten stale in early-retirement. If anything, I’m more motivated than ever. I wake-up looking forward to each new day and the opportunity it brings.
That’s motivation enough for me.