Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, I wake up and read the newest Mr. Money Mustache post. Sometimes I know what it will be about and sometimes I don’t. I usually nod my head in agreement and laugh at my husband’s jokes (that is why I married him, after all). On Monday I woke up and read “Embracing the Nagging Voices of Success” and thought: Yup, that definitely describes The Mustache, but it doesn’t describe me.
MMM and I have completely opposing brains. We often joke about this and I think it is one of the reasons we get along so well. It’s interesting to be with someone whose brain functions so differently, because it brings a completely new dimension to your life. My Mustachioed Husband has always been extremely self-motivated. This is a rare and awesome trait and it’s great to be around someone that is so positive and energetic all the time — that energy rubs off on me and can lead to great things.
But, being with someone like this can also make you feel like a Lazy Log. You see, I am someone that is highly motivated by external influences. In the workplace, I make a great employee because I will never let an employer or client down. I will work extremely hard for other people, but I don’t always work hard for myself. I will sacrifice my own happiness for the happiness of others.
In my non-work life, I can sit and think about nothing for a long time. My mind tends to focus on the moment rather than always straying off to think about other things. In fact, it is so hard to sort through a problem in my head that I’ve kept a diary since second grade in order to figure out how I’m feeling about life.
There are many advantages to this. I can clean a house approximately twice as fast as MMM because I do it with extreme focus and intensity rather than getting distracted. I can travel anywhere in the world and feel perfectly comfortable in my surroundings. I don’t feel like I have to get things done all the time in order to feel happy. I love being alone.
But this can also lead to problems. I often require external influences to get my butt into gear. I clean the house only when people are coming over, I exercise only if I’m signed up for a class, I work on projects mainly when they are assigned to me by others, and I finish books only because I’m in a book club. I eat when I realize I’m very hungry (which leads me to end up eating plain raw foods, since I’m usually too hungry to cook anything).
I can waste vast amounts of time, if given the chance. I do not have these voices inside my head telling me to get things done. I actually have to create lists of things to get done, otherwise nothing will happen.
But, this article is not about me. This is about you. The point is, during your working career, you have built-in motivation. You have to get up every morning and go to work or you won’t get paid. There is a routine to your day and you follow it and you feel like you accomplished something each day. If you’re lucky, maybe you get a few other things done in the evenings and on weekends.
When you stop working, that goes away. For those of us who aren’t super self-motivated like Mr. Money Mustache, you might end up feeling a little lost. I know I did and I still do sometimes. But, this is where the fun begins. This is the Exciting Challenge in the New Chapter of your Life!! Embrace it, because you will learn more about yourself during this time than any other time in your life. You get to figure out what is really valuable to you. You get to find out who you are.
It can take a while – it can even take a lifetime, but it is very enlightening. My personal tactic is to write things down so I can figure it out as I go. Looking back on your own writing, you can read what you wrote in the past from a completely different perspective. You can actually see things in your writing that you didn’t realize were there and you can give the Past You some advice. It’s pretty cool stuff.
What makes you happy when you don’t have any external influence like work in your life? Isn’t that a question worth answering? I have a child, which is a huge responsibility that motivates me to no end, so I still don’t have the complete freedom one would have with a full traditional retirement. But, there’s still a lot of time to fill in during the day when he’s at school. And when you have a kid, you also realize that you really need to take good care of yourself and your needs in order to be a happy and successful role model.
Develop a Routine. The answer for me (and perhaps you too) is Routine. You need to create a routine for yourself, but you decide what it is depending on who you are. Don’t follow someone else’s routine. You can use others as an example, but different things work for different types of people.
For example, I know that if I start using my computer first thing in the morning, I am screwed and I will be on this thing all day long. So, as soon as MMM bikes off to school with our son, I have a routine: I clean up around the house until he gets back. Then I’ll do a round of the gardens outside, weeding and watering and soaking up some nature. This will lead to noticing other things that need doing around the house – incoming mail that needs processing, things that need fixing. The routine causes all of this useful stuff to happen, and without it I would have been just sitting around checking e-mail and perhaps even Facebook (gasp!).
Attack your weaknesses. My weakness is wasting time on my computer. I was able to attack my prior Facebook problem by disabling my account for 2 months. When I went back, I was basically cured. I no longer felt the need to check it every day and make sure I congratulate everyone with new babies and sympathize with those who had a loss. The only reason I went back was to connect with family members that I had no other way of getting in touch with. My time without Facebook was Excellent.
Find out what Motivates you. Since I have come to terms with the fact that I am motivated by external factors, I have increased my happiness in several ways. I have conquered my exercise avoidance by joining a local Crossfit gym. In contrast, MMM doesn’t need a gym to motivate himself to exercise. I thought I could also work out at home, but this doesn’t work very well for me. The reason Crossfit works for me is because I love the community, I love the workouts, and I love the competition. A regular gym didn’t work for me. This doesn’t mean you have to pay to get your motivation though.
I found other ways to motivate myself before I ever paid to work out. For example, one year I organized a Weekly Hiking Club. But it wasn’t a normal hiking club. It was a Points-Based hiking club with results posted online. Every week, I would organize a hike and assign points for meeting certain goals and create a fancy web page with pictures and a tally of all points. You might get 10 points for the hike itself and 10 more points for biking to the hiking meetup spot instead of driving. Many friends got involved and it was a great time. Creating some competition really motivated people to come out so they could earn their points and try to win.
Set goals for Yourself. In order to get things done that you enjoy, you might need to set goals for yourself. One goal that many Mustachians can relate to is biking to work. Setting a goal to bike to work a certain number of days per week and somehow being accountable (maybe tell your coworkers or bike with someone) can be very motivating. I used to bike to work (8.5 miles each way, three times a week) and it ended up being the best part of my whole day. The pre-determined schedule forced me to do something great several times a week.
Embrace these new challenges instead of shying away from them. The type of person who is worried about what they’ll do when they stop working, is probably the type who will benefit most from leaving the old routine of the job and being forced to figure out what is really worth doing!