A common stereotype among those pursuing Financial Independence is that we are lazy individuals.
I mean, anyone who wants to reach financial independence and retire early in their 30s or 40s from the workforce has to be lazy, right?? What are you going to do, sit on the beach and drink margaritas all day!? (Though that does sound nice…).
To be fair, it’s fairly understandable to see how this line of thinking progresses. Once you set yourself up on the path to financial independence, it’s a simple math equation to see how much longer you need to work and save up money.
For some it’s as little as 5-10 years. For others can be 10-20 years or even greater. It all depends on how much money you make and spend.
Since you can project out around the date in which you reach financial independence, it can be pretty easy to lose motivation and work ethic in your job/career. I mean, if you only have to put in 5-10 more years, who cares about work, right? Why would you want to try and work hard for a company when you know that in the long term you won’t be around?
Same thing goes if you prefer job hopping instead of staying with the same company. Why make all that effort to advance your career when your days are (literally) numbered?
With all this being said, it’s pretty easy to see how the journey to FI can lead to a lack of motivation in your job.
But strangely, along my journey I’ve found the exact opposite to be true.
More Motivation In My Job
When I first discovered FI, I was in a rut. It had been nearly a year after the end of my fantastic rotational program, and I was staring down the barrel of a 40 year working career (or so I thought).
My motivation for work was at an all-time low. My company has rungs for each position, with a recommended years of experience for each, meaning, more or less my potential promotion schedule was already mapped out for me.
Did I really want to work for that long and spend my time climbing up the corporate ladder?
Finding out about Financial Independence was my ticket to freedom. You mean to say I only have to work for another 10-15 years, or even earlier if I can get my spending down!?
In my mind I now didn’t have to play the game of office politics and climb up that ladder. It would have made a lot of sense to simply kick back and “mail it in” with this knowledge.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d still perform my job and do it well, that’s just the kind of person I am, but instead of going above and beyond working for the company and taking on projects outside my title description, why bother?
While many might take this approach, It turned out to be exactly opposite of what I’ve noticed I’ve done.
In fact, I’d almost argue that the pursuit of Financial Independence has caused me to work even harder in my career and given me even more motivation in it.
One reason behind the extra motivation is simply numbers based. If I make a higher income, I can speed up my path to FI and get there even faster. The more you can grow that gap between income and expenses, the more you can save and invest, growing your wealth.
The other reason behind the extra motivation was a little different.
Recognize Work for What It Is
The realization that you may only have to work for 10 more years can be quite the mind bend.
Like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, you can take the red pill and believe in Financial Independence and take actions to follow along it yourself, or you can take the blue pill and go back to the comfort of being like everyone else and the security of the consumer driven society we live in today.
When you fully go down that rabbit hole of figuring out who you are as a person you quickly come to realize that for the most part, you define yourself by what you do.
What do most of us do majority of our waking hours? Work. And thus we define ourselves that way. When you meet someone new, how do you answer the question, “What do you do?”
Nearly everyone I’ve ever met answers that question with what they do for work. It’s how nearly everyone views themselves, it’s how (for the most part) society views you, for better or worse.
Why don’t we answer it some other way? With your hobbies, passions, pursuits or values? You can tell a lot more about a person when you know those kinds of things instead of simply where they work.
Along this journey to FI I’ve been able to completely separate my work life from the rest of my life. I figured out a way to identify as someone else: an adventurer, lifelong learner, fitness enthusiast, history junkie, reader, writer, yogi, jokester… the list goes on.
I now pick from this list when people ask me what I do (sadly its only happened a couple times since making this switch!), and only talk about my job if people specifically ask me about it.
My job doesn’t define who I am anymore. I’ve simply recognized it for what it is: a means to an end.
Appreciate Your Job
Thinking of your job in this way is incredibly powerful. It’s allowed me to appreciate it in ways I’ve never thought I would.
I choose to wake up every morning and go into work. Obviously that is smart as this job provides me security and the income to help me reach this FI goal I’m striving towards. But when you think about it, many jobs could do that, albeit at maybe a slower rate if the job doesn’t pay as much.
The combination of the fact that I’m specifically choosing to do this job as well as the knowledge of, “hey, I don’t need to do this forever,” has given me the motivation to go out and work harder than I had been doing in my prior roles with the company.
For some reason that combination of a choice, and the timeline have really combined to have me focus more and try to do a better job.
And I have to admit, this line of thinking and viewing my job has really paid off. By taking on work way above my job description and salary level, I’ve made myself invaluable to my boss.
I’ve been lucky that she recognizes and appreciates this work, and I was rewarded this week with my second promotion in the last year! I received a 7% pay increase (bringing my salary to $97K – so close to six figures!) as well as an official title change to a manager.
From the perspective of myself from two years ago, I can honestly say I did not think my career would progress this way – or this fast, and I think I can point towards this journey and the things I’ve learned as the kicker that’s made it all possible.
I know I’m very fortunate to be recognized and rewarded for my work, as there are so many people out there who work just as hard as I do, yet see nothing for it in return.
Separating your work life from your identity and realizing exactly why you are working the job you do, as well as knowing you are working on a restricted timeline can be a great source of motivation in your career. You never know what opportunities these could lead to!
Has your motivation for work increased or decreased since finding out about the FI community? What makes you more motivated at work?