I was considering stopping my one year review with the last post but then it occurred to me that I didn’t really get into something I feel is VERY important for retirees in general: self motivation.
The problem is summed up like this: your workplace typically provided you with lots of external motivation to do things. If you don’t do your work: then you get called out on it and potentially put on a ‘plan’ to improve or face being fired from your job. If you don’t complete something on time, you typically have to provide a reason why, a revised due date and again might lose your job if you keep doing it. And due to this highly developed structure you typically don’t need to provide much self motivation to do your work.
But now imagine you don’t have that workplace any more and in fact there is no one checking in on your progress or lack there of on anything. So if you don’t do anything on a project and just play video games all week and at the end of it you might feel guilty but there often is no initial consequence for not working on the project. All your external motivation is gone in retirement for the most part and suddenly you have to use all internal motivation on everything which isn’t a muscle that you have developed all that much prior to leaving your workplace.
So this can be a very significant problem for any retiree and after a time it is easy to fall into a series of bad habits and then feel mildly depressed about the entire retirement lifestyle. While I personally didn’t get that bad about things I did underestimate how significant this can be during my first year off.
You see I’ve always been one of those people that thought they had a decent amount of self motivation. I didn’t typically need reminders at work about much of anything and I was proactive on keeping people informed on changes of status of projects I was working on. But I did forget for a while the often quoted cautionary tale for engineers: what happens when you give an engineer an unlimited project budget and no deadline? They never finish the project because they keep improving it.
Thus I fell into a trap of endless research on my next book and kept delaying starting on writing it. It was only over the summer when I finally told myself this was getting nuts did I start with writing out a table of contents and then start writing every weekday to actually get some progress done. And so far that has helped, I can have weeks where I fall off the wagon a bit and not get as much done as I should but overall I’m much further ahead then I had been for the last four months or so.
So this is your cautionary tale for any retiree: do not underestimate how important self motivation is for getting anything done. Feel free to use any and all tricks you need to keep it going: offer yourself rewards for getting things done, tell others about your deadlines so they can help remind you to keep working, sign up for specific training or appointments in the future to help drive you to get something done. What ever you need, feel free to use it.
In the end, if you want to get anything big done you are going to need to figure out how to manage your own internal motivation. And this is key because one of the major components of long term happiness is working towards a project you find meaningful. You need to accomplish something that you care about and it doesn’t matter what that project is (running a race, being a better parent, helping out in your community) you need self motivation to get there.
This concludes this series of posts on my one year of FIRE. Of course, please continue ask any questions you have in the comments.