Turning External Motivation into Internal Motivation

The very first push life gave me to consider rebooting my financial life was an external push. It came from my infant son.

Whenever I looked at him for several months, I felt tremendously guilty. I felt as though I should be doing more for him. I knew that my financial fumblings were costing him in the long run.

The thing is, no matter how powerful the external motivator, it can’t convince a person to change.

Eventually, I came to realize that the problem didn’t come from my son at all. It came from me. I was not living up to what I expected from myself. I had made the choice to have this child, so it was up to me to ensure that he had every opportunity to succeed.

If I wanted to ensure my son’s future, I had to change things. If I wanted to not feel guilt whenever I looked at him, I had to change things. If I wanted a future that actually involved having some of the things I dreamed of, I had to change things.

A transition happened there. The motivation for financial change went from an external source (my child) to an internal one.

Why is that important? I have never been authentically successful when external forces have pushed me. Every bit of lasting success in my life has come from internal motivation.

We all have external motivators in our lives. People want us to do certain things, and we’ll often go along with them for a while. The things that last, though, are usually the result of things we choose ourselves to do. The reason for doing them comes from inside.

The question really becomes how did I change the external motivation into an internal one? I think there were four factors, and they fit together like puzzle pieces.

1. I realized my “future self” isn’t a reliable guy.
Your “future self” isn’t going to earn a ton of money and fix everything for you. Your “future self” isn’t going to be healthier, stronger, or faster. Your “future self” isn’t going to spend time with your family or take care of the other problems in your life.

I spent years waiting around on my “future self,” hoping that he’d come through for me. Eventually, I realized that “future self” was just an ordinary guy making a lot of mistakes. He wasn’t going to pay all my bills. My “future self” was just me.

If you expect that your “future self” is going to fix your problems, think again. He (or she) is not reliable. The only person you can rely on is you, right now, with the resources you have right now.

2. I also realized a miracle wasn’t going to come in and change the situation.
Wishful thinking just makes you complacent. If you keep telling yourself that some miracle will swoop in and solve the problem, you’re just giving yourself an excuse to not do anything.

Truth is, a miracle isn’t coming. All that’s coming on your current path is more pain and heartache as the problem you’re facing now gets worse.

3. I started investigating what I could do myself to make the problems I saw go away.
Once I realized that I was the only person who could actually change my situation, I started looking at what I coauld actually do to fix the problem. What steps would actually lead me to a better life?

This involved research and reading. It involved taking ideas and seeing if they were even remotely possible for me.

I focused mostly on individual steps. What could I do today to improve things?

4. I put the drawbacks of my current path front and center.
The final thing holding me back was a sense that the current path I was on was still an okay path. To address that, I started tearing it apart, bit by bit. I looked at every single dime I spent and I asked myself if that dime actually bought me something worth the long term cost. Did the non-essentials I was spending my money on really add up to any real value at all?

Once I started seeing the dark side of the moves I was making and how relatively easy the better steps were, I began to actually believe that I could change things. I recognized that if I stuck with making good choices every single day, the ship would turn around, and that the choices I used to perceive as “good” were actually pretty awful.

After that, it was simply a matter of time until real financial change began to occur. It was a day-by-day process for a long time until the changes began to feel truly natural, but the motivation for making those changes came from inside me, not from what others wanted from me.

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