The path to financial independence is not an easy one. It requires you to repeatedly avoid the path of least resistance in everyday life. You have to choose the harder path, over and over again, until it becomes natural.
Any time you’re trying to follow a path that isn’t the easiest one before you, you have to have at least some degree of motivation to make it work. Why are you making these changes? Who are you doing this for?
For me, I can think of four distinct stakeholders in my own path to financial independence.
I’m doing this for my community. People in my community give a lot of themselves to make it a better place. I live in an area with friendly neighbors, nearly nonexistent crime, nice parks, low housing costs, and lots of community events and activities happening. Those things don’t happen if you don’t have an involved community around you. It takes both a time commitment and a financial commitment from a lot of people to have a great community to live in.
Over the years, I have taken so much from the community around me. I have attended wonderful community events. I have enjoyed well maintained parks and recreation areas, far beyond what funding can cover. I have formed many friendships and acquaintances thanks to the multitude of efforts and organizations and events in the community.
To put it simply, I want to give back. I want to maintain those things that have given so much to me over the years, and perhaps even grow them. I can’t do that without good financial stability and life stability. Stewardship of the good things in life doesn’t come from skating through life living paycheck to paycheck.
I’m doing this for my children. My wife and I made the choice to bring three defenseless infants into this world, taking on the commitment to raising them into adulthood as responsible citizens of the world.
It is our job to care for their basic needs and bring them into adulthood with sound principles and values, good life skills, and a strong sense of self. While those things are certainly possible without financial stability, having a strong money foundation makes them much easier. A firm financial foundation means not having to worry about providing nutritious foods or warm clothing or adequate shelter. It means providing access to enriching activities. It means the ability to expose them to countless growth opportunities.
Sarah and I took on that commitment. I intend to see it through, to the best of my ability. They deserve nothing less from me.
I’m doing this for my wife. I want Sarah to be able to follow her dreams and passions in this world, wherever they may lead her. If she wants to push herself in a new direction, I don’t want her to be restricted in that choice by a financial tightrope. I want her to be able to take a leap of faith in a new direction without worrying that everything will fall apart if she does so.
At the same time, I want to spend my later years with her, when our children are grown and the household returns to just the two of us. There is no one else in the world that I’d rather spend time with, and I want that time to be glorious, with minimal worries and pressures.
I took on a lifelong commitment the day I chose to marry Sarah, and I intend to live out that commitment. I want to lift her up as high as I possibly can.
Most importantly, I’m doing this for myself. I don’t want to live a stressful life. I don’t want to be afraid of the future. I want a future of abundant possibility. Financial stability and independence is the route to get there.
When I think of the future that I want, the path to get there is one that is walked on a firm financial foundation. If that foundation is soft, I’m going to get stuck in the mud along the way. I’m not going to achieve the things I want out of life. Is it really worth it to sacrifice that firm financial foundation just so that I can have a few more forgettable treats or that I can buy a package with a name brand on it instead of a store brand? It’s not a tradeoff I’m happy with.
I’m on this path for my community. I’m on this path for my children. I’m on this path for my wife. Most of all, I’m on this path for myself.
It’s this mix of external and internal motivation that really helps keep me on a strong financial path.
In the moments when my internal motivation is weak and I feel more like splurging now rather than building financial security, I’m able to think of my family and my community and draw upon those motivations to sometimes help me make better choices.
At the same time, I often find that the moments when my external commitments are faltering, my internal resolve is pretty strong. I’m sometimes simply motivated to do this for myself, to have the financial future that I want and to head toward the big things that I want.
It’s the ability to draw on different kinds of motivations that keeps me going consistently. I have very different connections to these different stakeholders and they tug on me in very different ways. Because of those different stakeholders, I find myself readily equipped with motivation in almost every situation.
Who are you doing this for? Think about the question deeply.
First and foremost, you need to be a stakeholder in this. Without that internal commitment, without that desire to build a better life for you, nothing will ever hold up. In the end, it always comes back to you. External factors may change, but the internal remains.
At the same time, however, other people can really help carry you when you are weak. There are times when internal motivation fails you, and it’s in those moments that having some kind of motivation from someone else can really help.
I like to think of the analogy of someone going for a run each morning. It takes internal motivation – a desire to improve yourself – to push yourself out of bed each morning. What about those mornings when you really, really, really don’t want to get out of bed, though? Sometimes, knowing that someone else expects you to be there to run or someone needs you to run is enough to get you to swing your feet out of bed and plant them on the floor. In tandem, external and internal motivators are quite powerful.
Spend some time reflecting on your internal motivations, but also on your external ones. Who else are you making these changes for? How does it benefit their life?
A final thing to remember: A rising tide in your life lifts all boats, so you almost always indirectly improve your own life when you improve the life of someone around you. Making a better life for Sarah will, in the long run, make a better life for me. Making a better life for my children will do the same; even community commitments will do the same. The simple act of not disappointing someone almost always lifts us up.
Reflect on that idea. Think about not only why you’re motivated for financial change, but all of the people you’re doing this for besides yourself. Think of how you can become a rising tide in all of their lives, lifting everyone. Think about that rising tide often.
There will be moments when it’s all about you. There will also be moments when it’s all about them. Be ready for both.