• The Recovering Passive Investor

Start Here 2: Know Your Why



Motivation. According to the Google, motivation can be defined as “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way”.


Think about it. Why do you get up in the morning? Why do (or don’t) you go to the gym? Why do you go on a diet? In everything you do, there is a reason or motivation to do it.


Way, way back in high school and college, I remember a discussion during psychology class discussion about motivation. There is something called intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation as you may be able to guess is a motivation that comes internally. For example, someone has motivation to begin exercising to feel better about him/herself. This motivation is internal. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is motivation that comes from external factors. So in following the example above, a person’s extrinsic motivation to exercise is not necessarily to feel better about themselves but to be more attractive to others.


Think about a decision you made recently or in the past. What was your motivation to make the decision you made? Was it an intrinsic or extrinsic motivation?


I believe there are differing levels of motivation. Tim Elmore wrote a piece in Psychology Today regarding college students and their motivations. In it he mentions the following six levels of motivation:


1. I get to do something.

2. I get to do something interesting to me.

3. I get to do something interesting, using my gifts.

4. I get to do something interesting, using my gifts with people I enjoy.

5. I get to do something interesting, using my gifts with people I enjoy, that solves a problem.

6. I get to do something interesting, using my gifts with people I enjoy, that solves a problem regarding something that matters.


When getting a handle on your personal finance and reach financial independence, there has to be a solid motivating factor that keeps you going and fighting through the challenges you'll inevitably face. Without this burning "why", it will be like many who set new year's resolutions. They will eventually fade back into what they had been doing before.


The following exercise can help you come up with your own "why":


  1. Brainstorm all the reasons why you want to do this. There is no wrong or right answer. Don't limit yourself by thinking whether or not it is possible. Just let the ideas flow.

  2. Review the list and evaluate how passionate you are about the reason. This is going to be very subjective and will rely upon your gut feelings. Those that don't give you the burning desire should be eliminated.

  3. Of the remaining reasons that allow you to have that passion to pursue, rank each by how passionate you feel about them.

  4. Pick the top one or two, and these should be your big burning "why". If not, then you'll need to go back to figure out what brings you the true passion about pursuing this journey.


So what’s my motivation? As I mentioned at the start. My reason for seeking FI is because I want to provide the best for my family and enjoy the fruits of my labors. My father pushed off retirement for years. When he and my mother finally retired, they had trips and vacations planned. My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly after he retired and passed away about a year after retirement.


This journey to financial independence is going to be fraught with challenges and doubt. Creating the burning "why" is going to keep you on track and help you cross the finish line.

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