The Most Important Ingredient in the Pursuit of Financial Independence: Excitement!we've learned

The Most Important Ingredient in the Pursuit of Financial Independence

Money! End of post.


Though I’ve written 275+ posts here on early retirement, and tried to think about it from every possible angle, we don’t remotely consider ourselves to be experts on early retirement. How could we be? We haven’t done it yet! I might be an expert at making guesses about early retirement, but that’s a pretty dubious claim to fame.

However, what we do know a thing or two about — having spent years doing it and now rounding the final curve — is the pursuit of early retirement. And given that we technically achieved the bare minimum level of financial independence a year and a half ago or so and continue to achieve new levels of it with each passing paycheck, we definitely know the ups and downs of that journey.

The anticipation. The dreams. The thrill of ticking off milestones. The impatience. The unexpected side effects. The flip-flopping. The urge to overthink and overplan. The urge to say “To hell with it!” and just quit already. The epiphanies along the way. All of it.

Each of us has a unique journey, and there’s no one way to do things or one emotional arc to it all. Everyone’s pursuit of financial independence proceeds at a different pace, involves different inputs and outputs, and drives toward a different vision. Just as it should be.

But I’ve concluded that one ingredient (aside from money, duh) is most important of all when it comes to achieving the big goal.

The Most Important Ingredient in the Pursuit of Financial Independence: Excitement! // Excitement mindset, positivity, inspiration -- all critical to pursuing a long-term goal like early retirement

Some people approach financial independence as an escape. Some as a game, or a life hack. Some as a methodical, mathematical journey. Or as a more emotional and mindset-focused one (hi!). Or any combination of those or other approaches.

But among everyone I’ve met or heard from via email among those who’ve achieved it (not counting those unicorns who become FI all at once through a windfall), one thing stands out as the common factor:

They are all brimming with excitement for life.

Of course achieving financial independence is itself exciting, even though we didn’t actually realize when we’d technically crossed that line. But I don’t for a second believe that FI created that excitement for anyone, including us. Momentary excitement, sure. But not lasting, sustained excitement.

FI is just a number. It’s a dollar more than not being FI, and crossing that threshold didn’t make us any happier or better people. The laws of gravity still apply to us. We still have bad days. We still behave like jerks occasionally.

But most days, we’re stoked to think about all life has to offer. We’re filled with gratitude at all the cool stuff we get to experience. We’re immersed in our child-like wonder at the possibilities we get to explore. Every bit of that was true before we because FI, and we think it’s a been a big part — maybe the biggest part — of what has propelled us here.

Millennial Boss and Ms. ONL

Excitement at getting to hang out with blog friends like Millennial Boss (the one with the star eyes). ;-)

Achieving Financial Independence Takes a Long Time — Sustaining That Takes Excitement

It’s always worth remembering that this journey takes a long time. Sometimes it feels like it takes for freaking ever. That’s why pacing ourselves is so important.

We’re big believers that you have to know what you’re working toward to stay motivated over that long journey, or it eventually feels like sacrifice and drudgery for nothing. The well-trod idea of retiring to something, not from something.

Because this is so much more involved and long-term than a marathon, or the Iditarod, or any other human-scale race cliche we could throw in here. It’s much more like The Odyssey, or like the journey to wherever the ship is going in 2001, before Hal takes over. (Okay, bad example. But not entirely related to why we don’t especially want tiny computers gradually taking over our house.)

But if we don’t want to feel trapped on the ship, er, journey, then it sure helps a lot to be thrilled about where we’re headed, or even just generally excited for no good reason other than it’s a great way to be.

The Best Excitement: For Something, Not Against Something

Most of us can’t wait to not have to go to work every day. That is utterly normal. But that idea alone isn’t enough to sustain true, deep excitement for the years it takes to achieve a huge goal like financial independence. Just like my belief that we should be focused on presence, not absence — thinking about what we want to add to life, not just subtract from it — our excitement should be for something, not against something.

A Bigger Life Comes From Adding Your Next Life Vision

Life – Work + Excitement-inducing New Vision = Bigger Life

Some people are just naturally excited. (Hi again.) Some people less so. (That fits Mr. ONL. Or maybe he just seems less excited or excitable by contrast.) Most of us are somewhere in between. But if we can stoke some of that excitement in ourselves, it’s so much easier to sustain than just a general sense of not wanting to have to go to work anymore, or not wanting to have to fill-in-the-blank.

Excitement Doesn’t Have to Be Specific

The good news for those who don’t have that new vision all mapped out yet is that excitement doesn’t have to be for this totally specific, well-articulated vision of your future life that may or may not ever actually happen as you imagine it.

Excitement is a state of mind.

Most of us are born with it, and find tons to be excited about as kids, because there’s so much awesome stuff to explore in the world, heck, even in our own backyards. But for some, life beats some of that excitement out of us. It reminds us that things are rarely as easy as they seem, that fairness isn’t baked in anywhere, that bad things can happen to good people. Or maybe it just reminds us that there’s a big portion of life that we just have to get through, to survive.

Sometimes we might just hit a tough chapter of life that gets us down. Like much of last year, when things were especially tough at work, and I wasn’t sure I could make it through this last year of our plan. (My personal proof that loss of excitement makes it harder to reach the big goal.)

It’s normal for excitement to wane. But we can bring it back.

Just as we can choose to be happy in any given moment, or more stressed than necessary — choosing our mindset works with both the positive and the negative — we can also choose to be excited.

Pick whichever word you like: excited, stoked, thrilled, energized, inspired, fired up. The word itself doesn’t matter, but the mindset does. Because this whole range of thinking is really about how we see the world, focusing on the possibility and promise instead of all the reasons we might not be successful.

Fostering the Excitement Mindset

Having spent my life as a chronically excited person, I know this to be true: There are plenty of times when being this way is deeply uncool. I have always embodied the spirit of zero chill. Excitement sometimes means showing we care when it’s not cool to care, it’s being curious and asking questions when it’s not cool to show interest. Some of this we just have to get over, and stop giving a flip about what others think, something many of us anti-expectations FIers are especially well suited for.

And for those who don’t have that same natural well of excitement to draw from, there’s no reason you can’t start to build up your own reservoir. By dedicating time to daydreaming, and forcing yourself to think about the wild range of possibilities that are out there for people not constrained by full-time work (and banning thinking about all the reasons those dreams may not come true, at least while you’re in daydreaming mode). By starting each day with an intention to focus on something look forward to or are grateful for. By giving yourself permission to be uncool, asking more questions, dreaming bigger dreams, caring deeply. By taking a step back, when you’re too stuck in thinking about what’s right in front of you, and looking at the big picture.

My lack of chill at meeting a full-size Mars rover model manifested as a slightly blurry picture.

My lack of chill at meeting a full-size NASA Mars rover model at the Jet Propulsion Lab manifested as a slightly blurry picture.

Excitement Can Manifest in Unexpected and Amazing Ways

Like a lot of aspiring early retirees, in the middle years of our journey, we definitely let ourselves get caught in the trap that I think most of us experience at some point: we were so focused on our end goal that we let that made us get resentful of our current life. Most of that resentment was about work, of course, and we started using hyperbolic words like “soul sucking” far too often, seeing the demands of work — something everyone ever born on the planet has had to do, one way or another — as unreasonable and too onerous. (Poor us!)

And if you’re in that place now, I get it. We’ve been there. But having gotten to the other side of that phase, I can also say: it’s no way to be. Resenting work every day is a crappy way to try to get through life, and it’s not good for your own sanity nor for the quality of your work. (Which also means you’re robbing future you of the opportunity to look back on your career proudly.)

We got past it by just making up our minds that we wouldn’t complain about work any more. And it has worked, like crazy well. Not complaining doesn’t mean we can’t ever be frustrated or vent about some nutty thing that happened. But we don’t let ourselves complain about the fact that we have to work, or that we work where we do, or that it’s hard. And the amazing thing is: by making that rule for ourselves, we find that we truly have far less we even want to complain about. Complaining is self-perpetuating. The more we do it, the more we see to complain about, which leads to more complaint. It’s like “you are what you eat.” You are what you complain about.

But by banishing that whole way of thinking, we created more space for excitement to fill our lives, and the borderline shocking and totally unexpected benefit of that has been feeling more excited about work itself. Some of that is no doubt knowing that don’t have long to go, but we started to feel more of that work excitement almost immediately after banishing complaining, when we still had more than two years of work left.

To be able to go from a negative view of work (“poor us!”) to an excited view of work (“how cool is it that we get to do this work?!”) in short order felt like a borderline miracle, and has absolutely helped propel us forward on our journey, rather than making every day feel like a drudgerous struggle to keep going.

Simply by eliminating a big barrier to excitement — that negative, self-perpetuating mindset — we created more space for it, and the excitement itself took care of the rest.

Let’s Talk Excitement!

What are you excited about long term — and also TODAY? Do you have any good tricks for getting yourself back to a state of excitement when a less stoked mindset starts to kick in? Any exercises you’ve found especially helpful to creating more excitement in your life, like setting an intention, focusing on gratitude, or anything else? Or just any recent milestones you are feeling thrilled about and want the community here to give you a big high five? You know what to do — share in the comments!


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86 replies »

  1. Love this! We are knee deep in paint, new flooring and well, you name it – and we will be for another 6-9 months with two more house renovations coming up! But it’s OK because it is all by our choosing and we are damn excited about it all (OK, not every minute because it is hard work too!) But a year from now, life will be so different! Here’s one to be excited about… we were not quite done getting our house ready for the market and we stuck a little “for sale” sign in the yard (we even had to hand write “house” in on it) and in TWO days – SOLD! We are heading to sign the purchase offer this morning! WOO HOO!

    • Wow! Congrats on that quick (and relatively painless?) sale! That’s so often! And I totally feel you on the renovations — they are hard work, but they feel so worth it when they’re done. Hope the closing on the house is easy and good luck on the remainder of those renovations!

  2. But if you’re excited about life, then how can you want early retirement more than life itself? If you don’t want it more than life itself, then you’ll obviously never succeed.

    Excitement about projects is what first drew me to the idea of FI. There are so many things that I would love to spend my time doing, but don’t provide a paycheck. Think of the creative pursuits, the educational opportunities, the philanthropic ventures that you could spend your time on if you didn’t need an income! Those projects are the things that keep me interested in striving for FI.

    • I included a mock “end sarcasm” tag in between those paragraphs, but wordpress must have read it as actual code and hidden it from the comment.

    • Dude, you have to be more excited about life than life itself. Duh. ;-) And your interest in FI is so much like ours. Random thing, but I bought a lottery ticket while traveling recently, and Mr. ONL said, “It would be dumb for us to win. Someone else could use that money so much more than we could.” To which I replied, “But we can give it all away, and you know we’d be better philanthropists than most people.” Haha. So you know the idea of philanthropic ventures is totally exciting to us too. ;-)

    • Do you eventually discover them? Or do the delights remain undiscovered forever? ;-)

  3. I’m a fairly excitable person by nature as well. I get excited about lots of things! My favorite author is publishing a new book, I’m about to take awesome trips (the Chautauqua and FinCon stand out as two highlights!), my boyfriend and I are going to go camping, and way more!

    I found this week’s episode of the ChooseFi podcast to pretty relate-able. Episode 33! Check it out!

    • I have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re so monotone. :-| (ha) And thanks for the podcast rec!

  4. Always focus on gratitude for the opportunities you make for yourself. As you’ve noted, you attitude will influence everything.

  5. Short term I am excited bout our new puppy. I am still mourning the passing of my old dog but there is nothing like a puppy to centre you in the present. Dogs with their shorter lifespan and simple approach to existing are an excellent reminder of how life is short and needs to be grasped and lived while you can. I am also excited because my kitchen is almost renovated. That has been/is a huge job but once it is done it will be MY kitchen. Longer term I am excited because we are planning this year’s winter’s travel and it looks like it will be including Utah, the last state in the lower 48 we haven’t seen yet. I don’t think much beyond that now the I am retired. I am grateful we did not get the new kitchen flooring in before we got the new puppy.

    • A puppy, a kitchen and a trip to Utah! I’d say that’s a pretty good set of things to be excited about!

  6. I feel like maybe we’re slowing finding our way out of the mid-journey slump you mentioned, which was exacerbated by some health issues. That made for some really tough years. We’re slowly learning to focus more and more on making life great right now. Complaining and negativity certainly are self-perpetuating, but in the past when we sort of tried to force ourselves to be positive (i.e. make ourselves list 5 good things every day, etc), that didn’t really stick. When we start focusing on really good stuff in the present that we’re sincerely excited about, then we start to feel a real shift. For me, random creative projects are starting to inspire me, seemingly popping into my head out of nowhere. My husband and I are making a concerted effort to go on mini-dates more and have more fun. And all our yearly vacations now will be “scouting” vacations to possible locations we’re interested in moving to. All of which fuels our excitement for life, as do simple things like spending more time appreciating nature (which is almost overwhelmingly amazing once you start paying attention) and the taste of food and the unfettered joy of our dog. So yeah, we’re learning, bit by bit, to feed our excitement and not our negativity. Another thing that makes everyday life exciting – Monday and Wednesday ONL posts. We read them all. :)

    • Honestly, we just started by instituting the complaint ban, not trying to make gratitude lists or anything else. And it was amazing how much flowed out of that. And the impulse to complain died pretty quickly thereafter. Like, I’d have the thought, “Ugh, this is soul sucking!” but I’d quickly correct myself with something like, “This is not hard manual labor, I am not being forced to do this, and I’m pretty sure my soul is actually still intact because no one has asked me to compromise my ethics or morals.” But I didn’t even have to give myself that reminder very often before the complaints stopped occurring to me. Your mileage may vary, of course, but if taking on a whole new set of habits feels too daunting or unsustainable, just try the complaint ban. (Same as how I’ve banished the words “fat” and “busy,” and it has been life-changing. I will write more on this soon.)

      All of that said, the things you guys are excited about sound SO exciting! I’m excited for you! (And thanks for your sweet note — totally makes my day.) :-)

  7. Today finding excitement is HARD! Agree that the not complaining about work is key. This is a week when I am run down, overworked, and burnt out! But, next week we are on vacation! And I only have to work a little bit, instead of every day! (I’m trying here, but maybe not doing a very good job.)

    Definitely finding myself in the midst of a “work sucks!” moment, and appreciate the point that it is not helpful or necessary. Right now it is pretty easy to look forward to RE as the absence of those things that are holding me back. But truly it is about being about to establish a better balance. I don’t mind some work. I just want to spend more time on all the good stuff I’m missing out on–like my adorable kids!

    You asked what tricks we have for finding the excitement when we’re in a negative thought pattern. I’m terrible at it, and usually need to take two or three hours and just read a good book to restore my mood. Exercise is also great, if I can force myself to do it. But reading your blog this morning was very helpful!

    • I completely understand. And if you’d told me before we stopped complaining about work that doing so would be both A.) possible, and B.) so transformative, I wouldn’t have believed you. But it’s true. I just finally realized that the complaining was only punishing me and making it harder to get through work, same as if I was carrying around anger. So perhaps it was similarly an exercise in letting go.

      And I love your ways of flipping your thought switch back to the positive — reading and exercise are two great ones! And I bet playing with your adorable kids is a good one, too! Sending you lots of good vacation vibes! :-)

  8. I love this. My friends (affectionately? LOL) call me Overly Excited Kate! I don’t think it’s a bad way to be :) I think looking forward to all of the possibilities ahead of me is super fun and thrilling. It’s surely propelled my aggressive saving.

    Currently, I’m excited that I finally told my boss yesterday that we’re moving back to Colorado next month and she is going to let me work remotely, which is a huge boon to our financial plan and end game.

    • Hi, Overly Excited Kate!!!!!!! :-D I’m so stoked for you that you got approved to move back and work remotely! That’s sooooo awesome!

  9. This is something I think a lot of, since I still have many years of full-time work ahead of me. Knowing that, I’ve been trying to find ways to make life a little better/easier so that the drudgery of work doesn’t bring me down (“addition through subtraction” as some bloggers call it).

    I’m excited that I’ll be changing my work schedule next month — no more 5am mornings and instead I’ll get up at 6:30am every day! I’m already so much happier just knowing this is on the horizon.

    Also have some fun stuff planned over the next month or so – Bubble Run 5k, a friend’s wedding (and all the events that go with that), tickets to see a comedian who will be in town, and of course the MN State Fair. Work is just one part of my life and it helps to have so many fun things to look forward to :)

    • I don’t think I realized that you’ve had 5 am wake-ups EVERY DAY all this time! So glad for you that you get to “sleep in” a bit more now. ;-) And YES! I love that you have so much other stuff in your life outside of work — treat that stuff as sacred and don’t compromise. If there is anything I regret about these last few weeks of work, it’s that I let those boundaries disappear and let work force me to give up a ton of the rest of my life, at least temporarily.

  10. “You are what you complain about”. An example of why this blog rocks!

    I wrote a similar post a few weeks ago, “A 32 Minute Cure For Disappointment”, and it draws the same conclusion. We CAN control our state of mind, and the state of our mind will determine how much we enjoy our limited days on this little marble we all call home. Choose to enjoy life. Great post.

    • I completely believe that statement, a corollary of “you are what you think,” which I most certainly did not invent. ;-)

  11. It is good to see you mention trying to find excitement both in the present and in the future. It can be far too easy to focus only on an imaginary future excitement such as leaving a job, going on a future vacation, or moving to a beautiful new location. Who doesn’t dream about moving to vacation destinations like San Diego or Lake Tahoe or Lake Arrowhead or some beach in Florida?

    You read news articles that say that you get as much happiness from planning a vacation as the vacation itself. Since the planning is in the present, this highlights the importance of finding other ways to be happy in the present.

    • Amen, brother. Being excited ONLY about the future is just another way of not being present. No way to be! :-)

  12. I’m so glad I’m not the only person who is very excitable by nature. It’s embarrassing for those around me sometimes (I’m that weird person who will dance in the aisle of a grocery store if an amazing song comes on), but I’m learning to ignore that and let my freak flag fly!

    Mindset and work is so tricky! I have definitely found myself in a more “complainy” space recently and I want to get out of it. It’s not helping me mentally or physically to be that negative. I might have to try your “complaining ban”. Sounds simple enough!

    Have you found that not being able to complain internalizes the negativity? Or do you just let things go now because you don’t want to waste energy complaining about it?

    • Okay, someday we’ll dance in a grocery store together. ;-) And I can’t recommend the complaint ban enough — it seriously did wonders for me. I mean, it doesn’t change the fact that work is WORK, but I have at least gotten rid of the self-punishment aspect of it all (because I’m the only person suffering if I complain). And it’s a good Q about internalizing the negativity, but NO. I’ve found that by not complaining, it really did change my mindset, and that negativity is just not there to begin with. I’m a huge believer in healthy venting, which I still do when people are ridiculous, but I don’t complain about the fact of work itself, the fact that I have to do it, or the fact that there will always be a certain baseline level of frustration or drama that comes with that.

  13. “The Best Excitement: For Something, Not Against Something” – this entire section, 100% yes.

    I dislike going in to work, but I’m more excited for the opportunities afforded to me with the flexibility to take a lower-paying job, do volunteer work, and spend hours on something that may or may not yield financial results (blog).

    I love this post :)

  14. For me, gratitude and excitement go hand in hand. Remembering what we have and what we’ve done (and where we’re headed) really makes me appreciate each day. Also, I think slowing down helps foster excitement. It might be counterintuitive to some. But to me, a fast pace doesn’t equal excitement. It’s an exhausting and frenzied state.

    • Totally! Its when we take things for granted that we lose both the excitement and the gratitude, and besides that kinda making us jerks, it also just sounds like NO FUN. And why would we choose to go through life the less fun way?!?! And oh my gosh YES on the pace. Our careers are “fast-paced and exciting,” and it’s exactly why we need to leave them.

  15. Absolutely love this post Mrs. ONL. I’m right now in those middle years and a rut. Definitely burned out and always thinking “work sucks”. Love the positive outlook and how you spun your thinking. Now I just need to find a similar solution.

    • Thanks, my friend! We’ve been there. I really can’t recommend the complaint ban strongly enough. Reminding ourselves that everyone (or almost everyone, anyway) has to work, that work itself is not an imposition, and that we’re lucky to be in our jobs/careers as opposed to the many that would be much more taxing — all of that has helped a TON. And viewing work as something scarce, that we won’t get to do forever, has also made us appreciate it more!

  16. Have you heard the song “Nerd Anthem” by Marian Call? Your writing about enthusiasm reminded me of it. :D

    I’m speaking to a group of young women this week about computer science careers, which sounds like such a great time (and I even got civic time approved for it from work, so I’ll still be getting paid)! Oh, and I’m excited about some potential new projects at work that will be a welcome change of pace.

    I used to be in a much worse place work-wise and was miserable. D: Definitely not worth it to forgo happiness in the present for the promise of happiness in the future.

    So many things I’m looking forward to in FI, still, that I don’t have as much time to dedicate to in the present! I just read the book “How to Be Everything” and will have to write up a book review on it as it’s sooo good.

    • I will have to look up that song! :-) And that book, too! Thanks for the recommendation. I LOVE how much of your excitement is in the present, not just the future — such a great way to be! :-)

  17. Excited today: So today I was sitting on the beach in Cannes. A gorgeous bikini girl shyly wandered over. I was grinning like a monkey, giving myself mental high fives for being such a big stud that has “still got it”. Then the girl politely asked if she could borrow my grandson’s shovel.

    I was crushed. I’m only 40! My son is 10 (and grinning almost as much as I was!). My wife pissed herself laughing, reassuring me that while I most likely still have it, perhaps I had just misplaced it or quite some time ago forgotten how to use it. [sigh]

    Excited generally: mostly I’m pretty laid back, I don’t tend to get down when shit happens, but equally I don’t tend to get all that excited when the gods smile and the stars align. Life is (mostly) calm and cruisy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I do know some excitable people (my kids for example), but I must confess I find their energy levels exhausting :-). Each to their own!

    • LOL. Quite a story! ;-) Yeah, last time I set foot in a high school, which was a few years ago now, someone asked if I was a parent of a senior. I was maybe 34? So.

      And I don’t mean to equate “excitable” and “excited.” Excited just means looking forward to things, recognizing that some things are more fun than others and we are lucky for having the opportunity to do them, seeing other things we are eager to do in the future, etc. It doesn’t necessarily mean exhausting those around you with your crazed energy. ;-)

  18. A very nicely composed post.

    “Sometimes we might just hit a tough chapter of life that gets us down. Like much of last year, when things were especially tough at work, and I wasn’t sure I could make it through this last year of our plan”

    “Most of that resentment was about work, of course, and we started using hyperbolic words like “soul sucking” ”

    Yep. This is exactly where I am, and It is hard to be excited when I still have 2 years to go. I try though. I do get excited sometimes by looking at the completed tasks in our FIRE Microsoft project plan, and the project status is still green.

    I will give the “not complain about work” a try.

    • I definitely believe quitting our work complaining was transformative, and made the wait so much easier to stomach. Just having the perspective to realize we aren’t worse off than anyone else (everyone has to work, and work is WORK), and in many ways are better off, made it a lot easier to quit our whining. ;-) Good luck making that mindset shift!

  19. I would have agreed if you’d stopped at money. :)
    After that I think the biggest ingredient is just habit. It’s unlikely that people get there via years of constant struggle where they really want to spend, but decide not to because of enthusiasm for the long term goal. Living below your means just becomes the default behavior with no particular thought/excitement required – either because you grew up that way, or at some point made the decision and developed the habit.

    There’s probably some sampling bias in your conversations with FI bloggers vs the population of everyone who’s achieved FI.

    • As opposed to the large, bias-free sample that you have access to? ;-) FIRE is still such a low-prevalence behavior that no one is going to be able to do a random sample study on our collective opinions and behaviors any time soon, and even then, there will likely be some significant heterogeneity because we aren’t a monolithic group.

      As for the habit idea — here’s why I didn’t write that that was the most important ingredient: Because that’s not true for us.
      (It’s also not true for others we know, but I won’t try to speak for them right now.) We’d still very much like to spend all the money. Less on stuff, but more on travel and experiences and shows and restaurants. That’s what we love most of all, and I don’t care how good a cook someone is, nothing you can make at home will ever replicate the experience of going to a top-rated, cutting-edge, haute cuisine restaurant. So I think “struggle” is too hyperbolic a word for it, but we are constantly making that decision over and over that our excitement for our big goal outweighs our desire to try whatever new restaurant has the critics abuzz, or to travel to all the places we haven’t been yet. Our entire financial plan is, in fact, built on the correct insight ourselves that we would spend more money if it was easily accessible to ourselves. It’s why our investments are automated and we keep very little money handy in checking. So we rely much more on systems then on habits. And that works well for us, but not because anything has become the default.

      Does that doom us to fail in ER? Nope, because we know this about ourselves, we know better than to trust habits too much, and we DO have the excitement of everything that we get to do in life because we’re not blowing all our money. ;-)

      • I agree, the habit isn’t the biggest driver. I’ll go months at a time not spending much at all and then spend ALL my allowance in a single day it seems like. It’s hard to break habits. But habits sure as heck didn’t get me within sight of the FI finish line. Marrying well did. :) You should have put “marrying up” as a big driver, lol.

      • Good to get your perspective on this, too, Mr. SSC! And lol — I couldn’t put marrying well because we didn’t start out in the financial place where we are now. We had all those dumb baller years first! ;-)

  20. Awesome post! I just finished an 11 day trip to Colorado where I climbed 7 more 14ers and am getting close to finishing all of them. Even though I now have to go back to work, I’m visually reminding myself of each one of those incredible summit views and the awesome fact that I got to spend 11 days in the beautiful Rockies climbing mountains and enjoying nature. So many others do not have that opportunity or can’t afford it.

    Related to this post and the idea of being excited for life vice complaining, I find that folks who have traveled to very poor 3rd-world countries tend to (not always, and not making sweeping judements here) be more grateful and less-complainy. I’ve been to some of the poorest countries on the planet and just seeing how life is for others and could be for me if I didn’t win the ovarian lottery reminds me to smack myself every time the desire to complain arises. That doesn’t mean I don’t complain sometimes – I do, but I try very hard to think about the things I’ve seen in my travels around the world and to shut up already and be happy :)

    • Nice! We’re looking forward to ticking off the last of the 14ers, too! ;-) So glad you got to take that trip — and congrats on the new summits! Re: the corrolation between traveling to less-well-off places and being more grateful, I always wonder if it’s chicken or egg. Do we become more grateful after seeing abject hardship? Or does our gratitude and perspective make us want to visit places like that where we are confronted with harsh realities? I have no idea the answer!

  21. What what?! Were you at the JPL Open House this year? I was! Maybe we ran into each other without realizing it :0

    I’m excited for a lot of things! I’ll be moving within the next 6 months or so, I picked up knitting literally yesterday, and I’m almost done with two giant crochet blankets! All very, very exciting.

    • That JPL trip was a few years back. ;-) (But in the first one, many years prior, I actually got to see the first Mars rover being built — and it’s now on Mars. How awesome is that?! Something I’ve seen is now on another planet. Maybe he remembers me… haha.) ;-) And so much excitement in your life — how fantastic!

  22. Great post! When I figured out the ER thing and set my plan in motion less than 2 years ago, it was a new lease on my work life, so much so that I literally crushed it my last 2 years by changing up my approach in a risky and dramatic way. The last quarter, wore me thin though. Maybe it was because I was already to FI and maybe it was because I couldn’t stave off the burn out or not wanting to do the job anymore and wanting to be onto the next chapter. I still finished strong but I definitely had to do more yoga than normal to keep my zen attitude. :)

    • Ha — sometimes we just have those chapters in life when we have to push ourselves too hard because we know the reward will be worth it. (No pain, no gain, right?) That’s how we’ve been these last few years, too, and there’s no amount of yoga that would make it all feel totally okay, but it’s good to recognize that and make extra time for self care. Glad you made time for that extra yoga — and hope you’re enjoying month 2 in early retirement!

      • lol… just started the 1st day of month 2. Truth be told, however, I had a deal that was supposed to close on 6/30 close on 7/26 and it kept me in the loop. The few deals I had in process with other colleagues went a little awry and they looped me in to help put out some fires, which I did and the deals are back on track. Perhaps this is the first week where I feel truly retired, except I did receive some text messages today about some drama in our group where a top performer left in a blaze of glory and burned bridges. It wouldn’t have affected me if I was still there anyway, but a couple people wanted to recount the story! I texted back I couldn’t talk to them this week as I’m retired, for reals and everything now. :) So while I stopped collecting a base salary as of 6/30, I feel like 8/1 is my real new start date.

      • Oh man, I hope you can be TRULY and FULLY free very soon! Plus, blaze of glory — oof.

  23. I think you are spot on in tems of retiring to something. I’m in Asia and for the most part, folks think about retiring from something (work) but they don’t have much of a clue as to what comes after. Its only when we combine asian and western thinking that we tend to ask ourselves the question about ” what’s next?”….and even so the answer do not come easily. For me, its different. I come from a famil where my dad was into his electronics hobby for decades,something he continued to do even just a month before he passed on. My mom was into a lot of othes stuff, always being occupied with friends and activities. So, I was influenced from an early age. My wife and I are just perhaps into the last year or so before we call it in for Chapter 1 : “Work & Career” and start on Chapter 2 : ” Everyday is a Holiday”. We plan to travel extensively in the first few years while we are more able bodied (!) I can take up learning Japanese once again and make it work this time and by that I mean we’d even consider living in Japan for a quite a bit to get schooled and practiced in its language and culture. After all, Japan is the other country that we spend the next most amount of time after our home country. Thinking about this, planning it, working out the details is already exciting by itself. And then to find oneself and spouse actually doing it – quite literally a dream come true. We are filling up a pipeline of stuff to do – some would take up money to make happen, some others not so much and others not at all. The common denominator is that its got to be something worthwhile. And by doing so, I think it’ll be a great example for our children too in terms of having a goals that are rich and varied in content as opposed to just working to build up financial capital.

    • You’re so close! How exciting!! We share your desire to spend extended time in Japan, and to resume learning the language. (Though I have no hope of being able to read it — just focused on speaking and understanding it verbally!) And I love your point that showing your kids the power of money to live a great life, not just using it for a status symbol, is so valuable!

  24. I definitely think the idea of excitement of what could come is one of the major factors I have for FI. My problem is three-fold: 1) too much student loan debt. With the amount that we doing Public Service Loan Forgiveness is the best option for us and that will still mean another 7 1/2 years of working (I like my job); 2) the job–part of my identity is being with something it is difficult to see beyond not having that job; 3) my spouse. Unfortunately, my spouse has been diagnosed with depression and it keeps her from seeing beyond the next day or week. Getting her to dream with me is difficult. Getting her to overcome the past (a bad financial past) is difficult. So we have some obstacles. That said, the train has already left the station. She is slowly coming around. And we are slowly getting to FI. It is a slow train but an unstoppable one.

    • I’m focusing in on the note about your wife’s depression — are you guys getting good care for her? Trying different meds? It’s so easy to see depression as in part a personal failing, not a serious medical problem, and to undertreat it. (Not saying you’re doing that — just posting it here for others who might read.)

      As for the identity loss piece — we get that in a big way, and I think it will be the single toughest part of retiring for us. We’ll keep writing about it, but you’re definitely not alone in that.

      And as for the rest, I think it’s smart to think about change as happening slowly. Neither of us were great about saving when we first got together, and yet here we are. But you’re only seeing the “after,” not the years of slow, gradual change along the way that got us here.

  25. I’m excited about traveling, which I do about twice a year. I’m currently in Germany visiting friends and family. Later this year there is the Chautauqua trip to Ecuador.

    Btw. while walking through Berlin I was thinking about you, and how you described being on the Western side and looking over the Wall to the East, and how bleak it all looked. It is definitely much better now, but some buildings still have the old socialistic architecture. So much history here.

    • So glad you got to Berlin! My favorite. <3 So much interesting stuff there, and juxtaposition of different eras, cultures, governing styles. Plus all the art now. Such a shame more Americans don't go there! Enjoy the rest of your trip!!

  26. Mindset is definitely everything. I couldn’t agree more with what you said on excitement being a choice, and also choosing not to complain. But I recognize that it’s hard to push past negativity to get to that point.

    I used to be a horribly negative, glass-nowhere-near-full person, but focusing on gratitude really helped with that. I still have rough days like everyone else, but I’ve trained my mind to focus on the positive, which has made a world of difference in how I approach and recover from challenges.

    As far as FI goes, I’m a fairly impatient person when it comes to most things – especially making progress and seeing results – so I have to make sure I don’t get lost in the journey and resent the present (as you said). Focusing on the little things that bring me joy also helps keep me grounded.

    • I hope my talking about choosing to be positive never comes across as suggesting that it’s an EASY choice to make. I get that it’s hard. I get the negativity, for sure. And I feel all kinds of lucky that I stumbled upon the idea of choosing to be positive and not complain, and got to see how much better that made my life. All of that said, that is so fantastic that you’ve been able to change your mindset around a lot of things. And I hope you don’t beat yourself up when you can’t do it perfectly — that’s not realistic, and we’re all only human. ;-)

  27. Here’s how I get excited about my life and my future. I stop and think about myself at 10 years old. I had big dreams but life was pretty simple. Small town stuff. I had seen the ocean maybe once. Never been on an airplane. No one in my family had visited a foreign country. And so on. But like I said, I had big dreams. Wanted to be an astronaut of course but riding on an airplane would do.

    Here I am at 40 — I’ve vacationed around the world, currently living in a foreign country (for a few more weeks), outstanding career, smart/pretty wife, crazy twin boys.

    So I go back and tell my 10 year old self all that awaits him and he’s stoked! And I’m excited (and thankful) to let him know how it’s turned out.

    I’m not saying this works for everyone — people have hard roads that don’t meet expectations. But it works for me.

    • I love this so much. It reminds me of when Maggie at Northern Expenditure did the “Full Bucket” challenge a couple of years ago, encouraging people not to focus on the things they want to do before they die, but instead on all the awesome things they’ve already done, so that they can feel grateful for them. Your story is such an incredible illustration of that! I can just picture how stoked 10-year-old you must have been when you told him! ;-)

  28. The one person I know personally who retired early (at 56) is one of the most excited people I know. Life is a big adventure to him, and now in his 60s, he’s still a big kid and loves traveling and exploring with us. I definitely think having big plans/wants beyond the hang out on the couch is what propels the idea of early retirement. If your only goal is to lounge around, as much as you might not want to work, the prospect of 40+ years of it is probably not too enticing :)

    • Haha — that doesn’t surprise me! It kind of makes me think of the saying “Only the boring are bored.” Like if you AREN’T fired up about all these fun things you could be doing, what motivation is there to do anything exciting? ;-)

  29. Excitement is being able to say “yes” to all the things I said “no” to before due to lack of time or energy. I find myself open to trying more things and definitely not carrying about looking “uncool.” I just got back from a golf trip and I don’t golf. I had plenty of swings and lost balls, not to mention all the folks I let play through. However, what a great time with friends in a beautiful place. Loved this blog. Thanks for your thought provoking writing.

    • YES! Being able to say yes more is a huge factor in our ER planning. And I love your description of your golf outing. It would be the same if I went — wrong clothes, wrong shoes, bad swing… but probably tons of fun! :-)

  30. It’s hard to talk about what I’m excited about without sounding like humble bragging. I’ll jsut say that I’m excited that if I got laid off today or just up and quit, we’d be A-OK for the most part. We may have to make some adjustments, but we wouldn’t be wondering about where the grocery money would come from, if the car/house/other car would get repossessed and how to pay for the kids needs.

    My dad retired early at 51 after 33 yrs with BelllSouth. He was as excitable as it gets – imagine a manic version of me, lol. His depressive side wasn’t nearly as strong as his manic side, but he loved all sorts of things about life. I don’t know any other early retirees, well I’ve met Ms Montana Money Adventures, and she also seemed pretty excited about life. So much to do so little time – even without a full time job. Crazy!

    I’d agree that there does have to be some kind of excitement for life, otherwise, why bother? ;) For us, it was the drudgery that turned it around. Maybe you should also list “drudgery of life” as a stimulating factor to achieve FI. hahahaha

    • After that crazy troll lady a few weeks ago, I realized that having a FIRE blog is STRAIGHT-UP BRAGGING. So no need to cloak it in false humility. ;-) Haha. And is a manic version of you possible?!?! I’m terrified just thinking of that! (JK)

  31. I was excited for each milestone or optimization along the way. Now that I am FI it feels like I am just in cruise mode. My biggest goals come from trying to make some fun money with my writing and photography and trying to not spend money. I can honestly say it was like the roller coaster ride getting there.

    • That’s super interesting! I’m all kinds of curious about whether it will feel the same for us!

  32. I find that excitement and curiosity are often the same emotion. There is so much to see and do in the world, which a curious person finds exciting in the anticipation, in the doing, and in the memory of. That’s why this one concept is part of my very narrow dating rules. A woman has to like who she is (personality and how she looks), be out (failed this one with current girlfriend), and be curious (about anything). Those three rules get rid of most people. It’s a shame. There is so much to be excited about in the world and we get to do that!

    • I think you’re completely right! Excitement and curiosity are one and the same. And being secure in who you are counts for a lot. :-)

  33. Excitement has to be part of our life. Excitement is living life. My story of retirement/resigned started when I quite my Federal job 12 years ago. I was 44 years old at that time. I came to a point in my life when it was simply getting harder for me to bring myself to work. Plus of course the fact that I was already making a fair amount of money online added to the miseries of going to work. It did take a lot of courage for me to make the decision with two growing kids but was very happy with the decision. Wife has always been supportive as well. I remember back in my working days hearing my older co-workers talking about not being able to retire because they simply could not afford to do so. They want to get out so bad but are not motivated enough to do something about it. No regrets for me whatsoever. Love my no-obligation to go to work days.

    • Congrats on making your life what you want it to be! Sounds like you made a lot of good choices and have benefited from them. :-)

  34. Just found your blog. Very exciting stuff and congrats to having the fortitude and forethought to go after your best life! Your journey and timeline are similar to mine and my girlfriend. Inspiring stories like yours were the catalyst for the creation of my blog.