We are not happy when we have nothing to strive for. An essential part of the human condition is struggling. Our history is defined by the fight to survive and our ancestors overcame obstacles we can’t even imagine.
Without a difficult goal to pursue, I personally turn into a mess. I MUST FIGHT, ALWAYS. Complacency and comfort drag me into a malaise that becomes increasingly difficult to snap out of. I lose purpose without an enemy to combat, and often that enemy is my own base nature. This nature wants to spend more money than I earn, sleep in every day, accomplish nothing, learn nothing, and eat junk food.
Set your struggle, and work like a dog to overcome it.
If you can choose your struggle, you are fortunate. Often, our struggles are not of our own design but instead are an unwelcome guest. We are the sum of our struggles and what we have overcome.
The struggles you choose must have three elements in order to be productive :
1) Align with your life goals
2) Improve your character
3) Provide long-term benefit
You’re tired of squandering the precious time we have on this Earth in a cubicle doing things you don’t like with people you’d never be around otherwise? Financial Independence is one solution. You want to have the best quality of life possible, feel confident, and get a sense of achievement? I’ve found that the gym offers all this, along with a carefully designed diet. Often, it is our current sources of discontent that provide the motivation to better ourselves.
Financial independence takes years, if not decades, to achieve. The same is true for fitness. I have been slinging weights in the gym for almost half my life (16 years) and I know I am still years away from peaking (both muscle mass and strength). While I’m proud of my current 52% savings rate, for many years I had a negative savings rate. Financial independence will take at least another 8 years for me to achieve and I earn multiples of the median household income. My physical fitness is something I will spend my entire life refining and improving. The same can be said of anyone who has reached FIRE. Destructive habits or impulses must be kept in check once you achieve your goals or you will backslide.
Day to day discipline is what is required to succeed at long term endeavors. Surrender heroic surges of motivation don’t cut it. For this reason, your every day has to be structured to achieve your goals.
I eat the same exact food every day. I don’t tire of it because it’s delicious, and it’s optimized for my health. I get up every day at 4:30 or 5:00 am because it is the only time I have to myself in the day to go workout. I constantly push to either bang out more reps of a lift or a higher weight every single time I go to the gym. I take a freezing cold shower each day because it’s healthy, works better than coffee for waking you up, and is difficult. It is a test of my will. I check Mint and Personal Capital every day to ensure that I’m still on track with my financial goals and to provide myself with a jolt of motivation by seeing how far I’ve come already.
These are habits that I have worked hard to insert into my life. I have definitely done the exact opposite of these habits and set back my progress before, but the important part is your ability to get back on track quickly. Nobody is perfect, life happens. But before you start feeling sorry for yourself or succumb to your base nature, snap back into your program, whatever that may be.
My daily struggle against myself is part of what gives meaning to my life. When I go to bed at night knowing that I fought for my future self and slightly expanded my limits I rest more easily. Without the struggle, I have an excess of energy that over time, if left unchecked, will metastasize into something destructive. Embrace the suck, you will be better for it.