We talk a lot about specific tactics to achieve our retirement dreams here, but the psychology around implementing those ideas is equally important.
Doing something different is uncomfortable.
Sometimes, it surpasses uncomfortable and gets to terrifying.
We confront this feeling all along the way to financial independence. Drive used cars and walk to work, facing the judgment of our peers? Live in the smallest, oldest house on the block?
The problem comes from our frame of reference.
Your Friend Group
The reason driving a used car or living in a crummy apartment feels so scary to you is because it’s very likely your friends are all doing something very different than what you’re contemplating and they all very similar to each other.
In other words, you don’t have someone for reference.
And a single person whom you admire doing the thing you’re contemplating doing is all the difference in the world.
It takes this.
And makes it this.
I have wanted to take a path less traveled many times and not been able to pull the trigger.
For many years, I had wanted to take a small sabbatical. It began with wanting a gap year before college, then a gap year before possibly going to business school, and then every year thereafter whenever something terrible happened at work.
I kept pushing it off for very reasonable concerns.
And when I finally gave myself a sabbatical, I discovered that all my fears were for naught.
My concern that it would make me lose momentum? As it turns out, it actually gave me the recharge I needed to power through much longer at my job than I thought would be possible.
My concern that it would set me back in my career? My company took me back with welcoming arms and actually appreciated me more because they realized how much I had been doing.
The sabbatical was good practice for me to eventually make the decision to quit. I saw how the world didn’t end, how my prospects in the world didn’t completely implode, and I got exposure to hearing all the fears in my head and doing what I felt was right anyway.
Finally, I quit my once-in-a-lifetime job at a great investment firm against everyone’s counsel and retired. One of the senior partners sat me down and told me point blank it was a huge mistake, and that the opportunity to create multi-generational wealth was never going to come again for him or for me.
When you put it that way, what I did sounds bold – daring, even.
But here’s what really helped me behind the scenes.
By the time I chose to take a sabbatical, I had had three friends – all of whom I admired and were doing kickass things with their careers – who had already done the same. Their sabbaticals ranged from three months to a year. And they were all so happy with the decision.
And when I quit to retire?
I had one person whom I was very close to who had done it before, as well as a half dozen bloggers who I had been following for years in their early retirements to make me feel like I was not alone.
So really, I was kind of a big scaredy cat. But even a scaredy cat like me could get comfortable with the path less traveled when there were enough folks holding light up so I could see around the corner.
How This Can Help You
This has big implications for you. If you’re laying awake sweating something at night, try and find someone who has done the thing you’re thinking about and can tell you what it’s like on the other side.
Better, yet find two or three of them.
And don’t stop there. Can’t find that tribe in Hometown USA? Jump online where you can hang with exactly the kind of person you’re looking for.
The unknown looks like a giant scary blob when you have no details. And since as a normal human being you can only see so far in front of you for something you’ve never done before, finding someone who’s done what you’re about to do gives you those little details will give you the comfort and courage you need to move forward.
How This Can Help Your Mom / Dad / Spouse / Girlfriend
One of the biggest challenges I see in the financial independence movement is not the enthusiasm of the person in question for doing the kinds of things FI requires, but what their friends and family think of it. Oftentimes, they have the best interests of the person at heart and being contemplated sound truly terrifying and poorly thought out to them.
If this is your situation, the best thing you can do is to think back to how you might have reacted a few years ago and realize that they do not have the reading, philosophy, and most importantly reference models to point to to give them comfort. You can’t expect them to send you off with their blessing when to them the situation looks like this:
It’s not until they can see that it actually looks like this that you can have a constructive conversation.
Feeling scared is normal, and the way we triumph over that fear is human connection – finding someone who’s done what we’re thinking of doing, and seeing that they’re perfectly fine and even thriving on the other side.
Find those people and pull them into your own life, whether they are real life friends or online buddies.
Time to get in the water. It’s much warmer than you think.