Author Topic: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?  (Read 2981 times)

ChpBstrd

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The central paradox of the FIRE movement is that we must work in order to not have to work. If you don't want to work, get to work!

I desperately want to FIRE, but the math says I have 5-6 more years. That's a long time to stay engaged and motivated doing what you don't want to do. It's also a long time to spend working evenings and weekends trying to climb the corporate ladder when that is not my ultimate aim.

My careerist competitors have an advantage over me. They aren't daydreaming about early retirement. Instead, they accept that they will work until they're 70. Their reward doesn't come in 5-6 years, it comes next month when they will get the pleasure of buying a new [insert something stupid here]. They can focus and maintain discipline at work more easily than me because their objectives are tangible and immediate whereas mine are far more abstract and distant. They're also more inclined to work late hours, move for work, tolerate bad conditions, and invest in education/credentials because work is all they've got. Their sense of self and sense of meaning can be work, whereas I'm "working for the weekend" and saving as much as possible in the hopes of escaping work.

I can logically connect working hard with the goal of FIRE and my post-FIRE objectives, but I can't seem to trick myself into truly feeling it. Vacations, motivational books, watching 401k checks go in - nothing seems to do it.

So how does one maintain their engagement and morale in a situation where there's years to go until FIRE? I want to (a) increase earnings in an attempt to retire earlier, and (b) not work long hours to get there.

I've read Tim Ferris, several blogs, etc. looking for ideas, but I'm not able to stay engaged with work when all I want to do is be able to quit. Any ideas/links welcome.

AccidentialMustache

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2019, 07:30:27 PM »
Calculate your annual expenses and what the invested $ per days free number is, give yourself marbles or whatever in a jar for every day free? If days is too slow, switch to a big container and go for hours (or even minutes?).

ender

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2019, 07:30:39 PM »
Your post strikes me as kind of sad.

There is literally nothing for you to enjoy in your job? Nothing at all?

mozar

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2019, 07:59:34 PM »
Do you have FU money? If it's as bad as you say you need to quit.

SwordGuy

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2019, 08:16:07 PM »
Find skills that you would like to have in real life and figure out how to get paid for them at your current or next job.

Find things that you would like to do and figure out how to get paid for them at your current or next job.

Get Joshua Spodek's book Initiative if you don't know how to get other people to help you do things that require more than just your own personal effort.


Linea_Norway

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2019, 03:48:11 AM »
Working means you are doing something useful for your company, your customers and maybe for society. Your income taxes are benefitial for society. You work for 5-6 contributing to others. Afther that, you stop working and do whatever you want in your own way.

I have contributed for 25 years. Five years really isn't so bad.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2019, 05:00:46 AM by Linea_Norway »

Malkynn

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2019, 04:41:37 AM »
Hmm...

I mean, I'd rather lose an arm than spend 5-6 years working full time in a job that I don't enjoy...but that's just me.

Honestly, I would change jobs. Try something new, find some new challenges, work with some new people.

The only person forcing you to continue living this way is you.

mrmoonymartian

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2019, 04:50:59 AM »
Take pride in your work for its own sake. Make the absolte best hay you can out of it while the sun shines. Leave work in 5-6 years with your head held high, having made a positive difference.

"This is the true joy in life...being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one...being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy...I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake." - George Bernard Shaw

Zikoris

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2019, 05:34:37 AM »
Work is a means to an end for me, not my ultimate passion in life. So what I did is find a job I mostly enjoy, with a location, coworkers, company culture, and working hours that I like. Then I set my finances on autopilot and focused my efforts on enjoying life and doing fun things outside of work. I made a conscious decision to say "fuck it" to career growth, and just focus on doing a good job at what I do. And it's worked out very well for me!

mistymoney

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2019, 06:35:57 AM »

My careerist competitors have an advantage over me. They aren't daydreaming about early retirement. Instead, they accept that they will work until they're 70. Their reward doesn't come in 5-6 years, it comes next month when they will get the pleasure of buying a new [insert something stupid here]. They can focus and maintain discipline at work more easily than me because their objectives are tangible and immediate whereas mine are far more abstract and distant. They're also more inclined to work late hours, move for work, tolerate bad conditions, and invest in education/credentials because work is all they've got. Their sense of self and sense of meaning can be work, whereas I'm "working for the weekend" and saving as much as possible in the hopes of escaping work.



I'm going to call you out on this little piece of reductionist fan fiction here.

You could get just as much satisfaction on checking your balances every pay period as someone who plans to buy something. That is not the difference nor the defining concept here. There is nothing about buying something or planning to buy something that magically motivates one in their profession.

separate the issue of FIRE from this sense of disengagement at work. Either power through these 5-6 years with your end-goal, or seek another type of job or a different company with a culture that is a better fit. Denigrating the choices and supposed motivations of your coworkers isn't going to bring you clarity here.

FL_MM

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2019, 07:45:01 AM »
I’m on the same time frame of FIRE in 5 years and recognize your feeling.
I try to focus on the positive aspects of what I do and just take the negative in stride.
I set small goals and I’m happy when I achieve them. I also check my 401k balance if I need a little pick me up.

BikeFanatic

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2019, 08:11:40 AM »
I am in your boat except I hope I only have two more years left. I have been planning retirement since 2015.
I find it worst in the summer months when I feel I could be on permant vacation and enjoy  every minute, instead of two Damn weeks! One thing I have done is focus on goals like getting to know old friiends better, relationship building,  or new friendships  that I will hopelfully make more friends to spend time with in retitrement. I am befriending some older, retired already,  people to hopefull have someone to hang with when I do retire for good. Another thing I did was get a new job that paid more. I found myself very motivated in work the first year to Prove myself, and now I am backing off some.

I also tell myself thta I need these two years to prepare.  I amworking on improving myself, I am taking a class and reading with an eye towards becoming the happy content relaxed retiree inthe future. Waiting for 5 years, I mean just waiting, sucks. 

FatFI2025

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2019, 12:31:10 PM »
My feelings are similar except I still feel compelled to perform at work, so even though I don't like it, I still do pretty well. It comes from insecurity though -- I don't want to be a low performer and then lose my job when all the businesses are culling their herds in the middle of a recession. So while I keep on trucking, I've felt burned out for about a decade. Five more years until FatFI and probably ten more years until RE to build more financial security.

A lot of people here will tell you to jump and try something different, but if you make a big change, that will likely come with an initial salary cut. I've done that twice in my 12-year career and it's gone well enough, but after big change number three I'm not really willing to try again until I'm FI. Maybe it's because I don't know myself that well or maybe it's because I just don't like working.

So yea, what if a person just doesn't like working? (Puritans attack!) You keeping working because the alternative is destitution. Destitution or FIRE? I only see one reasonable path forward, so I go to work.

ChpBstrd

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2019, 04:05:47 PM »
OP here. I should have clarified a couple of things.

Quote
Do you have FU money?

Quote
You could get just as much satisfaction on checking your balances every pay period as someone who plans to buy something.

I have shitloads of FU money. It feels great too. However, when you have SLs of FU money, balance checking loses its fun because daily market noise overwhelms your contributions and growth becomes harder to observe. This worked for a while, but I need a new drug.

Quote
Honestly, I would change jobs. Try something new, find some new challenges, work with some new people.
The only person forcing you to continue living this way is you.

Quote
Your post strikes me as kind of sad.
There is literally nothing for you to enjoy in your job? Nothing at all?

My job is ideal. I literally work 40 hour weeks (sometimes less), report directly to the COO of my recession-proof company, work with zero direct supervision, have a 10 minute commute, just got a glowing evaluation from the COO, have positive relationships with every single one of the dozens of people I work with, endure relatively little stress, and earn about twice the average pay in my geographic area in addition to having 90% of my health insurance premium company-paid. Plus my work is varied, interesting, and challenging. I even strongly support my organization's mission!

I have considered quitting if I could earn enough to FIRE in, say, 4 years instead of 5-6. However the options I've looked into over the past couple of years all involve obscenely long hours, horrid work cultures, companies with reputations for routine layoffs, and not that much of a pay increase when factoring in the worse commute and benefits package. At one company, in response to my work-life balance question, the interview panelists joked among themselves about which of them works the longest hours and sees their families the least because it was some kind of a sick status symbol there. Hahaha... and buh bye.

So no more external excuses. It's not the job, it's me. I would rather be doing my own things than working the perfect job. I am flat-out not a careerist, even though I have somehow arrived in careerist nirvana. The near-perfection of my job doesn't change the fact that I look out the window at beautiful blue-sky days and think bitter thoughts about having to be at work instead of out there. It doesn't change my ever-growing list of things I'd like to accomplish or enjoy if I only had the time. A job change and fat raise might stimulate me for a while, but it's hard to imagine the grass actually being greener.

What I need is some sort of intrinsic motivation or some psychological hack to align my ultimate goal (the post-FIRE lifestyle) with career engagement. If I could somehow do that, I might be on track for a short 3-4 year executive career rather than grinding it out for another half-decade.

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2019, 04:36:57 PM »
OP here. I should have clarified a couple of things.

Quote
Do you have FU money?

Quote
You could get just as much satisfaction on checking your balances every pay period as someone who plans to buy something.

I have shitloads of FU money. It feels great too. However, when you have SLs of FU money, balance checking loses its fun because daily market noise overwhelms your contributions and growth becomes harder to observe. This worked for a while, but I need a new drug.

Savings as a percentage and dollar value.  I'm in the same boat as you.  Pretty sure I have the ideal job, but still don't want to be doing it, and being years away feels like a grind.  Aside from trying to make work the smallest part of my life (hard when you have to do it for 40 hours), I also track my savings each paycheck and try to beat the previous year as both a percentage and raw dollars saved.  I have larger goals, but you're right the noise of the market at some point drowns out the effects of your saving, so it doesn't really work for paycheck-to-paycheck excitement.  I do enjoy increasing my YTD savings each paycheck, and my spreadsheets extrapolates it out to end of year savings, as well as current savings as a percentage (I put in the numbers from my pay stub).  This gives me a personal gain to look forward to at work. 

You do need goals, imo.  For a long time I had career goals, but being fairly close to the finish line and having zero desire to climb any higher, my job itself is pretty much on autopilot, so I need other things to look forward to regarding work.

BOP Mustache

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #15 on: June 25, 2019, 06:39:20 PM »
You only work a 40 hour week. Why not drive Uber, or work on Saturdays in another job to speed things up?

I wish I worked 40 hours. That to me would seem like retirement. I'm regularly pulling in 60-65 hour weeks plus on call 24-7 just to support my young family.

How about you start to cultivate what post retirement would look like? Then start taking up these hobbies? If you want to take up golf, woodwork, etc, do it in weeknights, I'm assuming you are home at 5pm if you have a 10 minute commute.

Luz

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #16 on: June 25, 2019, 09:11:41 PM »
You only work a 40 hour week. Why not drive Uber, or work on Saturdays in another job to speed things up?

I wish I worked 40 hours. That to me would seem like retirement. I'm regularly pulling in 60-65 hour weeks plus on call 24-7 just to support my young family.

How about you start to cultivate what post retirement would look like? Then start taking up these hobbies? If you want to take up golf, woodwork, etc, do it in weeknights, I'm assuming you are home at 5pm if you have a 10 minute commute.

I agree. Even after sleep is accounted for, you have 55 free hours a week. Not sure what your home commitments look like, but that's nearly 8 hours a day for getting your early retirement pursuits up and running or reducing the time to early retirement through a side hustle. Have you always disliked your job or is this dissatisfaction recent?
Also, it sounds lame, but writing down 10 things every day that you're grateful for about work or something that happened during your workday, when done consistently for a few months, can shift the brain's tendency to focus on the negative.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #17 on: June 25, 2019, 10:53:59 PM »
You don’t have to stay engaged and climb the ladder, you just have to show up. Don’t get invested in politics or doing anything you don’t want. Don’t work late nights or weekends. Tick the boxes. As someone who runs a business, those people drive me nuts, but I have them. They show up, know their job, get it done. I don’t get much more from them. Now I have a couple ambitious ones that go above and beyond, I focus on them. Guess what? They all get paid. Sure, my ambitious ones might get promoted but the tick the box people get exactly what they’re expecting. Since I made the decision to FIRE in 6-7 years I’ve decided that I’m done climbing too. I’m not looking for a new job that pays more, or is more exciting. Why? To learn all new systems, with new people and new politics. My current place isn’t a nightmare and I’m never bored, I just don’t feel the need to be a superstar anymore and that’s comforting. Redirect all that energy for work to something outside of work, you’ll be across the finish line before you know it.

mrmoonymartian

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #18 on: June 26, 2019, 02:02:09 AM »
So what you're really saying is: "My job is pretty great and I've chosen to wait 5-6 years until I can fat FIRE. Please help!"

Hmm.... that does sound pretty tough. Maybe you could ask for transfer to a siberian labour camp to make your life a bit more bearable?

Linea_Norway

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #19 on: June 26, 2019, 04:17:43 AM »
If your job is that good, just sit it out there, and try to get interesting projects to work on at your job. And in addition, get some hobby or other engagement outside work that you can focus your life on. Save as much as you can and maybe you can shave off a year.

Éowynd

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #20 on: June 26, 2019, 04:23:41 AM »
Do you have any hobbies that you can focus on instead of FIRE?  After spending some time analyzing my spending and figuring out the rough outline of a FIRE plan, I forced myself to stop thinking about it so much.  Like you, FIRE is somewhere around 5 years away for me.  I derive motivation to keep going by doing things that I enjoy every day outside of work.  For me, this is usually some type of physical activity.

Be happy that you have plans for a better future one day and focus on doing what you can to make your life more fun/interesting in the free time that you have available right now.

Malkynn

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #21 on: June 26, 2019, 04:44:14 AM »
K.

Well, despite everything you've written, I *personally* still wouldn't choose 5-6 more years in a full time job where I felt that way.

However, that's because I see the world as filled with amazing opportunities to do exciting and meaningful work, and because a history of serious health issues, I have no patience for being in a rush for time to pass.
I consider *this year* to always be the most important year.

That said, that's *my* reality, that's where my life has lead me, and where my priorities have landed.

You need to figure out your priorities, why you are not happy despite having what sounds like a pretty great job, what it is that's lacking, and why you are having trouble finding it.

Would you benefit from a sabbatical? Dropping to part time? Taking on a more meaningful project in your free time?
It's not possible that achieving FIRE is the single available path to happiness. That's just nuts.

FIRE isn't some magical source of happiness, it's a facilitator of happiness, it's a tool you can use to freely pursue it. However, it's not the source.

Figure out why you aren't happy despite having everything in life you need to be happy already. If you are so intensely lusting for a life that's different, then change something.

Case

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #22 on: June 26, 2019, 05:41:08 AM »
The central paradox of the FIRE movement is that we must work in order to not have to work. If you don't want to work, get to work!

I desperately want to FIRE, but the math says I have 5-6 more years. That's a long time to stay engaged and motivated doing what you don't want to do. It's also a long time to spend working evenings and weekends trying to climb the corporate ladder when that is not my ultimate aim.

My careerist competitors have an advantage over me. They aren't daydreaming about early retirement. Instead, they accept that they will work until they're 70. Their reward doesn't come in 5-6 years, it comes next month when they will get the pleasure of buying a new [insert something stupid here]. They can focus and maintain discipline at work more easily than me because their objectives are tangible and immediate whereas mine are far more abstract and distant. They're also more inclined to work late hours, move for work, tolerate bad conditions, and invest in education/credentials because work is all they've got. Their sense of self and sense of meaning can be work, whereas I'm "working for the weekend" and saving as much as possible in the hopes of escaping work.

I can logically connect working hard with the goal of FIRE and my post-FIRE objectives, but I can't seem to trick myself into truly feeling it. Vacations, motivational books, watching 401k checks go in - nothing seems to do it.

So how does one maintain their engagement and morale in a situation where there's years to go until FIRE? I want to (a) increase earnings in an attempt to retire earlier, and (b) not work long hours to get there.

I've read Tim Ferris, several blogs, etc. looking for ideas, but I'm not able to stay engaged with work when all I want to do is be able to quit. Any ideas/links welcome.

If you get nothing from your job other than money, then you will have a long slog unless you get a large thrill from earning money (probably needing higher and higher salary versus time).

Suggest you set up some goals at work, or find a new job.  You seem passive rather than active.  Grab hold of life and make the most of it.

Mentally checking out is always an option (seems like what you have done already).  The problem, as you have hinted at, is that it will be 5-6 years of your life wasted. 

TANSTAAFL

chemistk

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #23 on: June 26, 2019, 05:52:32 AM »
It's not possible that achieving FIRE is the single available path to happiness. That's just nuts.

FIRE isn't some magical source of happiness, it's a facilitator of happiness, it's a tool you can use to freely pursue it. However, it's not the source.

Figure out why you aren't happy despite having everything in life you need to be happy already. If you are so intensely lusting for a life that's different, then change something.

This really needs to be reiterated, OP. You really need a come to [diety] moment here. In 5 years (maybe 4 if you just can't wait any longer), you're going to walk out of that job and after your very brief honeymoon you'll be bored senseless with your life. There's only so much staring at the blue sky one can do. If that's all you really want to do, arrange to have your corpse embalmed and sealed in a plexiglass enclosure, eyes open - you'll have many years then to enjoy the blue skies.

The whole idea behind FU money isn't to watch it grow. It's to allow yourself the freedom to pursue your own interests while putting your job on the back-burner. It's so that when something really catches your interest, you can walk up to your boss and hand them your two-weeks' to go pursue that interest. It's your permission slip to live a more fulfilling life.

mistymoney

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #24 on: June 26, 2019, 06:08:32 AM »
See if you can get approved for a large vacation, 4-6 weeks off, and that might refresh you a bit.

Éowynd

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #25 on: June 26, 2019, 08:35:25 AM »
See if you can get approved for a large vacation, 4-6 weeks off, and that might refresh you a bit.

I really wish that I wasn't scared of asking for a 6 week vacation from work.  This is literally unheard of though.  I've never heard of someone taking a 6 week vacation from work unless if they were hospitalized or had a major surgery performed or gave birth to a baby.

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #26 on: June 26, 2019, 11:12:42 AM »
See if you can get approved for a large vacation, 4-6 weeks off, and that might refresh you a bit.

I really wish that I wasn't scared of asking for a 6 week vacation from work.  This is literally unheard of though.  I've never heard of someone taking a 6 week vacation from work unless if they were hospitalized or had a major surgery performed or gave birth to a baby.

Yay America!

I also don't see how a long vacation would help.  I've never had a vacation end and been like 'alright, let's get back to work, i'm ready for this!'.  If anything it makes going to work even worse because I realize how much I enjoy not working.

Malkynn

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #27 on: June 26, 2019, 11:28:49 AM »
See if you can get approved for a large vacation, 4-6 weeks off, and that might refresh you a bit.

I really wish that I wasn't scared of asking for a 6 week vacation from work.  This is literally unheard of though.  I've never heard of someone taking a 6 week vacation from work unless if they were hospitalized or had a major surgery performed or gave birth to a baby.

Yay America!

I also don't see how a long vacation would help.  I've never had a vacation end and been like 'alright, let's get back to work, i'm ready for this!'.  If anything it makes going to work even worse because I realize how much I enjoy not working.

Which can provide great clarity about whether or not it's time for a change.


markbike528CBX

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #28 on: June 26, 2019, 11:44:07 AM »
I had a similar problem, although I was lower on the totem pole than the OP. ALso, I had only 2 years to stew before I bailed.

 I did have the goal of being mortgage-free to help focus.  I could have gotten to 55 and employer-sponsored health insurance/ 401k partial withdrawals. I was spending 1-2 hours daily on my FIRE spread here and on this forum, asking myself WTF am I wasting company and my time sitting here.

So I don't have a good answer, I guess. 
Currently listening to the grandkids play outside on a beautiful summer morning.

Eurotexan

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #29 on: June 26, 2019, 12:50:13 PM »
OP I am in exactly the same boat as you too. I have a great job, high salary, short commute, etc etc. It's not perfect (what job is), I dislike the politics and the fact that incompetence seems to be rewarded (boy, there's a lot of incompetence) but I am slowly accepting the fact that this is my best and fastest runway to FIRE. I have casually looked at other jobs but none of them come close to what I currently have, especially in the salary area which is the biggest driver to FIRE.

I have accepted that I am impatient and frustrated because I just want my freedom. I have between 3 and 5 years until FIRE. Try these ideas:

Look around for another job. It sounds like you have the perfect job (except for the fact it's a 'job'). That helped me a lot
Start a FIRE notebook. Jot ideas down as they come to you about what you want to do with your time in FIRE
Financially plan for FIRE. Are you well versed on ACA plans? Do you know how you will withdraw down your stash? What about taxes?

I find planning keeps me motivated, makes the time go quicker, makes it feel more real, and educates me so I can FIRE successfully

Also, look at your calendar to see what you were doing 5 years ago? I bet it doesn't seem that long ago!

ChpBstrd

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #30 on: June 26, 2019, 03:20:59 PM »
Mentally checking out is always an option (seems like what you have done already).  The problem, as you have hinted at, is that it will be 5-6 years of your life wasted. 

If your job is that good, just sit it out there, and try to get interesting projects to work on at your job. And in addition, get some hobby or other engagement outside work that you can focus your life on. Save as much as you can and maybe you can shave off a year.

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You don’t have to stay engaged and climb the ladder, you just have to show up. Don’t get invested in politics or doing anything you don’t want. Don’t work late nights or weekends. Tick the boxes.

Checking out is primarily not an option because it's unsustainable. My disengagement will show at some time in the next 5-6 years, and then the FIRE dreams will be delayed months/years while I try to claw back an income. The ideal outcome is to somehow get engaged, land a fat promotion, earn/save a ton of money, and surprise everyone when I hit the eject button at the height of my professional glory. The next best outcome is to perform well, not be bored, and continue working for the weekend / being engaged in hobbies a few more years. The worst outcome would be if my true mental disengagement were somehow discovered, and I had to get a more typical job for several years while also being disengaged!

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See if you can get approved for a large vacation, 4-6 weeks off, and that might refresh you a bit.

I've never done 4-6 week vacations, but 1-2 weeks does not refresh me. Feels more like being the dog that got out of the back yard for a while. Over the past couple of decades, I have occasionally been fired up by job changes, but this effect lasts about 6 months and then the disengagement sets in again.

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Figure out why you aren't happy despite having everything in life you need to be happy already. If you are so intensely lusting for a life that's different, then change something.

I have a crystal-clear vision of exactly what I want to be doing post-FIRE. The problem is there is insufficient time to pursue those activities as long as I have a full-time job. Activities like founding organizations, writing books, and traveling are not easily broken into the available 30 minute segments during work night evenings when I'm fatigued anyway. I've tried. Instead I pursue 2nd tier hobbies like fixing up computers and motorcycles, cycling, going to events, Toastmasters, etc. that can be done in increments, but my desire for FIRE is motivated by a wish to pursue full-time interests.

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I find planning keeps me motivated, makes the time go quicker, makes it feel more real, and educates me so I can FIRE successfully

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After spending some time analyzing my spending and figuring out the rough outline of a FIRE plan, I forced myself to stop thinking about it so much.

I've tried planning too! Like portfolio-watching, the returns diminish over time. At this point, I am wondering if somehow not thinking about FIRE on a daily/hourly basis and instead living more in the present would be a healthier way to be. It's a retirement plan, not an obsession. Thus, the problem I'm attempting to solve is how to be more engaged now, rather than attempting to FIRE faster or change jobs.

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You only work a 40 hour week. Why not drive Uber, or work on Saturdays in another job to speed things up?

I wish I worked 40 hours. That to me would seem like retirement. I'm regularly pulling in 60-65 hour weeks plus on call 24-7 just to support my young family.

How about you start to cultivate what post retirement would look like? Then start taking up these hobbies? If you want to take up golf, woodwork, etc, do it in weeknights, I'm assuming you are home at 5pm if you have a 10 minute commute.

I am aware that very, very few people have it so good. I credit life in a LCOL/low wage area.

My former boss tells me I should be earning a lot more than I am earning now, but she is also living the 60 hour per week lifestyle. I could trade my current lifestyle for more money either by taking a demanding job or by doing side gigs. However this would be a step in the opposite direction from where I'd like to go, which is to spend less of my time, not more, in exchange for money. To me, the careerist lifestyle means stress-related health problems, divorce, troubled children, and a stunted social life. A 50% raise in exchange for 50% more hours would do wonders for my savings rate, but would not necessarily shave off enough years to make that lifestyle a bargain. If anything, I wish I could work part-time or 3-4 long days a week, even if that extended my time to FIRE by a year. I wish I could let compound interest do the work instead of sacrificing even more of the ultimate non-renewable resource. That's my personality but I can respect other people's choices.

I've looked at many purported shortcuts to FIRE, but probably the key is to somehow be engaged in the here and now. Everything else is already close to optimized, I'm a lucky bastard, and there are no excuses left.

Malkynn

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #31 on: June 26, 2019, 04:09:38 PM »
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Figure out why you aren't happy despite having everything in life you need to be happy already. If you are so intensely lusting for a life that's different, then change something.

I have a crystal-clear vision of exactly what I want to be doing post-FIRE. The problem is there is insufficient time to pursue those activities as long as I have a full-time job. Activities like founding organizations, writing books, and traveling are not easily broken into the available 30 minute segments during work night evenings when I'm fatigued anyway. I've tried. Instead I pursue 2nd tier hobbies like fixing up computers and motorcycles, cycling, going to events, Toastmasters, etc. that can be done in increments, but my desire for FIRE is motivated by a wish to pursue full-time interests.

My challenge to you is larger than that though.

You haven't mentioned a health problem, so I'm assuming you are in good health, and by your own account, you have a large amount of money.

By my estimation, you have exactly zero excuses for not living your best life and being happy.

Honestly, if your job is the only thing holding you back from being happy in life, then bloody leave it. Stop making excuses, stop using your salary as a scape goat, and go live your damn life.

I repeat myself: no one is holding a gun to your head, no one is making you stay in this job, no one is forcing you to live this way except you.

You don't need FI to live your best life. Sure, it makes it easier, but is that ease worth 5+ prime years of your life???

If you are even remotely competent at the kinds of projects you want to work on, you can probably generate your yearly spend on doing work you love, and your 'stache could be left to grow to absurd levels while you kick ass at the things you love.

As someone who is facing down the barrel of cancer a possible second time before 40, I can't fathom having what you have and not rocking the fuck out of life just balls to the wall, non stop.

I left a cushy, high paying job that my peers would kill for so that I could cut my hours, work on shit I actually care about, and enjoy my life, and I had a negative net worth at the time.
It was the best decision I ever made.

Maybe that's not for you.
Maybe hunkering down in your 9-5 is what's best for you.
I can't fathom that, but hey, we're all different.
However, if you are more like me and utterly intolerant of wasting any more precious time, then for fuck's sake, recognize what you have, how much freedom you have, how many options you have, and do whatever THE HELL you want to because ...well fuck ....YOU CAN. 

BicycleB

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #32 on: June 26, 2019, 06:06:04 PM »

My job is ideal. I literally work 40 hour weeks (sometimes less), report directly to the COO of my recession-proof company, work with zero direct supervision, have a 10 minute commute, just got a glowing evaluation from the COO, have positive relationships with every single one of the dozens of people I work with, endure relatively little stress, and earn about twice the average pay in my geographic area in addition to having 90% of my health insurance premium company-paid. Plus my work is varied, interesting, and challenging. I even strongly support my organization's mission!

I'm not sure I have the answers here. Your OP sounds like your emotions are very grim, yet your objective state seems very good.

You seem mostly to feel that you'd rather be doing other varied, interesting and challenging projects. The difference seems to be that they'd be ones you choose/invent. I see three paths in that case:

1. Like Malkynn says, pull the ripcord. If your projects don't make money eventually, and you're still alive, you'll either suffer a reduced standard of living or have to do paid work somehow. Odds you'll reach that point are slim. If you resign, there's a 100% chance you'll do exactly what you choose/invent for a while. "A while" means either for about 10 years (when your FU money runs out), or until you lose your courage, or forever (if you cut spending enough). Maybe it's worth the risk.

2. You say the reason you can't do your chosen activities is because they need bigger blocks of time, not 30 minute chunks. Can you reorganize your schedule to get bigger blocks of time for your chosen Special New Activities? How about using the quest for this reorganized schedule as a medium term objective? In concert with some supportive preparations that you do in 30 minute chunks, you could make progress. I think if the issue is truly that you're blocked from these activities by daily details, this approach will help because you can actually get started now.

// I have a friend who has various dreams about what he will do later in life. But some of them he could do now. He never does them until recently never did any of them, and the intensity of his longing waxes and wanes. My working theory is was that these desires are emotional images, not actual things he will do. If you start doing your projects, maybe you will be able to distinguish whether your case is similar. Sorry if this too intrusive a thing to say.

As it turns out, last year he did one the things on his list for a while. It worked great, despite hiccups, and he was REALLY happy with it. But he was easily distracted from it, and did not sustain. Partly that's circumstance from not being FIRE and having worse career problems than you. Partly I wonder if it still means that he has some emotional block about Achieving His Dreams. Again, sorry if this is irrelevant. Just thinking that a direct action to start one of your dream projects might be valuable in verifying their status. If they're going to be as gratifying as you think, you might find out really quickly. You'd be starting your dream life in zero years instead of 5! //

3. Many have pointed out that happiness often returns to baseline after a while in FIRE. Your current life has a lotta lotta strengths. Maybe you could focus on emotional health improvement / attitude adjustment / whatever you want to call it. Much of that can be accomplished in 30 minute chunks. If FIRE isn't as great for you as predicted, the mental preparation could be very helpful then too. Meditate? Get counseling? Journal? Do gratitude practices? (Pray?) Do good deeds?

Option 1 has the great strength that if they try to keep you, you could push for the 3 to 4 day workweek. If you succeed, you've instantly created the ability to do option 2 very easily.

I suggest doing 2 and 3 regardless.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2019, 06:18:26 PM by BicycleB »

Archipelago

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #33 on: June 26, 2019, 06:45:09 PM »
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tawyer

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #34 on: June 26, 2019, 08:02:37 PM »
I have a crystal-clear vision of exactly what I want to be doing post-FIRE. The problem is there is insufficient time to pursue those activities as long as I have a full-time job. Activities like founding organizations, writing books, and traveling are not easily broken into the available 30 minute segments during work night evenings when I'm fatigued anyway. I've tried. Instead I pursue 2nd tier hobbies like fixing up computers and motorcycles, cycling, going to events, Toastmasters, etc. that can be done in increments, but my desire for FIRE is motivated by a wish to pursue full-time interests.
While I haven't solved this problem personally, I work with people who have: one has founded an organization, and just today I saw another promoting a book he wrote. Both definitely keep a tight lid on work hours not going over 40 a week, make fairly obscene amounts of money (they are the 1%) and are well respected. I think the answer to carving out time when you're not fatigued is just to get up earlier. Easier said than done (ask me how I know).

meerkat

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #35 on: June 27, 2019, 06:41:17 AM »
Also following.

Good work situation, decent benefits, decent coworkers, flexibility, etc. I have the additional complication of a strongly risk-averse spouse and a small child with special needs (mild, but still requiring therapies which means time out of my week to drive him there and sit around then drive home). That also means I need to keep some sort of half decent health insurance (yay America) on top of paying for day care for him. Our FIRE date is probably 10+ years out. I've been casually keeping an eye out for other jobs but there's not much in my area that pays at or above what I currently make.

Éowynd

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #36 on: June 27, 2019, 07:33:26 AM »
See if you can get approved for a large vacation, 4-6 weeks off, and that might refresh you a bit.

I really wish that I wasn't scared of asking for a 6 week vacation from work.  This is literally unheard of though.  I've never heard of someone taking a 6 week vacation from work unless if they were hospitalized or had a major surgery performed or gave birth to a baby.

Yay America!

I also don't see how a long vacation would help.  I've never had a vacation end and been like 'alright, let's get back to work, i'm ready for this!'.  If anything it makes going to work even worse because I realize how much I enjoy not working.

True, I wouldn't be any more excited to go back to work after a long vacation.  But at least the time off would be fun and I wouldn't have to use up any of my PTO to go on a road trip.  (I'm assuming that the 6 week leave from work would be unpaid.  Because: America!)

Candace

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #37 on: June 27, 2019, 09:40:50 AM »
OP, your situation reminds me a great deal of mine about three years ago, with a couple of important differences.

I had a great situation. I even got to work four days a week, 32 hours, with full benefits. The work was uninteresting to me, but was a kind of work most people would envy. I just wanted to be retired, and no amount of mental gymnastics worked to get me to be more enthusiastic about being at work. It would be hypocritical of me to advise you to figure out a way to be more engaged. And yet, you have written upthread that that's the best way to deal with the situation.

If you're still a few years away from FI and you don't want to take the chance on quitting now, then finding a way to re-frame your thoughts on going to work is the best way.

Here's something I never tried. Can you invent a way to make work more fun? Perhaps a playful contest with co-workers about something that has nothing to do with work? Or is there a way you can leave "Easter eggs" in your work in a way that doesn't hurt your perceived performance? In other words, just something to make you smile?

Or, is there someone there who counts on your work, whom you like and want to do well for?

Can you address the "tape" in your head by interrupting yourself when the "negative feelings tape" begins to play? This is a technique a lot of self-helpers recommend, and I've used successfully in other areas of my life. Have some positive things prepared to tell yourself about your job, and repeat them (even out loud) when the frustration creeps in. Tell yourself how great your life is. Do this for long enough, and it actually helps how you feel.

Personally, in spite of my favorable treatment and good salary, I FIRE'd as soon as I hit my number, for a pretty lean FIRE. It was precipitated by the sudden, unexpected death of a friend of a friend. As @Malkynn pointed out upthread, perspective is key. When we have it good (and I did), it's easy to focus on all the ways our life is lacking that last 10% of amazingness, and it was making me less happy than my situation really called for. In actuality, my life was  Although I didn't know the person who died, it was a wake-up call. I decided to take the leap and live the life I wanted even though I was at a pretty bare bones FIRE number.

Here's something to consider, more or less an anecdote from my experience. As you know, many people occasionally do some paid work in FIRE. Some of us do it because we like the work, some of us do it to be able to buy some relatively luxurious things/vacations/services, and some people do it because their stash doesn't hold up the way they'd hoped. For myself, I'd wondered what form any paid work might take. Lo and behold, about a year and a half into FIRE, I got a call out of the blue from someone I knew. That person was looking for someone to help a few hours a week in their small business, and also to back them up when they're out of the country and clients need something. Saying yes required me to do many hours of up-front, unpaid work over a period of months, and to spend some unpaid hours learning computer tools. But now, I get paid a very nice hourly rate to do work that I enjoy for a few hours a week. It's unclear how much I'll make going forward, but right now I'm on track to make $1k-$2k per month, which is a very nice addition to my stash and possibly a reason to loosen the purse strings a bit. Since you also seem to be a skilled person, I'll bet you could easily get a similar opportunity.

Best of luck. In the end, happiness is a choice.

Philociraptor

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #38 on: June 27, 2019, 09:56:37 AM »
Man OP, you remind me of me when I'm in a low mood. It really do believe it's a mindset thing. Hell, even Viktor Frankl managed to stay sane and keep joy in his life at Auschwitz. I highly recommend reading the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. There's a lot you can do to turn your everyday experiences into almost universally positive ones. A few choice quotations:

"How we feel about ourselves, the joy we get from living, ultimately depend directly on how the mind filters and interprets everyday experiences. Whether we are happy depends on inner harmony, not on the controls we are able to exert over the great forces of the universe."

"The problem arises when people are so fixated on what they want to achieve that they cease to derive pleasure from the present. When that happens, they forfeit their chance of contentment.

"When we feel that we are investing attention in a task against our will, it is as if our psychic energy is being wasted."

"Subjective experience is not just one of the dimensions of life, it is life itself. Material conditions are secondary: they only affect us indirectly, by way of experience."

Good luck, I know you can make it.

ChpBstrd

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #39 on: June 27, 2019, 02:51:02 PM »
OP here. There's some good advice above. Too much to quote, actually. My favorite takeaways that I'm not doing right now are:

1) Gratitude exercises. I may need to formalize this practice, such as making it a bedtime routine or while-eating-breakfast routine. I've tried giving myself pep talks before, but it never worked. Instead, I'll try focusing on one or two present or past-tense good things at a time, with no agenda other than to feel as good as I should about them in the present.
2) Lay off the future focus for a while and try to live more for the present, without falling into the consumerism trap of course. (I suspect many of us ended up on this board because we have a future focus/obsession.). If the FIRE plan is made, and deposits/investments automated, trust that it will take care of itself and move on with the present.
3) Become an early riser. I tend to stay up late, but for me 7.5 hours of sleep vs. 8 hours of sleep is a difference in mood/engagement/focus. So this is a good place to start. Also, if I could mentally engage in something before work (e.g. a book, a project) I might be less intellectually bored when I get there.

To clarify, it's not that I have a generally dour attitude or that I'm not enjoying life. It's that life is so good I don't want to spend most of it at work, not even at the perfect job. In terms of Maslow's hierarchy, I'm aiming for self-actualization (as opposed to asking if I need a different job). I'm the kid who can't wait for desert, not the kid bitching about his 4 star restaurant meal and easy life. This is not humblebragging; it's the mental challenge of being happy doing what you don't want to be doing. I think my experience shows contentment IS all in your head, and is not dependent upon getting the perfect job, etc.

When I say I have FU money, I mean still $600k away from FIRE. If the spouse and I quit now, our family's WR would be around 7%. There's a 55% historical chance of that lasting for 30 terrifying years at 100% stocks, which is too risky to accept.
https://www.money-zine.com/calculators/retirement-calculators/withdrawal-rate-calculator/

So, while my FU money provides some latitude for change and flexibility, it doesn't get me out of working. This isn't one of those case studies where the person realizes losing the boat payment and selling the beach condo would make them FI.

For the benefit of others who said they're in the same boat, here are a few things I've already tried that seemed incrementally helpful:

1) Delete Facebook. Go on a very strict social media diet. Enjoy an increase in happiness and improved mental focus after a couple weeks of withdrawal. Even stop reading this forum every couple of weeks.
2) Try to reduce 'news' and media consumption. I'm still struggling here. Internet addiction is awful.
3) Downgrade your smartphone to something harder and less pleasant to use. If your phone is frustrating, you will use it less and be more present in the real world. Bonus for cracked screens! This is like the trick of reducing snacking by putting a velcro strip on the refrigerator door. Yes, you're making an activity unnecessarily difficult, but what you'll do instead will be an improvement.
4) Take on small projects that are irrelevant to your larger life goals just so that you can get quick wins and self-esteem boosts. E.g. paint a room, fix a bicycle, write a short poem, etc. These projects help reduce the feeling like you're going nowhere, nothing ever changes, or that you're on a hamster wheel. In my case they're not enough, but they help. They at least force one to think in the present.
5) Talk to a counselor, especially if work-life balance issues are causing marital conflict. If you have insurance (yay America!) it costs very little. However, shop for a counselor carefully. It's not unreasonable to ask for a free 15 minute interview at the counselor's convenience or to at least answer a bunch of questions via email, because this might be a long-term relationship and there are a lot of questionable people in this industry. Probably everyone on earth needs a qualified counselor.
6) Always have one little thing to be excited about. This could be a book you're reading, a project, a 10k you're training for, the prospect of a promotion, a vacation, a romantic interest, a community activity, etc. When you find yourself without such a thing, the work, eat, clean, sleep, repeat cycle can be boring.
7) Leave the cell phone in your car when at work, whenever possible. This reduces the urge to look at social media or the news when you're supposed to be working, and having to unpleasantly tear yourself away.

Strategies I've been unable to make work include:
  • Optimizing activities to make slightly more time for interests: This just led to spousal complaints and dissatisfaction. I became my own taskmaster, causing life to lose spontaneity and scheduling failures to multiply. Then the four-year-old disrupted all plans.
  • Schedule rearrangement: Again, the 4 year old DGAF about my hopes and dreams for morning or evening time. Spouse was also unimpressed with the impacts on their plans.
  • Motivational products: Books, seminars, podcasts, yada yada. The problem is most of these assume you already want to be your best at work, but that is not my underlying motivation.
  • Being hard on yourself: Do not sit in your car before work yelling at yourself "WTF man! Why aren't you bringing your A game to work? Don't you know you better focus or you'll never achieve anything!? Get your shit together, you ungrateful scroatface!" Either you'll feel awful or you'll just start laughing at your imaginary inner drill sergeant as things get sillier and sillier.

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #40 on: June 27, 2019, 03:16:13 PM »
I'll add some additional points to the 'get up earlier' advice and your comment about not having time to do the big things you want to do.

Someone challenged my desire to retire ASAP by asking 'what do you want to do when you retire and why can't you just start doing more of that now?', to which my initial reaction was 'I don't have time!'.  So I started tackling the time problem.  I started getting up early to work out before work, and use my lunch break to run errands (hardware store, grocery store, liquor store, etc) I would otherwise have to run after work.  So when I get done working, I have the entire rest of the day to do whatever it is I want to do that day, without those time-suck activities that eat up the evening and then all of a sudden it's 7pm and time to figure out dinner and wind down the day.

Getting Things Done also helped me organize everything I wanted to do into actionable and manageable chunks that I could act on, so I wasn't looking at a huge thing and going 'I don't have time for that while I'm working!', because when you split a lot of the big things up properly into pieces, you probably do have time.

Schaefer Light

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #41 on: June 27, 2019, 04:14:26 PM »
It sucks that you can't get one day closer to retirement without also getting one day closer to death.

Tracyl-5

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #42 on: June 27, 2019, 08:59:08 PM »
I just wanted to be retired, and no amount of mental gymnastics worked to get me to be more enthusiastic about being at work.

I just wanted to say I also feel like I'm in the same frame of mind, so thank you OP for starting this conversation, and thank you all for the tips!  I will definitely try some of these and try to live more in the present!

RyanGreener

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #43 on: June 28, 2019, 05:24:35 AM »
The central paradox of the FIRE movement is that we must work in order to not have to work. If you don't want to work, get to work!

I desperately want to FIRE, but the math says I have 5-6 more years. That's a long time to stay engaged and motivated doing what you don't want to do. It's also a long time to spend working evenings and weekends trying to climb the corporate ladder when that is not my ultimate aim.

My careerist competitors have an advantage over me. They aren't daydreaming about early retirement. Instead, they accept that they will work until they're 70. Their reward doesn't come in 5-6 years, it comes next month when they will get the pleasure of buying a new [insert something stupid here]. They can focus and maintain discipline at work more easily than me because their objectives are tangible and immediate whereas mine are far more abstract and distant. They're also more inclined to work late hours, move for work, tolerate bad conditions, and invest in education/credentials because work is all they've got. Their sense of self and sense of meaning can be work, whereas I'm "working for the weekend" and saving as much as possible in the hopes of escaping work.

I can logically connect working hard with the goal of FIRE and my post-FIRE objectives, but I can't seem to trick myself into truly feeling it. Vacations, motivational books, watching 401k checks go in - nothing seems to do it.

So how does one maintain their engagement and morale in a situation where there's years to go until FIRE? I want to (a) increase earnings in an attempt to retire earlier, and (b) not work long hours to get there.

I've read Tim Ferris, several blogs, etc. looking for ideas, but I'm not able to stay engaged with work when all I want to do is be able to quit. Any ideas/links welcome.

I understand how you feel and all I can say that has helped me through a similar situation is just to remain grateful every day for what you have. Not everyone has the luxury of even thinking of retiring early, while others are strapped with debt, or just don't have jobs that pay as well.

LaineyAZ

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #44 on: June 28, 2019, 07:06:58 AM »
ChpBstrd,
One other suggestion:  how about mentoring a newer colleague or two?  When I worked in MegaCorp, I was in a small department which was a niche area.  These professional jobs were coveted positions and turnover was small.  What I observed was the ongoing transfer of scientific knowledge and practical know-how was a daily occurrence. 
It made the entire team better, and I think it gave the older, more experienced workers some life satisfaction in seeing the newer folks catch on and continue the success and excellent reputation of the department. 

Along those lines, does your workplace ever recruit from universities?  That could be an interesting aspect, making sure those new grads are a good fit and get the best start.  It's a short, seasonal gig but could be a nice break from your everyday work. 

And finally, I know it's corny, but helping organize some off-site events that either contribute to local charities, or just improve morale, can be another fun work distraction with a positive outcome.  For example, my dept. participated in a local Habitat for Humanity build.  We also did tree plantings and nature clean-ups in conjunction with local park officials who were very grateful for the help. 
I think all of this can be part of the feedback loop in staying engaged. 

Linea_Norway

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #45 on: June 28, 2019, 09:07:05 AM »
OP, maybe you could work 80% for some time. Just to get some more me-time without your spouse commenting.

StarBright

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #46 on: June 28, 2019, 09:28:36 AM »
OP- thanks for starting this awesome thread. I think a lot of us are in a similar boat.


never give up

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #47 on: June 28, 2019, 10:01:06 AM »
Yep I feel the same way. It's a difficult one but I completely appreciate what a fortunate position it is to be in. I am in a similar position and have about 5 years to go. I am finding motivation at work difficult and really see that I have 3 options:

1. Slog away full time in my current role in the corporate world for another 5 years.
2. Go part time (3 day week) ASAP in my current role in the corporate world. Probably 8 or 9 years to FIRE.
3. Some sort of hybrid e.g. work full time for 2.5 years in my current stressful role and then go part time but in a job outside of the corporate world.

The first option achieves FI the quickest but 5 years feels a long time in a fairly stressful environment.

The second option achieves a better work life balance the quickest but would see me in the corporate environment the longest of the three options.

The third option gets me out of the corporate world the quickest, but would be the longest to FI.

So we can't have everything. A choice has to be made here. Each option achieves something faster than each other option, but similarly as with everything in life, each option has a downside too. As I mentioned at the start I feel very grateful I have such choices available to me, and am extremely fortunate. However it doesn't make it very easy to choose what path to take!

Ignorance was bliss. When I wasn't aware of FIRE I was able to live in the moment at work but it is becoming increasingly difficult. If I find an answer to this I'll let you know!

MaaS

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #48 on: June 28, 2019, 10:10:13 AM »
I think you need to consider an alternate career. 5-6 years is (probably) a significant chunk of your healthy adult life.

I'm not saying you need to "tap dance to work," but having at least a moderate level of interest in the activity you spend so much of your life doing is really important IMO.

GreenToTheCore

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Re: How to stay engaged (for years) when work is a means to an end?
« Reply #49 on: June 28, 2019, 10:20:31 AM »
OP here. There's some good advice above. Too much to quote, actually. My favorite takeaways that I'm not doing right now are:

1) Gratitude exercises
2) Lay off the future focus
3) Become an early riser.
...

For the benefit of others who said they're in the same boat, here are a few things I've already tried that seemed incrementally helpful:

1) Delete Facebook.
2) Try to reduce 'news' and media consumption.
3) Downgrade your smartphone
4) Take on small projects
5) Talk to a counselor
6) Always have one little thing to be excited about.
7) Leave the cell phone in your car

Strategies I've been unable to make work include:
  • Optimizing activities to make slightly more time for interests
  • Schedule rearrangement
  • Motivational products
  • Being hard on yourself

Thanks for circling back and giving an update.
Seems like this thread has hit on a relatable phase of FIRE and it's great how the discussions have a focus on actionable tasks.
I've had luck with mindfulness and be-in-the-now exercises. Negative thoughts are a real struggle, but I've been getting satisfaction from seeing progress in my mental health. Maybe there's a way to turn that into the next "game" - Goal: 
- 15min of meditation
- Track how often a certain thought comes into your head, watch the frequency decrease
- Track a daily rank of current optimism, 1-10, and watch it increase
etc.