Motivation, the wee beastie

A post by the Financial Samurai got me thinking about motivation.

Motivation is a fickle wee beastie.  It is a sneaky beastie that is hard to track down and even harder to capture (it’s angry and poisonous some say).


Motivation comes in peaks and troughs for work, study, physical challenges etc.
I always found it easier to get the motivation for a physical challenge, it’s just that much more tangible.  Let’s say you set yourself a challenge to cycle a 100 miles in under 6 hours by the end of June, you either do it or you fail.  And it is very easy to take stock of your progress towards the goal, pretty humbling setting out on a training ride to return defeated and tired after only 50 miles.

But that’s short term.  How do you keep your motivation towards a long term goal, when those around you are chirping in your ear to come on a skiing holiday, when the media is telling you that you NEED an Xbox One, when spending £100 doesn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things, when your mate has a sweet new car etc etc etc.  And all this time motivation is being sneaky and eluding you.

Goal setting
Setting some tangible goals in both the long and short term seems to help me.  Just having the one long term goal can seem too far off to focus on.  Achieving financial independence by the time your 50 is superb idea, but it’s a long way off.  It’s appeal will begin to fade if that’s the only goal you’ve set while your mates are tearing it up in their new Audi R8s.

Short term goals, yearly, quarterly, monthly or daily (go crazy) certainly help me.

A change in perspective
Back in my rock and roll past I trained as an accountant.

Part of the job was studying for (and passing) exams.  I was quite lucky, in that I had a study package with my employer to support me.  Time off and tutorials paid for were a great help.  But we still had to put a lot of study in ourselves.  In the morning before work, in the evenings, on the train, at the weekends or on the bog at work.  You had to squeeze the study out somewhere.

Students would generally start well but the shy wee beastie of motivation would soon be scared away and the hours of study would soon diminish, exams would be failed and tears would flow.

Say passing the exam granted you the key to a payrise of £750 and you had to put in 150 hours of study to pass.  (Of if your brain is made of cheese like mine, then the brute force of 300 hours is probably about right).

Per hour:  You could equate the study to an hourly salary…. £5 an hour.  Pretty poor, you’d be better off working at McD’s in your spare time.

Monthly increase: Maybe the monthly increase in take home will motivate you…it works out at £42.50 a month.  A couple of meals out a month for your efforts, perhaps not the most inspiring.

Increase in the Present Value (PV) of your earnings: If we consider the payrise as a constant increase in our earnings potential, that will compound as we get future payrises.  To make things really simple, let’s say that payrises are exactly in line with inflation and tax doesn’t exist (hoot!).  If we pass the exam at 25 and work until we are 65, that’s 40 years.  (Shhhhhh, no one needs to know about our plans for early retirement).  This means the exam is worth – 40 x £750 = £30,000, in terms of increasing our PV of earnings.  Pretty sure if someone offered £30k in cash the pass rate of that exam would sky rocket. Sounds a lot better than £42.50 a month but it’s the same thing.

Sometimes thinking about a goal in a different way can help.  Unsure what could seem more appealing than work becoming optional or having enough passive income to just travel the world freely, but I will try to keep my peepers open for a different perspective on FI should I need it,

Having a variety of goals also helps to tame the beastie of motivation, for it likes a change.

Putting all your energy into one goal, financial independence by 50, is likely going to result in a burn out.  Unless you are slightly unhinged and able to focus on one thing for that length of time.

Other goals provide a distraction for your energy.  For the 2015 my others are to get my golf handicap below 20, complete a 200 mile cycle without perishing and aim to post, on average, once a week here.

Standard day chasing motivation

I’ve got my armour on, long sword at the ready and I’m going to catch myself the shy beastie that is motivation.

Mr Z

5 thoughts on “Motivation, the wee beastie

  1. Graham Clark

    Great post Mr Z – completely agreed!

    I personally set my self annual goals (I had 11 of them in 2014) and hold myself accountable for them on

    This accountabilty definitely helps keeps me motivated.

    Additionally, I break these goals down into monthly milestones. This really helps me focus on them each month and ensure that I stay motivated for the entire year. It also helps to have the same goals for at least a year, as I could easily overlook a monthly goal failure and just move on if I was setting new goals each month.

    On Monday, we are launching a new "2015 savings challenge" on moneystepper where we are going to build a huge community who are working towards two annual goals. These were what I considered the most important financially from my past couple of years of measuring: % increase in net worth and savings rate %.

    By holding yourself and each other accountable, and by having a full community who are working towards the same goals, I really think this will help with motivation.

    I would love to see you in the community and giving me, yourself (and others) motivation to succeed financially in 2015 Mr. Z. Head on over on Monday and get involved!! 🙂

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Mr Zombie

    Hi Graham,

    Thanks for the comment.

    Good stuff! % savings rate and % increase in NW are two goals I have been thinking about for 2015.

    Hard to set them, too high and motivation will get punished in no time, too low and it's too easy 🙂

    I will pop over and have a look. Always motivating to see what other people are up to!

    Mr Z

  3. M

    I totally agree, that motivation is a sneak. It can be elusive, but if we change our perspective, things seem to look a lot better. Sometimes we are just too close to our surroundings to see how things really are.

    It's like living in some boring, grey, concrete town, but you go walking in the hills around the area and everything suddenly looks beautiful and green and that little grey patch down below is okay again

  4. Mr Zombie


    Yeah, plowing on with things in the same way is a sure fire way to make things go stale.

    You're dam right, a change in perspective is a great way to help with motivation 🙂

  5. theFIREstarter

    Nice post!

    I particularly enjoyed the "You had to squeeze the study out somewhere." euphemism (or was that just my dirty mind?!) 🙂

    It is hard to keep up with long term goals, much better to break it down as you say!

    I've only just posted my 2015 goals and one of mine is also to get down/break 20 on the golf handicap… I have only just read this so I'm not copying, honest! But we are obviously at a similar level.

    What are you on right now?

    I've just had some group lessons, £30 for 6 x 1 hour sessions, was the best £30 I ever spent so think I'm heading in the right direction again, playing a few rounds next weekend so we'll see if the proof is in the pudding then!



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