Only You Can Change Your Life… Seriously!

Only You Can Change Your Life… Seriously! Only you can change your life.  Only you can change you.

I was jogging back from the gym the other day and it reminded me of something.  I absolutely hate going to the gym.  I’ve talked about it before, but I do – I hate it.

So then why do I do it?

Because I want to be a better me.

That’s it.  That’s the only reason.  It would be so much easier to sit on the couch and drink beer all day (and more appealing!) but that’s not going to help me become an improved me.

I want to be better than that – healthier and stronger.  And the only way to do it is to change my habits.  No one else is going to do that for me… it’s 100% up to me to realize what I want and to make it happen.

My mind wandered from there.

The milestones I’ve reached in life were all because I didn’t accept the norm.  I didn’t take the easy road of complacency.  I took the initiative to make the changes – as easy or as hard as they might be – to reach those points in life…

 

Financial freedom

My wife and I joined the millionaire club and I retired at age 43.  Why did that happen?

It’s not because I started off with a lot of help or had some nice windfall.  I didn’t.  And although I made a good income, as a household, we weren’t bringing in fistfuls of dough.

Instead, it was because I saw the power of what money could provide… freedom to be with my family.

We all understand how valuable money can be in our lives.  But I took it a step further.  I wanted that end result bad enough that I thought to myself, “It’s time to change your life.”  And then I made the adjustments needed to make it happen.

Listen, it would have been a lot more fun to just continue spending money in all the wrong places.  Instead, it was time to go against the grain and do something different:

  • Stop spending money on crap that wasn’t important
  • Increasing our income (rentals and side hustles)
  • Saving a lot more money (a real lot!)
  • Learning some of the basics of personal finance
  • Making some changes like these to invest more intelligently

Honestly, this sounds a lot harder than it actually is.  FIRE (financial independence / retire early) may have seemed like a daunting task or even something unfathomable at the beginning.  But once I started learning, it really all just fell into place – with some discipline, of course.

It took several years, but the dream became more and more attainable and I was able to retire from my job at the end of 2018.

Only you can change your life.

 

Moving abroad

The idea of moving to Panama started out as a possible way to reach financial independence sooner (geoarbitrage).  Over time though, we decided that we needed to prepare our finances for living in the U.S. in case things didn’t work out living in another country.

However, the idea of moving abroad still intrigued us.  Besides the allure of the lower cost-of-living, a new adventure to go with early retirement was still fascinating.

So many of us have had that thought of what it would be like to live somewhere else in the world.  Maybe you’re on a great vacation on a beach somewhere with family or friends and think out loud “You know, I could see myself living here…”

You and your fellow vacationers start brainstorming ideas of going in together and buying a property to rent out to vacationers like yourself.  The thoughts of what you could do for a job start spilling out and how you could spend the rest of your time enjoying the beach and doing some more fishing.

Or maybe it’s the daydream of living on a tropical island somewhere where you don’t have all the hustle-bustle throughout each day.  It would be wonderful to live a much simpler lifestyle, wouldn’t it?

Perhaps it’s the thought of selling off everything you have, buying an RV, and just traveling across the country.  There are so many different places, it would great to take our time and just explore them all!

It’s exciting and honestly, it’s really not that crazy of a dream.

So why don’t most of us ever make it happen?

We tend to immediately start talking ourselves out of it.  We think of every reason why it can’t work… job, family, friends, money, whatever.  It suddenly becomes too overwhelming until finally… we just give up on the thought.

And just like that, the dream gets swept back to the back of our minds.  We convince ourselves that maybe it’ll happen “someday” which will likely never come.

Making our move to Panama was an uphill battle for us with every step of the way…

  • Questioning ourselves constantly on whether we were doing the right thing
  • Friends didn’t want us to move
  • Our families (though supportive) didn’t want us to move
  • We were pulling our daughter out of a school she loved
  • Homeschooling research had to be done
  • There was also so much research to do on every detail of living in Panama – so time-consuming!
  • We had to sell our home in a neighborhood we loved
  • We had to sell almost everything we owned

Sure, early retirement gave us more flexibility to do this, but that’s not the point.  Moving to another country was hard on so many levels.  We uprooted and fought against every emotion and self-doubt in order to follow a dream.

Only You Can Change Your Life… Seriously!
This is the view we see out our front door… mountains plus rainbows almost daily this time of year! Life is good!

Who knows how long we’ll be here – another year, a handful of years, a lifetime?  It’s hard being away from friends and family – but it’s also wonderful here in just so many other ways.

Regardless, we’ll always be able to look back on what a fantastic experience this has been.  It’s truly amazing and all because we didn’t just take the easy way out and continue doing what we were doing.

Only you can change your life.

 

Getting fit

Only You Can Change Your Life… Seriously! - Incredible Hulk
Ok, fine – I know this isn’t Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk, but people… copyright issues! It’s all about finding royalty-free images!

I don’t have a goal to be Lou Ferrigno, but I do want to be in better shape.  Unfortunately, sitting on the couch, watching TV, and drinking beer won’t do the job.  How great would be if it did though?!

I’ve never liked working out, but as we all know, that’s the way to get in better shape (along with eating right).

So why do so many people not do it?  I mean, we all want to be in good shape, right?

We make New Year’s resolutions to do it.  I remember working as a manager at Walmart decades ago and how we’d stock up and sell more fitness equipment every January than any other month.

The gyms are also jam-packed with new members at the beginning of each year.

But then it usually fades.  The exercise equipment we bought gathers dust.  People start selling it off after years of inactivity.  And the regulars at the gyms go back to being able to enjoy the less-packed facilities.

So what happened?

It’s an effort to do it.  Maybe we get frustrated by not seeing results immediately so why bother?  Life gets in the way and we start giving everything else more priority than working out.  And in a nutshell, it’s just more enjoyable for most of us not to do it.  Watching Netflix and playing games on our phones is so much easier and more fun.

But the gym nuts know the mantra that only you can change your life.  Many of them actually enjoy their workouts!

I’m far from loving it, but I’ve been on a roll with going five days a week now.  I’ve added some more exercises and I’m hoping to start using an app soon to help me out more.  Fitbod seems to be exactly what I’m looking for – I’m just waiting for the Android version to be released before I sign up.

And guess what – I’m starting to see some results (slight results!) but it’s still emotionally satisfying.  Those results are encouraging and suddenly working out becomes more of a priority in my mind.  In other words, it becomes a little less of a task to go.  I even went to the hotel gym while on a mini beach vacation recently!

Over time, I can see how this can snowball and one day, I might be able to beat big-guns Jim Wang in an arm-wrestling match!

Don’t take the easy way out.  Make it happen.

Only you can change your life.


Only you can change your life

I could rattle off other things in life that I want to do or am doing now (like learning Spanish) but these are just my personal goals.  Each of you has your own dreams, big or small, that get tabled in life for whatever reason.

You have to fight inertia and realize that you only get one chance at life.  You need to figure out what’s important to you and make it a reality.  Push past the hurdles that’ll try to get in your way and make it happen.

I consider myself just a regular guy, but I do continue to make changes that enrich my life in the long run – and that differentiates me.  Think about your own existence – if you’re motivated and willing to take action, you can improve your life in so many ways.

A Gallup study of 6,600 workers found that about 60% considered themselves in bad or mediocre jobs.  If you’re in that boat and don’t enjoy your job, do something about it.  Take the initiative to figure out the next steps to do something you do enjoy…

  • Change companies if you love your field but not your current employer
  • If you want a different position with your current employer, find out what it would take to make that a reality
  • Get training or more education to move into a new field if that would make you happy
  • Start a small business doing something you love that you can grow to replace your current job

If financial independence is your big wish, stop dreaming about it and make it happen…

  • Educate yourself – read books, listen to podcasts, follow blogs (like mine!)
  • Figure out a plan to change your life based on what you learn
  • Then actually do it – make small changes that will have big effects in your life

Change is good.

You can’t expect life to change for you.  Doing the same thing every day won’t make the course of your life any different.  Only you can change your life… but you just need to do it.

Stop dreaming about what you want and do it.  Get started.  Even small steps will get you moving in the right direction.

Know that things aren’t always going to go 100% according to plan, but if you keep at it, you will get there.

Only you can change your life… so do it!

 

Is there anything you want in life that you’ve just put on the back burner because well, you know – if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen one day?  Or maybe it’s the “I’ll get to it later” lie we tell ourselves?

 

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

20 thoughts on “Only You Can Change Your Life… Seriously!”

  1. Hi Jim
    Love reading your posts. I live near London in the UK and looking to retire early in the next few years.

    A quick question. How much before and after tax annual income do you and your family need to lead the new life you have in Panama? Just curious as we are considering re-locating to a lower cost country.

    All the best
    Ian

    1. Hi Ian – thanks for being a loyal reader! Boquete, Panama isn’t as cheap as we anticipated. It’s still lower than what our overall costs would be in the US, but it’s not dirt cheap either (though you can find that in areas in different parts of the country).

      Anyway, here was what we found our costs to be floating around once we got settled: Uh-Oh… Our Retirement Expenses Are Higher than Expected. My guess is that we’ll be between $40-45k per year. That’s with us living a very comfortable life so no complaints (and still under “budget”), but just not as cheap as we had thought it would be. 🙂

  2. Nice read, Jim. The sign inside my medicine cabinet – “We cannot become who we need to be by remaining who we are” – not sure who it is from.

    As a former International Living subscriber, what I find interesting is that you moved to Panama after you reached FI. Most of the IL readership seems to become expats as a chance to get to FI – after unscheduled job loss, a death, or divorce, to save on health care, etc. Good move.

    1. Thanks, Kev – love the quote! That’s a perfect way to get motivated every day!

      We initially had planned to move here to reach FI, but my wife smartly pointed out that if we did that and then hated it would could be stuck. Either we’d have to stay in a place that we weren’t enjoying or we’d move back and I’d have to go back to work. So I kept working until we had enough to cover us regardless of which country we were in… then we moved here for the fun of it! 🙂

  3. Yes… taking a year off and worldschooling our daughter. We currently travel in the RV over the summer as a preview of that lifestyle, and have been kicking the can down the road for a while. She’s an only child and we really value the friendships she has from being in a traditional school, so it’s not a decision we take lightly.

    1. The kid factor always adds a whole different dynamic to our decisions, doesn’t it? As parents, we obviously want to make sure we’re doing what’s best for them and we’re scared of making a bad choice. I hope you get the opportunity to take the year off – what a wonderful opportunity that would be for her!

  4. Most people aren’t unhappy enough to change their lives. If work was just a bit better, I might have stayed put. It depends on your personality too, but I think most of us need a little push to get going.
    That’s my wife’s story. She enjoys work mostly so she doesn’t see the point of retiring right now. It’ll change someday.

    1. You’re probably right, Joe. That’s unfortunate because making changes can be the greatest opportunity anyone can have in life. But I get it – some people don’t mind what they’re doing so it’s just easier to stick with what they know.

  5. Hi Jim,
    Thank you for your blog posts. I love reading them, they are very inspiring. It takes courage to make this leap to a new country. I have been reading your posts for over a year now and always look forward to new posts.
    One thing I don’t like when I try to read your blog posts is the social media icons on the left-hand side, I have to scroll up and down to read. I know you want to get users to click on those links to increase your user base but I am sure there are better ways to do it.
    Please keep up the good work.

    1. First off, thanks for the kind words – very much appreciated!

      But second, I didn’t know that this was happening with the social media icons. Thanks for letting me know! I’m assuming this is on your phone when you’re seeing that problem. I’m not seeing the same issue, but I just made a change in how it affects mobile devices so hopefully it’s a little less jarring now. If you still have an issue, please let me know so I can get it fixed.

      1. It’s not a big deal. I shared a screenshot on the Route to retire FB page (I send a message) for you to check in case you are interested. I normally read the posts on my laptop.

  6. this might be an applicable analogy to what you wrote. for years i’ve been drinking a lot of wine. i love the stuff and know a lot about it. you could call me an enthusiast. i recently suffered a kidney stone that sucked but went away. i could have just gone back to business as usual, but i decided to make a change and cut out the juice for a long period. it’s going well. nobody ordered me to change. i changed because i decided it was likely the best course to cut way down. if a doctor had told me to do it i likely would have told her to pound sand.

    it reminds me of your workout regimen dilemma with subtraction of negative versus addition of positive but both having a positive effect. good luck.

    1. I think that’s a great analogy, Freddy! And that’s fantastic that you were able to make the change. Staying the course would have been the easy way, but it wouldn’t have changed anything.

      Btw, sorry to hear about the kidney stone. I’ve been lucky not to ever have one those but I’ve heard just how excruciating those can be!

  7. You already know this but I stumbled on your posting in another forum less than 1 year ago, in which you indicated you were retiring to Panama. Well that post has changed our lives forever. After reading your blog & your referral to Panama Relocation Tours, we planned to retire in 5-6 years to Panama. The more we read, the more determined I became to make this happen sooner as my husband was absolutely miserable in his job. Instead of retiring in 6 years, he retired in 6 months (retired 6 weeks ago). I carefully planned out selling everything we owned including our house (closed 2/13/2020) & will be 2 weeks in Panama in April (1 week Jackie’s tour/1 week obtaining Visas). A year ago I never would have believed this huge change in our lives but we made it happen & are so grateful to you for sharing all of your experiences. It truly motivated me to get my husband out of that dead end job & retiring at age 56 is suiting him just fine! Thanx for your inspiration!

  8. Hi Jim! Your post is such inspirational, a lot of people are scared to actually change their lives because of uncertainties that could happen. I’ve read this book from Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad Poor Dad) that I personally follow some advice – good to add your thoughts too.
    Also, getting fit? this is great cause health is wealth! you might want to try the app I am using which is Bulk Workout Tracker and Meal Plans App – it is available in android too (read you want an android version) – very helpful for my meal planning and getting fit.

    1. Thanks, Roman – I actually credit a couple of Robert Kiyosaki’s books to opening up my eyes. He gets a bunch of crap for various reasons, but if it’s just taken for what it’s worth, books like Rich Dad Poor Dad could just be the wake-up call needed to find the path to FI.

      And thanks for the workout app recommendation – I’ll check it out!

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