I once asked a medical friend what ‘being depressed’ meant and I got, fittingly, a nuanced answer. “It means different things for different people, depending on what is normal for each person”, was my companion’s truthful answer. I wasn’t depressed myself, although I have become apathetic and listless in the past, but I am fascinated by topics about energy/vitality and performing at one’s best at all times. Depression is an enemy if you want to attain financial independence because getting your finances sorted will require discipline and a belief in a better future.
In contrast you should make an effort to be cheerful every day. Samuel Smiles, the original Victorian self-help guru, also urged his readers to imitate the great men by trying to be cheerful. For example:
‘Cheerfulness gives elasticity to the spirit. Spectres fly before it; difficulties cause no despair, for they are encountered with hope, and the mind acquires that happy disposition to improve opportunities which rarely fails of success. … The most effective work, also, is usually the full-hearted work – that which passes through the hands or the head of him whose heart is glad.’
In other words, being cheerful is massively beneficial for you. It makes you less likely to give up and it gives you more energy to complete whatever tasks you need to get done. Side-effects include other people being nicer to you and earning yourself a reputation for being hard-working and pleasant. No one wants to be Scrooge: hard-working, rich, surly and despised.
For your own self-satisfaction and happiness you should work on cultivating a cheerful demeanour that turns you into an optimist. Do you think that you will be able to maintain your energy levels through all of those long shifts if you keep on thinking about how difficult your life is and what you would rather be doing if you could leave? Obviously you won’t always need to do the long night shifts. You may choose to be a GP or something else that has different working time patterns. Eventually, you will retire early and laugh about the troubles that you used to have at work.
However, it is hard to maintain a cheerful disposition if you are surrounded by friends and colleagues who are filled with dark thoughts and whose words can burden you with ‘realistic’ visions of a dark future that cannot be better than today. Friends should work together to make each other’s life more cheerful. Friendships should have some give and take but it is sensible to limit your contact with people who will lower your mood and expectations.
This knowledge was clear to Smiles and also to Robert Greene in The 48 Laws of Power. I’ll analyse Greene’s ideas in more detail in future; however, Smiles’s cutting words are just as good:
‘Whoever chooses to gaze often upon a debased specimen of humanity and to frequent his society, cannot help gradually assimilating himself to that sort of model. […] It is therefore advisable for young men to seek the fellowship of the good and always to aim at a higher standard than themselves.’
This is common sense. Being around lazy people will make you look for corners to cut. Spending as much on everything as everyone else does is not sensible. Conversely, being around ambitious people will make you more ambitious. Copying the spending patterns of financially judicious people will benefit your bank balance. Listening to idealistic people will make you dream about what your life could be.
And these things are all much easier if you have determined to be cheerful and seize your opportunities when they present themselves. So, remember to smile on your journey to early retirement.