Hope for your financial life and beyond

When Life Makes It Easier, Push It!

Boy Running in natureNews flash…Life is hard!

Not the most groundbreaking news for this Monday post. Honestly, it’s not even news at all. Our lives are filled with so many challenges we don’t even know where to start counting them.

There are instances however, where a window of opportunity opens, allowing the journey to become easier. Sadly, we often are caught up in our own challenges and struggles. So we fail to recognize the moment and it passes us by, useless and wasted. I was reminded of this again on a recent marathon training run.

A runner faces three types of terrain grades while on the course – flat, uphill or downhill. Runners love the flats as it allows us to get into a steady rhythm and pace. We tolerate the uphill portions of our run, slowly grinding them out, laboring step after step. The downhills are dualistic in nature, presenting the runner with two contrasting methods of approach:

Choice #1: Choose to relax and maintain speed going downhill

Choice #2: Choose to push it and increase speed going downhill

Choice #1 happens often. It’s tiring to push uphill, and when a runner gets to the peak our natural tendency is to relax. It’s comforting on the body and the lungs to take it easy for a few strides after so much strain and torment.

However, at the top of the hill, the road’s terrain presents the runner with a fabulous opportunity. Going downhill is easier and requires less naturally produced effort from the runner. A runner can gain speed with every step by using the slope of the terrain like a slingshot to advance forward at a quicker pace.

But only if they take advantage of the opportunity and push themselves to do so.

In my last race, I used this technique to my advantage and recorded my best ever half marathon time. The start of the race began with nearly two miles that were generally downhill. I decided to push really hard at the beginning to give myself a time cushion because I knew there were big hills later in the course that would slow me down. I ran those first two miles in 15 minutes flat, a really fast time over two miles for me.

(At the risk of sounding too G.I. Joe gung-ho-ish, I will admit to not always sprinting downhill during my runs. I know it’s an opportunity to gain time, but sometimes my body and mind can’t take it. I have to pick my spots and pace myself or I’ll get burnt out.)

Life presents windows of opportunity as well in some unique ways. Often they are so subtle we fail to see and use them to our advantage. Consider these life scenarios that might cross one’s path:

A coworker in your department has an argument with the boss that is not resolved.

You get an unexpected tax refund or a bonus at work.

A friend volunteers to help you finish a project you’re struggling on.

The state offers a sales tax free shopping day.

A fellow blogger asks you to guest post on their site.

Interest rates drop to the lowest levels in a generation.

I could easily give my thoughts on how these widows of opportunity could spring us forward in life. I’d rather hear from and interact with you. How could we use these situations that life drops in our lap to build momentum and move us forward faster than we thought possible? In other words, how could they help us? Drop some of your awesome knowledge for the community in the comments below.

What other life situations can you visualize as being an unexpected window of opportunity we could take advantage of? Maybe the deeper question is, “Why don’t we move in and engage these situations?” Is it fear? Inattentiveness? Ignorance? Pride?

Image at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Next Post: Bang on the Drum All Day: Find Your Passion

Prior Post: The Benefits of Living in the Moment

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Comments

  1. Sorry I am late to the party Brian, but awesome post. It can be hard to realize that life is giving us an opportunity. I try to take advantage of all of them, but miss them on occasion. I just got a work bonus and I plan on investing some and using the other part for my project vehicle.

    • All the cool people show up fashionably late to the party, right? 🙂 I think your assessment about opportunities is right on…they are difficult to recognize and we often miss them. I think that might be because we don’t anticipate they could come our way. We get so caught up in our own world – our own little box – that it is sometimes hard to think that anything exciting or worthwhile could happen outside of that box.

  2. moneybulldog says:

    Great post. I suppose the guest posting example is the one that most bloggers can relate too. Sometimes we find it tough to keep up with our own blog, never mind write for others. Actually though, only when you step up a gear and take things to the next level (Guest Posting is a prime example) do you start to see real benefits for all the hard work you’ve been putting in. This is something I’ve been doing more of recently and the results have been excellent. Onwards and upwards I hope!

    • Thanks! I hear what you are saying about how tough it is to keep up with your own blog. I want to do some guest posting on other blogs in this next year as a means of moving my blog forward. Just a matter of planning and time management between blogging, family life and my full-time job.

  3. Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    Very true. I can hear my cross country coach from high school telling us to sprint down the hills! I think taking a break is OK every now and then, but I would never pass on an opportunity if you can help it. You never know what could happen.

    • I agree Kim, breaks are important. During my runs I can’t always go full throttle. Same in life as well. Constantly pushing in every situation I think leads to burnout and fatigue. Have to relax and recharge sometime.

  4. Student Debt Survivor says:

    Great post. I think a lot of times fear of the unknown hosts us back. It’s easy to go along with the “norm” than to push ourselves and face possible failure. But sometimes those “failures” actually teach us more than our successes.

  5. I love this attitude. The guest post example is a relevant one for me. I’ve been probably too lax in reaching out for guest post opportunities, but one thing I’ve done is said yes to any opportunity that’s presented itself. Although I could do a better job of pushing it when it’s hard, the attitude of pushing it when it’s easy has definitely helped.

    I think it’s also important to put yourself in a position to be able to take advantage of opportunities. Being organized with your life lets you do something different when the opportunity presents itself. If you’re constantly scrambling to get by, it’s hard to jump on something new and unexpected. Take care of the important things now so that you can take advantage of the cool things later.

    • “…it’s also important to put yourself in a position to be able to take advantage of opportunities.” That’s a great point Matt! It’s hard to take advantage of opportunities when you are not mentally, physically, spiritually or financially ready to do so.

  6. I enjoyed this post, though I probably wouldn’t push myself downhill too much because I would likely trip and fall going so fast 🙂 (then again, I’m not a runner!)
    I try not to let opportunities pass me by, but I do find that it’s difficult to see past negative situations and find an opportunity within. For example, losing out on your dream house, losing a job, or having a fight with a significant other. Maybe it really wasn’t your dream house and you’re destined to find something better – likewise with a job. Fighting with your SO can be productive if you can both discuss why the fight occurred, and proceed with understanding each other’s perspectives.
    We can get so caught up in all the negatives that we forget to look for the positives.

    • That’s great insight! Circumstances happen for a reason and we can either dwell on the negative or search for the positive. I’m trying more and more each day to be an optimist.

  7. Shannon Ryan says:

    I know exactly what you mean! Sometimes I just want to coast downhill and others times I use it to gain momentum! I’ve been guilty of letting opportunities pass me by and I think (for me at least) it boils down to fear. It’s a little bit outside of my comfort zone or I’m feeling insecure so I let it pass me by. Then later I kick myself for not pursuing it further and torture myself wondering what would have happened if I said yes. I don’t let this happen often but it still happens. It’s something I’m constantly working on improving.

    • Ah…the in-retrospect beat down. Been there myself. If there is anything worse than not taking an opportunity we should have, it is beating ourselves up for not taking the opportunity.

  8. Your Daily Finance says:

    I think like a lot of people like runners are afraid to run down hill to fast because of fear. When things are going good people don’t want to push it and miss it up. I am on the other end when things are easy I change gears and push it. Most people think I am crazy but it pays off. I had a great paying job and could have jogged down hill. Instead I pushed myself and decided to open my own company. In life to often we just conform and don’t take advantage of the opportunities that we have. I don’t believe in passing up opportunities. You never know what something so small or simple as a thank you/guest post/ or just a share of a tweet could lead. Take advantage of opportunities.

    • I do get a little fearful running down steep hills sometimes. It’s easy to get out of control and hurt yourself. 🙂 But I’d rather take advantage of the opportunity than miss it altogether. Awesome that you were able to push through any fear you had to pursue a dream of starting your own company.

  9. TacklingOurDebt says:

    Quite often people unfortunately do not recognize these windows of opportunity. It could be because they are so preoccupied with other things, or they are too focused on what is not working well in their life and forget to look for new ways of doing things or ways to make things better. For example, there are situations where people run out of money at the end of the month and instead of figuring out ways to make sure that it doesn’t happen to them again next month, by either cutting back or finding more work, they ask a friend or family member if they can borrow money to help them get by.

    And even if a friend says to them, hey I’ve got a job for you at my business (new opp), they may ignore it, and carry on as they always do.

    • “…even if a friend says to them, hey I’ve got a job for you at my business…” Funny that you should mention that. When my wife was considering her career change to accounting, this is exactly what happened to her. A friend knew of her desire to change fields and said, “So, when you going to come work at our firm?” We had planned for her to keep teaching high school while she was in grad school and then when she was done with her degree, go hunt for an accounting job. We took this question seriously and she decided to take her friend up on the offer and switch jobs immediately. It was a drastic and swift change. However, working two years at an accountant firm, learning from the other CPAs, while you are pursuing an accounting degree proved invaluable. Now she has her CPA license and a job. Glad we didn’t wait.

  10. I’m one of those runners who doesn’t like downhill and prefers uphill, but that’s also because my legs aren’t trained for pavement. Anyway, I think I’m facing one of those opportunities now…well two actually. One is teaching kids beach volleyball. First of all I’m not a “kid” person, so kids terrify me. I don’t know how to relate to then. Then another woman saw me teaching the two kids and asked if I could teach her daughter. My fear grows. But I’m going to do it anyway because I know it’s doable, and it’s also good money. I had another opportunity that is related to blogging which I knew would be cool, but I just could not devote the time to make it work and don’t want to either be overwhelmed with my time, or fail to do a good job for them. I felt guilty for turning it down, but I know it’s best.

    • Cool…doing the volleyball thing is at least worth a shot. Sounds like that is an opportunity you at least have to explore a bit and see where it leads. The kids will be fine. I’m guessing most would want your services because they are really interested in learning beach volleyball. Just find the inner child within yourself, let it out and have some fun with it. 🙂 I’d love to hear how that goes.

  11. Great post. Everything is an opportunity, even losing a job, but I think what holds most of us back is fear of the unknown. We get to comfortable in our everyday routines so it becomes hard to step outside of the box.

    • I agree Connie. Fear is a great barrier that keeps us from pursuing obvious opportunities. It’s much easier to journey right along where we are and not take the risk that stepping out of our comfort zone requires.

  12. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    Nice post Brian! I agree that there are opportunities all around us and we should be actively looking to use them. I think it could be a variety of reasons why we don’t engage in them – likely going back to either fear of the unknown or downright apathy.

  13. Holly Johnson says:

    Great post!
    We have been kind’ve lazy with our spending lately due to summertime and being busy and all. I definitely want to go back at it hardcore in order to stop being so wasteful.

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