Hope for your financial life and beyond

Health, Wealth and Moments of Clarity

moments of clarityThe personal finance blogosphere takes the accumulation of wealth seriously. One can literally read hundreds of posts each day espousing the virtues of saving more and spending less in the hopes of one day reaching financial independence. That’s the pinnacle of wealth accumulation we strive for – the day when our money makes more for us in a year than we could make for ourselves in a year. That’s a sweet place to be.

So we spend much time and focus in this area of our lives. Researching. Writing posts. Sharing with others. Developing our blogs. It’s all part and parcel of the gig.

I can tell you, having been at this for almost a year now, blogging can eat you up if you allow it. So can working too hard at your day job. So can spending too much time watching television. So can updating Facebook all day long. So can any activity or hobby taken to excess.

By definition, when we overindulge in one area we naturally neglect other areas of our life that need attention. It’s impossible to give maximum total attention to every facet of our lives at the same time. Something inevitably has to give.

In addition to our personal finances, another area we sorely neglect is our health. There was a time in the not so distant past when this was true of me. I was consumed with my work. I was not getting enough sleep and I rarely exercised. I was sluggish, not eating well and sat around for most of the day. And the numbers on the scale kept getting higher and higher.

Then, to quote Zangief from Wreck It Ralph and Street Fighter II fame – “I have moment of clarity.” That clarity came in two separate events.

Two Personal Moments of Clarity

One occurred on a cruise my wife and I took for our 15th wedding anniversary. At dinner, we sat next to a couple our same age who were coincidentally also celebrating their 15th anniversary. The husband, in addition to holding down a full time job, was training twice a day for a triathlon. I was really impressed as he told us about why he loved doing this and how he found time to train. The more we talked through the week, the more I became challenged about my health and fitness level. “If this guy can do it, why can’t I?” I thought.

Another one of my moments of clarity came the day my seemingly healthy father had a heart attack. It’s a real scary moment when you get that phone call and many things rush through your mind on the way to the hospital. Of course I was concerned for him (and he has recovered very well) but I kept thinking to myself, “Is this going to be me in 20 years? Will my time with my family be cut short because I’ve neglected my health?” My grandfather had also died from a faulty heart so there is a history of this stuff in my family.

These events are what pushed me to begin consistently running a little over two years ago. It has not always been easy, keeping up with an exercise schedule, but the results have been amazing. I’ve lost over 30 pounds from my all time high and significantly lowered my blood pressure. I feel stronger, sleep better, have more energy and am more alert and focused during the day.

In addition, I have found running has many side benefits, beyond the health related aspects, that I was not anticipating.

1. It has given me confidence. When I set a goal and achieve it, I feel really good about myself.

2. It’s alone time. We all need more of this – a chance to get away by ourselves, with only our own thoughts to focus on.

3. It’s an idea generator. My mind percolates when I run. I can’t tell you how many blog posts I’ve thought of while pounding out the miles. The only problem is remembering my ideas before I can get somewhere to write them down.

4. It’s all on me. What I mean is that I have no one else to blame other than myself if I don’t follow through on my schedule. It’s self-accountability and I love that.

5. It’s very spiritual for me. My early morning runs have been a special time to connect with God in prayer and meditation.

6. I’ve rediscovered what it means to be disciplined. And I’m trying to cultivate the discipline I’ve developed for running and plant it into other areas of my life.

We only have one body. If that body breaks down due to neglect we have no one to blame but ourselves. I want to be around as long as possible for my family and to enjoy the financial fruits of my labor.

Hopefully you have been encouraged to start an exercise program today. Start small and within your own limits. You don’t have to run but do something. Exercise is a vital part of a balanced life. I know you won’t regret it.

Questions: Have you experienced moments of clarity when you realized, “I’ve got to do something about my health!”? What exercises do you enjoy?

Next Post: Marathon Training and Writing Mental Blocks

Prior Post: Funding College: Should I Work or Do SAT Prep?

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  1. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says

    My moment of clarity came after our first daughter was born. It was a traumatic birth, for both of us, due to doc negligence, and I spent the next year and a half largely bedridden. What I wouldn’t given at that time to be able to simply do the dishes or play with my daughter. It was at that time that I realized how very precious our health is, and vowed to do whatever it took to heal myself through God-given foods (i.e. no more processed junk) and exercise, since the docs suggestions were pain pills and anti-depressants (eye roll here, since the prescriptions didn’t match or solve the problems). It’s so wonderful now to be able to run and play with the kids, and if trading in those doughnuts for broccoli allows me to do that, then I’m all in!

    • That must have been incredibly difficult not being 100% healthy during your daughter’s first year of life. It sounds though, that the experience has driven you to make wise choices about how you take care of yourself through diet and exercise. And that’s a positive. Thanks for sharing your story Laurie.

  2. John S @ Frugal Rules says

    Very nice post Brian! This is something that I think we can all too easily overlook and it gets away from us – and that is where I am at right now. I always intend to work out but with everything else going on in the day it just happens so rarely. I just have to make a commitment and schedule it, otherwise it never happens. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • You are right John. Exercise is something that I overlooked for years. I knew I should be doing it but felt I was either too tired or didn’t have the time. Since I began several years ago, I’ve realized that exercise gives me energy and I’ve learned how to plan it into my schedule. Just saying I was going to exercise never worked for me because something else would always come up. I had to make it a priority just like anything else in my life.

  3. Up until my second sinus surgery a couple weeks ago I had been working out 5+ times a week consistently since about October (only reason it was not longer was because of my FIRST surgery in September and a bad running injury in July). Reading your post has been a bit eye-opening for me. While I have not worked out because of my surgery recovery, I also have gotten used to not working out now! Instead of spending my lunches in the workout room on the treadmill or elliptical, I have been working on the site. This has given me alone time but not the health benefits I desire. I hope to get back at it very soon here, though my sinuses have been pretty bad in the recovery and I’m pessimistic about the fact I may need to go under the knife again. On a seperate note, finally getting my sinus and allergy problems figured out has been refreshing, despite the amount of time, money, and energy it has taken. I think getting your health in order should be a top priority for everyone, even if it’s just getting a quick mile or two run in a few times a week.

    • Like I said in the article, we only have one body and we have to take care of it. I’ve had several instances where I had to quit running for a week or two to let my body rejuvenate or heal from a minor injury. I hate not being able to exercise, but I know if I continue to run through the pain I risk further injuries that could be more serious. Hopefully your recovery will go well and you can get back at the exercise soon. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Student Debt Survivor says

    For me it’s all about balance. Right now I’m struggling with finding a balance between work, school, diet, exercise blogging and “me time”. I really need to re-prioritize eating health and exercising. They’ve been falling off the radar recently and I need to get back on track.

    • Balance is really tough. We have so many things pulling us in different directions that sometimes it is hard to know what to do. I’m big on making lists and schedules. Lists to prioritize what has to get done and what else I want to get done. Then I use a daily or weekly schedule to plug those events into. That helps keep me on track and avoid saying “Yes” to things outside my prioritized list and becoming overloaded with activities.

  5. Shannon Ryan says

    I love running (or exercise in general, for that matter) for all the reasons you mentioned. It’s very zen for me and I solve all the world’s problems during my runs or workouts. LOL! But it does put me in the a productive state and gives me plenty of endorphins. When I used to work in Corporate, my assistant would tell everyone to duck and cover when she knew I didn’t get my morning workout. 🙂

    • That’s really funny Shannon. It’s interesting how when we miss something in our routine, our day just seems a bit off. Like when people don’t get their morning cup of coffee. I know this may sound funny, but for me it’s not having a glass of orange juice in the morning. I’ve been drinking OJ every morning since high school and I just feel off when I don’t have any.

  6. TacklingOurDebt says

    This is an excellent post! And congrats on taking up running and on losing so much weight too. Our moment of clarity was when my husband was diagnosed out of the blue with type 1 diabetes after we came back from a cruise in 2007. He suddenly lost a ton of weight in a 2 month time frame. Since that time we have made ongoing adjustments to our lifestyle to try to be as healthy as we can.

    • Thank you! That must have been quite a shock and would definitely serve as a moment of change in his life and yours. I know several people with diabetes and have seen the strain it puts on their day to day activities. I hope your husband has learned how to manage it well.

  7. I had that moment of clarity a year ago and jumped into a great regime that made me feel so much better. I lost it when my son was born and now I need to get it back again. I felt so good during that time and now I am getting tired again and out of shape. Thanks for the inspiration Brian!

    • Your welcome Grayson. I know how the birth of a child can disrupt schedules and routines. Everything changes when you have a little one to account for. Now more than ever though you need the energy that exercise provides to keep up with the demands of being a parent.

  8. Honestly, I really need to focus a little more on getting exercise. We walk daily, eat fairly well (with a bunch of veggies) but I need to make time to get in a little better shape. Unfortunately for me, I usually do this in spurts. I just need to make a lifestyle change and stick with it.

    • I was a spurt exerciser for a long time. I would go a couple months and then lay off for six. Besides what I mentioned in the article, the thing that helped me break out of that pattern was setting definable goals. It was not enough for me to say “I want to get in better shape.” That’s a pretty vague goal. Only when I set clear and measurable goals was I able to keep the exercise going consistently.

  9. Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce says

    Setting small, identified goals has always helped me build confidence and productivity. Great points!

    • Thanks Mike. I love setting small goals. But they still have to be challenging enough to push us. It’s in the effort and struggle to achieve the goal that we find out what we are made of and build confidence.


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