Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Conditioning

I was on a resume call with a client last week and we were talking about his volunteer experience. As he described his responsibilities as a soccer coach, he mentioned team building, game strategy and conditioning. Now, I grew up playing basketball and have done plenty of conditioning drills. Have you ever had to do a killer? Offta!

Anyway, despite the concept of conditioning being an old term for me, it gave me an ah ha moment. As you work towards a goal of better fitness, you don't just start off that way. You have to work hard at it with smaller exercises until you become stronger and faster. As your strength grows, you are more capable of doing harder work more easily. I'm sure you can see where this is going...

The same is true for money habits.

You don't just wake up one day and stop spending money. Habits don't break easily and you can't just wish yourself into great financial shape. You have to do smaller exercises daily and rigorously so you can take on the bigger challenges more easily.

As I'm trying harder to live within my means, I find it's easy to be lazy. It's so easy and comfortable to lay on the couch or be able to buy whatever you want when you want it. But if you want to be successful, it takes a lot of hard work and conditioning.

I realize how obvious this sounds but somehow it registers with me. I used to compare my budget to a diet. Cut calories, lose pounds. Cut spending, lose debt. But it felt restricting and like most diets, temporary and unmanageable.

Conditioning, however, makes me feel stronger and productive. I'm building up to be in great financial shape. Who wouldn't want that? Yes, it's hard work but it's the only way to beat the other team (or my financial struggles in this case). When I think of taking the time to meal plan to avoid eating out, I think of it like doing a killer in basketball. Sure, we all complained when we had to do them because it's painful and exhausting. But how great did it feel to win our next game? We couldn't have done that if we had just been lazy.

Now of course there's a line between conditioning and pushing yourself too far. It can cause injuries and burnout. Trust me, I work 5 jobs at the moment so I know the feeling. I'm trying to find a good balance of really getting the most of my working hours and the money I make, while still maintaining some fun and relaxation time. If I wanted to, I could work 24/7. And some days, like when I'm dog sitting, I actually do.

You know when you go to the gym and workout way harder than you have in a long time? The next day or two or three you're so sore you don't want to go back to the gym, right? Then you lose momentum and all the hard work from day 1 is gone. I'm trying to avoid feeling like that while still building as much muscle (savings) as I can. So I have to remind myself that it's ok to take breaks or I'll become lazy again.

When I wear myself out with working too much, I go out to eat too often due to exhaustion. Or I feel like I can afford to splurge on things when the point of all that work is to pay off debt, not add more.

I'm still trying to find a good balance because right now, I really do go in spurts. I want to find that sweet spot of bringing in extra income and not being so exhausted that I spend it outside of my priorities. It's a tough spot that many people deal with, athletes and clueless cash carriers alike. But I'm aware of it and I can use the conditioning mindset to push me when I'd rather lay on the couch.

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