Taking Steps Toward a Better Life

Today we have a thoughtful post from Passive Income MD, and it’s one I can certainly relate to. We’d all like to improve our bodies, our minds, our habits and such, but first we must overcome a number of obstacles, most of them internal.

How exactly is the good doctor taking steps toward a better life? Read and learn.

This post originally appeared on Passive Income MD.


 

Taking Steps Toward a Better Life

 

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Laozi 

At some point in our schooling (and for the doctors out there, we’ve had A LOT of it!), we’ve all heard of Newton’s Laws of Motion. The first law specifically deals with the concept of inertia, and can simply be summarized by the following:

  1. An object at rest tends to stay at rest
  2. An object in motion tends to stay in motion

Think back to what you learned way back in high school physics. How do you overcome the force of inertia? You have to apply a force.

If we want to enact real change in our lives, either financially, in our career, or our family life, there’s no way we can stay at rest. We need to take steps (apply a force) to set good habits in motion.

Here are a few places inertia plays out in my daily life and some steps I’ve taken.

 

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Spending and Saving

 

When I spend, I tend to spend more. And more. And more – until it becomes a snowball effect. Unfortunately, it tends to gain velocity unless I take great effort to stop it. For example, I recently bought this GoPro camera to take videos of the kids on vacation but next thing you know I was buying accessory after accessory and had to make myself stop. It was getting ridiculous.

Lifestyle inflation has played a huge part in this as well. We didn’t buy a single piece of new furniture for five years when we lived in our one-bedroom apartment. But the moment we purchased and moved into a four-bedroom home, we started filling it with new furniture, artwork, rugs, etc. The spending accelerated at a rapid pace.

Contract DiagnosticsHowever, the opposite is also true. When my wife and I have been intentional about saving a significant portion of our income and we’ve seen our savings grow in our online account, it tends to reinforce itself and we end up saving more.

The mindset of saving pervades all aspects of our lives and we end up making smarter decisions about things we buy and just ultimately what we spend our money on. No, I wouldn’t say we reach the point of frugality, but we’re way more selective with our spending. It feels good when you’re able to throw any chunk of change into your retirement or savings accounts knowing you’re being smart with your money.

Investing

 

I’ve found that the best way to start investing is simply to take that first step and… start investing. Just put some money somewhere. Obviously choose your investments wisely, but don’t let uncertainty keep you on the sidelines. People who never get started tend to do just that – stay on the sidelines. They fall into the state of “analysis paralysis” and get so bogged down by all the possible scenarios that they never make a move. For example, some people get so concerned about whether they should put their money in a three-fund portfolio vs a four-fund portfolio that they never actually end up investing.

But the opposite is also true. I’ve seen people overcome their initial hesitation, and once they start, their desire to invest become insatiable.

Personally, I was initially extremely hesitant to start investing in real estate, but after I took my first step through real estate crowdfunding, I invested in ten more deals – all within six months of the first. That ultimately led to me buying a single family home rental property and then eventually an apartment building. That first step was the hardest by far, but it’s amazing to see where it’s taken me since.

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Good Deeds

 

My wife and I have really tried to focus on increasing our giving this year. In fact, we’ve tried to give to the point where it’s almost uncomfortable. Why would we do that? A wise person I respect greatly said that when you give to that point, your life truly changes for the better. Your priorities and perspective change and in some ways you receive more than you gave.

This giving though has stoked a fire for us to find more ways to be generous, not only money but of our time as well. I’m happy to say the ball of cheerful giving is rolling downhill.

Exercise and Health

 

Several years ago I signed up for my first triathlon. It was an Olympic length one – consisting of a 1.5k ocean swim, a 40k bike, and a 10k run. I had never even done one of those leg distances separately before. Now I was trying to do all three at the same time. Funny enough, I’m scared to swim in the ocean and I hate running. I thought about backing out so many times but I didn’t want to let my training buddy down. So having that goal in mind, I forced myself to join an ocean swim club, I worked hard to train and somehow I miraculously finished the race.

Can you guess what I wanted to do next? That’s right, another triathlon. But here’s the twist: I didn’t immediately take the initiative, and soon fell back into the same pre-triathlon routine, which is not exercising at all.

I failed to keep my momentum going, however, recently I’ve started to exercise again. Not by training for a triathlon, but by simply taking good walks and small runs while listening to podcasts. This has pushed me to make wiser decisions about what I eat, which causes me to feel better overall, which only encourages me to exercise more. Again, it’s a self-reinforcing cycle.

Overcoming Inertia

 

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned a force that can overcome inertia. What is this amazing and mysterious force? Encouragement from friends and family can help, but it can only take you so far. The fact is that they can want it for you, but they can’t make you want it.

I’ve found that this ultimate force is actually a combination of your will, your desire, and some courage.

You don’t necessarily always need a ton of all of it either. Sometimes all it takes is a tiny nudge – just enough to get the ball rolling – and inertia will help take it from there. So I encourage you to take a step, any step and get things in motion.

 


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Have you noticed this phenomenon in your life? What do you do to make sure you stay in motion, ultimately moving forward and pressing on toward your goals? Let me know in the comments.

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12 comments

  • I make each habit small enough that it is almost impossible not to do it. For example, with weight training I would literally do 1 lift a day- just go and do 1 exercise for the day whether it is squats, bench or deadlift. Who doesn’t have time to do 5 x 5 of back squats. It takes 10 minutes or less! It is so simple that you rarely miss a workout.

    • I’ve been trying to do something similar. I have a hard time devoting an hour or more to exercise, so I’ll set a goal of 25 pullups (5 at a time) or 100 pushups (25 at a time) and get it done throughout the day. Tough to do with cardiovascular workouts, i.e. ruunning, but an workable plan for strength and toning exercises.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

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  • Yes! I have noticed the phenomenon of inertia in many aspects of my life.

    Once I changed my diet, I noticed my body feeling better and I had this newfound increase in energy. When I would eat something bad, my body definitely noticed and it felt like I lost the momentum. So now I try not to eat anything bad.

    I can totally see the inertia effect in paying down debt and investing too. Once I started making big boy attending money I started paying down student loans in huge chunks. It became so addicting that I put all of my savings (and I had a high savings rate) toward the loan. Before long, it was all paid off and I started putting my savings toward investments and mortgage pay down. It’s one of the addictive habits that is actually healthy 🙂

    I make sure to stay in motion by always having the end goal in mind and tracking my progress. It’s fun to track the muscle gains and investment gains!

  • This is, without a doubt, THE post I needed to read this morning. A few little steps a day can Kickstart massive positive changes. Time to put away the phone, shut down the computer, and get a couple little things done! I’ve got a to-do list a mile long. I think I’ll knock out a couple little things to get the ball rolling.

  • Great post! Inertia is a funny thing. I have set a few goals for myself this year of things to complete on a daily basis to make sure that I keep moving forward and do not let stagnant inertia get the best of me. So far so good! Sometimes just taking the first step is the hardest, but once you set the ball in motion, you don’t want to stop. I’ve also found the app HabitShare to be a great catalyst in keeping me going forward. Don’t want to miss a day and have a black circle staring back at me.

  • Nice post. I did a post 2 weeks ago title “How Isaac Newton is related to your finances”, using the same analogies. You’ve got to stay in motion, you’ve got to keep moving forward, you’ve got to get momentum to get better.

  • It certainly becomes easier once the good habits are in place and it’s hard to change your existing behavior. Small changes tend to be the way to go as the more complex the harder to implement. Also the longer till you see results. If you don’t see results in a short time your behavior is likely to revert.

  • Totally get this post, it’s how I see my life…I tend to either stall, or go full steam ahead. At the moment I need to break the inertia and start making small steps on a few fitness things.

  • Gasem

    This year my taxes were done by Feb 15. Now that’s progress! I decided “I’m retired NO EXCUSES” The were incredibly easy this year and I expect easier still next year.

  • Bill Yount

    Fight Gravity !

  • I really like challenging myself and undertaking different life experiments. For example, about four years ago I decided to try living car-free. I had been living car-lite for years and knew if it didn’t work out I could easily buy another car. Fortunately, it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made as an adult and I now can’t imagine being responsible for another car again!

    I agree that it is much easier to stay in motion once we have started making other changes in our life. However, I also find that making the difficult decisions in the short-term makes life easier in the long-term. Going back to my car-free decision, it isn’t always easy to navigate life without a vehicle, but some of my most memorable moments have happened while I was biking or walking for transportation. This includes biking alongside a bald eagle and an owl (on two separate occasions).

    Too often we shy away from making ourselves uncomfortable, but that limits what we are able or willing to experience in life. The more practice we have in deliberately challenging ourselves every day the easier it gets to do the hard things that make life more enjoyable and fulfilling.

  • Well said. It’s refreshing to see a post that deviates for the strictly financial. I see finances as part of the whole. Finances are a battle and theme of this blog, but the war is life satisfaction, goals, tranquility whatever….

    Try a sprint triathlon. Short and sweet and might jumpstart you back into those awesome brick workouts!

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