Like most of us, I started to gain weight as I headed out of my twenties. My weight gain became even greater when we had kids. I had no time for exercise and there were so many half-eaten plates to finish off. My weight peaked at 210 lbs. and I started to breathe heavier just doing a little bit of exercise.
I used to spend countless hours lost in TV. At the same time, my business was struggling, and my wife could have used my help and enjoyed my company.
I spent too much money. I always assumed things would work out. I overestimated my earning potential and underestimated how much things like a home renovation or a family vacation would cost.
Getting better in these areas required defining my core values and starting to live by them.
They evolved over a few years. Today, at the age of 51, they are solid. I review my values every week to see how I need to adjust in my actions.
Here is one of them:
I live sustainably: I take care of myself and the important relationships in my life;, I live within a reasonable environmental footprint; and I live within my financial means.
Looking at this core value every week reminds me to take care of my mind, body, relationships, the planet, and personal finances. I have taken many steps to bring this value to life, but it began with writing it down, checking in frequently, and realizing the power of doing so.
I now weigh less than 190 pounds and have kept my weight under control for many years. If my weight starts to creep up or other health behaviours around sleep, exercise, alcohol, or stress are feeling unsustainable, I act. I plan simple actions for the week ahead or I may even set a big rock (a larger goal) to deal with it. Right now, I am training to beat three hours 30 minutes in a full marathon. At other times of the year, it may be as simple as not having any serious snacks after dinner or finally dealing with a nagging situation that is causing too much stress.
I still watch TV, Netflix, and YouTube, but I also get the laundry done, work on our house, plan my time, help with many community endeavours, and hang out with my kids. I am out of balance sometimes, but the weekly check-in reminds me to rein that in and refocus. My TV time is reserved for when my brain is fried, not for taking my mind off important responsibilities and challenges.
The spending too much? Well, that is a work in progress. I recently added the “live within my financial means” piece to this core value. This is the first tweak to my core values in many years, and it’s an important one. In the process of thinking through how we should live, my wife and I made the decision that we don’t need to move from our modest family home. Ever. We have decided to fix it up a bit, but to not engage in the process of expanding our cost of living in direct relation to increased income. Locking down our expenses and starting to build a nest egg with any surplus, rather than just spending it, feels like a great weight of stress lifted and a great way to live the “sustainable” core value.
My advice is to figure out your core values and refer to them often. There are many great articles on the internet on how to do this and many great books, too. I can recite my core values to anyone, anytime. It is a bit of a party trick. But the most important person I recite them to is me. When I am unsure, when I am reaching for that last doughnut at 11 p.m., when I am thinking about buying a boat, and when I am tempted by that trashy action flick even worse than the previous one.
My big goals have changed over the years, but my core values have only been refined a bit as I realize them. They endure; they guide me forward; they help me stay fit, save money, and be more effective. Sounds like the same things many gurus promise after you pay them a bunch of money to attend their seminars. This program, however, is free. Of course, you can send me money if that will help hold you accountable!
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