Last month my friend Ben from Ready for Zero e-mailed about a challenge they are launching. They named it the F3 Challenge, with the 3 F’s being food, fitness, and finances. Essentially this is all about helping people improve their lives in these 3 major areas.
As both Ben and Shannon from Ready for Zero have helped me out in the past, I was happy to take part. Plus it offered a great chance to share how I personally improved my life in those areas and my impetus for change was.
Thinking back to my life in my 20’s I admit that I really had little care for either living a healthy lifestyle or focusing on long term finances. I was living in the present and irresponsibly overlooking my future. What was I thinking?? I wasn’t thinking.
So how did I get out of this toxic cycle? The truth is that I didn’t smarten up until I got out of a toxic relationship. Being in that relationship provided me a support system to maintain a level of mediocrity and not care about improving my life.
As I was trying to move on I ended up in a pretty dark place. I got feeling sorry for myself, being all alone, without a job and I had an overall pessimistic view on life. For me I had to hit bottom to fully accept that I needed to make drastic changes in my life. I had no desire to truly hit rock bottom.
I didn’t immediately decide that it was my food, fitness and finances that needing improving. Instead my primary goal was simply to find happiness. As I dove into this broad goal, I came to realize that the 3 F’s were some of the major aspects of my life that I needed to tackle. This realization came from reading a book called Spontaneous Happiness by Dr. Andrew Weil and later attending a series of group cognitive behavior therapy sessions. Yep I was low enough to be seeking professional help.
Ironically being unemployed ended up being a big help in taking control of my life. It gave me the time to properly address my issues and set about improving myself. If I was working, this process would’ve been drawn out much longer and may not have been as successful.
Improving My Finances
Luckily while I was getting out of that stupid relationship, I had the bright idea to start a personal finance blog. The goal may have been just to make some money to hold me over until I got a new job, but I certainly didn’t expect the community that I was unknowingly immersing myself in. Suddenly I was a sponge soaking up financial lessons that other people learned and using their stories as motivation. I was also getting a serious kick in the ass about financial mistakes I was making and how behind I was in my retirement savings.
Blogging ended up not being an instant source of income, but the change in mindset and accumulating knowledge more than made up for that. It led me to get more aggressive in my job search knowing that I couldn’t continue to coast. Due to this experience in the financial industry, I was able to land a great job doing website marketing for a finance company.
Improving my Food
One of the major lessons I took from the Dr. Weil book was the importance of eating healthy. I always knew that a healthy diet was important for physical well being, but I didn’t clue in to how much it also affects mental well being.
Right away I decided to start taking vitamins and fish oil supplements daily. Next was trying to eliminate bad foods from my diet. I made a serious effort to cut back on fats, bleached flour, produce that is more susceptible to pesticide retention and cow’s milk that is likely full of hormones. Sugars still remain a huge weakness, but after the holidays I vow to cut back on that too.
My diet could improve more, but I feel I’ve come a long way. Knowing how important it is to eat healthy, I know I’ll continue to watch what I eat and cut back further on the not so healthy foods.
Improving my Fitness
Even though I used to be big on playing sports when I was younger, this is an area that was a bit tougher to address. I would use my sore knees as an excuse to not get much exercise. At first I got into going on walks, but really that doesn’t do much at all. At least it was getting me outside for some fresh air though.
I didn’t really make some decent progress with fitness until I was working my new job. I was lucky enough to be working in a building with a fancy gym downstairs. With it being so convenient I didn’t have any excuse to not get in some exercise. Besides, it was the perfect break in the middle of a day working in front of a computer.
Now I’m to the point that I go the gym every single weekday. Also I moved into a condo with a gym. While it is no comparison to the gym at my office, I try to use that once in a while too. I even got back into playing racquetball for some extra cardio. Next up is getting back into skiing.
My Extra Motivation
I originally said my main motivation for change was just all about making myself happy again. That’s only part of the story though. That fall I happened to meet the woman of my dreams. This was in the middle of me trying to get my act together. Having someone like that in my life really pushes me to want to keep improving. I find it easier to keep the momentum going to make her happy, rather than it just being about myself.
So if you’re looking to take control of your life, try to find reasons that are bigger than just yourself. It is important to make yourself happy, but it’s even better if you’re also doing it for loved ones. You have the power to transform your life. The challenge is just keeping up those changes and pushing beyond your comfort zone.