What You Give Up for Change

Recently, I was reading a wonderful memoir by Rich Roll entitled Finding Ultra, in which he discusses training for triathlons in his early forties after living a relatively sedentary life up to that point.

At one point, he discusses how he almost broke down and gave up after falling off of his bicycle and breaking a pedal during one triathlon. He questioned whether his thousands of hours of training were worth it. Finally, he makes the decision to continue due to the encouragement of the trainer of another participant, who gives him a replacement pedal.

The part of the story that really stuck out for me was the thousands of hours of training.

This guy was a relatively sedentary guy living in suburbia who had made the choice to spend a lot of his time getting himself into good enough shape to do a triathlon.

He decided his life needed a change, and he sacrificed some things in his life to open up a path to get there.

He knew that the sedentary path his life was on wasn’t a healthy one. He had a moment of epiphany where he recognized that he might not be there for his children if he didn’t change paths. He recognized that his life needed a significant change and he decided to do it.

Along the way, he had to give up a lot of things that he enjoyed. He gave up a lot of the food that he enjoyed. He changed how he used multiple hours of each day, choosing to exercise and run instead of watching television.

He didn’t suddenly wake up one morning and decide that he was now going to be fit and the pounds just fell off of him.

It’s a path I really understood. I had my own moment of epiphany regarding my finances, where I realized I might not be able to provide for my children if I didn’t make some financial and professional changes. I stopped spending time on some of the things I enjoyed (like golfing) and instead spent multiple hours each day building something different (The Simple Dollar).

It took me six long years to go from a mountain of debt to home ownership with no debt at all. Along the way, I gave up a lot of little things I used to enjoy. I stopped going to coffee shops. I stopped hanging out with my expensive social circle. I stopped visiting a bookstore three times a week.

If you want something different in your life, a few things need to be abundantly clear.

One, no major change is going to happen overnight. Change is a long-term goal. It’s not something you can magically have in your life. Everyone that has achieved something powerful in their life didn’t just put a few hours into it one week and call it good enough. They persisted, often for a very long time.

Two, you’re going to have to give up something to get something. If you have a full schedule and decide that you’re going to get into better shape, something is going to have to go from your schedule. If you have shelves full of belongings and are spending money like water and then choose to get your financial house in order, some of your belongings and a lot of your spending is going to have to disappear. You can have the things you want, but you have to give up something for them.

Three, you probably are going to have to reach some sort of “bottom,” where you recognize that you need to make a change. This happens for a lot of people, myself included. You have a moment where it becomes clear to you that the path you’re on is the wrong path and is actually taking you away from what you want and you resolve to fix that path.

Finally, there’s going to be a long painful valley in the middle. There’s going to be a period where you’ve given up a lot but you haven’t yet seen the results you want and it’s going to be tempting to give up and quit and revert back to your old habits. That is the truest test of whether or not you actually want change. If you don’t truly want something different in your life, the temptation to roll things back will be too much and you’ll return to your old life.

If you want financial change in your life, you’re going to have to accept that it’s not going to happen in a day or even in a year, that it’s not going to be easy, and that you’re going to have to give some things up to achieve it. The same thing is true for almost any major change you want to make in your life, whether it’s rebuilding a career or changing your physical fitness or anything else.

If you find this hard to do, just remember one thing every single day along your journey: you’re choosing to make today hard so that tomorrow will be awesome.

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  1. Johanna says:

    Not always. In pursuing my goal of being a musician, I’ve given up very little.

  2. Johanna says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time practicing, but practice is fun. I’ve spent some money on instruments and lessons, but I had that money saved up already with no particular purpose in mind.

  3. Johanna says:

    I’ve had some frustration and disappointment, but no prolonged pain. Maybe I’m just fortunate.

  4. Easter says:

    Thanks! This was exactly what I needed to read this morning. I just joined Weight Watchers because I am determined to get to a healthy weight that allows me to be active as my kids grow, and the amount of change I need to make is disheartening. I have a sign on my desk now: I’m choosing to make today hard so tomorrow will be awesome.

  5. Johanna says:

    Weight Watchers doesn’t work. Look up “health at every size” instead. And while you’re at it, “the fantasy of being thin.”

  6. krantcents says:

    Small changes work. When I dieted many years ago, I learned that giving up one thing a day made a big change over time.

  7. David says:

    @Easter–Weight Watchers works. It can help you create a new lifestyle that is sustainable. I like your sign.

  8. dottie says:

    I lost 101 pounds on weight watchers. Yes it does work.

  9. Jak says:

    Why are people quick to dis weight watchers? IF someone finds motivation by checking in and being accountable, leave’em alone. It’s not a miracle cure, nor long term IF you don’t make life style changes. If you revert to your old behaviors, you’ll get your old body back. @Johanna, let’s not de-motivate anyone that would like to better their life and health. She is NOT hurting anyone and if dedicated, she will only help herself.

  10. Evita says:

    Johanna: weight loss is not necessarily tied to confirmity and vanity.

  11. Evita says:

    … but to health, energy, personal comfort (knees! feet!)

  12. Evita says:

    Easter: go for it! WW is the best commercial program, which has helped thousands who needed what it had to offer.

  13. Johanna says:

    (It’s obvious that nobody’s looked up the things I mentioned earlier, so I don’t see the point of arguing until someone has.)

  14. Kevin says:

    Sorry Johanna, I’ve heard it over and over from people who have successfully lost weight. WW appears to be the best (only?) program that actually works.

  15. Kevin says:

    Had more to say but last 3 attempts at commenting have been blocked. This site needs help. Coupon coupon coupon!

  16. colleen says:

    “Health at Every Size” is a book by Linda Bacon, PhD. It would be great if every diet group made it required reading. Weight Watchers now promotes a healthy diet and they encourage exercise, and many have success with the program. The point of Dr. Bacon’s book is that we can take steps to accept ourselves at any size and be healthy at any size. Many succeed at WW and many do not. The point of the book is that we do not necessarily have to lose weight to be healthy.

  17. graytham says:

    Oh great- the “Health at Every Size” folks encouraging people to stay fat. Sounds like a philosophy started by people who couldn’t lose weight and wanted to make it seem as if it didn’t bother them.

  18. Johanna says:

    graytham, why do you think that fat people are obligated to be bothered by the size of their bodies?

  19. Kevin says:

    J: Because in countries with socialized medicine, we ALL bear the cost of paying for their sloth.

  20. Kevin says:

    The same reason we make people wear helmets on motorcycles and seatbelts in cars.

  21. Johanna says:

    I a$$sume you know that there’s not a one-to-one relationship between weight and sloth – you just don’t care.

  22. Johanna says:

    Also, what is your source that the purpose of seatbelt/helmet laws is to reduce healthcare costs? That’s not obvious at all.

  23. Dee says:

    Weight Watchers does work for some people. It’s far healthier than a lot of diets.

  24. Joan says:

    #17 graytham I a$$sume you know there is a relationship between weight and envy of anyone who has successfully wrote a blog and lost weight at the same time. coupon

  25. Johanna says:

    Joan, that’s very interesting that you’d think, based on what I’ve said, that you can offend me by caling me fat. (Not to mention that you have no idea what I look like.)

  26. lurker carl says:

    Such laws promote survival, thus healthcare costs increase.

  27. Kevin says:

    carl: They can lead to long-term disabilities, removing the person from the workforce, which is very expensive for society.

  28. Johanna says:

    The laws increase some costs and decrease others. So as I said, it’s not at all obvious whether the net effect is an increase or a decrease – let alone that the PURPOSE of the laws is (as you claimed) to decrease costs. Coupon.

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