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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