Laying Foundations (Part II) – “Paying Yourself First”

– Before you read this post, please take a minute to read “Laying Foundations (Part I) – ‘Finding the Right Approach’”.  Assuming that you have already done so, let’s get started. –

The Missing Link

Have you ever decided to start getting up a few minutes earlier in the morning to give yourself a little bit of time to exercise before preparing for your work day?  You probably have, but if you’re like most of us, this probably lasted less than two weeks.  You might have even tried it more than once only to end up with the same result each time.  Maybe you’ve tried evenings as well, but as most of us have found, evenings have far too many internal and external variables.  You’re energy and motivation levels can vary extensively in the evenings.  There are your children’s extracurricular activities, their homework assignments and science projects…that social engagement you’d rather avoid…  – “But, Honey, it’s not just an office party.  It’s a bowling party.  It’ll be fun, and besides, I want to show you off.” – Even the weather is more likely to interfere in the evenings depending on what you are trying to do and where you are trying to do it.  I live in Florida where evening thunderstorms are common and can interfere with outdoor exercise and discourage trips to the gym.  So…we’re back to mornings.  But, we’ve tried that…right?

What we know so far:

Evenings = Interference;  Interference = Inconsistency;  Inconsistency = Death for Good Habits

Mornings = Getting up for Exercise vs. Sleep = [Ding Ding] Winner by Decision: SLEEP!

Unfortunately, this is where most of us get stuck, but if we look closely enough, we might see something we’ve missed.  Let’s go back and look at all those interfering factors in the evening…maybe even identify a few of your own.  How many of those apply in the morning?  Yes…yes…I know.  Getting up early for exercise doesn’t work for most.  But…what would you get up for?

Pay Yourself First:  It’s Not Just a Financial Concept

Many financial gurus tout the concept of paying yourself first.  Robert Kiyosaki, of the Rich Dad fame, attributes origination of this concept to George Clason in his book, The Richest Man in Babylon, but further explains it as the difference between option and obligation.  If putting aside money for yourself (for investments) is an option and bills are an obligation, put money aside for yourself before paying your bills.  The theory behind this is that if you meet all of your obligations first, you won’t put any extra effort into what is optional.  Conversely, if you address what is optional up front, you will always find a way to meet your obligations.  I’m suggesting by experience that this concept applies to more than just finances, and it certainly applies to health and wellness.

Happy Hour

I can’t say that I understood this five years ago when I started putting this concept into action in my life.  I simply knew that a great deal rested on my shoulders, and I couldn’t continue to hold it up if I couldn’t tend to my own needs physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  I decided then to take control of what I could and make a change.  There were certain hours in my day that were obligated to others, but the rest were mine.  Stop right now and really grab hold of that.  Don’t listen anymore to what anyone else tells you is the right way to position your time.  Some of your time is needed for sleep (don’t short yourself on that), but where you position that sleep is up to you and only you (and maybe your 10-month old son…but that will pass).  Give yourself ample time before your obligations start so that you can pay yourself first.  Take the time upon waking to do something purely for you and your own enjoyment.  Include enough time to work in a little bit of exercise between your “happy hour” (yep…new thing…or is that one already taken?) and your preparation for work.  Trust me…it is infinitely easier to make the decision to exercise when you are already up and awake and have spent time purely for enjoyment than it is to make the same decision when your alarm clock goes off.  There is no comparison between the two.

New Beginnings

So…that’s it?  That’s all there is to it?  Definitely not…but for anything to be sustainable, it must have a solid foundation.  We will build on this foundation as we go, but I believe you must start with this.  Devote the first two hours of every day to you.  You will never find the same value in the last two hours before sleep…when a day’s worth of obligation has consumed the best of your time.  And, you must start with something that is purely for enjoyment.  For me, this is usually reading.  For my wife, it is usually social media or games on her phone.  It doesn’t matter what it is…as long as you enjoy it.  I’ve made the mistake of trying to use this time to try to get extra things done – to check a few extra things off of my never-ending to-do list – but this always backfires.  I never get as much done as I wanted to, and I regret having not spent the time on something more enjoyable.  If you put this into practice and find yourself disappointed that the time seemed too short, great!  This will only increase your desire to return to it the next morning.  This has improved my sleep and my sense of well-being in ways that extend far beyond physical fitness, and I believe it will for you too.  So, start here.  Lay this foundation.  Make the choice to take back your time and pay yourself first.  More to follow…

Author: T. A. Fuller

I'm a 40 year old husband and father of four. I'm also an Air Force veteran with a Master's Degree in Health Administration from the University of Florida, and I am currently employed by the Veterans Health Administration. I am committed to sustainable health, and I would love for you to be as well. Please, come join me on this journey!

8 thoughts

  1. If this post was from someone I didn’t know, I would think this would never work for me, but I’ve seen the results for you over the years and can’t explain why I haven’t already started doing it.

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  2. I whole-heartedly agree that mornings are the key, but I have always struggled to get up. A few months ago (before my journey to get healthy), I decided to start getting up early so that I could get a consistent bible study in. I enticed myself by drinking a chai latte each morning. It’s my favorite drink, and it worked! I started to look forward to my chai and bible study and for the first time ever, it turned into a consistent routine. Now I’ve started exercising and haven’t found time for both. I need to get up earlier, but now I also can’t drink chai (too much sugar and caffeine), so having that treat gone, I’m finding it incredibly hard to get up again.

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  3. I’m a black coffee person, and though it helps me wake up, it’s not what I wake up for. I spent a couple of years in my early twenties reading the Bible straight through, and the experience defined my faith. However, though I found it extremely valuable and would recommend it to anyone, it would not be the thing that I would wak up for every morning. The thing about reading the Bible is that it can seem a bit too much like work. What wakes you up early with consistency is something you purely enjoy. No need to feel guilty about that…

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  4. I already wake up early- between 4 and 5 o’clock but I’m usually still exhausted!
    I am a full time carer for my husband who has major health and mobility problems, and I also care for 2 preschool grandchildren several times a week. Playing with them and walking my dog daily in the local woods is my joy and my only exercise!
    I am thinking now what could I do to use the early hours while I’m on my own to get fitter and lose some weight!

    Liked by 1 person

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