Consider this image the inspiration for this post. It’s one of many daily photos and videos that the folks over at failblog.org post to their site. If your curious, the fail here is that she’s sitting on a chair over the treadmill. And at the core, they are right. Just sitting there, she won’t get any exercise. If she moves her legs as if she were walking on the treadmill, she might get some, but still very little. Not nearly as much as she would if she were standing and walking the treadmill. Or, better yet, if she were running on the treadmill.
But, sometimes, we get too stuck on doing something 100% or not doing it at all. Instead we should realize that we sometimes have to start at 50% and work our way up.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for giving something your all. But, if giving something all your resources does more harm than good, you’ve got to know how to scale. Take this lady in the picture. She looks a bit on the overweight side. Likely has problems with her knees. Likely, she can’t walk long enough on the treadmill to do any good. So, she sits on a chair and “walks” on the treadmill with just the lower legs. Eventually, if she sticks to a diet and keeps doing exercise, she might lose enough weight to alleviate the pain in her knees and she can begin to walk on the treadmill. But, if she were to try and do only that now, she might damage her knees further, or frustrate herself so much with the pain that she quits trying and resigns herself to a scooter chair the rest of her life.
The same thing applies in personal finance. Each and every one of us would love to pay off all of our debt. Even better would be to pay it all off all at once. But we don’t. Why not? Wouldn’t that be “giving 100%”? Sure, but we all have bills. And most of us like to eat something now and again. Instead, we give 20% or 30%, or whatever we can afford after we’ve paid our bills and eaten. We take that little bit and pay it towards our bills. Eventually, as those bills shrink, we can pay more towards them. And if we keep on that track, we will eventually pay off all of our debt. Just like the woman, we find ourselves running on the “debt free treadmill“.
Want to invest? You’ve gotten good returns on what you’ve already invested. Why not just sign over your paycheck to your broker and build your portfolio? The returns are better there than they are in the electric companies bank. Again, we still have bills and necessities to buy. We can’t give all 100% of our income to one purpose. We have to budget, and learn how to be satisfied with giving what we can, even if it isn’t 100%.
Life isn’t a “110%” game. It’s about striking a balance where the different parts of your life all flourish with what you’ve given them. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re not doing it well, or that you’re failing just because you aren’t putting 100% towards it. Sometimes, even a little movement is better than none.
Image credit: failblog.org