I know, it seems crazy to say that a financial guy like Dave Ramsey taught me something about fitness and nutrition, but he did. In fact, I’ve used one major concept of Dave’s to help my coaching clients for years.
Before hearing about Dave Ramsey, every financial guru I had ever followed, or read, told me to do the same thing. To pay off your debt you need to start with the debt with the highest interest. It makes sense, financially, I’ll give them that. That high interest, usually also high balance, card is costing the consumer the most in actual dollars. In fact, the advice I often heard was throw most of your money at the highest interest card and pay the minimum balances on the remaining.
But not Dave. After going through Dave’s Financial Peace program, reading his books and listening to him on the radio, I am to the point where any time I make a purchase I hear a little Dave in my head, “Don’t pay the stupid tax.” Dave is a straight forward, country boy from Tennessee. He brought one concept to the debt pay off scene that, in my opinion, most of the personal finance leaders of the time didn’t…common sense.
See, Dave knows that debt is not a money issue. Dealing with debt and the discipline to pay it off is a human behavior issue. Dave attacked it from that angle, with a sprinkle (or more) of faith, and it works.
Unlike the other financial authors I had read or watched, Dave doesn’t have his students start with the biggest debt, or the highest interest rate. He ignores the usual convention and teaches them to start with the smallest debt, regardless of interest rate.
Starting with the smallest debt is your quickest way to a win. We need the wins. We thrive on the wins. In fact, it’s not just a happenstance that we feel good when we get the win. When we pay off our debt, and celebrate it, our brains actually pump “feel good” chemicals thorough our bodies. Not unlike what it does when we feel good about swiping our card to get us into debt, we can get the same euphoric feeling when we celebrate a win for paying off a debt. The more you do this and set up this positive reward system, internally, the more likely you are to stay on track and actually pay off the next bill and so on. Dave calls this his Debt Snowball. Start small, and as you roll down the hill, paying off the smallest, then the next smallest, and so on, you’re creating a snowball effect in your brain and in your bank account.
It works for one simple reason; it works with how we work.
Starting with that largest bill, with the largest interest rate, may financially make sense but it makes zero human sense. If that first bill is going to take you 3 years to pay off, how likely are you to ever get to bill number two? How likely are you to wait 3 years for a win? You know how many will do this? About 1%. Maybe.
For years now I’ve been using this same concept for fitness and nutrition. Yes, again like Dave, it’s counter to what my industry teaches. My industry, no thanks to shows like Biggest Loser, has an all-or-nothing, hit-it-hard, go-hard-or-go-home, you haven’t worked out until you puke or die, mentality. But, I’m not getting in that line.
I have a life rule. It’s been a rule of mine long before I knew I had it. But I just recently (a couple years ago) got words to put to it. Here it is:
If everyone is in a “line,” that means it’s a line I probably need to get out of.
Most people will die regretting never chasing their dream.
Most people in our society are on multiple medications, overweight, and/or sick.
Most people dread going to work.
Most people don’t create time to chase a dream, go to the gym, cook healthy food, or eat at the dinner table, yet spend hours binge watching Game of Thrones.
Most people read less than 3 books a year.
I made a conscious effort (and yes it was a lot of effort) to get out of those lines.
We’re all standing in a line leading to somewhere. The lines we are in decide our direction. Direction decides destination. The lines are our habits, beliefs, and really just general BS we put up with from ourselves.
So any time (and I’ve taught my kids this too) you’re doing something that is going with the crowd, meaning it has a long line – GET OUT OF LINE, it’s most likely not going a direction you want to go.
Back on task here….
Where was I? Oh, yes, the fitness industry.
When I teach my clients or have the opportunity to talk to groups about nutrition and fitness, I talk to them about Dave Ramsey because I know what Dave knows; changing our nutrition is not about the food, its about us. Changing our fitness routine is not about the workout, it’s about us. It’s about changing a habit, and I work with humans not machines.
If you’re hooked on several soda’s a day, eating a crappy diet and ending your day with several glasses of wine to get you to sleep, and you come in and overhaul your entire life in one day, you’ll be overwhelmed within a week. I give it three days. Am I saying you’ll quit? Maybe. Maybe you’ll hang in a bit longer. Maybe you’re one of the 1% that actually does work this way (warning: everyone thinks they are part of that 1%). But for the majority, they are done in one week, max two. How do I know? Years of experience. And it’s really what most clients come to me wanting. They want a whole new routine…today. And want it to work now.
Trust me I can tell in about three minutes of conversation if a client is of the 1%. I’m not saying that the 1% are better, I’m not. I’m just saying they work different and they are uncommon.
But how do the rest of us work? How do you work? How did I do it?
Studies have proven that change, lasting change, works best when we change one small habit at a time. One thing. And maybe even take that one thing and break it down into even smaller steps.
It can look like this:
You drink three sodas a day or hit the drive through five times a week. Maybe you do both. First step is for the next two weeks you’ll pick just one of those to work on. Look, you’ve been doing this for years, waiting to deal with one of them a couple weeks or a month will not hurt this situation. In fact, my whole point here is to show you how to make each of these stick for good.
So, you choose one. Let’s say you’re going to attack the soda first. Currently you drink three a day. We are going to drop that to one a day for two weeks, and you’re going to rock that. (Drop it to two a day first if you need to). In two weeks when you hit that goal, we’re going to celebrate the crap out of that. There are many ways you can do this, but I highly recommend you get somewhere alone if you need to and DANCE! Yep, dance! Let your BODY feel the effects of reward. This is a great way to begin to create your own internal reward system. Yes, you could “treat” yourself with something, but let’s start to adult and learn to reward ourselves for doing good things without creating a new problem. Let’s build up a new confidence within.
I cannot overstate the need to dance. Tony Robbins would say “change your state.” One of my new favorites is Joseph McClendon III, he would say, “Get up and shake that ass!” Do it with flare! Do it with your family and friends if you can. Have a full-on living room dance party. Do it alone if you need to, but DO IT. It’s important.
Then choose your next two-week goal. Yes, goals can be smaller, and they can be weekly instead of biweekly. Each of my clients sets different goals.
The same is true with starting a new fitness routine. Most of us want to jump in, do two workouts a day, six or seven days a week. I highly recommend you avoid this. It’s not good for your body, it needs rest, and it’s the fastest way to burnout that I know. I’ve seen this one over and over.
I recently helped a client find thirty minutes, twice a week for her workouts. She is a single mom of three, has a full-time job and deals with a pretty crazy commute to and from work. She literally could not see when she would have time. Can you blame her? NOPE! So, she wrote down her schedule for me; call it a time budget. She is doing the things y’all! She needed someone else to look at her calendar and tell her where to put a workout. She is now coming in twice a week for 30-minutes each session. Yes, she is working hard while she is there, but right now that’s not even what it’s about. It’s about her making a new habit. It’s about her owning this 1 hour a week for her. That is her new habit. The snowball has started rolling down-hill.
And that’s how the fitness and/or nutrition snowball works. And let me add that when I have clients who start at the gym, I tell them to give the new routine of showing up to workouts about two weeks at least before we even meet to talk about nutrition. Habit one needs to get some momentum. Then in two weeks we’ll meet to examine where we’ll start with habit two. And so on, and so on, until that snowball is rolling so hard and fast it cannot be stopped. Life will happen; birthdays, graduations, summer vacation, illness, death in the family. It will all happen to all of us. But when your snowball is rolling with vicious momentum you can handle what life throws at you and jump right back on that momentum. A rock on the mountain won’t stop you. You’ll hit it, we all do, but then you’ll bounce back and keep on rolling.
And I have clients all the time that want to tell me, “No, Jen. I’m an all or nothing type.” and I’m here to tell you that way doesn’t work. Whatever way you “succeeded” before that you’re fooling yourself into doing again because it “worked before” is a lie. If it worked then you wouldn’t be in my office crying over a new 40 pounds gained. It didn’t work! No, counting your freakin points didn’t work if you’ve had to do it five times in the last ten years. Stop it! The program doesn’t need to change...YOU DO! The reason it didn’t work LONG TERM, is because you did outside work on an inside job. So, if you find yourself thinking this snowball stuff is a bunch of hooey and telling yourself (aka, lying to yourself) that you’ll just do _______ because it worked before. I beg you…just give yourself the gift of going low and slow and create a new mindset. This time do more than lose weight. Create a new momentum in your life.
Start your snowball. Where will you start?
Jen Mulford is an entrepreneur, speaker, author and champion for personal freedom.