In a recent email from James Clear, I read this quote (by him):
The fact that you go to the gym even though you don’t “need” to… is why you don’t need to.
The fact that you save when you could spend… is why you have money to spend.
Your habits create your strength.
I though this was really insightful on a number of levels, and it resonated with me personally, though maybe not in the way he meant it.
I really don’t like operating under a bunch of “have-tos”. If I’m given the freedom to choose between two things, I will often freely choose the good-for-me things.
If I stick a set of rules on myself saying, “You have to choose this good-for-you thing!”, then I find myself really wanting to run toward the bad choice.
Now, I usually do end up doing the good-for-me thing, but I might feel miserable about it.
(Because examples are helpful: with no food rules in place, I will cheerfully choose to eat sweet potatoes and a fried egg instead of a doughnut. With food rules in place, the sweet potatoes and fried egg feel like a punishment.)
So basically, if I feel the freedom to choose, I will make the good choice, with a good attitude.
If I don’t feel the freedom to choose, I will make the good choice, but often with a bad attitude.
I don’t know what this says about me as a person, and maybe it’s a character flaw.
This quote from Clear made me realize that I like to live my life so that I feel that freedom to choose as much as possible.
For instance, Mr. FG and I have always spent less than we have made. So, even in our leanest years, we did always have some money in the bank as a backup.
We could have spent more money than we did (there were plenty of apartment options other than our basement apartment!), but since we didn’t, we were never living on our last dollar, which gave us freedom.
And I like to approach diet and exercise in a similar way.
I don’t have to, but I’m choosing to.
Proactive vs reactive
I think maybe the big difference here is that it feels better (at least to me) to be proactive rather than reactive.
When you’re proactive, you feel freedom, and you have the gift of time. And it’s a pretty positive, good-attitude place to be.
When you’re reactive, you lose the sense of freedom, and you feel rushed and pressured. That feels negative and it gives me a bad attitude.
For example, if you start saving for your next car as soon as the current one is paid for, you will feel so much better when it’s time to go car shopping.
But if you only think about car funding once your car gets a terminal diagnosis, you will not have much freedom of choice, and you will probably feel pretty stressed.
Or, for a daily example that’s relevant to me:
If I plan my meals ahead of time and shop accordingly (proactive), I feel much better than if I hit 6pm with a hungry family and no plan.
In the latter situation, I have to react to my family’s hunger and even if I do make the good choice to cook at home, I’m not going to be feeling very zen about it.
I wonder if this is a thing that varies with personalities. Do some people thrive in a life that’s full of reactivity vs. proactivity?
Since I’m firmly in the proactivity camp, it’s hard for me to imagine this, but maybe for some people proactivity feels dry and lifeless, and a life of reactivity feels exciting and challenging.