The journey of self-optimization is a hard one that comes with a lot of failures. The key to continuing the journey and not accepting defeat is to be honest, and kind to yourself along the way. Over the past few years, I have been on a self-journey of optimization that focused on weight loss and building wealth. There were other goals along the way, but those were the two I focused the most on. Somewhere along the way, I developed bad money and health habits, so I sought to change that.
I learned right away that failure was going to be frequent. The failures would come in many shapes and sizes, but they would inevitably come, and I had to deal with that. I also learned that my instinct was to lie to myself to justify the misstep or beat myself up and want to quit. Neither of those actions produced results, so I decided to do the opposite. No matter what, I had to be honest and kind to myself to move forward in the face of failure.
Be Honest With Yourself
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Lying to yourself is so easy and, in the moment, makes everything better. I did this for years when it came to money and health, and it made me fat and broke. The truth is so much harder. It is hard to look in the mirror when you are overweight, so I just didn’t. When your bank accounts are dwindling and the bills are mounting, the easy way out is simply not looking at those things. If we don’t see them, they don’t really exist, do they? Creating the story that everything is OK makes us feel good, but it only worsens the problems, as you can imagine. By lying to myself and avoiding the uncomfortable confrontation with the truth, the situation only worsened.
Numbers Don’t Lie
My solution and the solution for many is to look at the numbers. Numbers don’t lie, they are inherently honest and sometimes brutal! To change my story I had to look at the scale, calories, bank info, spending habits, and more. I had to look at something I could not lie about, which was the numbers.
As expected, my numbers did not lie. I was definitely fat and kind of broke. Defining fat and broke is personal and not the same for everyone. In my case, I was 270 pounds (I am 6’4″), and my body composition was north of >35% body fat. Unfortunately, there was no sugar coating that I was fat…probably because I do love sugar! As for being broke, that is a little more tricky. We were doing well, especially to the outside world. My wife and I have great jobs, a wonderful home, and our family (wife and 2 great boys) always had what it needed. I say we were “kind of broke” because we were not creating real wealth. We were spending most of what came in and often more. As I mentioned in a prior post, the math behind wealth is simple, and we were on the wrong side of the equation.
Keeping Myself Honest Through Tracking
The numbers told me the truth, so I began using the numbers to fix the problem and create a new story for myself. Using apps like Lose It and Mint, I started tracking weight, calories, spending, and net worth. Ultimately what I was doing was creating accountability for myself and looking in the mirror for once. There were no more avoidance behaviors. To solve my problem, I had to be honest with myself and stop avoiding it. My entire narrative changed from someone that had no control and felt lost to someone completely in control of my future self. I started this process of tracking and honesty about 4 years ago, and it continues to this day. Since starting, I have lost 65 pounds, our net worth has tripled, and we are approaching financial independence. Being honest with myself and having clarity of purpose has changed the course of my life and my family’s.
Be Kind To Yourself
So what is this all about? Based on what I just said above, all you have to do is be honest, and everything will be OK. Yes, that is a crucial piece, but often along with honesty comes failure, and with failure, the tendency to beat yourself up. Failing is really hard, and not dealing well with those failures is why so many people quit along the way.
It took me a while, but I have now learned that failure is an opportunity for growth. Every time I fail, I tell myself that I just got better. When I have setbacks, I do not punish myself or quit. Instead, I am kind to myself and congratulate myself for failing, and then I tell myself to start again.
We learn the most through failure, but it is the strength to start again that is the hardest to come by. You can always start again. No rules are saying you can’t. If you are on a diet or budget and have a bad day, start over the next day. Be kind to yourself; it is OK to fail. Start again.
Start Again, And Again, And Again…
I can not tell you how many times I have started again in the past few years. Every time I start again, I am starting from a position of greater strength and I am building my muscles of resilience. The work I put in each time is not lost when I fail. Each failure builds on the last and I continue to grow (theoretically of course as I dont want to be fat again).
The ability to start again and make continuous self-progress stems from my willingness, to be honest, and kind to myself in all aspects of my life. Without honesty and kindness, I would still be fat (probably fatter) and truly broke.