Happy New Year

I think it’s wonderful how excited everyone gets at the start of the new year. The energy, the enthusiasm, the hope for making the next 365 days better than the last. Every year we talk about how much we want to achieve, how much we want to change, how much better for ourselves and others we want to be. Any my hope is that we actually do what it takes to achieve that change. Hope without action is just that, hope. Not change.

Action is what creates change. Newton said it well, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Energy is neither created nor destroyed, it merely changes form. Food going into your body gives you energy to move and live and breathe just as gas in a car gives it the ability to drive. Reading books creates new connections in your mind, as does prayer and meditation. What are you going to feed yourself these next 365 days in order to achieve the goals and outcomes you want for the future?

Without small, dedicated action on a daily basis nothing great was ever achieved; and that’s what it takes. Small, dedicated actions and decisions. Every. Single. Day.

Set the goal, figure out what you can do on a daily basis and start there. The big goals are too overwhelming when trying to accomplish all at once. Start small and big things happen. Call it the snowball effect. When you see an avalanche you get overwhelmed with the power and greatness of it all. But how did that avalanche begin? It probably took much longer than you realize…with one snowflake. Over time, more snowflakes accumulate, pack in deep and keep packing until all it takes is a small puff of wind or a pebble to set the entire thing downhill. And how did it all start? One tiny snowflake, barely big enough to feel on the tip of your nose.

So start today, January 1, 2017, or whenever you happen to read this and do one small thing, every single day. Just one small change. That’s it. Develop that new habit. Just one at a time.

Try this one on for size:

One serving of vegetables at any meal. Veggies. Every. Single. Day. Veggies on the side, salad, casserole, more stuff on your burger. It doesn’t matter how small, it matters how often. More vegetables will give your body more nutrients and minerals that will give you the strength to take the next step on your journey.

As the saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Here’s to a wonderful new year and all the best to you and yours. Go Forth.

You Are What You Spend Your Money On

Seattle Rock'n'Roll Marathon
Seattle Rock’n’Roll Marathon, You are what you spend your money on – by Billy Peck

With a new plan in place, based on some online research, my wife and I recently went through all of our old financial paperwork in an effort to purge everything we didn’t need but were, for some reason, holding onto. We took a class on personal finance last year and learned more in about six weeks than I ever had in my life. It wasn’t rocket science or CPA level tax advice, just basic tools and steps to take toward personal financial freedom.

Going through my old stuff, I had paperwork and receipts dating back to just after my college graduation and even though everything was organized by year, there was way too much stuffed into my filing cabinet. After we came up with a plan of what we were going to save and what we were going to get rid of, we carved out a day from our calendar and spent the necessary time to get things cleaned up, and that meant an entire day. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t looking forward to this, but I knew it was necessary.

Now, it wasn’t necessarily a bad experience, although it was much more exhausting than I expected…filtering through files and papers and receipts and taking the occasional snack break really takes it out of you. Some of this process was tedious, as can be expected, but the thing that surprised me the most was that I actually kind of enjoyed going through my old receipts from way back when. Looking at some of those receipts instantly took me back to old memories and experiences that covered almost a decade of time.

As I looked through my old expenditures and thought about the different things I spent my money on, I learned a little bit more about myself. Almost like writing in a journal gives you a written record of your thoughts, going through old receipts gives you a historical record of what you ate, where you went and what you did – how you spend your life. Movies. Restaurants. Stores. Travel. All of those experiences carried some sort of financial obligation and I began to reflect on how I got to where I am now…consider the perspectives – personal, professional, health and wellness.

My interests haven’t changed a whole lot; I still do and enjoy many of the same activities I always have, but the thing that piqued my interest the most (although I shouldn’t really be surprised) were my grocery store receipts. It was really interesting going back to look at the various food and drink items I’ve purchased over the years for myself and sometimes for others. There were definite trends to what I bought and when I bought. What days of the week, what times of day and what items I purchased those different days and times. It was only just a few years ago that I really started taking my health more seriously and even though I really enjoy good food, I enjoy food that tastes good even more – and my receipts reflected that. It’s interesting how you look back at your life and see so many changes. So many experiences. So much personality and self. I saw that in my receipts that day a few weeks ago, going through my personal financial history.

I think now about how those receipts reflect who I was and who I am now. What am I spending money on now? We all need food to survive, but the category of food is huge. Grocery stores (supermarkets really) are some of the biggest stores we’ll ever step foot inside and some are as big as entire shopping malls. And some are so unique and small you can only buy a few very specific items.

So what food do you spend your money on? I spent a good amount of my money for many years on food that probably wasn’t the best choice possible; admittedly I still do this to an extent. I definitely ate some good, healthy things and plenty of it, but there were many choices in there that I could have done without and my body reflected those choices. Then, a few years ago, my receipts reflected a change in those choices though. I started buying and checking out books from the library about healthy lifestyle choices. I signed up for a health coach through my insurance plan. I even started buying new gear for my bicycle and started getting interested in group fitness activities and events. I slowly started to to take responsibility for my health and stopped blaming everything outside my own control – and that was a hard decision and one I try to commit to every single day.

Since the summer of 2012 I’ve eaten more vegetables than ever in my life, trained for and run two half-marathon races, trained for and run one full marathon race, hiked many miles on mountain trails, joined in on fitness classes at the local gym/sports club, biked so much I’ve had to change my bicycle tires because the tread was so worn out and now I try to walk at least a mile a day. My receipts have changed quite a bit since I graduated from college and I’m proud of that fact. Small daily choices turn out to be the way we spend our lives.

There’s a lot of advice out there and many great ways to make positive changes in your life and this blog post is another suggestion and perspective on how to do that – change how you spend your money. What change do you want to see in your life? Weight loss? Better relationships? More experiences? More fulfillment and less worry? Stop spending money on the things that don’t matter and spend money on the things that do – you are what you spend your money on. We can’t get through life without money, so use it as a tool to help you get what you really want and less of what you don’t. Do some work on yourself, get a hold of your finances and take control of your life, one penny, one dollar at a time. If you want to know more about the personal finance class I took, let me know – it completely changed my perspective on money.

It’s amazing how personal and psychological money can be. We use money to get what we want, to make ourselves feel better, to numb our pain, to make ourselves feel good, to help other people – oh yeah, to help other people! Use your money to make small, daily choices in the direction of where you eventually want to end up. You are what you spend your money on, so what do you want to be?