Alan is an HR professional living and working in Dallas, Texas. He moved to Dallas after college a few years ago and has been enjoying his time in the Lone Star state. Every Friday, Alan and his friends go out to a local restaurant for happy hour. There they drink beers and eat an assortment of greasy appetizers and entrees. Friday and Saturday night, you can catch Alan and his friends drinking at the local bars in downtown Dallas. He has a relatively sedentary work life and has gained a few pounds. His weight gain has left him feeling groggy, irritable and inattentive. As a result, his work performance has begun to suffer.
On top of that, Alan realizes just how much he spends each weekend at the bars. Some weekends, it’s as much as $250! He wants to make a positive change in his life but doesn’t know how to go about doing it. He’s afraid that if he stops going out with his friends after work, he’ll be ostracized from the group. What can Alan do make positive changes in his life, while still maintaining positive relationships with his friends? In this article we’ll delve into some of the strategies you can utilize to do just that:
Pay yourself first
According to a poll administered by CNBC, 78% of full-time workers say they live paycheck to paycheck. If you’re currently in this situation and you have a bad month or lose your job, trouble could be on the horizon. One of the best ways to ensure that you don’t find yourself in this position is to pay yourself first. This expression was popularized in the best-selling book ‘The richest man in Babylon” by George Samuel Clason. In the book, Arkad, the richest man in Babylon, teaches a young boy a lesson that will ensure his great wealth in the future. This lesson is “For every 10 gold coins you make, take one and pay yourself (save)”.
I know that you may be thinking “10%! There’s no way I can save that much each month!” I’m confident that if you look at your expenses, I’m sure you can find some. What about that exorbitant TV package you have? Those subscriptions you never use? What about the gourmet coffee you buy each morning? How about starting a side business to make up the difference? Get creative in your approach to find ways to cut cost or increase income to reach that 10% marker.
Now that you’ve learned this immensely valuable lesson, I’d like you to take it a step further. Not only should you save at least 10% of your income each month, you should make your money work for you. Some of the ways Alan could do this is by investing in a low-cost index fund, using some of his savings to start a side business and/or investing money in stocks and bonds. Start by saving, then investing 10% of your income each month and see what a difference it makes over time.
Make your health a priority
The great teacher and motivational teacher Jim Rohn often said: “Take care of your body; it’s the only place you have to live”. Many other millennials that I’ve come into contact with in the past believe that they don’t have to worry about what they put into their body. Their perception is that greasy food, beer and liquor is no match for their speedy metabolism. Although you may not feel the effects now, the decisions you make today regarding your health could convert into bad habits that last a lifetime. In order to ensure that you don’t fall victim to these dangerous habits, you need to become aware of what you put into your body.
Although it would beneficial for Alan to completely eliminate the greasy foods and alcoholic drinks from his diet, even a slight positive change in behavior can have a BIG impact over time. In the book, “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy, Darren describes 3 friends who decide to make slight changes in their lives. The first decides to cut out 150 calories from his diet, the second decides to not change anything, while the third decides to ingest 150 more calories per day. After 2 years, the end result is that the first friend has lost over 30 pounds, the second friend has not lost anything and the 3rd friend has gained over 30 pounds. Who knew that such small lifestyle change could have such a large impact on their well-being?
Express your commitment to your friends
This is often the hardest part of making any lifestyle changes. What keeps most people from making the changes they need in their life is being scared of what those closest to them will think. Social pressure is an extremely powerful force and can impact many of the decisions we make in life. In a study conducted by Psychologist Solomon Asch, Dr.Asch analyzed the role conformity plays in social interaction. In the experiment, participants were asked to evaluate two cards with different line patterns on them. The first contained one vertical line drawn down the middle of the card, while the second contained 3 vertical lines.
Once they were shown the cards, the researchers asked the participants to identify which line on the second card matched the length of the line on the first card. However, before the researchers allowed the participants to answer, they told them what other participants had chosen. The answers provided by the researchers were often incorrect answers. Although this was the case, 3 out of 4 participants agreed with the incorrect answer at least once and one in four subjects agreed with the wrong answer 50% of the time! This just goes to show how powerful a force social conformity can be.
In order to break away from the negative influence peer pressure has on you, you must express your new lifestyle change to those around you. Be adamant about it and express your sincere desire to improve yourself. Most of your friends, if they are in fact friends worth keeping, will understand and support your new commitment to change. As for the ones who don’t, you may need to consider eliminating their influence from your life. It’s hard to reach the mountain top if you have someone on your foot constantly trying to drag you down.
Begin your search for new acquaintances in groups where people are committed to improving themselves. Organizations such as Toastmasters, entrepreneurial incubators and professional organizations are places where success driven people gravitate towards. Attend some of their meetings/events to see if the organization is right for you. You may just find that you feel right at home among your new friends.
Bringing it all together
One Saturday after a serious hangover from drinking the night before Alan makes the commitment to improve his life for the better. When the next Friday rolls around, he tells his friends that he won’t be attending happy hour because of his new lifestyle change. He suggests an alternative place where they offer healthier options and offer local specials. Although his friends are reluctant at first, they see the commitment in Alan’s eyes and decide to support his decision. Although they didn’t eat at their regular hangout, they still have a great time enjoying each other’s company.
On top of that, Alan decides to cut down his drinking excursions to one outing per month. By doing this, he’s able to save an extra $350 per month which he uses to buy into a low-cost index fund with 9% historical returns. On top of that, he feels better than ever and commits to walking/jogging after work 3 times per week. After about 6 months of this routine, Alan has lost a total of 15 pounds, saved over $2000 and still enjoys the company of his friends. Things are looking up for Alan and if he continues along this path, his future is bright. Although the concepts in this article may be simple, the impact they can have on your life can be extremely powerful. Do you have any other suggestions that you feel would benefit our readers? If so, I’d love to hear from you.
My book recommendation for this post is “The E-myth” by Michael E. Gerber. Although unrelated to this post, this book is packed with awesome information about how you can overcome the statistics, (80% failure over 5 years), and concur the entrepreneurship rollercoaster. In the book, the author uses useful real-world examples to illustrate how “technicians” can bring out the entrepreneur within. This is an eye-opening book with some phenomenal insights and I highly recommend it. I’ve provided a link to the book below: