Have you ever read The Psychology of Money? It’s much ballyhooed, so I picked it up recently and was surprised at how many of its lessons apply to health and fitness. Here are a few of them:
Focus on the high-yield stuff before monkeying around with anything else
Warren Buffet has owned 400-500 stocks. He’s made money on maybe 20 of them.
Our high-yield health stuff is less of a guessing game but still just a handful of things. “Just the fundamentals, ma’am.” We dial in our execution. Put in effort. And, more than anything else, just show up. Everything else gets filed under experiments.
You can apply this to any domain of health.
After the fundamentals are in place, go wild! Try things. Be creative. Mess around and make mistakes. Can supplements be helpful? Maybe! A weighted blanket, bullet journal, or new macro split? It’s all worth a shot. Will amazing execution on these details outwork the fundamentals? They will not.
Do the above stuff consistently. The sexy, exciting stuff is largely a distraction
While we’re on the subject of Buffet, there are something like 2,000 books written about the guy. None one of them are titled: This guy has been investing consistently for three quarters of a century. Yet, it’s simple behaviours compounded over time that do the real work.
Avoid catastrophic mistakes
A physically active life carries some risk of injury. Then again, so does a totally sedentary one. The trick is managing risks and keep yourself in the game. Orthopaedic, cardiovascular, and even emotional health all have to be factored in. Take care of all of the above. When I see things blow up for people, it’s most often because of a quick-fix (or series of quick-fixes) or from over-indexing on a specific thing while ignoring tire-fires in other health domains.
Patient investment outperforms expert knowledge
The book offers a thought experiment. One person invests a dollar every year between 1900 and 2018. A second person only invests during non-recession times and then saves during recessions. Who comes out ahead? The first person… by a lot.
Beginners enjoy rapid progress. Advanced exercisers know that moving forward is more incremental. It feels slower. It is slower. But whoo boy does it add up over time. You don’t have to outthink or outmanoeuvre anyone. You just keep your habits in place—even if that means *gasp!* half-assing things from time to time.
You have more resources than you think
Most of the people buying lottery tickets are the same people who say that they can’t afford to put aside an emergency fund. Now, imagine someone who is completely sedentary. They feel like they don’t have motivation for anything at the end of the day—other than zoning out with their stress medication of choice. Will they periodically feel guilt or frustration? I assume so. Is that a form motivation? Yes. It is. The question is how to harness it.
Here’s an experiment that any of us can run: look for those pangs within your own experience—any kind of negative emotion. Notice when they pop up. See if you can formulate a version of action that fits those times, spaces, and your abilities. Keep your action under 30 seconds—unless you feel like doing more. See what happens.
Mindfulness, to me, is noticing what you’ve got and working with whatever that is.
When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re full, stop. When you’re tired, sleep. When you’ve got ants in your pants, shake those suckers loose.
Avoid people with irrational certainty
Anyone who really knows the research says stuff like, “I don’t know” and, “It depends” a whole lot. People in the para-wellness space, on the other hand, sure seem to have a lot of strong opinions—all amplified algorithmically. Psychologist, Philip Tetlock, says “We need to believe we live in a predictable, controllable world. So we turn to authoritative sounding people to satisfy that need.”
Learn to appreciate humble progress
A fellow was was pitched an 10% return for real estate investment. He thought that sounded great but asked a more knowledgable friend for advice. She said to moonwalk right out of the deal. 10% is way higher than the standard return. So, the person was either taking inordinate risk—or didn’t care enough to explain this fact. A or B were both huge red flags.
People who make dependable progress are able to do so because they stay in the game physically and emotionally. So, you have to become an expert at looking for—and appreciating small wins. A technical tweak here. A 2.5 lbs increase there. The fact that you showed up and let yourself get uncomfortable. Each of these is humble—yet powerful when compounded over time.
Take care of yourself. Keep yourself in the game.