by Darrin Schenck

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by Darrin Schenck

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As someone who is perpetually looking to improve personally and professionally, I ask myself this question on occasion. If there is one thing I think I struggle with it is finding a balance with the things I do.
There are times when I am consumed with a work project, other times it is something in my personal life, such as helping my in-laws move. Life is a constant juggling act, and I feel like I do a decent job most of the time, but I am always looking to optimize things. This can be difficult, as it takes a great amount of awareness and self monitoring to accomplish. You can work on something that you are not cognizant of, so of course you have to start there. A long time ago I started this process and I truly believe that I am better for it.
Some areas that are common places to start are health related, as they are not only very obvious at times, but also can hold the highest consequences if you are negligent in these areas. Are you overweight? A smoker? Heavy drinker? Porn addict? Incessant Gamer? We all have our vices, and I am not about to preach anything other than moderation. I do Intermittent Fasting as a lifestyle (not a diet), which is easy to stick to FROM NOW ON. I think a Keto diet for more than 30 days is ridiculous and a recipe for failure, just like hiding your gaming console in your closet is not going to make you quit thinking about it for that first few weeks. Every habit and behavior you are trying to change needs to have a solid plan and replacement strategy to fill that void, otherwise, you will backslide.
If you want to quit smoking, you need help to do so. I have never smoked, so I am speculating here, but it seems obvious that having a game plan and assistance like the Nicorette patch as well as a stockpile of chewing gum to quell that oral fixation you have are two key pieces to success. Quitting cold turkey is not going to work for most people, and will have them falling back into those old habits very soon. If more people in the world were disciplined we would not have near the problems we do now. But that doesn’t seem to be the case, as this type of discipline is a learned skill and one that must be reinforced all the time.
I would highly recommend that you start with the big categories to focus on and work on improving.
These categories would be:
–physical health
–Spiritual health
–financial health
Once you have these areas in better shape, then you can start looking at the micro stuff instead of the macro. But if your finances are a mess, this is going to continue to cause you problems. If you need the right motivation to start fixing this area, try this on for size: You are VERY VUNERABLE living paycheck to paycheck. And don’t kid yourself, it doesn’t matter if those paychecks are $400 or $4,000 a week, if you are spending every dime you make, you are teetering on the brink of disaster. One thing goes wrong and you are in serious trouble. No need to look back in time very far, the pandemic was ample proof of just how many people live in this manner. Lots of people in the 2008 economic crash took it in the shorts and lost everything because they were living well beyond their means. They had five houses that were not paid off, relying on the renters to make their mortgage payment and maybe add a few hundred bucks to the bank account at the end of the month. Once those renters lost their jobs and quit paying rent, the owners couldn’t pay either. And the bankruptcies ensued….. We are very quick to lose sight of the past, as many found themselves in the same boat during the pandemic a mere twelve years later.
Do yourself a favor, get your finances together ASAP. You will sleep so much better at night as soon as you do. Once you have things bent in your favor you can do more to insulate yourself from “harm”. Things like renewing your car registration for two years instead of one, taking that future expense out of the budget for next year. You can buy things when they are on sale, even when you don’t need them yet. My wife and I do this with food all the time. Anything that has a long shelf life or can live in the freezer and not go bad, we stock up on. We shop at a discount grocery store about twice a month and stockpile things that we know we will use. This came in VERY handy when the great toilet paper crunch of 2020 hit…
Once you get one of the big things under control, now you can work on the other two categories. Once these are also in order, then you can dial down to things that are geared toward quality of life. You need to have your health, your money, and your mind in a good place in the grand scheme of things before you start dialing in to the small stuff. For example, I am in the very fortunate position of this currently being a “complaint” of mine: I don’t fish often enough. Now, as shallow of a concern as that may sound, let me expand on it. For me, fly fishing is my favorite thing to do. It is not only a very enjoyable activity even on my own, but is even better when I go with my Dad and/or other friends and family. That level of companionship is a big part of the enjoyment of it for me. It also renews my soul, clears my mind and resets my operating system back to a more normal level. I slowly but surely get more anxious as weeks and months go by that I don’t do something outdoorsy. I need the connection with nature to feel like my centered self once again.
Before I had my life in order I wasn’t even aware of the level of anxiety I had. It was as if I just lived revving my engine out into the red zone all the time, like it was my default setting. This is detrimental in many ways and I didn’t even know it. Once I got things under control to some degree I started to notice the subtle things that were buried under the day to day anxiousness I had just gotten used to. The default setting was all-encompassing enough that I was numb to the rest. An adrenaline-dump lifestyle is not a good way to live. I’m not talking about skydiving, I am referencing things like running out of money two days before payday, cringing when you open your credit card statement at the end of the month, scraping by at best.
Ignorance is not bliss…it is compound interest on anxiety
I am actively taking steps to solve this latest item on my life checklist. I will reveal this soon in another blog, though I have hinted at it directly already in other postings. Some may say how lucky I am that one of my biggest concerns is that I don’t get to fly fish or play golf as often as I would like. Yes, by any standard in the world I am super fortunate, but don’t you dare call me lucky. I grew up a scared, skinny kid on a small farm outside a small town in PA. I was allergic to everything. There is a lot more to the back story of “me”, but suffice to say I had my challenges and struggles just like everyone else does. I was deep in debt for a long time. I was emotionally bankrupt after a bad break up, and floated from one casual relationship to another for over a decade. At age 42 I met my wife, and my life has been different and better ever since. I had to learn how to be a good partner, to trust someone and love unconditionally. To be totally vulnerable at times, and as strong as possible in others. I allowed her to make me a better man.
I took control and responsibility for my life and I made changes. I went from $70K in debt to being debt free except for our mortgage. I put her through nursing school, without her having to work. Now she makes nearly as much money as I do, and together we are checking boxes off of our Life To Do list left and right. We EARNED my way to where we are at, and to have one of my big concerns to be that I don’t fly fish enough.
I am not telling you this to brag, I am telling you this so you know that it can be done. I didn’t grow up a country club kid nor did I have a trust fund waiting form me when I turned 18. I paid for 90% of my own college education, qualifying only for a small amount of help from a Pell grant. I worked two jobs while in college, and have done so for most of my adult life. The work ethic was always good, but that wasn’t enough. The habits and beliefs around money and life priorities took a while to fall into line, but I learned as I went. I asked questions, I studied, I grew. Everything you ever need to know is accessible through the internet, so you have ZERO excuses on why your problems continue. Yes, you heard me….take responsibility and solve the problem(s). No one is coming to rescue you. Only you can rescue yourself. Get to work, and soon your biggest problem will be lack of your favorite past time.
 
I wish you luck in your endeavors.
 

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