Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I’m a Cyclist

I’ve really been trying to get a better hold on my finances lately, because no matter what “they” say, we’re in a recession. Gas keeps going up, groceries keep going up, and sooner or later my car will be going up, so I figure I’d better start following my budgets better. I’ve been doing good – I was even able to save a little money in addition to my tax refund. But then I blew it.

I have come to realize that I’m stuck in the same cycle with my finances as I am with my health. If I’m “doing good” health wise (I’m down a couple pounds, I’m exercising , I feel good…) I use that as an excuse to go balls to the wall UNhealthy for a few days – smoking, drinking, eating complete and utter shit for food (think: ice cream for every meal). I justify it, because the scale’s then back to my “normal” weight, and I promise myself I’ll exercise tomorrow, which I do, so it’s all on an even keel, right?

I do the same thing when I get a little bit of money. I subconsciously think of it as a cushion. I don’t make plans to spend it, but I coincidentally always wind up going over my monthly budget when I have extra money, and then have to use said extra money to cover my monthly expenses. An extra lunch here, a pair of shoes there… I haven’t gotten myself into debt though, so what’s the big deal, right?

Ugh, I make myself sick with these cycles, and I can’t seem to get them to stop. I don’t want to be this person. I want to be fiscally and healthily responsible, and there’s no reason I can’t be – if only I would stop continually sabotaging myself.

Why do I do this? I’ve been thinking about it, but I just don’t know. I certainly hope I don’t need to find answers here to keep from repeating the cycle, because I can’t seem to come up with any!

Wait! It just came to me: instant gratification. That has to be it, right? Every time I mess up, it’s done on impulse when something I want is offered to me. And I use my health and wealth like a bank. The money literally burns a hole in my pocket, and the few pounds gone burns a hole in my stomach (which is a fairly accurate description, after the heartburn I gave myself on Saturday night).

Well then, why do I feel this need for instant gratification? I know these things I buy or eat don’t make me feel any better, so I can’t really want them. I must want the action of getting them, but why? Now I’m back to the “I don’t know”s.

Well, like Dr. Phil says, “You can’t just unlock the trap door and then go answer the phone.” (Okay, totally fake Dr. Phil quote here) I’m certainly not going to get to the bottom of this problem in the course of writing this blog entry (although it would be nice if I could – immediate gratification rearing its head again…), but by having written it I’m going to force myself to explore it further (seems we all do it). Any suggestions are appreciated!


Anonymous said...

I do the same thing...with food, money, time, etc. I think there are a few aspects to this problem, at least in my case. The idea of getting instant gratification from something you don't truly want is sort of contradictory.

I think what we really want is gratification in other ways but we're conditioned to reward ourselves by allowing ourselves to have something or do something or NOT do something.

So I lose a couple pounds and I'm really happy, but I want a reward! I want those jeans that are two sizes too small to fit NOW! But they don't, so I treat myself to ice cream instead because I can have that instantly. I don't really want the ice cream, I just want a reward and ice cream seems like the most obvious because it's what I've been avoiding. Nobody wants to work for nothing, and even if the reward is purely mental, most people would prefer something tangible simply because our whole lives, rewards have always been tangible: Trophies, work bonuses, etc.

I think in general, we (as in everyone) need to learn to look into the bigger picture. What will make me happier: a loaded burrito or feeling confident in a bathing suit this summer? Obviously the latter but I can have the former RIGHT NOW!

Society is so focused on immediate gratification. Lose weight quick, get your degree in six months, pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less. It just carries over to us: we are conditioned to think that everything has to be ours right away. I mean, I see 8 zillion commercials for McDonald's dollar value menu but you never see one restaurant commercial that says "Our food is the best in the US but it costs an arm and a leg so you'll have to save up for a few weeks BUT IT'S TOTALLY WORTH IT IN THE LONG RUN!" because nobody gives a shit about the long run, at least not enough to do anything about it.

Anyway, my point is that I, personally, need to stop thinking about instant gratification as a "reward" or "treat" for doing something well. I should be doing things well because that's the right thing for me to do, not because I am going to get a cookie out of it. I have to look at the bigger picture and what the greater, more personal and meaningful "reward" will be.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Anonymous said...

eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die... mabey. in any case live for the future or live for today, but you can't really have both. i can really only see today. -J

Tami said...

Tara you are not alone! I am the same way. How many times do we plan on working out or taking a walk and don't. Imagine if we took a walk around the block came back and were down 10 lbs and 1 size we would find time! Remember slow and steady wins the race! You need to get your mind in that mode and only you can do it.