How to Live a Balanced Life

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Tom Corley’s sixth habit from his book, Rich Habits Poor Habits is:

I will live every day in a state of moderation

The dictionary defines being moderate, as ‘keeping within reasonable or proper limits; not extreme, excessive or intense.’

So, let’s compare successful people and unsuccessful people, at least according to Tom Corley, in terms of their moderate habits:

Successful people moderate their work hours, eating habits, exercise, alcohol intake, television viewing, reading, internet use, phone conversations, emails, text messages, etc. They are even-tempered – slow to anger or excitement. Their moderate mindset puts family, friends, colleagues at ease, which helps improve relationships. Successful people eat, drink, entertain and live moderate lifestyles. They are not extravagant.

Do you spend too much time doing this?

Some of you may be saying, ‘This all sounds rather boring’, but if you want to achieve financial independence then behaving like an unsuccessful person is not going to get you there. According to Tom Corley, unsuccessful people have a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mindset. Their spending patterns are continuously influenced by others. They have no savings or financial safety net. They eat too much, drink too much, overreact to events. They have wild swings in their moods. They live pay day to pay day.

One area in which proponents of FI/RE may diverge from the thinking of Tom Corley is in saving habits. Here, one may choose to be extreme. Maybe not as extreme as Jacob Lund Fisker who I believe takes cold showers and sees food as fuel rather than something to be enjoyed for the taste of it. Extreme though, in the percentage of their savings, which most advocates suggest as 70% or higher. Where Tom Corley’s advice comes in is that in order to achieve such a high savings rate your lifestyle cannot be extravagant, otherwise you will be living beyond your means and your savings won’t be 10%, let alone 70%.

I would like to go back to eating more of this

Starting to consider where your habits might be extreme is an enormous task. I don’t think that anyone who wants to achieve financial independence can be extravagant, but you can choose the areas in your life where you are happy to spend money and those which you are content to forgo. I have a tendency to take things to extremes and have slashed our spending in many areas. If you do have the ability to do this I think that it is a good starting point to work out what is important to you. Currently we are surviving on a mainly vegetarian diet, whereas previous we were eating fish at least once if not twice a week. I have realised that I do miss fish. Not only the taste, but also I feel now that we are eating too much cheese for my liking. I love cheese, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that it doesn’t always love me and if I eat too much I get terrible sinus problems. At the moment I pepper the week with vegan meals, our main staple being curry, which hold the problem at bay. I would love to return to our former pescatarian diet, but I will have to decide where I can make savings from other parts of our budget in order to do so.

Another area where we are now more moderate than before is our choice of holidays. Over the past few years we have been on some lovely holidays where we paid a premium for others to take the strain. One in particular that I remember with fondness was a week cycling in Tuscany. We were met at the airport and taken to our first hotel. Bikes and the cycles routes for each day were provided. All we had to do was leave each morning when we were ready and when we arrived at our destination our bags were there waiting for us. This year we have holidayed in the UK and had two staycations. I admit I am going abroad with my mother next month, but you’re only 50 once and so we’re marking the occasion with a special holiday.

The nub of the issue is to be able to have control over your thoughts and emotions; being able to make rational and calm decisions about how you live your life. Just by reading this blog you are hopefully looking to make changes. I was listening to an episode of Dr Chatterjee’s podcast today and he was saying how choosing just one aspect of your lifestyle to work on can have a knock-on positive effect on other areas of your life. To take one of Tom Corley’s examples, you might worry about how much you drink and want to work on that. If you stop drinking as much you might find it easier to get up in the morning and be more inclined to exercise or to eat a healthy breakfast, as opposed to that fry-up to soak up the alcohol from the night before. You’ll also save money as well. Therefore, if there seem too many things to work on, or you’re not ready to address some of them just yet, make it easier for yourself and choose just one.

So, where do you start if you want to develop more moderate habits? This is an enormous subject, enough for a whole book. In fact, I have recently finished Atomic Habits by James Clear. A really useful guide to developing more positive habits.

If it’s your diet that you struggle with, as many of us do, then have a look at the advice of Dr Chatterjee. Gaining control of your emotions maybe more difficult. A popular solution is meditation and mindfulness. Dr Chatterjee can help here as well as he has a few podcasts on these subjects.

I hope that this has given you some good ideas if you’re struggling to get your spending under control in some areas or if there are areas of your health and wellbeing that you’d like to improve.

That’s all for now. Good luck in bringing a bit of moderation into your life. Hopefully you’ll improve your health and save a bit of money along the way as well.

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