A symptom of our consumerist society is the ever-growing belief that money will solve our problems. Every commercial subtly inserts the idea that buying their product will create happiness. Most people have list a mile long of the things they “need,” even while they can’t remember what they got for Christmas.
The missteps aren’t reserved to our obsession for earning more money to buy more toys. We also would rather throw money at our challenges, rather than use results as feedback and change strategies. Many use money as a crutch in all areas of their life, entrenching a form of learned helplessness that drives us further from fulfillment. We actively nurture the expectation of ever-present comfort, and the belief that struggle must mean disorder.
Think about how crazy it is that pharmaceutical companies advertise to the average citizen having no medical background. “Ask your doctor about (enter pill here).” As if your doctor was just winging it. Maybe you should also remind him how to take your pulse and blood pressure. But it works, because most people would rather spend the money than the time and effort to improve their health on their own.
Don’t Sacrifice Personal Development
There is a time and a place to pay out, and money can be a great tool to improve your quality of life, provided you understand its limitations. But more often than not, we open our wallets at the expense of personal development. We make the assumption that if it costs money, it is valuable. When what we bought doesn’t do something for us, we think that we just need to spend more, rather than exert more focus and commitment on our own behalf.
This trend can be seen in every industry and fitness is no different. If we are willing to think differently we may save money and grow in the process.
Money itself is not the problem; it’s our beliefs in money and things. When we buy things, we quickly adjust to them as if they are normal, and return to our baseline level of happiness. Then we notice somebody else has some other things we want, and the arms race begins. The cycle continues, and regardless of earnings, we seem to always spend all our money.
Experiences Are the Key
Experiences, in contrast, are deeply satisfying and transformative. They become part of our identity, granting us greater perspective and understanding of the world. They promote confidence, and often provide social, analytical, or experiential skills that enrich our worlds.
Fitness falls into the category of experience, and so can provide great value. You should invest heavily in your own health and fitness experience. But there are many clients and coaches who want all the newest gadgets, and to try every new method and program. I have been as guilty as anybody, but we would all do well to choose one or two tools, invest in those, and master them.
Whether it’s gymnastics, Brazilian jiu jitsu, kettlebells, or Olympic weightlifting, there is far more to be gained from a focus on depth of knowledge, rather than the accumulation of more tools used with superficial understanding. You don’t have to become an expert, but there is merit in committing to one process and seeing it through for a while. This signifies a maturity in your training approach, rather than chasing what’s shiny. We need to look beyond all the expensive fad plans, and instead put ourselves onto the road to fitness and health autonomy.
Don’t Throw Your Money Away
The increasing use of technology in your training is a great example of throwing money at your fitness problems. A professional sports team trying to eek out the highest potential from its already advanced athletes might need Tendo units and Catapult Wearable Movement Analytics. They are competing with the best athletes in the world, who also have access to the best resources.
But at every level below top-tier professionals, you probably don’t have the human resources to monitor all this data, let alone the training and knowledge to interpret it into useful advice. You would benefit more from a deepened awareness of your practice. All the analytics in the world tend to distract from the reality that the best training comes from deep intent to execute the fundamentals. Progress comes from consistent application of tried and true principles, not the latest wearable or app.
Likewise, the best coaching is rooted in relationships, energy, and mindful engagement. Brett Bartholomew, trainer of pros and author of Conscious Coaching, makes the point that it is far more important to make connections that influence long-term behavior, rather than spend money to elicit a one-time motivational spike. Human capital is the most valuable resource. Many school districts have built multimillion-dollar training facilities that rival top colleges, but never bothered to staff them with a single qualified professional to run training programs. They’d be far better off employing one or two top strength and conditioning coaches with nothing more than space and dumbbells.
There Is No Substitute for Work
Money is no substitute for putting in the work. Many will use tried and true methods, but with shaky consistency and nothing approaching attention to detail. They’ll rush through the motions, seeking a quick outcome, only to get frustrated when their sloppy approach hasn’t yielded earth-shattering results three weeks later. Must be time to order a ton of supplements, change programs again, and hire a new personal trainer, right?
Again, I firmly believe that health and fitness are worth your investment. Most people would benefit from a skilled professional’s help to learn proper movement patterns, construct effective, safe programs, and begin to eat sensibly. However, we must approach our fitness from a mature perspective that understands consistency is the top variable, and that there is no magic pill. Without that understanding, long-term results are impossible. Let me be clear:
Spending money does not entitle you to a result. Doing the work does.
Parents who want to pay for 19 different skills and performance coaches, while they allow their kids to spend every free moment seated in air conditioning with their eyes glued to a screen are wasting their time and money. Skills and strength and conditioning matter, but they are made pointless by the loss of athleticism, focus, and tenacity typical of this upbringing. The greatest strength coach in the world will spend most of their time with this sedentary athlete on a regressed, simple plan to recreate the physical foundation destroyed by their everyday habits.
Money Does Not Replace Experience
Fitness, health, and athletic performance are worthwhile investments, but we need to be careful before assuming that money is going to provide a quick fix. If money was all that was required, we wouldn’t continue to see a degradation of public health, while health spending rises year after year.
Elite strength coaches, professional programs, and a cabinet full of supplements are not the solution for people who’ve never valued moving. Paying more means nothing without an earnest commitment and appreciation for the process. If we think we are just going to buy the outcome we want, we’re doomed to a lifetime of failure and superficial wandering.
As individuals, we must conduct an honest self-assessment to determine whether we have the skills and maturity to realize the benefit of our investment. Are we spending money on health to defer responsibility, or to create understanding and promote life-changing development and eventual autonomy?
If you spend money and learn nothing, you might as well have lit that money on fire. Your fitness expenditures should help you learn how to make sustainable, long-term change. Being a lifelong learner enables you to use each new challenge or investment as an opportunity to add skills, and thus add more possibilities to your future.
Money can be a tremendous asset to help spur amazing physical improvement and performance. However, we must not treat it as a cure-all. Understand your impulse buying propensities, and apply standards to your purchases. Rather than rushing into the next shiny new fitness thing, take the time to educate yourself first. When you’re confident that you’re ready to commit and that you need help, go get it! But always maintain a sincere desire to learn and a value for the process. Your ability to do the work and focus will get you the results, and nothing else.