There’s a well-known concept in financial planning called “paying yourself first”. The general advice is that as soon as you get paid, you should put a portion of your pay into some sort of savings pot, before you spend it on anything else. It doesn’t matter if it’s £5, £50 or £500. The important thing is that on the day you get paid you either automate it so that a certain percentage of your income is automatically moved to a savings/pension/investment pot, or you transfer a regular amount manually. That means that you have effectively paid yourself first, and because it is done first then you don’t spend that money elsewhere and your savings grow. Another way to think about it is that you’re taking a little bit of money out of your pocket today so that you can spend it later, and if you’re lucky it even grows a bit between now and then. It’s about giving your future self a portion of your current self’s income.
Most of us do the opposite, we pay our rent, bills, buy food, maybe buy some clothes, have a few nights out, and then whatever is left over at the end (if there is any) goes into a savings pot. You might have the best intention to save what is left over, but real life can often get in the way. Before you know it, your balance is low and suddenly the potential savings are gone.
But wait a minute, you’re not here for financial advice. What’s this got to do with health and fitness? I think there is a similar concept when it comes to our health. We often deprioritise our own physical or mental health to ensure the health of those close to us. Maybe you’ve stopped exercising regularly since you had kids, maybe you’re working weekends to earn more but feel constantly run down, maybe you’ve got no time for yourself because of the demands of those around you. We probably all know someone who spent most of their time and energy helping others until they ran themselves into the ground. Often it takes something big like a health scare or an unplanned operation to hit them before they stop to re-assess and re-prioritise. It might seem selfish to focus on your own health but I think we’ve got our priorities the wrong way around. We can’t share with others a resource that we lack ourselves. If your health suffers can you realistically give others the support they need from you? When it comes to your health and the health of those around you here is how I think we should prioritise it, starting with the most important at the top:
This means starting with an honest assessment of yourself right now – How am I really doing? How are my fitness levels? Am I eating well? Am I getting enough sleep? How are my stress or anxiety levels? Then when you’ve done that put a plan in place to address the biggest concerns first, ideally building things in to your regular routine. Once you’ve got the biggest issues under control you move on to the next one, and the next. This might take a bit of time but once you’ve got your own health in order then you have a stable base and more headspace to support your family. Once your family are good, you move on to friends, colleagues and so on. If your health starts to suffer again you pull your priority back to yourself and what you need. The truth is that there are only a few things you really need to put in place to maintain or improve your own physical and mental health. I bet if I asked, most of you know what they are but you just don’t do them consistently.
It’s time to start paying yourself first.