No Pain, No Gain

Last month, I decided to do an experiment and see just how long I could go without reloading my metro card for the subway and bus.  This meant walking or biking whenever possible, rain or shine.  To my surprise, the results have been incredible.  Little did I know, my body acclimated to the various weather conditions quickly and work stress has decreased even as work load increased.  Now, after 40 days of avoiding public transportation to the best that I could, walking and biking has become a powerful habit that saves me roughly $80 a month.*

To give you an idea, my commute each morning takes about 40 minutes to walk (versus 10 minutes by subway), so I walk a round trip total of roughly 80 minutes per day (64 blocks).  Last week, the weather hit a record high this summer of 91 degrees, and I was almost certain that the commute would be brutal.  And yet it wasn’t!  Sure I got to work a bit sweaty, but somehow just 40 minutes of walking in the hot sun created such a sense of accomplishment that the normally stressful 11 hour work day that followed felt that much more breezy.

So then I got to thinking – what was it about walking that makes me feel so good?  Was it the sunlight?  Fresh air?  Exercise?  While these were obvious answers, I began to think that it was really just the effort and inconvenience.  In other words, inconvenient activities that take effort create a sense of accomplishment while simple and easy activities do the exact opposite – they can make us feel handicapped.

Extrapolating on this concept, it became clear that whenever I chose to do something inconvenient like make meals at home or 40 push-ups, I felt a lasting euphoria that carried throughout the day.  On the other hand, whenever I found myself ordering delivery too often or playing video games on the couch, I felt like crap.  And lo and behold, convenience tends to cost money while inconvenience doesn’t.

But the key to all this is that inconvenience is only nice when we choose it.**  This is exactly why some people love their work while others are eager to retire.  Some choose to take on the challenges and inconveniences of the office while others feel chained to their desks.  

So what’s the solution if you don’t like your job?  Probably financial independence.  Once you no longer need money to live, every work-related inconvenience becomes a choice.  And by choosing those inconveniences, whether it be the (good) stress of starting a business or the difficulties of learning a new skill, the feeling of accomplishment will make life that much more energetic and fulfilling.

 To make a long story short, walking is inconvenient and saves money.  Saving money leads to financial independence.  Both inconvenience (by choice) and financial independence can lead to more energetic and fulfilling lives.  That is to say, no pain, no gain.  

*Note that this amount is pre-tax thanks to the transportation benefits that most New York employers provide.  Of course, this means that I didn’t actually save that much in after-tax dollars, but the intangible benefits of lower stress and good exercise makes this new habit extremely profitable. 

**You can bet that if someone had forced me to walk for 80 minutes everyday, I would’ve complained my head off.  

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