Think big and thorough

By | November 13, 2017

If you retire first, everything else you try becomes easier. Not easy. Just easier. In retirement, you have enough mental energy and time to structure big projects to minimize the possibility of failure. What works for you personally and specifically? How can you make it easy for yourself to succeed?

cat on a tin roof

Do it first and hope it spills over into the rest of your day

I like to pick one Main Goal to work on as soon as I wake up. This way I don’t waste any brain cells negotiating when I’m going to find time. The time is as soon as I’m awake.

And since it’s on my mind when I’m awake, that often spills over into the rest of the day. That seems to be the way to cross off the bigger and harder Life Bucket List items. Want some examples you already know?

My first year lawyering, my Main Goal was paying off debt. As soon as my alarm went off, I’d mutter my loan balance and get up begrudgingly. As soon as I sat down at work, I would pull up my debt spreadsheet and tab over to it to motivate. I put personal finance blogs on my feedly as my fun reading material. Eventually, I paid off my loans and then eventually, eventually I retired, crossing off life bucket list item #7.

Building up good habits seems to be the key. Make it so you don’t have to think about it.

My first year retired, my Main Goal was to write. As soon as I woke up, I would pull out my laptop and write for at least forty-five minutes. Throughout the day, I’d write for another forty-five minutes and then another thirty minutes. Two hours was my minimum. I put writing and publishing blogs on my Feedly as my fun reading material. Eventually, I wrote a book, crossing off life bucket list item #6.

If you’re better than me, you could have made time for fun writing when you were working. I tried, but the sparsely populated first two years of this blog shows how very few brain cells I devoted to it.

New project

Keeping this in mind, for ride #35 around the sun, my Main Goal is treating my body the way it would like to be treated in the hopes of perhaps one day coaxing out life bucket list items #18 — get a six-pack (abs), and #19 — maintain the six-pack for a year.

I like this goal because I have no desire to weigh myself regularly and focus on a number. These are just easy yes/no questions. Can you see six abdominal muscles on your body? If yes, go ahead and cross that first sucker off. Have you been able to see those muscles for a year? Yeah, cross that second sucker off!


Truth be told, I’m not confident I’ll actually be able to cross these items off. From what I can gather, diet is more of a factor for success than anything else. Like 80-90% of the problem (and solution) is diet. The muscles might exist, but you can’t see them under the bloat or you haven’t ingested the proper amino acids to build the muscles or you’re allergic to everything you should be eating or science deems you too ugly for a six-pack. Honestly, I find health terribly confusing to navigate.

The only two pieces of nutritional advice I’m pretty sure are absolutely good ideas are (i) minimize your sugar intake and (ii) eat lots of dark, leafy green vegetables. I can find a good argument for and against eating just about anything else.

I’m experimenting with this part still. I know going in the direction of this goal is better than standing still with respect to it. Trying something is better than doing nothing. It sounds so obvious when I write it out.

Do it first and hope it spills over into the rest of your day

For about two months, I’ve started checking in with my body as soon as I wake up, following Youtube fitness videos for forty minutes. Twenty minute arm workout. Forty minute Pilates for women. Fifteen minute HIIT. Ten minute stretching for splits. You get the idea. I rarely followed the same video twice and didn’t check in with the same muscle two days in a row.

I’ve worked out irregularly throughout my life, but this is the first time I’ve done it nearly daily. The key for me is what I mentioned earlier – don’t waste any brain cells negotiating on when. As soon as I wake up. Easy to remember.

I also put fitness and nutrition blogs on my Feedly as my fun reading material. Of course.

How’s it going so far?

I definitely feel physically different. Stronger and more aware of myself. My muscles love the attention and crave the movement.

But…I doubt you would be able to tell the difference unless I point it out to you. I’ve always been on the thin side. And, like I said, I don’t weigh myself, so I don’t have any hard facts to parade around. Sorry. I’m still trying to come up with a measuring system I like.

I don’t have any pictures immediately before I started this from September 2017, but here’s a picture from March 2017 in Guatemala.

March 2017. I think I looked similar in September 2017.

And here’s a picture after 5 weeks of working out. My stomach seems a bit flatter perhaps.

October 2017

And here’s a picture after 8 weeks of working out.

November 2017

A bit of definition. Maybe a two-pack? I don’t know.

It’s the story you tell yourself. The story I tell myself is that anyone can cross off big goals by building up daily habits. Me included!

40 thoughts on “Think big and thorough

  1. Accidental Fire

    Keep at it, progress in fitness comes like it does in the journey to FIRE, slow and steady. Hopefully not quite as slow but you get it. We all get one body in life and there’s no option for a trade-in (yet), so I could never understand people who totally trash it and abuse it.

    And from my experience, HIIT works well. Try the Insanity series of videos from Beach Body, they’re hard but fun!

  2. Dan M

    I agree, full time work gobbles up many brain cells and mental energy, looking forward to getting them back to do with as I wish.

  3. TheTeaBoy

    A wise dude once said “It is better to travel well then arrive”
    If one only focuses on the destination, they’re less mindful of the present. The present moment is where true happiness and fulfilment lies.

    I think the problem with goal setting is that when you acheive the goal, after a few days you lose that “high” feeling and you begin to feel down. You then start looking for other goals to recreate that “high” feeling. It becomes a viscious circle.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Yeah, I like the idea of using systems as well as goals. Systems are just things you do every day because you know it will make your life better. Goals are specific objectives that, yeah, you can fail miserably at. I have to have my goals though.

  4. Joe

    Looking great ! Exercise helps both physical and mental health. 35 is the new 25. Life is good !!

  5. Janel Dallimore

    thank you for the motivation. I’ve been taking care of my family for the last 20 years…my goal is to carve out time for me to write, and prioritize it the way I do the needs of my family.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Good luck! Writing is my favorite thing to do and I couldn’t make time for it before. Especially when you have a family you built and weren’t just born into — I think that takes a good amount of your mental energy. I’m rooting for you, internet stranger. 🙂

  6. Brian

    Nice work! Very inspiring to see your transformation over the last few months. I just started getting back into the gym a few months ago as well, and I feel so much better mentally and physically. It’s a weird concept in that expending energy at the gym (even when tired or sleep deprived) gives me more energy the rest of the day.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Yes! Especially when you give it your all and don’t half ass it, I find my body feels so grateful that it gives me back so much more. 🙂

  7. Anjali

    Looking great Anita! You are an inspiration! Been a long time reader, first time commenter. So much in awe of you for consistently working towards your goals.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Great first comment. 🙂 I truly truly believe that if I can do it, anyone can do it. I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time, so I’m always in awe when I can accomplish something big!

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Three weeks! I’m going to visit Illinois for my niece’s first birthday party soon and will make an effort to learn something. The problem with my mother’s recipes though, is I’m not sure how healthy they are. Delicious yes, but very carby.

  8. Anjani

    Tip from India, Luke warm water helps a lot in reducing extra fat…..
    Need a tip from you… do you resist from eating sweets???

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I don’t really have a sweet tooth and don’t really crave it, so it’s not something I think about. Sorry, I wish I had better advice. If I come across anything in my research, I’ll let you know though.

  9. Taylor

    I really agree with this mentality – I don’t even need to do my goal-thing first, but I have to commit to doing something without thinking about it. As soon as I think about doing something, I procrastinate until I no longer have the will to do something. “I’ll do it after I do the dishes…,” “Well first I should watch this YouTube video because it’s short and it will be a good way to relax…,” etc. Often, the procrastinating method itself is productive (like the dishes), but it is still a way to avoid what I should be doing. I’m not sure why my brain works that way.

    That said, when I was working out most often, I always worked out in the late afternoon/early evening. Once it became part of my habits, I really looked forward to getting to work out every day. I think you express that concept here – make a system, stick to it, and change your mentality from “I *have* to” to “I *get* to.” The mental shift is probably the most important part, and luckily, I think it kicks in instinctually if you create a habit.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      That was always my problem with working out previously. I’ll do it after…and then, before I know it, it’s time for bed and I haven’t done it.

  10. sri

    Loved this post, really inspiring. Makes me feel I can achieve my goals too. Just thought I should mention this, I started investing this month! and your articles were the main inspiration to save and do that. Thank you so much for all the information that you have shared with us.

  11. Rafi

    You know what’s an excellent cardio workout? Snowboarding! Let’s go ride some powder this winter!

  12. Kenneth Stokes

    Keep up the good work with the workouts. Also I find your blogs very helpful especially your book recommendations.

  13. Anjani

    Not sure how much I have to put to lose my belly fat….with rice in the food, very difficult but I will try..


Leave a Reply to Thriftygal Cancel reply