Eighteen months ago, I began working out in the gym with a functional trainer. His name is Michael and he has changed my life. His training philosophy is rooted in a belief that many pieces of modern exercise equipment designed to push us harder actually result in less effective workouts.
How can this be?
Michael points out that with their rigid structures many of these machines dictate our movements in such a prescribed way that our body does not use its natural, full range of motion. So, instead, he has his clients do a variety of activities that mimic the moves of primal man – hunting, gathering, climbing and jumping. The result has been stunning. At age 41, I feel stronger and more energetic than I did at age 21.

What does this have to do with your finances or with my quest to help us all find a tool to increase our financial peace of mind (“MoneyZen”)?

Michael taught me the power of concentric and eccentric muscle movements. It’s not a situation of concentric or eccentric. You actually need both movements to achieve strength, balance, and endurance. And I have a hunch this concept could help you find more money joy in your life.

  • Think of a concentric muscle movement as lifting a heavy object overhead. Your muscles work to overcome resistance (by contracting) to raise the object to the desired position.
  • Think of an eccentric muscle movement as gradually lowering that heavy object back down. In this case, your muscles work (by lengthening) to help you lower the load smoothly without dropping it.

In response to my first two MoneyZen posts, several readers brought up the concept of “more or less.”
“More or less” is a financial framework I’ve long relied upon, often using exercise as a metaphor to highlight its power (“To become physically fit – exercise more, eat less. To become financially fit – earn more, spend less“).
But what if this misses the mark?

Is it possible that one cause of financial anxiety is that we are focused on “More OR Less” instead of “Concentric AND Eccentric”?

What if the true recipe for achieving financial peace of mind is looking at your own specific circumstances and figuring out how to be both concentric and eccentric? Imagine how you could concentrically exert energy towards things you’d like to bring into your life – and then eccentrically lengthen out the process of feeling joy from that activity.
In my own life, I’ve started to observe that the periods where I feel the least financial anxiety are not correlated to how much or how little I’m earning or spending. They are correlated to the length of my joy. A soy chai I savor for 3 hours while writing in my favorite cafe feels very different than a to-go cup I gulp down while driving hurriedly to my next meeting.
Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh encourages us to embrace the richness of the moment. He says, “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”
Are there areas in your life where lengthening the process of joy would increase your financial peace of mind? How can you “be (financially) eccentric”?