Be (Financially) Eccentric

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”?

15 Replies to “Be (Financially) Eccentric”

  1. Love this idea and would love you to explore it further.  In Todd Kashdan’s book on curiosity he talks about feelings of happiness being fleeting but we can extend the moments and experiences  by noticing, sharing, remembering, multiplying, and basically grooving them in our psyches. (My words and interpretation!)

    1. I wonder if there is some sort of mental “money joy” exercise that we can each undertake. Sort of a mantra or a meditation that becomes part of our daily ritual. Reading your (wonderful) interpretation of Todd’s book I felt the warm surge of “hope” that might come from that type of financially nurturing practice… Here’s to exploring this more. Thanks, Janet!

  2. I remember how my wedding was just amazing.  I couldn’t believe it was over.  But actually, a lot of the fun happened when my family set around and went through the DVD pictures again.  Then I realized, pictures, scrapbooking, are a great way to live a positive memory again, and may even add to that positive memory.
    There’s also this great cookbook called “dinner dates” that talks about how you and your loved one can have fun in the kitchen for hours just cooking and then eating the great things you came up with.  That’s a nice idea–save on the fancy restaurant, and get a much richer and prolonged experience preparing a meal together at home, with the music on.

  3. YES!!!!  Love this…makes me think about how the power of “enough” applies.  Earning “enough” to cover all your needs plus a little more.  Spending “enough” in each area of life to not feel “deprived” and to satisfy your personal “eccentricities”   Defining enough and finding the “zen” in that…gives you the confident foundation to be delighted with more instead of “striving” for more.  Ahhh…I can breathe…I don’t need “more” to be happy…more by definition is never NOW.  Enough is something I can achieve…and keep redefining as needed.  Thank you so much for bringing such a fresh and warm perspective to the challenging topic of money.  I’ve got goose bumps!  I’m definitely going to quote you in my book!  

    1. Oh my, now you’ve given me the goosebumps – what you wrote here, powerful words, Arianne: “Ahhh…I can breathe…I don’t need ‘more’ to be happy…more by definition is never NOW. Enough is something I can achieve…and keep redefining as needed.”
      Today I saw a stat in Michelle Singletary’s newsletter (fab personal finance columnist for The Washington Post) that a new Fidelity study reveals “42 percent of millionaires say they won’t feel wealthy until they have at least $7.5 million.” As crazy as it sounds… I so get that. It feels like our heads are hardwired to zoom right past wherever we are and want More, More, More. No matter what it is… nope, it feels like its not enough.
      In the face of that relentless societal pressure (is it societal?), having some sort of rhythm or ritual to relish the “Enough” of the moment would be amazing indeed.

      1. Exactly!  The pressure is both societal and’s a loop : )   My answer to this was to shift my whole being into looking for and defining “enough” as a range – the bare minumum became my “foundation of enough”-  everything over and above that is my luxury.  The more I do this, the more my luxury has expanded.  In an odd way, the more secure I became that I will always have , do and be enough, and anything above that is “extra” juiciness, my financial stability grew and grew – even during this rough economy. 
         I just have this inner calm that comes from feeling that enough is easy to have – it’s as inevitable as breathing.  It will always be there.  I can relax.  Everything over and above is done for the pure enjoyment of it.   I do charge people for my work but how much I make is no longer a measure my self-worth or accomplishment, etc., it’s a means to have the funds available to reinvest in my ability to be of greater service.  
        I’m getting too deep now…suffice to say that the power of focusing on defining my enough line instead of my “goals” was a key ingredient in my personal  MoneyZen soup : )   The word Goals always made me feel like my present situation wasn’t good enough if that makes sense.
        I’m so enjoying your sharing your journey toward a framework for guiding women to their MoneyZen.  We really need an alternative to the overkill of Suze Orman…i VOTE FOR YOU!!!!  : ) 

  4. Wonderful concept, Manisha. What a great way to describe appreciating something to it’s fullest before rushing off to the next thing. It reminds me of one of Buddhism’s four noble truths; suffering is caused by attachment to desires, and that leads us to continually strive for more. It’s a vicious cycle. 
    I fully believe that financial success has more to do with using scarce resources wisely than how many expensive things we have. A person with limited income who has savings and is putting away for retirement is more successful financially than someone who earns a lot and spends it immediately.

    1. This line really struck me – “I fully believe that financial success has more to do with using scarce resources wisely than how many expensive things we have.” I’m having trouble articulating it but I’ve got this visual of us all walking through life on these tight ropes anchored between “there” and “here”… and there’s a point in between where each of us can stand centered. Finding the right mix (scarce resources!) for your personal rope perhaps is the journey we are intended to make in this life.

  5. Great time management and then living in the moment might be the secret to money zen.
    Scheduling everything including time to exercise, work, relax and a side hustle job that adds money to the bottom line and activities you enjoy frequently. If you know you’re making the most of your time and money you feel some zen.  I know I need to spend more time planning and scheduling.  I always feel happier after a very busy well scheduled day.

    1. Oooh, Sharon, you used a phrase that really resonated with me, “I always feel happier after…”
      This might be an interesting exercise –> at the start of each day ask ourselves: ” I always feel happier after…” and let THAT guide us, especially when financial decisions or dilemmas present themselves.

  6. What a great post . . . it makes me think of the concept of joy and peace regardless of your financial contraction or expansion.  Money can play as large or as small a role in your day-to-day thinking (worrying) as you want it to, and by focusing on your joy in the moment, you have a greater likelihood of achieving ongoing financial peace.

    1. As I was reading your comment, suddenly “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass ran through my head. So I went to Wikipedia (for better or worse 🙂 and found this notation from a doctoral student who referenced that book in his work: “[people] thinking about something other than what they’re doing […] doesn’t take them to a happy place”. Seems like so much of modern society is focused on something other than what we are doing. Your comment captures that essence as it relates to money spot on. Thanks for sharing, Mindy!

    1. One theme I’m hearing over and over from readers (and seeing in my own life!) is the degree to which feeling good is really the end goal —> thus altering our money behaviors and attitudes / engaging in mindful spending is a serious way to maximize that joy… and then the follow on of increased financial peace. Thanks so much for sharing, Barbara!

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