It seemed like an innocent dinner table conversation as I mentioned that, for the third time in as many weeks, I’d broken a spoke on my bike’s back wheel. I went on to explain that I’d taken it to be repaired and been advised to buy a new set of wheels.
“It’s OK though”, I said, feeling the need to justify my financial outlay “it’s an investment in my health and wellbeing”. I went on to gleefully explain how cycling meant I would probably live a more active, longer and full life and how this was obviously “a good thing”.
There was a moment of silence and then youngest daughter chirps in “but the longer you live the more money it will cost and the more active your life is the more expensive it will be and you will eat more food so wouldn’t it be better value (those were her actual words) to not buy the wheels and not cycle and (words to the effect of) let nature take it’s course?”
Sadly, that’s what passes for humour in our household and is the result of Dad suffering his residency with an all female household (even the cat!) including three teenage daughters.
Anyway, I did buy a new set of relatively middle of the road Shimano R10 wheels which seem to have done the trick. I haven’t had any more broken spoke issues and the bike feels fine.
However, the whole episode got me thinking about how we view expenditure and how spending time and money on your physical and mental wellbeing is actually an investment in yourself. Yes, the wheels were relatively expensive, but I didn’t have any qualms at all in finding the money as quickly as possible to replace them.
Cycling Isn’t a Luxury
The point is that cycling doesn’t feel like a luxury. It’s a life enriching necessity for me which allows me to justify spending that amount of money on myself without any issue. It’s a financial priority. Would I as instantly splash out on a new pair of shoes or a fancy shirt? No, probably not. I would probably hold out as long as possible until my old shoes had holes in and my shirts were threadbare! I can also be a bit tight when it comes to the weekly food shop and the family is always joking with me about not getting my wallet out. I actually hate wasting money but, when it comes to life-enhancing purchases, I think it’s really important to get it right and it’s money well spent.
For men/Dads, I think this sometimes requires a bit of a re-evaluation. We spend years putting the kid’s needs first, making sure that everyone else is fed and clothed and providing for our dependents. It’s what we’re basically hard-wired to do and, even when you’re lucky enough to be only one-half of the parenting/providing team like I am, there’s still something inherently male or macho about providing and putting everyone’s needs before your own.
Learn to Prioritise Yourself
It becomes quite hard to prioritise yourself. It needed a shift in thinking for me to even contemplate spending two or three hours per weekend away from the family to go cycling. I felt like I was dumping my partner with all the work, shirking my duty, neglecting my children. Of course, this is ridiculous. Becca is infinitely more than capable of holding the fort for a few hours and the girls barely care or notice if I’m there or not a lot of the time now that they are older! It’s a sort of masculine caveman hang up that makes you believe that you need to be the big, present alpha male all the time. It’s simply not true.
The same can be said of spending money on yourself. For me, spending money on cycling is an investment. Cycling is one of the activities that’s at the core of my wellbeing, it’s a fundamental part of my life and the benefits I derive from cycling are far reaching. Not only do I personally look and feel in good shape, enjoy good health and will hopefully live a longer life; I know for a fact that my general outlook, mood and demeanour is more positive because of my cycling habit. I’m more productive, I’m more focused, much more relaxed, more confident…..the list goes on.
Develop the resources to help others
But the real benefit for me is that overall I’m a better person now than I was, say ten years ago, and one of the primary reasons for this is that I’ve learned to invest in myself and my wellbeing. I’m a better Dad than I was a decade ago, I’m a better partner, I work much more efficiently, I have a sense of purpose and positivity that I was lacking before. Ten years ago I was stressed, overweight, moody, more socially awkward than I am now and unfit. I wasn’t that keen on myself at all and my mild self-loathing permeated every other aspect of my life too.
I’m not saying that it was only cycling that transformed my life over the last decade but it has been a cornerstone activity. There have been many other things as well but the bottom line is that I’ve learned that I need to take time for myself. I need to invest in myself, nurture and care for myself and, by learning about myself and prioritising my wellbeing I’ve gained the resources and energy to be more useful to others and a much better and more content person.
Avoid going spending crazy!
However, I guess there’s a risk that, once having given yourself permission to loosen the purse strings, you start being seduced by the endless allure of cycling gizmos and gadgets and it becomes a never-ending financial drain! You have to work out how little you can actually spend in return for the maximum amount of joy in return. I personally find researching that particular equation quite satisfying! For me, I have second-hand bike middle of the road bike, mainly Ebay cycling gear and a minimalist cycling computer. In terms of bang for my buck, it’s awesome!
Yes, I’d love a carbon framed bike with a top of the range cycle computer but, that’s not going to benefit my health, wellbeing and joyfulness in proportion to the amount of money I would need to spend. I would only temporarily be significantly happier if I spent a couple of thousand on a flashy bike. For me, I don’t think the long-term benefit wouldn’t be that great. We’re all different and I guess you have to work out what motivates you personally but, for me at least, I take great pleasure in spending as little as possible and squeezing out the maximum benefit from it!
Do you think that you invest enough in yourself? Do you actually know what you need to do to nurture yourself, build your well-being and become the parent/partner/son/daughter/friend you want to be? Do you find it really hard to prioritise things for yourself and feel guilty when you do? Let me know in the comments below – I would love to hear from you.