I put a good amount of energy into organizing and planning my finances–I mention this because I’m sure you haven’t noticed, what with my being a personal finance blogger and oversharing my personal information with you every week.  However, I want to assure you that finance isn’t the only area of my life I brood over with compulsive planning and crippling self-hatred.  Indeed, an average day is full of opportunities to freak out about my shortcomings–I mean, set life-affirming self-improvement goals.

One of the things I’ve been most obsessed with lately is a running program.  Last year, I did something really awesome for my health–I graduated from college. A life of beer and midnight fast food runs and weird sleep patterns was a lot of fun, but it was terrible for my body. When I settled into a new lifestyle of walking everywhere and cooking for myself, some weight and sluggishness fell away naturally.  Because of that I’ve had more energy and felt more like moving and, after a long time off, am getting back into long walks and runs.

Like most things that are Good For You, I’ve noticed the new running habit having positive effects elsewhere.  Here are the things two months the treadmill have taught me about finance and personal development:

To set goals I can genuinely control. X weight or Y dress size is a dangerous goal because it can tempt you to ask things of your body that are dictated by chemistry and biology.  Actions and results are frustratingly disconnected, especially at the beginning, which can lead you to stop acting.  A fitness goal is more attainable: for example, right now I’m working towards being able to run two to three miles without slowing to walk, and every quarter mile I add is a victory.  There certainly can be setbacks, but the difference is that I’m asking myself to do something within reach instead of be something ideal.  Likewise, finance isn’t about becoming the perfect money manager–it’s about taking action in your actual, imperfect life.

To make it easier to stay on target by doing something concrete. There’s nothing like running to feel like you’re being productive.  In health, as in finance, as in all things, good change comes slowly and steadily.  Which, you know, sucks.  Having a small, specific thing that you can do to work out frustration can keep you steady–money fasts are good for this, or, conversely, budgeting a little bit for insanity and splurges.  I’ve been using a run, or an extra five minutes or .5 mph or angry woman-scorned country song in a run, to work out myriad frustrations of the personal, professional, relational and financial varieties.

To double and triple up on everything good for me.  Right now, as I’m working intensely on developing my running, I’m going to the gym about five nights a week.  This is the gym in my apartment complex, so I’m not paying any extra for it–and, it’s keeping me out of coffee shops and happy hours. (Well, mostly.  I’ve pre-gymmed at Panera a few times, but I have been avoiding the after-work beers.  Drinking + running = terrible idea.) Basically, I’m developing a hobby because it’s fun and feels good–but it also happens to be frugal.

To chill out on the planning and go with it, if it works. The best health-related New Year’s resolution I ever made was in 2007, when I resolved to stop caring and be the happiest, healthiest size [redacted] I could be.  Not only was I much happier, I lost a little weight in the beginning of that year.  Likewise, I didn’t mean to get all serious about running–but it made me happy, so it happened.

Wait, what?  A goal born not of discipline and self-sacrifice, but of following something I enjoyed?  Seriously, y’all. It’s kind of blowing my mind.