Choose Healthy Accountability, Avoid Stupid Competition

The CrossFit Park City gym is right across the parking lot from my office.

I used to love going there early in the morning to get my daily dose of intensity and to spend time with other people dedicated to the same thing.

But a few years ago, I made a mistake.enemy race competition work job role employment gender man women business

Instead of staying focused on my goals, I got a little too focused on beating other people, and I injured my shoulder.

After a few years of wandering in the wilderness of unstructured exercise, I wondered if it was time to go back to CrossFit.

My shoulder felt fine, and I knew that if I paid for my exercise, I’d most certainly go.

Also, because of the built-in community, I would get a text the night before a 5:30 a.m. workout to make sure I planned to come.

What I needed was the healthy accountability minus the stupid competition.

Wondering if such a thing was possible, I called Chris Spealler.

In addition to running CrossFit Park City, Chris is a superstar in the CrossFit community.

He competed in the first six CrossFit Games and is often thought of as one of CrossFit’s leading ambassadors.goal image

He’s also an amazing guy.

Chris reminded me that the coaches at CrossFit were committed to helping me reach my goals.

But they couldn’t help me avoid reinjuring my shoulder if I didn’t tell them about it.

Once they understood my limitations, the workouts could be adapted to my abilities.

My first time back, another coach told me that Chris had called to let her know I was coming.

Acting on Chris’ advice, I told her I had a problem with knowing the difference between working hard and working stupid.

With a knowing nod, she told me, “I’ll keep an eye on you.”

This small tweak in my perspective completely changed my experience for the better.

I get the healthy accountability I need, but I’ve stopped my not-so-healthy behavior of competing against other people’s goals.

Because I’ve gotten clear about my purpose, I’m once again doing something I love without hurting myself in the process.

I’ve thought about this lesson a lot over the last few weeks.

So many money conversations circle around the often unspoken reality that we’re locked in unhealthy competition with other people.


We can’t seem to help ourselves, even though our neighbor’s business isn’t our business.

So we end up using a measuring stick we think matters but that actually has nothing to do with our goals.

I believe we should take full advantage of healthy accountability, but we need to learn to recognize when it crosses the line.

For instance, tracking your monthly expenses is a great way to create accountability.

But the goal is to focus on your own spending, not that your friend just bought a new car.

How other people spend has nothing to do with your financial health.

Maybe you do need to save for a big purchase like a house or a car.

If so, don’t get sidetracked by someone telling you about a low down payment offer at the bank or dealership.

You know what numbers work for you.

Sticking with your savings plan will prevent you from experiencing the financial version of tearing your shoulder.

And trust me, you don’t ever want that to happen.


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Carl Richards is a Certified Financial Planner and a columnist for the New York Times, Morningstar magazine and Yahoo Finance. He is author of 2 books, The Behavior Gap & The One-Page Financial Plan. Carl lives with his family in Park City, Utah. You can find his work and sign up for his newsletter (which has an international audience) at

'Choose Healthy Accountability, Avoid Stupid Competition' have 1 comment

  1. Avatar for Property Update

    January 28, 2016 Tracey

    Hope your shoulder’s better. Philosophical question: is there such a thing as ‘healthy competition’ after all, without it, we’d still be living in caves, surely? In saying that, we once lived next door to people who had to have a new European car every year, big house with an extension, investment cottage by the beach, overseas holidays every year etc etc. we found the smug competition overwhelming. Best thing we ever did was to move away from that oppressive need to impress. Much happier where we are, running our own race and without the crippling debt that we can only imagine they were under. Sometimes it’s hard not to be influenced though.


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