My receptionist, Jessie, one time mistakenly filled up her sister’s car with diesel instead of gas.
(If you’re thinking diesel nozzles are designed to be oversized compared to gas — you’re right. She said she had to really “jam it in there.”)
After she drove off, the engine light came on, and the whole car seized up — followed by a tow truck and a big repair bill. Apparently, using diesel in a car that takes gasoline can ruin a lot of expensive parts.
Likewise, we (us humans) also have “tanks.” Not for gas or diesel, per say, but rather for things like love, knowledge, family, friends, career, and spirituality.
When one of those “tanks” get’s empty it’s important that we fill it up with the right fuel, kinda like Jesse’s gas tank: The love tank needs to be filled with love, career tank with career stuff, and so on. If the right fuel is in the right tank, our lives run smoothly, we feel “balanced” and “in control.”
But when we fill up on the wrong stuff, in the wrong tank, our lives start to break-down.
I know about this first hand.
Regularly, I used to put friends in the family tank, and love in the career tank (that’s a common and dangerous one.)
When I did that, I’d end up on the couch for a week in my sweats, eating Ruffles Sour Cream’n Onion chips, and watching reruns of Seinfeld.
Do you know what I’m talkin’ about?
If yes, keep on reading…
LOOKIN’ FOR LOVE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES
My mother has a friend Joanne (that’s not her real name, but she’s real.) One day, Joanne’s love tank was running a bit low and needed to have a nice cheerful chat with her husband, Max.
Background info: Max is an important business person and never has time for anyone at work — even family.
When Joanne called Max at the office he barked at her “I don’t have time for you right now. There’s a bid deal we’re trying to close and I’m swamped here. Bye.”
After that “chat” with Max, Joanne’s love tank wasn’t just runnin’ low, there wasn’t a single fume left in it.
Subconsciously she had an to “fill-up” on something. Joanne loves décor, so she wound up in Crate & Barrel. Instantaneously, she felt better just being in there.
She walked by the Acadia Wedge Servers, and the Vineyard Pinot Noir Wine Glasses, but those wouldn’t make her feel better — she needed something bigger — like a piece of furniture for her new condo.
Then, as if the heavens opened up, right in front of her was the “Milo Leather Ottoman.” She always wanted to kick up her feet while she read — and the brush brass base would go perfectly with her sconces.
The price tag of $3,000 was steep, but her love tank was bone dry.
“Aw heck, he won’t even notice,” she said to herself as she swiped the credit card.
Now, let me ask you…
Have you ever done something like that?
My hand’s raised.
I’ve tried to fill up on Gucci Soft Silk ties, Hugo Boss suits, and even a red sports car.
It’s kinda like eating Snickers bars for supper. Sure it tastes great, and initially, it makes you feel “good”, but after sugar rush dies out, you’re left starving and tired.
And that’s what happened to Joanne — a couple of days later, she was back to where she started, running on “E” again. She needed a reassuring phone call with Max to fill up her love tank — not a mid-century iconic ottoman.
THE REAL REASON WHY FINANCIAL PROBLEMS HAPPEN
Just like Joanne, (and the past me), if you repeatedly pump materialistic stuff into your tanks, you’ll get the itch to refill really soon, because “stuff” isn’t supposed to go in there.
In my financial coaching business, I see lots of empty tanks filled up with the wrong stuff. Peoples urge to fill ‘em back up is so strong, that the logic of “I can’t afford this” becomes muted and ignored.
And that’s how debt builds (which, ironically will drive you to keep on fillin’ up and buy more things).
HOW TO FILL UP ON THE RIGHT STUFF
If you want to fill up on the right fuel, feel “fulfilled” and “in control,” follow these 4 steps:
Step 1: Know thy tanks.
When your tank light comes on, you gotta know what fuel to use.
And the only way you can do that is if you’re cognitively aware of your tanks.
Makes sense, right?
So, let’s figure out your tanks right now…
Action: Set a timer for 8 minutes. Take out a pen and paper, and write down all your tanks.
It’s that simple.
Here’s a helpful hint: As a starting point, use the tanks I mentioned earlier (love, knowledge, family, friends, career, and spirituality). From there, jot down all your other tanks.
Step 2: Know your tank sizes.
Unlike cars, your tanks don’t come in standard sizes. Our tanks all different from each other –and that’s what makes us unique.
In other words, my spiritual tank is most likely a different capacity than yours. Yours might be bigger or smaller than mine, and that’s okay.
Action: Next to the list of tanks, write down their sizes. Use simple terminology like “small,” “medium,” and “large.”
Side note: Your tank sizes are not set in stone. Instead, they’re fluid and change through the years of your life. An obvious example would be your career tank — most likely its capacity is larger in your early 30’s then it is in your late 60’s. And if it isn’t, knowing that information is valuable.
Step 3: How much fuel do you have left?
Now that you have your tanks and their capacities listed, you need to gauge how much fuel you have left in each one.
Action: Next to each tank, write if they’re “full,” “1/2 tank,” or “on empty.” To make the exercise quicker, just write down “F” for full, “1/2” for 1/2 tank, and “E” for empty.
Step 4: Fill up the tanks that need fuel.
Action: All your tanks that are 1/2 full or less, write down what you can do to fill ‘em up — using the right fuel of course.
This is where your creativity comes in.
For example, my career tank was a bit low, so I enrolled in a program called the altMBA. It’s all about leveling up, and making a ruckus in your field. Right now, I’m only a quarter way through the program, and my tanks are so full, I’m filling up the red gas canisters with extra fuel for later.
If your love tank is low, talk to your spouse about it. Tell him/her what you need to keep it full. In fact, my wife and I just had a chat about ours this morning.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you know your tanks, their capacities, how full they are, and put in the right fuel, you’ll stop trying to fill them up with “stuff”.
That’ll make you and your bank account happier.
Now I want to hear from you…
I’m curious, have you ever filled up on the wrong stuff? How did it make you feel?
Do you have any tanks I didn’t list in this article? If yes, what are they?
I love hearing from you, so please, leave your feedback in the comments below.