I wish I had the dedication and discipline of most Americans

June 6, 2018 by Joshua
in Choosing/Decision-Making, Fitness, Habits, SIDCHAs

My post yesterday about my heart rate of 49 beats per minute and how people choose to spend their leisure time got me thinking about living by your values–what leaders do.

When they hear I exercise daily, people suggest I have some special discipline, dedication, or other skill.

I wish!

On the contrary, the average American’s dedication and discipline for their values dwarf mine.

I have to craft my life to make exercising easy–otherwise I wouldn’t do it.

Let’s look at the numbers.

My commitment

I exercise on a four-day cycle:

  • Day 1: 12 minutes of calisthenics in the morning and evening
    • Day 1: Total time: 24 minutes, total cost: $0
  • Day 2: 12 minutes of calisthenics in the morning and evening, 45 minutes weight lifting
    • Day 2: Total time: 69 minutes, total cost: $0
  • Day 3: 12 minutes of calisthenics in the morning and evening
    • Day 3: Total time: 24 minutes, total cost: $0
  • Day 4: 12 minutes of calisthenics in the morning and evening, 25 minutes rowing,
    • Day 4: Total time: 49 minutes, total cost: $0
  • Total time for all four days: 166 minutes, or 41.5 minutes per day

The time estimates are high because I take off a couple days per month from the cycle. Also, when I row intervals, I row fewer minutes.

I should revise the cost beyond the cash I spend per session. I bought a rowing machine for $500 (used off Craig’s List) about 10 or 15 years ago. I figure another 15 years left puts its cost per use around 10 cents. The weights cost maybe $100 and will last decades, so I’d estimate a cost per use below 1 cent.

So I’ll revise my cost to

  • Total cost per day: $0.03

Americans’ dedication

Several sites report Americans watch on average five hours of television per day (source 1, source 2, source 3).

Here’s a breakdown:

Total Use of Television Data
Average time spent watching television (U.S.) 5:11 hours
White 5:02
Black 7:12
Hispanic 4:35
Asian 3:14
Years the average person will have spent watching TV 9 years
Family Television Statistics
Percentage of households that possess at least one television 99 %
Number of TV sets in the average U.S. household 2.24
Percentage of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets 65 %
Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner 67 %
Percentage of Americans who pay for cable TV 56 %
Number of videos rented daily in the U.S. 6 million
Percentage of Americans who say they watch too much TV 49 %

Estimating costs, this article says cable averages $103 per month. The table above says 56% have cable, making the average monthly cost about $57 or $1.90 per day.

TVs cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars and last a few years. For a rough number, let’s use a $500 TV that lasts 5 years, or $0.27 per day. I’ll leave out adjustments for many people using the same TV, but a household may have multiple TVs. Installation, repair, add-ons like speakers, and so on can add up too.

The daily cost of watching TV seems around a couple dollars.

The Comparison

Americans average 5 hours watching TV to my 41.5 minutes of exercise—more than 7 times more time.

Americans average over $2 per day on TV to my $0.03—more than 66 times more money.

The table above says 49% say they watch too much, meaning 51% don’t say they watch too much. They choose to spend this time and money, as I do.

Americans’ dedication and discipline for their leisure choices are significantly higher than mine.

I’m not in their league.

Some might say that it’s easier to watch TV than to lift weights. I created my environment—my apartment layout, whom I spend time with, and so on—to make exercise easy. Otherwise I wouldn’t do it!

If I had more discipline and dedication, maybe I could get by without making it easy for me. As it is, my only recourse is to make it easy.

average men

Average men from different countries, the American in front


Americans spend about $3 per day on coffee. I don’t know the time they spend in lines and going to coffee shops, but it seems more than 15 minutes and less than an hour, not counting the time drinking the coffee, which probably overlaps with other activities.

So the cost is 100 times more and the time is roughly the same, maybe less.

Again, people’s discipline and dedication seems greater for this other habit.

I honor their choices

We all act on our values.

People choose how to spend their leisure time. I choose exercise. The average American chooses TV and coffee.

People act like my leisure choices are a big deal. But the average American’s choices are bigger by objective measures—time, money, sacrifice.

I presume it brings them greater joy and other emotional reward since they devote and dedicate themselves to it so much.

I celebrate that people have different values. I act on my values. They act on theirs. Their behavior shows that they value TV and coffee far more than I value my fitness.

Some people I tell these statistics to say that TV isn’t as much a choice, but everyone chooses what they do. Who else buys the TV, designs their living rooms, goes to the cafes, and so on? Who chooses to watch TV?

They could spend that money on other things, or work fewer hours so they don’t have to support their choices. They could choose to spend that time interacting with their children and families, earning money, exercising, and so on.

I envy their dedication and discipline.

I have to set up my environment and people I spend time with to make it easy for me to exercise. I doubt I could do it otherwise.

If they set their environments and community as I do, they’d find exercise as easy too.

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