Control your emotions - or they will control you.At what point is it okay to to let loose, be angry and cuss someone out up one side and down the other?

If some something sets me off in the morning do I let it impact my whole day? Should I?

My unscientific hunch is it’s not healthy to let negative emotions impact our whole day.  If we are angry in the morning and that anger becomes our traveling companion for the rest of the day, chances are we won’t be very productive

We may lose respect or even a few friends or clients if we can’t rein it in.

So how do we leave the negative thoughts or feelings behind?

Here are some things I do:

  • Exercise – whether it’s a trip to the gym, a brisk walk outside or even some airsquats or push-ups, it helps
  • Take a cold shower or bath. It sounds crazy but you’ll definitely have a change of attitude when you are finished
  • List things you are grateful for – you can’t be angry and grateful at the same time
  • Pray or meditate – spend time just quieting your mind – take deep steady breaths.
  • Write down what happened to get it out of your head. Looking at things on paper gives us a different perspective and helps us detach in a healthy way from our negative thoughts and emotions
  • Go out of your way to be kind to the next person you come across

Control your emotions – or they will control you.

It’s Your Choice: Are You Victim or Victor?

Action cures fear.

Anxiety creates fear.

Action then also cures anxiety.

By action I don’t mean occupying ourselves with busywork as a coping mechanism.  Action as a cure is action taken to achieve an outcome in direct opposition to the fear or anxiety we experience.

So our action needs a direction. It must have purpose.  That purpose we can find by reflecting on our fears, our sources of anxiety.

If we are anxious about having enough to eat, then maybe we decide to fast.

Then maybe we think about how to feed others who have less food than we do.

Then maybe we go to work, or we go looking for a job, and if neither of those choices is available we seek out someone who can help.

If we are anxious about money, then maybe we decide to give more away and try to live on the rest.

Then we figure out how to help others who have less than we do.

Then we work more hours (if paid hourly), or get a job, or get a second job if necessary, but not out of anxiety or a fear of not having enough.

Then we get rid of the extra stuff in our lives, the stuff that takes up space without having a purpose.

Then we get rid of cable so we aren’t watching so much television and filling our minds with images of unrealistic lifestyles and other crap that makes us anxious about what we don’t have.

Clutter amplifies anxiety.

Three Takeaways

“As he mused about these things, he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist (p.45)

We all have the power to choose to be a victim or a victor.

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?”  ‭Luke‬ ‭12:25-26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We are more likely to lose an hour of our lives by being anxious than to add one. (See Google search results for the effects of anxiety on life span.)

“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  ‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Life is more than food and clothing, money and possessions.  Worry less about these things and choose to start living.

One Thing is Necessary

One Thing is Necessary Lk 10:42

I have read in several books and blogs about the myth of multitasking.  While we can multitask at times, such as talk and walk, it is only when one of the things being done is automatic or takes no conscious thought to do.

Our brains, like computers, can only think through one thing at a time.  What we think of as multitasking is more like task switching.  We switch between many different things in a short period of time, giving us the sense we are accomplishing more.

It is becoming more apparent through research that type of task switching is counter productive.  It makes us look and feel busy, but is inefficient and wastes valuable time.

When Jesus comes to the house of Mary and Martha on his way to Jerusalem, Mary sits with Jesus listening to his teaching, while Martha is busy serving the disciples and others who have come to see him.

Martha, flustered, complains to Jesus and asks him to send Mary to help her.  Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” (Emphasis mine).

One thing is necessary.

He then says, “Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her.”

One thing is necessary, and it will not be taken away.

This can be scaled from the big things, like saying “I do” to your spouse and “no” to everyone else for life, all the way down to “I’m working on Project X for the next 2 hours” and “no” to any other distraction for that 2 hours.  After that you move on to the next one thing.

One final thing:

No project is completed until its objective has been achieved.
– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Further Reading

Two excellent books come to mind as I write this that explore this concept in much more detail.  I have encountered this idea in many other books, but these two are a good place to start.

 “The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.”
The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

 

 

 

 “If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.”

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

 

Some Thoughts on Forgiveness and Love

If we believe we have nothing to be forgiven, then we have little reason or capacity to love anything.

If we know we need to be forgiven, but are too proud to ask for forgiveness, then we will be too ashamed of ourselves to truly love another.

If we know we need to be forgiven and ask for forgiveness, but cannot forgive ourselves, we do not love ourselves and cannot love another.

If we know we need to be forgiven and ask for forgiveness and with humility believe we are forgiven, then we can begin to love ourselves in earnest and love others in abundance.

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.””‭‭  Luke‬ ‭7:47‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 

What do your posts say about your heart?

This morning I was contemplating on how social media has become a way of recording our speech that has never really been possible in the past, thus allowing unprecedented access to a person’s inner thought life.

Reading someone’s posts can give us a fairly clear indication of what’s in their heart, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

If the speech sounds angry, then they have anger in their heart, if the speech sounds intolerant, then they are intolerant in their heart, if the speech sounds hateful or spiteful, then they are hateful or spiteful in their heart.

What does your social media presence reveal about what’s in your heart?

Here’s a tip if you want to be more positive:  before you post anything, think of at least one thing you are grateful for – it’s impossible to be hateful when you’re grateful.

Who wants more stuff? Not me.

blog-image-2016-02-05

Cheech and Chong had something right in their classic comedy routine.

[Knock, knock]  “Who’s there?”

“It’s me, Dave, let me in, I got the stuff.”

[pause]

“Dave’s not here.”

(very loosely paraphrased from memory)

 

I was always particularly fond of this routine because they use my name, Dave.  But when it comes to someone bringing stuff into my life (including me) I now often respond in similar fashion, “Dave’s not here.”

The reality is none of us own anything.

We buy, borrow, sometimes steal (shame on us), stuff that we may or may not use for a time, but in reality we never own it.

If you were to die today, what would you take with you?

Nothing.

Because it was never yours to take.  It was only yours to use for a time.

So if I don’t own anything, who does own it?  The person or being that created it.  For me that person and being is God.  He owns it all.

What a relief it was to finally understand that.  It’s not mine, so I am just taking care of it for someone else.

Suddenly, my eyes were opened, and I looked around “my” condo space and asked, “Who brought all this stuff in here?”

It was me.  My floor plan had evolved to provide a pathway from the entrance to the stairs to the loft, a diagonal line from one corner to its opposite.  The rest of the place is full of stuff.  Stuff I hardly ever use (read “never”).  Stuff I thought had some value until I tried to sell it, and then could not find anyone to take for free.

I’m still buried under piles of CDs and books and furniture and some items dating back to childhood.   My goal is to do some serious Winter/Spring cleaning, by either selling, donating or throwing away the things I don’t need, to free up space for me to simply live and breathe.

I might even blog more often.

What would you do with with the space created by getting rid of your “stuff?”

 

 

 

Finding 50 – Play the Savings Game

blog-image-2016-01-19In my last blog post I mentioned my belief that most of us can find $50 a month for saving, paying off debt or investing depending on what your current goals are.

But how do I save fifty dollars when I can’t even pay my electric bill?  Or my car insurance?  Or rent?

The problem is that most of us never even try.   Better yet, try is all we ever do.  Trying tends to let us agree without any sort of commitment.  Taking action gets us to the finish line.

It might help to think of Finding $50 as a game.  (Tweet this)

Since we are thinking in terms of a game, it is helpful to think in terms of levels to beat.  For our purposes, I think the 7 Baby Steps used in Ramsey Solutions’s Financial Peace University will do the trick.

The 7 Baby Steps of Financial Peace University

  1. Save $1,000 as a starter Emergency Fund
  2. Pay off all non-mortgage debt using the Debt Snowball
  3. Build up you Emergency Fund to cover 3-6 months expenses
  4. Start investing 15% of your income for retirement using tax deferred programs
  5. Save for college
  6. Pay of your mortgage
  7. Build wealth and have fun giving some away

 

The following are areas you might be able to find savings, and if you end up finding $50 in one of these categories alone, keep going!  You’re on your way to winning the game!

Housing

If your rent is more than 1/4 of your monthly income, and your income is not likely to increase much in the next year or so, you might consider moving to a smaller or less desirable place for a time.  Or find a responsible roommate who can share the costs.

This can be the best way to find $50 or more, but it usually takes time to accomplish as housing either has a lease that needs to be ended, or if you own a place you have to deal with the time and effort of selling.

If you own your home but can’t make your mortgage payment each month, you may want to look seriously at selling your property sooner than later.  Falling behind on your mortgage can lead to foreclosure and losing everything you put into it.

Cable/entertainment

Almost anyone who currently has cable can find $50 a month or more just cancelling their cable.  You can stream Netflix for $12 a month and hit your local library for books and DVDs that won’t cost you anything.

Side benefit:  No cable means no commercials telling you to buy unnecessary things every 10-15 minutes.  Believe me, get rid of cable for a year and see how much the urge to buy stuff subsides.

Phones

If you have a smartphone consider switching to a prepaid tracphone to control your phone expenses.  If you have a mobile phone and a home phone, consider getting rid of your home phone.  This is usually a $40 a month bill just to have it turned on with no long distance or caller ID.

Many times you can save simply by shopping for a new service provider or reevaluating your plan needs – some of you may be paying for way more than you ever use.

Internet

If you can’t pay electric, your internet is going to be useless when your electric is shut off, so lose the Internet for a while and pay the electric and use the wifi available at your library, local coffee shop, or other location.  Obviously no internet will mean Netflix won’t work at home, but reading more might actually improve your ability to earn more, as long as you read a few non fiction books.

Given that the internet is relatively inexpensive and is used for education, blogging, online businesses, and on and on, I understand that this may be the item of last resort to cut.  It would be very challenging for me to do everything I do without it.

 

Remember:  None of these things are bad things or wrong things, just areas where we might be able to save a bit extra just by paying attention.

 

Sell some stuff

Even the poorest of us probably have more stuff than we need or use regularly.  Stuff that has been handed down or that we picked up somewhere because we thought we might use it someday.

Getting rid of stuff is also cathartic in the sense that it lifts off all the weight of responsibility for taking care of these things or the guilt for never having used them as you intended.

When you are out of debt and making more money, you can always go and buy more stuff, although you may not want to at that point.  You might find you enjoy having free space and less clutter.

This one is gonna ruffle some feathers.  SELL THE CAR.

Car payments are one of the biggest offenders in the battle over our finances.  Leasing a car is even worse.   The average car payment is somewhere in the $350-450 a month range.  That’s ridiculous!  What if you didn’t have that car payment every month?  That’s a lot more than $50 right there.

Some of you are already driving an old beater car with no car payment and so this option doesn’t help you.  However, I would like to congratulate you on resisting the urge to get into a car that is more than you can afford.

Just to be clear, if you have to finance your car, you can’t afford the car.  You can afford the monthly payment, but not the car.  Sell the car, buy a good used car for a few thousand that will get you through the next year and pay yourself the car payment you were making to the bank for the next 12 months.  If your car payment was $350 per month, you would have $4200 after 12 months that you could use to fix the car, buy a slightly nicer car or pay off some other debt.

 Check out this great video on a better plan to pay for you car.

 

If you have a car payment you will never convince me that you can’t find $50 a month.  You’re driving it and throwing and extra $50 out the window at the same time (cars depreciate in value rapidly after the first year, so it’s almost like throwing the cash out the window as you drive).

Groceries and eating out

Again this is an area where people spend way more than they realize, and often pay more than they should for many items.  Track all your food and grocery related spending for the next month and total it up.  Take that amount, subtract $50 and put the rest into a cash envelope for food and groceries.  Then  use that envelope for any food or grocery purchases.  Once it is gone it’s gone, so spend wisely.

Bulk shopping is also an area to save, but not in the way you might think.  Bulk shopping is unnecessary for most of us for most things and ends up with us wasting a lot, especially with food.  Buy what you need for the week and plan your meals ahead.  At most take advantage of two for one specials for the items you use or consume the most.

Avoid the temptation to hit the drive through; 5 trips to McDonalds or Burger King for one person can easily approach $50.  If you are a coffee drinker, and you tend to get your fix from Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks a couple times per week, start bringing your coffee from home and save around $25-30 per month.

 Vacation and Travel

This is a tough one, but if you can’t pay your bills, you probably can’t afford to go on vacation.  I’m not suggesting you don’t deserve a few days off, but try staying home and taking some day trips to local parks or museums instead of flying 6 hours away to some resort.  You can always do that later when you have saved up and can pay for it in cash.  Otherwise your vacation will follow you home and haunt you in your credit card statements for years.

 Get a Second (or Third) Part-time Job

First, this is not suggested as a permanent fix, but a temporary solution to help you get to the next level.  Part-time jobs offer more flexibility than full-time jobs, and if you work hard and are dependable to show up when scheduled, you will find many employers willing to work with you on this.

While this might be really exhausting for a time, the side benefit is that you are not only earning extra money, you are gaining new experiences and making new connections that will help you advance in your job searches in the future.  The idea here is to eventually find a single job that pays close to what your 2-3 jobs are paying now.

Conclusion

I hope this has been a helpful approach.  The main thing is to try.  If you don’t find $50 this month, don’t quit.  Do it again next month.  Just keep doing it.  And if you have suggestions or comments on any of this, I would love to see your comments below.

It can’t be done. But I dare you to try.

blog-image2016-01-07A good friend recently sent me an email with a heartfelt and complicated question about saving for retirement.  The concern was not primarily for themselves, but for the many of us that are simply starting too late or earn too little.

I proposed that everyone can save something; everyone has some area where they can cut back and choose to save, whether to pay off debt or save for retirement.  Their response was honest, but disheartening:  for some it cannot be done.

I want to tackle this belief in three parts, first to acknowledge that poverty exists, second to address one of the main obstacles to being able to save, and third to challenge you face the impossible head on and try.

Poverty exists.  It always has and always will.

For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. (Mark 14:7, Biblegateway.com)

Let’s face it.  Poverty exists.  Severe poverty exists.  Unfortunately there are those who through their own choices or by circumstances beyond their control are destitute, relying solely on government subsidies and the generosity of strangers to survive.  I concede that it is far less likely that those who are in this group will ever be concerned with saving for retirement, when mere survival is a daily struggle.  While I believe that there is hope for those in this situation, and know that some will overcome and someday thrive, I also recognize the plight they are in.

And that is all the more reason the rest of us need to get our act together, start handling our finances wisely, save to provide for our families so they aren’t a burden on the government or others, and give generously to lift up as many of the poor and destitute as we can.

Sometimes we fail to grasp that poverty is relative.  A millionaire is poor compared to a billionaire.  Someone with a hundred thousand is poor compared to a millionaire.  If you make $40,000 per year you are poor compared to someone making $100,000 per year.  Guess what?  If you make $40,000 per year, you are in the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world.

Did you catch that?

Let’s flip it around.  If you make $40,000 or more per year, you are wealthy compared to 99% of the rest of the people on the planet.  Cut that in half and you are still in the top 11% of the wealthiest people in the world.

I really hope that disturbed you one way or the other.  Research it for yourselves.  But like it or not, if you live in the United States and make minimum wage, you are wealthy compared to the rest of the world.

You are rich.  But someone else is richer.  Poor you.  Guess what else?  If you cannot learn to be content with what you have today, you will NEVER be content with what you have EVER.  Someone will ALWAYS be richer than you.

Start where you are.  (Tweet this)

The Prison Wall that keeps us from the Land of Saving.

There is a massive prison in the world, and in the United States particularly.  It is a debtor’s prison, bigger and more insidious than any every before constructed.  Yes, I know that physical debtor’s prisons don’t really exist in the U. S. today.  That’s what makes this prison I am speaking of so insidious.

The rich rules over the poor,
    and the borrower is the slave of the lender. (Proverbs 22:7; biblegateway.com)

Debt is a prison.  It tells you how much to make, makes your job choices for you, keeps you locked down and prevents you from experiencing true freedom.

Debt as we know it today is a modern dilemma.  Yes, debt has been part of the human existence as long as poverty has, and likely will be with us as long as poverty exists.  But it has never engulfed society to the extent that it has today.

The biggest obstacle to saving is debt.

Debt is a result of wanting what those richer than us have, before we are rich enough to have it.  Debt is rooted in the deadly sins greed, envy and pride.

  • Greed – we are not satisfied with what we have, so we crave more
  • Envy – we are not happy with what we have, so we desire not only for what others have, we also desire to take it from them
  • Pride – we cannot bear the thought of other looking down at us in our poverty, so we create a facade of wealth by borrowing heavily

Saving and wealth building cannot occur while we are making payments for things we could not afford.

The good news is that there is a way out – stop borrowing, sell some things (you can get more later), cut your expenses down to the 4 walls (shelter, food, clothing, transportation), and increase income (work a second job; take as much overtime as allowed; ask for a raise), and pay off as much as you can using the Debt Snowball method.

This may deserve a blog post of its own to flesh out more on how to do this, but I believe that, while it may seem impossible, most households can find $50 a month or more to pay of debt or save.

You Can’t Win if You’ve Already Thrown in the Towel

Shortly after graduating from college, a friend gathered a group of us together for a bible study.  One of the topics centered around tithing (giving 10%) of our income to our church.  At the time I was not regularly attending a church, and certainly was not tithing.

I argued vehemently that it was IMPOSSIBLE to give 10% of my income and survive.  None of my friends could change my mind.

I wish I could say that on the way home a great blinding light appeared and a voice spoke saying, “David, David, why do you withhold from Me what is Mine?”  That didn’t happen.

What happened was much the opposite.  A quiet thought popped in the back of my mind, “How can you say it is impossible if you have never tried?”

A Challenge!

I set out to prove how impossible it would be, and, long story shortened, I eventually was able to tithe 10% of my income faithfully.  The process I went through of just trying to do it changed me, my outlook on finances and my faith in God.  I started spending less on myself, I cut costs, I worked harder and got raises, I started attending a church where I eventually became the Treasure of the Board and have since coordinated more than 10 Financial Peace University courses to help others gain back control over their finances.

Prayer and meditation are essential parts of this process.  Both practices help us to unload our burdens and distractions and focus on what we can do right now, today.

You know what else?  I paid off my debt, except for my mortgage, saved up about 6 months of expenses, and left my job of 17 years to pursue whatever God had for me next.  That was 4 years ago.  2012 was the last year my adjusted gross income was over $40,000.  I haven’t missed a mortgage payment, I’ve tithed consistently, and I’ve worked hard at several jobs while also being self employed, and I am more content now than I have been in my life.

I trust God to provide what I need, I recognize more and more the difference between a want and a need, and I keep moving forward and trying new things.  My desire to earn more money now is driven by what I will be able to give.  I already know what I need to live.  The rest is for the work of the Kingdom of God.

I am not suggesting that you need to follow exactly what I did.  My path is mine to travel.  Your path is ahead of you, if you are willing to take a step forward.

You don’t even have to do this.  You can stay where you are if you want.  I really is up to you, no one else.

Do me one favor though, don’t say it’s impossible if you’ve never really tried.