Seeds of Success

When you decide to pursue success in an area of your life that needs improvement, you’ll face many large obstacles standing in your way. Perhaps the greatest challenge of any new journey on the path toward thriving is keeping your resolve when the results you want aren’t coming.

Typically, the first few weeks of a new fitness regimen will be filled with excitement, enthusiasm, and passion. But by week 3, all you are is tired, frustrated, and wondering if it’s all worth the trouble. You have the testimony of those who’ve gone before you that this program will make you look better, feel better, and help you thrive in all areas of life, but that’s not what you’re experiencing right now and there’s a strong temptation to give up.

In these times, I find it helpful to take a moment and consider my position. First, have I done the things that my mentors have recommended? In the case of a fitness regimen, am I doing the workouts as prescribed? Or, do I skip the parts I don’t like, or not give my full effort?

If I am doing what I’m supposed to, yet still not experiencing the success I expected, I’ll do well to step back and reconsider whether my expectations were reasonable. Oftentimes, the instant success I imagine on day one is simply incongruent with reality. Growth takes time, and as long as you are moving in the direction of success each day, you’ll get there in time.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I find it helpful to remember a poignant example from nature—the simple vegetable garden. I keep a small garden in my back yard, planting seeds around mid-April. To date, I have spent many hours tilling the soil, measuring and planting rows of seeds, watering, fertilizing, and weeding. For all this time and effort, done skillfully and with the help of experienced experts, I have harvested nothing but one bowl of salad. A green pepper grows on one plant, and tiny tomato flowers have sprouted, but I have tasted nothing but a few leaves of lettuce.

As in my garden, many great things in life require hours and hours of effort, guidance from good mentors, and time. If I will take this view on new ventures I pursue, I will be able to resist the discouragement that comes in the early days of hard work and few results. The effort I put into my venture today may not produce results today, but as I grow and God grants me His blessings, they may just turn into delicious fruit tomorrow.

On this point, here’s a curious fact from my garden story: the lettuce I’ve harvested this year did not come from my efforts this year—I didn’t plant any lettuce this year! Rather, this plant sprung up of its own accord near the spot that I had planted last year! When I tilled the soil and planted those seeds in April 2011, little did I know that I’d be satisfied by that produce in May 2012! Perhaps the seeds you’re planting today will surprise you in the future at just how great a harvest they’ll bring!

Worthy of Praise

Life can get pretty hectic in our fast-paced world! If you’re like me, you rush through breakfast and your morning routine to get to work on time, spend the day on various projects, get a workout in, cook dinner, kids to bed, chores, snack, and crash into bed. Just writing it all out makes me tired!

Add to all that the pursuit of a thriving life and you’ve got a full plate! But if we’re not careful, this “pedal to the metal” living can wear on us, even working against us in the pursuit of a successful life.

The best medicine for a life starting to spin out of control is a time of quiet reverence in the presence of God. While it can be easy to neglect spiritual matters when life gets busy, it’s vital that we take time to commune with our heavenly Father, as we will find in Him the peace and satisfaction that can be found nowhere else.

Psalm 145 is a great passage to bring praise to God and foster a time of meditation and prayer:

1I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
3Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.
5They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.b
6They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
8The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
9The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.

The Psalmist begins in reverence of His creator–exalting him as King. God’s name is lifted high in praise. When we approach God, recognizing his authority and glory, we find our hearts softened and open to His life-giving Word.

In verse 3, we read that no one can fathom the greatmess of God. Though we see the splendor of God in His Word, creation, and in our lives personally, we can never fully comprehend his greatness. The highest thoughts we can imagine fall terribly short of his true glory, power, and greatness.

We do well to speak to one another of the great works that God has accomplished throughout history. From the awesome display of his power in creation, his wrath against rebellious men at the flood and the Red Sea, to his infinite mercy in sending a Savior to redeem us from death, the Lord has displayed His greatness to us. We do well to consider his works, call them to mind regularly, and speak them to each other all throughout the day.

How thankful we are that verse 8 speaks the truth! God is slow to anger–allowing us time to recognize the insanity of sin, turn from it and to him, where he waits with open arms to freely forgive. Praise God that Jesus has made a way for our forgiveness through His atoning death on the cross!

The Lord is good to all, according to verse 9, and He has compassion on all He has made. Even those who hate him enjoy the blessings of rain, sunshine, laughter, and love. God is rich in mercy and allows us sinners chance after chance to spurn our rebellious ways, give up our lives to Him, and place our faith and hope in Him alone.

If you’ve never trusted Christ as your Savior, thank God for his grace and mercy, and turn to Him today. Though you now stand guilty before the all-powerful just judge, you can yet be saved from the punishment you deserve. Because Jesus lived a perfect life, His torture and death has paid the debt that you owe. Trust in Him alone for salvation, give your heart to Him, and He will wash you white as snow.

Your Habits Are Showing

What’s one thing that will produce dramatic results in your life, for good or for ill?  Habits.  Today, we’ll explore why habits are so powerful and what you can do to take advantage of an amazing source of power within your own life.

Your Stomach Has Habits

For our purposes, we’ll define a habit as something you do consistently, with little or no conscious effort or decision-making.  One simple example that illustrates this point is a habit most all of us have:  eating breakfast.  When you wake up in the morning, how much time do you spend thinking about whether or not you’ll have breakfast?  If you’re like me, none.  I may spend a minute thinking about what I’ll have for breakfast, but I never deliberate on whether or not to eat it–I’m hungry and breakfast will be eaten!

Other examples of habits may include listening to a certain radio station on the way to work in the morning, visiting the vending machine at 2:30 each afternoon, or taking your spouse our for dinner one Friday each month.

So what does this have to do with finding incredible power and effectiveness on your path to thriving?  The secret lies in the cumulative force of months and years of positive habits.  One clear example of this power is shown by bodybuilders, strength trainers, runners, and Olympians.  Look at an athlete who engages in one of these activities and experiences success.  What did they look like last week?  Last month?  Last year?

The answer is that they made it to where they are currently via steady progress.  Like the stream of water that eroded a large rock, these athletes made gains one day at a time.  They ate right and hit the gym while everyone else was pigging out and goofing off, and now they sit at the head of the pack as a result.

Winning in Your Life

You don’t have to have the fire of an Olympian to benefit from this concept.  Just take this principle and apply it to whatever area of your life where you desire dramatic improvement.  If you want to be a great dad, but have thusfar been lacking, decide today to spend 30 minutes every day on improving.  This could mean helping your daughter color for 30 minutes, going for a bike ride with your son, or reading a book on parenting.  The point is, it’s got to be a habit.  30 minutes, every day [or 5 days a week, at very least].

Perhaps you’re dissatisfied with your financial life–you know you should be doing a budget but you just can’t stick with it.  The answer is habit.  Block out a set time each week to spend time on your finances.  During this time (say Monday nights from 7-8), balance your budget, pay your bills, set and track your goals, or read a good book on personal finance.

The First Step

As in our example, your physical fitness is a great area to test this idea and see real and dramatic results within a relatively short period of time.  If you don’t currently have a fitness regimen, try this:  put your workout clothes on every day, starting today.  I don’t even care if you work out at first–just put your workout clothes on, every day.  Once they’re on, how about doing a few jumping jacks?  Get your heart moving, even if just for 5 minutes.  Then, carry on with your evening as normal, you’re done for the day.  Tomorrow, get the workout clothes on again.  Try some pushups or squats, or maybe one of the workouts posted in the ThriveFit section of the site.  But do something, and keep it up, every day.

If you’ll do this, committing to doing something every single day, you’ll look up a month from now and notice huge gains in your fitness level.  You’re getting there one day at a time, just like Olympians do.

Habits for Eternity

Finally, consider your spiritual life.  Do you have any habits that will feed your soul?  Do you attend a church with gospel-centered preaching where the Word is shared each week?  Do you seek the Lord in prayer, or read the Bible to commune with Him?  If not, you are missing profound wisdom, comfort, love and hope from the Father who loves you more than anyone else.  Will you begin today by seeking Him in prayer?

By adopting these habitual practices–spending time working on an area of your life where you desire improvement–you will gradually begin thriving, with success building on success.  The next thing you know, you’ll be standing on the mountain heralding to others that they can get there too.  All they’ll is a little encouragement and a few good habits!

Mortals Only — Part II

Several weeks ago, we shared the shocking news that yes, even TotalThriver members will one day face their mortality.  Since death is one day closer today than it was yesterday, we highlighted the importance of getting good life insurance in place.

Today, we’ll explore another aspect of financial planning related to caring for your loved ones after you are gone:  estate planning.

I’ll get to it tomorrow…..

Though not always the most glamorous or delightful topic, getting a will in place is a vital part of any good financial plan.  Even though we all know that death will catch us some day, we seem to be in denial that that day is actually coming.  According to a recent survey conducted by findlaw.com, nearly 60% of American adults do not have a will (http://commonlaw.findlaw.com/2008/06/findlaw-survey.html)

Obviously, getting your will in order doesn’t benefit you–you’ve got to be dead to use it!  But it does provide great benefit to your family and other loved ones.  Some people think that drafting a will for themself is unnecessary, because, “of course, everyone knows that I’d want to leave everything to _______.”  The problem is that the one person who makes the call–the judge–doesn’t know you!  So, the only way to make sure that your antique rifle collection goes to your son and not your crazy old hunting buddy is to write down your wishes.  Otherwise, your son may have to spend thousands of dollars in court fighting for what’s rightfully his.

Get it done right

The best option for getting a will done properly is to consult with a local attorney who specializes in estate planning.  If you live in the Omaha area, I can personally recommend Lynne Timmerman Fees, an experienced professional with great qualifications.  Find out more about her practice here.

Although hiring a professional is the only way to be assured that your will is done properly, sometimes using generic forms can be a cheaper alternative.  Places like uslegalforms.com can be a good stepping-stone for recent grads or families struggling financially who need to get a will in place but can’t afford an attorney right now.  Of course, if this is you, just keep following us at TotalThriver and we’ll have you in a strong financial position in no time!

Demonstrate your love

In closing, although estate planning is not particularly glamorous, it is an essential part of your financial life.  To ignore the fact that you need a will is to do a disservice to your loved ones, and create legal battles for your money and property in the months and years following your death.  Won’t you take these steps today to love your family well?  The small investment of time and money you’ll make today will pay large dividends when they’re needed most.