How We Program Ourselves

On your way into work tomorrow, what thoughts will run through your mind?  If you’re like most of us, your natural inclination will be something like, “here comes another day at the grind!  I hope I don’t see Jim today, he’s such a loudmouth!  I can’t wait till the weekend’s here!”  But do these thoughts help you? Or are they helping to create the very kind of day you dread?

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Want Control?  Take It!

Setting our expectations and our outlook for the day—or even for the next moment—is totally within our control.  Would your morning be better if you chose to speak something better to yourself while walking from your car to the office?

Let Wise Men Teach You

Zig Ziglar once said, “Positive thinking won’t let you do anything, but it will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”  This is great advice from a great man!  When’s the last time you took control of your circumstances and made a decision to have a great morning?  Why let circumstances dictate our life to us? Do you really believe that telling yourself that your coworkers are rude and your work is boring does you any good? How about when you say things like, “it doesn’t matter how hard I work or what good things I do, no one notices anyway.”  Do these statements help you, or hurt you?

Attitude and Response

Simple as it sounds or silly as it sounds, you make the choice every day whether your day will be great or a dud.  Things outside your control will still happen.  Some may be pleasant, others not—but your attitude going in and your response coming out are both things you choose.  If you’re really interested in living a thriving life, right now’s a good time to start!  What kind of day will you make today?

The Root of Anger

Anger, disappointment, resentment, hurt:  these are emotions we’d prefer to avoid.  If we could choose, we’d rather live happy, content, and fulfilled, wouldn’t we?  What if there was a way to significantly reduce the amount of time we spend angry or hurt?  If we understand the root cause of these negative emotions and the negative situations they lead us into, we can find victory and spend more of our time cultivating excellent relationships and enjoying the time we have.

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Our Many Gifts

We enjoy so many incredible blessings in our everyday life.  Just think about the comfortable bed you slept in last night, the delicious dinner you ate, and the people around you that truly and deeply love you.  We could spend all day listing all the great things in our lives—things given to us by the Maker of all things.

We desire good things—and there’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, it is good to enjoy and appreciate all the wonderful blessings we have every day.  But there is a good way and a bad way to hold these blessings.  One will give us great fulfillment and thankful hearts, while the other will produce the harmful emotions listed above.

With Open Hands?

The difference is this:  do you hold your gifts with open hands or closed fists?  You see, when our desires are met, we have a choice.  We either recognize that the blessing that we received is a gift of God, or we start to close our hands around it and begin thinking we own it.  As we neglect to thank God for a particular blessing, we slowly close our grip around it, wishing to keep it within our possession.

The Enemy works gradually, taking some new blessing and day by day inducing us to feel more and more that we earned it, we deserve it, and we need it.  Once we view that blessing as something we need, we will react in anger when it is threatened.

Thankful to Expectation to Need

Consider the simple act of a man writing a love poem to his wife every week.  When he first begins this act of love and appreciation, his wife may be delighted!  She feels loved and cherished, and expresses her thanks to him.  But over time, as the notes continue to come week after week, this blessing may turn into an expectation in her mind.  She begins to think she deserves these notes, and her husband owes them to her.  If he misses one week, she will feel emotions of disappointment, resentment, or even anger.

But this is all rooted in a choice—if the woman in the story above simply appreciated the love notes as a blessing, she will each week feel the emotions of thankfulness, happiness, and love when her husband gives the poem.  If one week the husband should fail to present a poem, she will miss it, but that’s all.  She only feels anger, hurt, and resentment when the gift is expected and assumed.  Put another way, she will feel anger and disappointment when her need for her weekly poem isn’t met.

What’s Yours?

Perhaps this seems silly to you, that a woman should come to need an expect a poem from her husband every week.  But what about you and me?  Are there not blessings in our life that we one didn’t have, now have, and now expect we shall always have?  God has bestowed amazing gifts upon you and me—do we hold them with an open hand?

The Example of Open Hands

Job is was one of the richest men in the world in his day—not only in material wealth, but also with many children, as well as the love and respect of his neighbors.  In one day, it was all taken from him, and yet his response was this:  “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).

Are there things you expect from those around you?  Do you need and demand that your coworkers speak well of you, such that when they disparage you you become angry?   Do you expect your mentors to have perfect understanding in everything they teach and council you?  Do you expect you spouse to always be there to meet your needs and do the things you want them to do?

What Perspective Will You Choose?

Let’s make the decision today to stop letting anger have root in our hearts.  If we will recognize that the blessings we enjoy each day are gifts—gifts that are not promised to be there tomorrow—we will increase our reliance upon the Lord, our appreciation of His grace, and the moments of life that bear the hallmark of peaceful contentedness.

Take a Step Back From the Edge

What would you do if your transmission went out tomorrow?  If your identity were stolen and your credit frozen, would you be taking the bus to work?  If your uncle offered to sell you his mint condition Ford Mustang for only $5,000, would you be able to come up with the cash?

We’re apt to take many of the great things in our life for granted, up to and including out income.  In our culture, it’s acceptable and a common practice to live right the edge of our income, spending 90, 100, or even 110 percent of our annual income each year.

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A Valuable Heritage

But for centuries (maybe longer), wise people have practiced the discipline of saving money for a rainy day.  Because we don’t know the future, it is necessary to save an emergency fund to have the options and choices we want.

In today’s article we’ll outline what the emergency fund is, why it’s important, and what it’s to be used for.  If you’ll make the decision to adopt this important discipline, you’ll reap the great rewards that wise men and women have been enjoying throughout history.

What’s It For?

The purpose of the emergency fund is to cover expenses that may come that you can’t predict.  Anything you can predict should be included in your monthly budget.  When I first began budgeting, I was tapping my emergency fund every other month, but as we get better at predicting what’s coming, there are fewer times when we need to use the emergency fund at all.  The goal is to have a full emergency fund that is never ever used, but just sits there “just in case!”

Can you estimate how much you spent on car repairs last year?  Take that estimate divided by 12 and this is how much you should allocate each month toward car repairs.  So maybe you’ll allocate $100 to car repairs in your February budget, even if you don’t take the car in.  But if your check engine light goes on in February, you have $200 sitting there, all ready to pay the bill.

If It Can Be Predicted, Figure It Out

Similarly, let’s say you know you want to upgrade your car by $4000, six months from now.  Just divide it out and you’ll find that you need to save $667 per month.  Again, it’s predictable so include it in your budget, not the emergency fund.

Overcome the Little Kid Inside

The tough part is saying no to all the things we’d like to do until the emergency fund is complete, totaling three to six months of your household expenses.  But it’s worth it to have the security; when you really need it and you have the money sitting there, it takes a lot of stress out of the equation.

How We Spend It

“Why would you want to read when you got the television set sitting right in front of you? There’s nothing you can get from a book that you can’t get from a television faster.”  If you’re wondering where that sage advice comes from, hearken back to a little movie called Matilda.  That’s right, this little dandy comes from Matilda’s scumbag father, played by Danny DeVito.  We all get a good laugh hearing such a ridiculous claim—but hold on a minute, how many of us are spending our time each day living this philosophy out?

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How About Us?

Did you watch TV this week?  How much time did you spend watching in the last 7 days?  Ten hours?  Fifteen?  More???  Watching TV’s not wrong, but it’s not particularly beneficial either.  It’s nice, when you’re tired, to plop down on the couch and unwind a bit.  But two hours later, are you really rested?  Wouldn’t you actually be more energized an alert the following day if you had simply gone to sleep instead?

Important but Not Urgent

TV isn’t bad, but it can keep us from using our time for things that are important.  Spending time with our families, improving our minds, studying and spending time with God—these are all vitally important activities that aren’t urgent.  The problem comes when we put them off because they’re not urgent.  We accidently fall into the result of having gone all day without really talking to our spouse, without spending time reading the Word, but how much TV time did we fit in?  Oh yeah, two and a half hours.

If Only I Had the Time

Have you ever heard a friend say, “I wish I had more time to—“  What’s crazy about this statement is that anyone who has ever done that thing my friend’s wishing to do has exactly the same about of time all the rest of us have:  168 hours per week!  You’re never going to have more time than that!  So if you want time to do something, then allocate your time and do it!  The reality isn’t that you are short on time and can’t do the thing you want; the reality is that you simply don’t want the thing you claim to want as badly as you want to watch TV (or fill in whatever other random activity or habit).

Stop Starving Your Mind

We know that reading good books is like feeding our brain.  If you’ll make the decision to read a book for your personal growth every day, you will absolutely reap a beneficial harvest.  It takes dedication; it takes commitment to build the habit.  But you can do it, and you will begin to notice the fruit of this great habit almost immediately.  Try this—just reduce your TV time by 15 minutes this week.  That’s likely less than a 10% decrease.  So you’re still getting 90% of your TV time in.  That’s not so hard, right?  Just be ready and agreeable to letting a good book shape your attitude and feed your mind, and enjoy the thriving life that will begin to unfold before you!