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!

Giving Thanks

Even though we enjoy countless blessings, it can be very easy to take many of our good things for granted. We become accustomed to our daily routine, and we are often so busy that we don’t take the time to reflect on and be thankful the many blessings we enjoy. Try sitting down with a blank piece of paper for fifteen minutes and listing things you have to be thankful for. You may be surprised how quickly the paper is filled!

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Our Many Freedoms

We live in a country with more freedoms that most any time and place in history. We can assemble freely to worship God and learn about Him. Any citizen may own property, or run a business, without excessive government oversight or restriction. We have a representative democracy which allows we the people to choose our leaders, and a press that holds these leaders accountable for their actions. Though no government is perfect, we do yet retain many of the freedoms as intended by the founders of this nation, and we should thank God for continuing to preserve our great nation.

Family

I am blessed to have been born and raised by Christian parents who loved me, taught me well, and have stayed together–married for 33 years and counting!  My brother and sister are great and loving siblings, and I smile every time we can spend time togehter.  Not only that, but they have each found a spouse who compliments them perfectly, and I feel that I’ve gained even more great siblings through these marriages (and soon-to-be marriages!)

I am married to a wonderful, beautiful, and loving wife who loves me, respects me, and is truly my partner for life. She is caring and incredible, and I am often in disbelief of how she can accomplish all the things she does, even making it look effortless. She is sweet and loving, and an excellent communicator. Even when we don’t see eye to eye on things, she takes the time and makes the effort to connect, express her perspective, and stay with the issue until we both understand and agree on how we’ll move forward. I could expound all day on the many wonderful things she does to enrich my life and the lives of those around her, and I am grateful to have her as my wife!

God has blessed us with three delightful children, who make our lives busy, interesting, and fun. They say the funniest things, and help us to remember how much more fun life is with a lighthearted attitude. They are smart and inquisitive, always wanting to explore their surroundings and find out how things work. They even encourage us in our faith, as they ask questions about God and trust in Him with the childlike faith Jesus taught us to have.

The Greatest Gift

The list of my blessings could go on and on and on, and fill many more pages that this site could hold!  Taking the time just to begin recounting all the great joys and gifts in my life has reminded me again truly how much I have to be thankful for.  In difficult days, when things don’t always seem to be going the way I’d like them to, I will do well to remember all the many blessings I’ve been given, recognizing that just as I did not deserve them, so have I been given heavenly gifts that I don’t deserve.  Chief among these is the salvation I have through Christ, the forgiveness of my sin and God’s promise that I will enjoy eternal life in paradise with Him.  Thank God today for all He has given you, and reach out to the Savior and follow Him!

New Habits for a New Life

Is there any area of your life that your wish was better?  Perhaps it’s a relationship that you would like to be strong and positive, but today is less than great.  Or maybe you are carrying a few more pounds of belly fat than you’d like.  Maybe your financial situation is a struggle, and you dream of days where you can go shopping for shoes and clothes without feeling guilty.  Whatever the area that you’d like to improve, there’s a simple and extremely effective recipe for attaining the thriving life you imagine.  It’s simple, not always easy, and requires faith and perseverance, which is why few people employ it.  Consequently, few people enjoy the harvest, and remain wishers.  But not you! Read on to hear how this timeless principle can work for you.

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WHO knows?

The first step toward developing success in your desired area is to find someone who already has success in that area.  If you want a strong and healthy marriage, think of people around who have great marriages.  Offer to take them out for a cup of coffee and ask them what they do to keep their marriage healthy.  If you want to live healthier and get in better shape, find someone who’s already doing it and ask what they do each week to get healthy and fit.  This person is your WHO.

WHAT habits?

Ask questions of your WHO in order to discover the WHAT that will get the results you want.  Many great books are available as well, which contain excellent information on the things you need to get from where you are to success in any given area.  Again, make sure the author has credibility in the subject at hand (the author should have success himself in the area he’s giving you advice in), and study to identify exactly what you will need to do to succeed.  Hint:  this will involve doing something different than what you’ve been doing.

Now the key

Ok, we’ve done the two easy parts, now all that’s left is the hard one.  Finding credibile sources is relatively straightforward.  Reading and asking questions of your experts to determine what to do is pretty simple too.  And many many people do these two things, and yet do not achive the results they want.  In many cases, it is for the simple reason that they did not stay the course.  You see, there must be consistant right action for period of time, a period during which the results of the new habit are not visible.  Take a new workout regimen for example.  How much different do you look after your first workout?  Sweaty, I know, but I mean after your shower!  Not much different.  What about after three workouts? Four?  Fifteen?

Right action, repeat, right action, repeat

You see, you may have a great workout program that will move you exactly in the direction you want to go.  If you sought advise from a credible expert to obtain the program (e.g. you have been following the ThriveFit regimen), your program is perfect for you.  But if you look back during week two to check your results, you’ll likely find little but disappointment.  You’ve been working hard, you’re supposedly doing the right things, but you still weigh ten pounds too much!  What gives?!  You think, “All this hard work, all this study and dedication, and I’m not getting any closer to my goal!  I should just give up and stay where I am.  At least then I’d have more time to relax and watch TV or something….”

Don’t Give Up!

And here is where we separate those who succeed from those who only dream and wish that things were better.  I’m all for dreaming of a better life, and I encourage you to do so.  But I would further challenge you to take your dreams and find a WHO, who will tell you the WHAT that you need to reach your dreams.  And finally, I challenge you to commit to doing that WHAT cosistantly, persistently, for a long period of time.  Do not be disuded by the non-winners and non-experts who try to take you off course.  Understand that your results will come in time, and have faith in the process.  Two paths are before you today:  right action toward your desired result, or life as usual.  Which will you choose?

Respond or react?

What do you do when you negative things come your way?  When a friend disagrees with you and puts you down, do you lash out?  When your brother cancels your poker game at the last minute for the third time in a row, do you yell at him for being so irresponsible and unreliable?  What about when a coworker belittles your ideas and makes you feel small?  Do you react by gossiping about her behind her back?

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Your Choice

When people are unkind to us, we have two choices.  We can respond or we can react.  Reacting means doing what we naturally feel and allowing our emotions to choose our words.  In contrast, when we choose to respond to a negative situation, we use our mind and heart to overrule our emotions.

Is It Even About Me?

Often, when we are wronged, we incorrectly take the negative actions of another personally.  People are sometimes rude and inconsiderate, but many times this has nothing to do with you.  First off, if they are habitually rude, that has everything to do with them, and little to do with you.  In other instances, a person may not be habitually negative, but something negative has just happened in their life and they let their disappointment get the best of them.  In a few instances people are truly mean to you because they want to be.  But even in these cases, the right road is to respond, not react.

Forgive First

Each one of us has shortcomings, and as such we are bound to rub each other the wrong way.  When someone hurts you, can get mad and let your feelings boil over into harsh words against the wrongdoer.  Or you can choose to forgive them.  You can forgive, assuming they meant no offense; you can forgive assuming they let their emotions get the best of them, and you can even forgive in cases where it’s clear they were intentionally malicious.  You need not wait for their apology—forgive anyway.  If an apology comes, great!  If not, no big deal.

Create an Opportunity

If you will make the choice to live this way, and act with your will, mind, and heart rather than your emotions, your reward will be peace unknown to the masses who fail to respond and allow themselves to react.  Not only that, but those around you will notice your unusual behavior. They may even ask you why  you live so differently.  Can you think of a better opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ?

What Are You After?

When it comes to your fitness, what do you want?  Though this may seem like an easy question, you may be surprised how uncommon it is for a person to pause, think, identify, and pursue a fitness goal.  In today’s article, we’ll explore how you can identify what you want when it comes to your fitness and start on the path to reaching it!

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What Drives You?

Perhaps, like most people, you’ve had in the back of your mind for a long time the notion that, “I should really lose some weight.”  But, if you’re anything like most people, that’s about as deep and as far as it goes.  While that’s a fine place to start, we need to go deeper and get more specific.

Start by thinking along the lines of your primary motivations.  Imagine your ideal life:  what would you do with your time?  Who would you hang around with, where would you go?  What would your energy levels be like?  Would you feel strong and healthy or fight colds and achy joints perpetually?

Perhaps you see yourself as a protector of those around you, or perhaps you desire to experience the full extent of what’s possible in order to fully embrace the life given you by your Maker.  Whatever your motivators are, take the time to think, brainstorm and write down ideas, and craft the essence of what you want into a concise statement.  My personal example is as follows:

I will excel in physical strength, stamina and endurance, such that others are in disbelief of what I can do, in order that I may protect others in dangerous situations and discover and enjoy the maximum capabilities of the body God has given me.

Discovering the Right Action

Writing out your fitness mission statement will help you to identify which activities are the right fit for you and how you can best use your time and effort.  Your mission statement will help you turn a goal like, “I should lose some weight,” into a measurable, timely goal like, “I will lose 10 pounds by October 1 and reduce my 1-mile run time to 7:00.”

Evaluate your new goals using your mission statement, ensuring that they match and you are taking action that compliments your primary motivations.  As another personal example, my goals include reaching 20 uninterrupted muscleups by 2014 and increasing my maximum deadlift to 415 pounds by October 2013.  My ongoing goal is to consistently complete workouts faster and with heaver weights than I had donethe previous year.  I track this using the Records page of this site, and encourage you to do the same!

Finally, seek out a friend who you can share your fitness mission statement and goals with.  Doing so will motivate you, keep you accountable, and accelerate your progress.  Be sure to let us know how you’re doing along the way, and enjoy the journey to thriving in your fitness!

The Heart of a Fan

Do you know any, or would you perhaps consider yourself to be, a football fan?  How do you know that this person is a fan?  Do you have to search hard for clues in order to determine that they love the game?  Do they keep a checklist of duties, such as buying tickets to games, talking about football for a prescribed number of minutes per day, or reading football blogs and magazines?

Husker Fans

What Drives Action?

If a person doesn’t do these works out of duty or off of a checklist, what does cause them to spend their time in such ways?  It is this:  they simply love the game.  Perhaps it is the thrill of victory when all seems lost, or maybe the sounds of a roaring crowds and clashing helmets.  But whatever the origin of their love of football, that is the driving force behind their actions and activities.  Their cubicle walls are plastered with team memorabilia and they talk of their favorite team at every opportunity precicely because this sport is their passion.

The Long-Term Investment

Now, what does all this have to do with living a thriving life?  We just described devotion to a fun and enjoyable activity, but consider this: what is the ultimate end of this pursuit?  One hundred years from now, all the players we idolize now will be dead and gone.  All of the games will have been forgotten, save perhaps an entry in a museum.  While all this distraction occupies our time, the One who made the earth, grass, and sky under which the game is played stands by ignored and forgotten.  Oh, perhaps every now and again we’ll toss a “good work” his way, maybe out of guilt, duty, or in order to check it off our list, but like Cain’s sacrifice, our Lord does not find these things pleasing. But imagine if we were to commit ourselves to Jesus the way so many commit themselves to football!  What if we loved Him the way fanatics love the game?

An Overflow of the Heart, Not a Checklist

You see, God does not want a checklist of works from us.  Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died a gruesome death in order to pay the penalty that our sin created for us.  He is the one who has done the good work, not us.  Our responsibility is only to accept the gift of grace he freely offers, turn from our sin and turn to Jesus.  In so doing, God will confer upon us new life, and a new self capable of loving Him every bit as much as the most committed fan loves football.  It is from this place that our good works will naturally flow, just as a true fan naturally buys tickets, watches games, and talks about his team.  Will you decide today to turn from your own way and follow Jesus?  Commit your whole heart to Him, and watch as he transforms every area of your being from death into life.

The Power of Questions

If you desire to assert something, how do you typically do so?  Often our first action when we have (what we think is) a good idea is to bestow our grand great idea upon the world using a bold and clear statement.  But is this the best way?  Is there another way we could express the idea that could make our hearers more likely to accept and appreciate it?

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Passively Accepting vs. Actively Listening

Though it can be a difficult habit to adopt, the use of questions to communicate ideas can be a powerful tool in your arsenal.  You see, when you make a statement, your listener is put in a position of passively listening.  They may or may not have the same set of beliefs and assumptions as you, and they may or may not have a similar communication style as you.  With a different set of beliefs and a different set of assumptions, how likely do you think it is that they’ll respond to your ideas by thinking, “yeah, that’s exactly how I would have said it, that’s a perfect idea!”

Conversely, imagine that instead of stating your idea or position as a concrete fact, you pose it as a question.  For example, which of the following ways of expressing an idea do you find more appealing?

  • If you want to be healthy, you have to eat lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Do you think adding a few fruits and vegetables to your diet would benefit your health?

Who Wants to Disagree With Himself?

Both statements present the same general idea, but the former creates a rough, antagonistic feeling while the latter comes across as friendly and helpful.  The statement begs the listener to disagree or find an area of inconsistency, while the question invites the listener to think and answer.  Better still than that, once the listener has answered; he’ll tend to have more buy-in to the statement since it came from him!  Wouldn’t it be something, disagreeing with yourself!  🙂

Where Could This Take You?

This practice isn’t difficult to understand, and there is great value of communicating this way.  But if you’re anything like me, you’ll struggle to keep this in the forefront of your mind and adopt the habit.  How easy it is to revert to statements when the point could be so much better made through questions.  But, can you improve a little tomorrow over where you were today?  If you can do that once, can you do it again?  And again?  By improving a little each day, where do you think you’ll end up?  I look forward to seeing you there!

You Can Lose It!

Think of 10 friends you know.  Or better yet 10 of your neighbors.  How many of them are overweight or obese?  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seven!  Shocking, yes.  Disheartening, yes.  Solvable, Yes!

Although many temporary diets are unsuccessful, there is hope for those who find the scale reading a number larger than they’d like.  If you’re looking to shed some weight and create a healthier life, you can do it!  Today we’ll look at three components to a successful and sustainable weight loss plan.

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What Do You Really Want?

First, you have to actually want it.  Many diets fail simply because the dieter didn’t really want to lose weight; rather, his wife, his brother, or someone else wanted it for him.  Or perhaps the fellow we’re talking about did want to lose weight, but not in the, “I’m committed and willing to work and sacrifice,” kind of way.  To illustrate, I may want a green and vibrant lawn, but if I don’t put down fertilizer and seed, keep it watered and trimmed, I demonstrate that this idea is more of a fanciful dream than a real desire.

Avoid the Roller Coaster

Secondly, you need a permanent program.  The idea that you can avoid cake and skip breakfast for a month, then go back to normal and have this accomplish anything permanently is absurd.  The key to a successful diet program is that it must be a permanent change to healthier eating.  Now, before you get scared and exit this site, you can still have cake in this life!  🙂  The point is to start taking up healthier habits that you can continue indefinitely.  So, for example, maybe you start a new habit of having a vegetable with lunch every day, or limiting fast food runs to two per week.  Find the biggest problem areas that you have today and begin replacing them with healthier options.

The Right Supplements

Finally, you need to find a nutrition program that works for you.  Have you ever seen two friends undertake the same diet or exercise program, only to have one friend succeed and the other fail?  How is this possible?  How can you find the right diet program for you?  In my research, I’ve only found one weight-loss program that offers a custom solution to you individually, and is affordable and healthy long-term.  It’s called BodyKey from Nutrilite, and is the only program to tailor natural supplements to you based on your individual DNA.  This program is one of the reasons we’ve chosen to align ourselves with this company:  no one else offers a full 6-month satisfaction guarantee on every product they sell.  Yes, you heard that right:  if you begin the BodyKey nutrition and fitness program and aren’t satisfied with the results 6 months later, you get a full refund!  Where else can you find that kind of security on an investment?  And what better could you invest in than yourself?

For more information about BodyKey or other great plant-based products from Nutrilite, check out our ThriveMart page or send us a message today!  We’re here to help you thrive and enjoy a healthy life for many years to come!

The Fun Side of Budgeting

Today’s post will be brief, because technically I’m on vacation now….  🙂  My family and I are spending the week in beautiful Tarpon Springs, Florida, and as I type, I’m sitting out on the porch of our vacation house enjoying the perfect temps, light breeze, and beautiful view.  The topic of today’s article–having a great vacation, of course!

Sunset

At least two important things come to mind for having a good vacation:  preparation and attitude.  Preparation has to do with the title of this article:  the fun side of budgeting!   It’s not always the most pleasurable activity to set out at the beginning of each month and assign a purpose to each and every dollar of income.  But, doing a budget helps you allocate your income in the right priorities and gives you the ability to, among other things, save up for a cash vacation.  We stopped by the ATM on the day before our trip, and have enjoyed buying and doing the fun things we want without the guilt of putting them on a credit card.  Are you putting money into savings for a future trip now?  If not, why not start today by visiting the ThriveWealthy page and building your budget for April?

The second component of a successful vacation is attitude.  It’s very easy to let a vacation turn your eyes onto yourself and become self-centered.  Ironically, in vacations, as in the rest of life, looking out for your own interests at the expense of others will cause you to enjoy yourself less.  Instead of falling into this trap, start each day of your trip with the attitude, “I’m going to have a blast today, no matter what activities we do!”  Let the small stuff run off you like water off a duck, and keep your focus on doing things that will make your trip mates happy.  And remember, some of those frustrating, annoying moments where nothing goes right turn into the lifelong memories that you’ll share year after year… 😉