Getting There

How can we get from where we are today to the places in life where we want to be?  How can we become the people that we want to be—that God made us to be?  In a word, incrementally!

Fitter by the Day

One of the clearest examples I know of this principle is manifested in physical fitness.  No one has ever turned from an overweight couch potato overnight.  But many people have changed from a person 30 pounds overweight to a person 25 pounds overweight with an improved cardiovascular system.  The activities, attitudes, and habits that brought the 5-pound transformation are the very ones that bring the 8-pound transformation the next month, and eventually result in a healthy, fit person with great eating habits.

Follow a Winner

The key in this area, as well as many other areas where this principle applies, is to find people who are where you want to be.  That means people who are 8 steps ahead of you and people who are 2 steps ahead of you.  By recognizing that they have the character, faith, or habit you want, you can then begin to model the life they live.  You can see the choices they make, the council they follow, and the way they press on.  As you watch them thrive and grow, you’ll be inspired to do the things it takes to take yourself to the next level.

One word of caution—do not be overwhelmed when you meet those people who are leaps and bounds ahead of you.  If you go the gym and see someone snatching twice what you’re capable of, it can be discouraging to see that you have so far to go.  Instead of allowing this discouragement to reign, let yourself see this person as having what you want long-term, and be happy for them in their success.  Do not try to reach their place overnight, rather, identify your next level.  What are the people doing who are just in front of you doing that you’re not?  What are they reading or listening to that you’re not?  How do they cultivate optimism and confidence in their lives?

Identify, Model, Own, Repeat

By recognizing the actions and attitudes you need to reach that next level, you’re most of the way there.  As you begin to incorporate these practices into your life and being, you move that much closer to the place you’d like to be.  And now that you’ve done it once, you need only take another step to reach an even higher level.  Be intentional about those whom you choose to spend time around—they must be thriving in at least a few areas to a greater degree than you are, so that you can see what it takes and model their behavior.  Not only that, but they must be growing themselves so that you can continue to learn from them.  As we all walk this road together, we fulfill God’s design as expressed in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”


Controlling the Little Kid Inside

Any time you turn on the TV, open a magazine, or walk down the street, you’ll find a plethora of advertisements for incredible products that you can’t live without.  While many of these products may well be amazing, if you lose control of yourself and let the little kid inside take over, you can end up with a home filled with some cool stuff and retirement and savings accounts filled only with IOUs.  Perhaps worse than that, you’ll find that your resources were unintentionally spent on things you value little, and those priorities that you want to value highly go wanting.  Today we’ll dive into the topic of prudent spending and offer a few suggestions on how to enjoy some of the nicer things in life now, while preserving your future and tempering buying with wisdom.

I Need a New One!

One of the starkest examples I’m aware of that illustrates this danger dramatically is the following story.  A man owns an older car that he had purchased years ago and maintained well.  One day, as he’s tuning through presets on his car’s radio, one of the buttons pops off.  “Well, I can get by with only four presets,” he thinks.  No big deal. A few days later, while setting his coffee cup in its usual place, he hears a loud “Crunch!” as the well-worn plastic cup holder finally gives way.  A week after that, he notices that his brakes start squeaking, and then grinding.

“That’s it, he exclaims, “I’m getting a new car!”  And off he goes to trade his $2,000 car in for a $15,000 brand new one, for which he’ll take out a loan.  Normally our man would know better than to do such a thing, since he’d read the TotalThriver post on the value of saving for large purchases.  But, he let that information drift far from his mind in this moment of weakness since, even though he didn’t have the money saved up yet, he HAD to do this because it was an “emergency.”

Upselling Yourself

Before we’re too hard on our reckless friend, we should recognize how easy it is to let yourself begin down this road, and then justify a higher and higher purchase price, ignoring the fact that you don’t have the money for any of this.  Our man did have a real problem.  His car radio, cup holder, and brakes all needed to be repaired.  Let’s even imagine that in this case, the total repair bill would have been high enough that putting such a large sum into an old car wouldn’t have been wise.  In this case, what our friend should have done was sold the car as-is.  Perhaps it would only bring $1500 because of the defects that he left unrepaired.  But here’s where our man went awry:  He thought to himself, (as we have all done one time or another), “well, since I’m getting another car anyway, I might as well get a nicer one while I’m at it…”  Though this isn’t necessarily a terrible sentiment, problems come when things go too far out of proportion.

A more prudent decision for our friend to would have been to spend $800 or so from his savings account to put with the $1500 that he received from the sale of the old car in order to purchase a $2300 vehicle.  Notice that this is an upgrade from the car he had before, and should definitely include functioning cup holders, a radio, and brakes.  Though a $2300 car isn’t as fun to drive as a $15,000 one, our man would have solved his problem while staying out of debt, thereby preserving his options.  By avoiding entering into a loan agreement, he will have more of his income available to replenish his emergency fund, and then begin his car savings fund.

I’ll Bet You Like Options

This brings us to the more pleasant side of the coin—enjoying the good things in life in a prudent way.  According to the revised plan outlined above, our friend is on the path toward a better car, without the risk and bondage of the debt that came with the “new car today option.” As he saves the money month by month, he can evaluate how important a premium car is to him.  He lives, as most of us do, with some limit on his available cash.  Because we have these limits, we must decide which things are most important to us, and conversely, which areas we will tolerate a lower-quality product.  What we often don’t realize is that when we sign up for a $15,000 loan on a new car, we’ve just locked ourselves into a high-quality vehicle and low-quality everything else—potentially even very important things like a future home, retirement savings, kids college, and many other aspects of our lifestyle.

The point is that by having the cash saved up, you have multiple options.  You can think about what areas you desire a quality product, and what areas you’ll tolerate something lesser.  Perhaps you want a really nice car and don’t care about eating at restaurants or buying expensive gifts for others.  Or perhaps you don’t mind driving an old car but you’ve got to have a new iPad and an unlimited data package.  For you ThirveFit members, perhaps your priority is high-quality weight equipment, supplements, and nutritional products, and you’ll put up with a five-year-old computer and TV without complaint.  Whatever your combination is, the important thing is that you find out who you are—what’s important to you—and then make sure to limit your big purchases in lower-priority areas.  Though this sounds obvious when put this way, it is so easy to find ourselves “ponying-up” for a great ______, (car, tv, washing machine, computer) when we can’t really afford it, and then later regretting having so much money tied up in that item.  The point isn’t that you can’t have nice things; it’s that we all must be vigilant to resist the “kid in the candy store” mentality ruling our every purchase.  We are wise to remember that money saved on a purchase today is money we’ll have available for those things we truly value.*

*Incidentally, this could be another purchase, or something even more valuable like giving to others or supporting spreading the Gospel.  But we’ll save that topic for another day!  🙂

No Breaks!

One of the most important aspects of any successful training regimen (or perhaps any pursuit in life) is consistency. Today, we’ll discuss the importance of sticking with your workouts and never letting too much time pass between training sessions.

Here Comes an Excuse

As you may have read in previous posts, I had the joy of traveling to Indiahoma, Oklahoma last week to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the children, youth, and adults in the community. We had an awesome time (more to come on that soon) and forged many wonderful relationships. However, there was one thing we didn’t do while there—workouts!

While I was able to stay pretty active moving rubble from a burned-down building, swimming at the lake, and even a bit of free climbing, I didn’t lift any heavy weights. And, though I intended to go on a few runs and do some bodyweight exercises, I never managed to make it happen.

The Price That Must Be Paid

Consequently, I was in for a rough day back to the gym today. My last full workout was 6 days ago, and that’s much too long to go between workouts. My metcon of heavy squats, dips, dumbbell jerks and pull-ups started off well, but I ran out of steam about 3 minutes in and my whole body began to feel like Jello.

I’m afraid that there’s no good way to get around the rough spot that I found myself in today, should you skip too many workouts. The only way to get past it is to go right through. So, that’s exactly what I did, pushing my Jello-feeling body through the next 15 minutes of punishment. By the end, I was totally wiped, and struggled to catch my breath for about five minutes.

The Reward on the Other Side

However, once I did catch my breath, I began feeling much better, even better that I had felt all day. I spent the next 10-15 minutes stretching my hips and calves, which had grown rather tight and immobile in the two 10-hour bus rides that we’d taken last week. All in all, I felt great by the end, but there were some rough moments in there for sure.

Learn from Mistakes

As you can probably tell, I’ve been through this a time or two in the past, and have learned to avoid this situation as much as possible. Since I powered through today, I’ll likely be back in a good groove tomorrow or the next day. Getting back in a good rhythm requires paying a high price, though, as I experienced today, so I’ll be working to avoid another slip in the future.

Be Good to Your Body

One or two days of resting and stretching can be a great way to rejuvenate your body and recover from a tough workout. But three days can be dangerous and four days is trouble. If you make my mistake and wait six days between, you’re in for a rough day back, so don’t let it happen to you! Make workouts your habit four to five days a week, and even if it’s just a few rounds of sprints and push-ups, your body will thank you for avoiding the punishment of a “first day back!”

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!

Wandering into Trouble

I’ve enjoyed many hiking and camping trips since I was a young child.  Walking through the forest, listening to the sounds of wildlife and seeing the sun gleaming through the trees, I’ve had a chance to appreciate the beauty and creativity of our Father’s world.  Occasionally, my hikes have become extended for a bit longer than I was planning on, due to an underestimation of how long a climb might take or a casual disregard for things like maps and compasses…. 

Oblivious to the Peril

The funny thing about getting lost is that you don’t realize you’re about to get yourself in trouble until you suddenly realize that you are in trouble!  On a certain camping trip with a buddy of mine in Arizona, we hiked out into the desert loaded with many gallons of water.  We found a good site, set our provisions down, and trotted off in search of a good “sitting log” to place beside the firepit.  We found a good one a short while later, and began carrying it back to our campsite.  At first, we thought it was pretty funny that our campsite was taking so long to get to.  “Strange how it only took us 10 minutes to find this log, but we’re taking 20 minutes to carry it back,”  we laughed.  Slowly we realized that we were actually lost, and we’d been walking for so long because we didn’t know where we’d left our jackets and water!

A few hours later, tired and thirsty, we found our campsite as the sun finally set.  This set us up for a cold night (the coldest night of my life, in fact), since we’d wasted our afternoon and now had only a half-built shelter.  But we were thankful at least for the jackets and water that we had nearly lost.

This story is an example of how we can be walking along unaware, and suddenly find ourselves in an overwhelming situation.  We were too confident that we wouldn’t get lost, and by the time we recognized our precarious position, it was too late.

Common Financial Dangers

In a similar way, we can tend to be very blasé with debt in America today.  We look around at our friends and neighbors, and many of them have student loans.  Everyone’s got a mortgage, and some debt on their cars.  And of course we’ve all got to have our credit cards!  But even though we all know that people get trapped and pulled under by debt, we mistakenly think that this can never happen to us.

Confident of our ability to keep our debt in control, we walk right along the edge of a financial cliff.  We buy a nice big house, great new cars, and a brand new living room set—all on payments.  At the end of the month, we’ve got $25 leftover after all the credit payments are made, and we think, “All right! Everything’s going great!”  But then comes something unexpected, and all of a sudden we’re $175 under instead.  No big deal, we think, “I’ll just pay the minimum credit card payment this month, then get everything cleaned up next month.”  But again, something unexpected comes, and now the balance we carried last month is compounding on us.  On and on it goes, and the debt pulls us down deeper and deeper.

Recognize the Trap

This story has sadly happened to too many people who are able to escape only through a long and painful bankruptcy.  If you’re fighting this now, know this:  many have overcome this situation through wise money management, hard work, and tenacity.  If you’re still dabbling with debt and don’t think this could ever happen to you, think again.  Banks are not evil, but they are concerned with making money, not ensuring that you keep your head above water.  Knowing what you can afford and what you cannot is your responsibility, and you owe it to your family and to God to manage the money He’s given you wisely.

The most reliable way to make sure that you can afford something is to simply buy only with cash (or debit cards/checks).  The one exception might be a mortgage on a 15-year fixed rate with the monthly payment of 25% of your take-home pay, which can be a reasonable debt, provided that you have a substantial down payment.  And some financial experts would contend that there are a few other “reasonably safe” debts as well, but use these very carefully.  It is much easier to lose your way than you think.  Decide instead to take control of your financial life by eliminating debt and paying with cash.  The confidence and freedom that come with becoming debt-free will serve you well on your path to a thriving life.

The Effect of Fitness on Productivity

This post is first in a series of six articles on why you should care about fitness.  We often don’t realize how investments in one aspect of life provide benefits not just in their own realm, but in many other areas of life as well.

Adopting a fitness regimen will not only make you more fit, but will also affect your career, your marriage and other relationships, and your disposition.  In this post, we’ll explore how fitness pays dividends in your productivity.

The enemy

Many of our jobs involve something quite harmful to the production of quality work and creative thinking–a desk chair.  Study after study indicates that one of the most dangerous things we do in our daily lives is spending long periods of time sitting in a chair.  Read here for more detail on the studies backing this claim.

Desk Chair After

Look at it this way–your body was made to move.  God did not give you muscles, joints, a cardiovascular system and a digestive system so you could sit still all day.  Your body is a machine designed for a purpose, and when you don’t engage your body’s systems properly, it doesn’t work properly.

The first step

The good news for those of us who’ve adopted poor fitness habits is that the body is incredibly adaptable.  If you will start incorporating movement into your daily life, your body will adapt and get stronger and fitter in a remarkable way.  One very simple way to get started is to find a coffee machine, water fountain, or any other excuse that’s a good distance from your desk.  Make a habit of getting out of your chair and walking to your excuse of choice once every 1.5 hours or so.  If you can walk up and down a flight of stairs along the way, that’s all the better.

The next step is to find 15-20 minutes a few times a week to start engaging your body in a more strenuous workout, pushing your limits and giving you big gain potential.  Walking around the office is good for getting your blood moving and keeping your chair from killing you, but to truly engage your body’s systems and reap the productivity benefits, you’ll need something more challenging.

Where can your workout fit?

I’m blessed to have a small gym and shower facilities at my workplace, so I’m able to workout over lunch most days.  This is ideal, as it really allows my body and brain to be kicked into high gear for the afternoon.  It’s amazing how a morning that was quickly turning into drudgery and poor quality output can be turned around by a lunchtime workout.  Even if you can’t make this happen at your job, can you get a workout in before you come in in the morning?  Or ride your bicycle into work to get your body’s systems going before you boot up your computer?  Use your creativity to find how a workout can fit into your day.  Remember, our fitness philosophy here at TotalThriver revolves around short, high-intensity workouts with functional movements requiring little equipment, so there’s incredible flexibility in terms of where and when you can workout, and the time commitment is quite minimal.

In summary, we’re advocating a strategy of moving from your chair every few hours and working out as near to your work time as possible.  The most dramatic evidence for just how effective this is at boosting productivity and creativity is available directly to you.  Try this:  ramp up over a period of a few weeks until you’re doing a challenging workout 4 out of 5 workdays per week.  You will notice a dramatic difference in your capabilities when compared to where you were before you began the regimen.  Also, you’ll notice that anytime you have to miss a workout (for a meeting, a sick kid, etc.) that you’re just not at your best on those days.  It almost feels like someone stuck with you with a needle and is sapping energy out of you.  Once you feel the new capacity that this fitness regimen gives you, you feel like you’ve been cheating yourself out of so much latent ability that you never knew you had.

Test the claim

The great part is, this new productivity and energy level that you get from the fitness regimen can be a great motivator for keeping with the program.  On days that I miss a workout, I know that I’m not able to put forth my best on the work I’m doing, and I desire that workout tomorrow all the more.  When I get back in the gym and pour my all into a hard workout, I get such a feeling of satisfaction and my body is so thankful to get it’s systems moving again.  Best of all, when I head back to my office for the afternoon, I’m energized and refreshed, and my tasks are knocked out with quality, creativity, and excellence.  If this sounds like the kind of productivity boost you’d like to add to your day, why not head over to the ThriveFit page and give workout #1 a try?  You can test these claims for yourself and see the tangible benefit in a very short time.  Be sure to ramp yourself up gradually into any new program to reduce injury likelihood and to keep you from falling off the bandwagon after a week and a half.  Keep the workouts short, the form correct, and the intensity high!