Living Well Spending Less: Part IV Written Goals Can Save Your Life

This week we continue going through Ruth Soukup’s book “Living Well Spending Less”.

 

If you haven’t been following, here are links to the previous three parts:

Secret #4: Written Goals Can Save Your Life

This blog post is about goal setting so it can seem quite removed from your faith in Christ especially if you are reading this blog post in isolation.  Be sure the review Parts I – III to accept and realise that goal setting is in the context of the changes you are wanting to make in your life and journey with Christ.  Not purely for achieving goals for their own sake.  The ultimate goal from Phillippians 3:13-14 is:

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.

Some times we lack a clear direction and focus. As a result we can waste too much time on the things that do not matter and not finding the time for the things that DO matter.

Create a long term vision

Think about your life five or ten years from now.  Get thinking. Where do you live? What do you look like? Who are your friends?  What do you do for work? What do you do for fun? Where do you go for vacation? Are you married? Do you have children? What have you accomplished? What does your home look like?

Include everything from the important to not so important.  Even if it is just for a moment a seed of hope my be imprinted on you.  Even if it takes some time but thinking about it you can perhaps accept that things can be different, a different vision of the future is attainable if only you will take the first step.

Try to think of a successful goal oriented person in your life.  But delve deeper.  This person may seem more talented, more driven, courageous and smart.  But really think it through.  A part of it is having a long term vision.  They have taken the time to visualise what their lives would look like if nothing stood in their way.  They’ve given themselves enough freedom to dream about the future and that dream gives them enough confidence to figure out a way to get there.

But the dream comes first.

It’s almost a three step process:

  1. Imagine the life you aspire to;
  2. Write down these goals and aspirations;
  3. Take the necessary steps to make these goals happen.

Don’t have a fuzzy idea of your dreams in your head that you will achieve someday. You have to write them down. By writing them down it forced you to self evaluate your goals and decide what is most important. It also provides motivation to act on those dreams.
Writing them down makes them real. Once they are real you cannot ignore them.

Planning your route

Here are some tips o creating effective and concrete goals.

  1. Be clear on your objective(s)

You have to know where you want to go before you can know how to get there.  Trying to move forward without first taking time to clearly realise and write down your objectives won’t accomplish much because you’ll constantly be wondering where to go next.

Whenever possible, your goals and objectives need to be phrased in a way that is quantifiable so you can be clear on whether or not you have achieved them

2. Give yourself a due date

Setting a specific completion date for your goals automatically creates a greater sense of urgency.  Most people are procrastinators by nature.  You have to be aware and work around this.  Setting a due date help you combat the tendency to procrastinate.  It gives you just enough motivation to stop putting things off and really start getting things done.

In fact, a goal without a deadline is a pipe dream.

3. Breakdown large goals

Big, lofty goals have to be broken into smaller bits if you want to achieve them.  think of setting:

  • yearly;
  • quarterly;
  • monthly;
  • weekly and
  • daily;

goals.

If you have a really big project it may be helpful to put together a timeline of smaller goals.  Start with a deadline then work backwards so you have a series of small milestones leading up to the final completion date.  this helps you break it down in your mind so that you are not overwhelmed by the largeness of the task.

Each step on its own seems reasonable and doable.  This process of breaking down big goals also helps you know what to be working on and help avoid a false sense of security that you have plenty of time to get it done.

4. Track your progress

The best way to stay focused is to continually monitor and measure your progress.  Write down your goals in  a place you can refer to often – every day if necessary.

Don’t scribble your goals on little pieces of scrap paper.  Create a poster or put up a chalkboard, write your goals in your planner or post a list on your bathroom mirror (so you read them every day).

Do whatever it takes to put your list in a place that will force you to read them and remember all the things that you are working towards.

breaking your long term goals into smaller steps and monthly, weekly, and daily goals also helps you stay on track because it forces you to assess what you’ve done and what you still need to finish.

Create Accountability

Finding a person or group of people to hold you accountable can make a huge difference, especially those goals that require more self-discipline than you currently possess.

If there is someone in your life you trust or admire, consider asking them to be your accountability partner.

Your accountability partner may challenge you, encourage you and pray for you.  And you can offer to do the same for them.

If you can’t find a person you will have to challenge yourself to create your own accountability be it through tools, lists, checklists, a physical or digital planner, reporting tools (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly) to force yourself to be accountable.

Celebrate your success

Tick of your accomplishments, savor these moments and revel in the triumph of actually doing them.

Be sure to make time to celebrate not just big accomplishments and major milestones but the small victories too.  Congratulate yourself for a job well done.

Short term sacrifices for long term gain

An important shift in your life can occur if you begin making decisions based on what you want to accomplish five, ten or twenty years from now rather than what we want or think we want will make us happy right now.  Don’t let those advertisements and marketers stare you off track.  This is your life not there’s.

Setting long-term goals empowers you to delay gratification so you can achieve them.

Where to start?

A good idea is to break down your goal and vision into different categories.  Don’t be limited to the following.  This list is just to get you thinking.  The goals have to be your own :

  1. What milestones would you like to reach in your Christian life and in your Church?
  2. What sort of mother or father do you want to be?
  3. What kind of marriage and family life do you want to have?
  4. What impact would you like to have on your community and the world?
  5. What would you like to accomplish in your career and professional life?
  6. What awards, promotions or degrees would you like to receive?
  7. What sort of financial goals do you have?
  8. What fun things do you want to do with your life?
  9. What would you like to see?
  10. Who would you like to meet?
  11. What would you like to read?

Start by writing down anything and everything you can think of.  Give yourself freedom to dream big and get it all on paper.  From there you can break down that big list into “someday”, “within ten years”, ” within five years” and “within next year” categories and then break down those one year goals even further into goals for next month, week and day.

This workbook created by Ruth Soukup may assist you.

If you decide to use this workbook it will assist you with setting priorities, developing good habits, eliminating things that do NOT matter.  Life will offer its distractions so you need tools and a mindset to keep to your path.

If you take the time to get focused on your long term vision, write down some concrete goals for your future you are on your way.  You need direction and clarity to achieve your goals.  Written goals truly can keep you focused to the obstacles of life.  Written goals can change your life.

Pray about what your goals should be and where you are being lead by Christ.  Pay attention to the goals and mission that Christ has for you in this world.

Challenge: Plan your long term vision

Grab a coffee (or herbal tea), a notebook and give yourself some time to think and pray about your long term goals and dreams.  What would you like your life to look like ten years from now?  What sort of things would you like to achieve in your personal, professional and spiritual life? Don’t just think about these goals. Write them down!

Next, make a date with your partner or accountability partner or friend and discuss your long term vision.  Dream big and to be honest about what you’d like to achieve, see and do in your future.  Create a plan and write down your goals in a place you will see often.

Break down that long term vision you have created into smaller short term goals.  What are five things you can accomplish in the next year?  What are five things you want to accomplish in the next month?

Use the workbook provided if you are feeling overwhelmed.

Remember that your ultimate goal should be from Phillippians 3:13-14 is:

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.

Commit to spend time each day to pray for guidance on what your goals should be.  If this chapter isn’t as personally engaging as previous chapters make your own assessments on what Christ is telling you and what and how you can implement any of the Ruth’s suggestions.

If you are enjoying going through the book “Living Well Spending Less”, please support the author Ruth Soukup and purchase her book.

Living Well Spending Less: Part II

This week we continue going through Ruth Soukup’s book “Living Well Spending Less”.

Book cover - living Well Spending Less

 

Contentment Is A Choice

This week we start on Secret #2 – Contentment is a Choice.

As a starting point here is a quote from 1 Timothy 6:6 – 8.

“But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that”.

As Ruth says in her book, “I can see it so clearly in my oldest daughter – that constant yearning and wanting and needing something more.  No sooner than she than she gets what she wants than she is onto the next thing, constantly pining for something else that is just out of reach”.

This yearning can be so draining and worse yet never ending.

You go out to dinner with friends and you’ve barely started your main and you are already looking at the dessert menu.  You look at what your partner is having and it looks and smells incredible and you hope they’ll share with you.

Why didn’t I order that?

You open your closet full of clothes and decide…I’ve got nothing to wear. Everything in my closet is ugly!  plus it makes me look fat!

Didn’t you just buy some clothes last weekend?

What is it you are still looking for?

You’ve been re-decorating the house.  New flooring, rugs, shelves, furniture.  Everything matches your vision.  Your partner agrees, “It’s amazing”, you briefly think its all finished and then you reconsider and think...Oh no, there’s still more to do. it can’t be finished already? When will I be done?  Or do I even want it to finish?

Ruth recognises that her children can often be an honest reflection of herself.  She knows that the discontentment in her daughter is often present in her own life.  She often gets caught up in the pursuit of wanting something new, telling herself the reason she isn’t satisfied is because she doesn’t have X or hasn’t achieved Y.

These are familiar lies  that keep creeping back over and over.

Well, these lies seem to affect so many of us in the daily lives we lead.  These are the lies we need to rebel against and actively fight back against.  Defeating the lies is a conscious decision, one that requires daily effort, persistence and grace.

This is a battle we have to win on purpose; we must choose contentment.

It can sometimes feel that the world is one big advertisement.  Between books, tv, online media, magazines, billboards and even messages from friends and family it is practically impossible to escape the pressure to:

  • have more;
  • do more;
  • be more.

The idea that what we already have ad who we are is enough is rarely – if ever – promoted.  Contentment just doesn’t sell.

This leads us to a number of questions:

  1. How do we choose contentment when it feels like life throws us nothing but ways to feel inadequate?
  2. How do we find fulfillment in what we have, when we keep being told what we are missing?
  3. How can we choose to be satisfied when the yearning for what we don’t have feels so insatiable?

Knowing What Matters Most

The only real solution is to change the message in our brains.  This starts by realising our priorities.

If we aren’t perfectly clear about what is most important in our lives, it is all too easy to be swayed by anything that comes our way.

Your highest aspirations

What would happen if we wrote down our current priorities.  Would our perspective change if we took just a few minutes to determine what we want most out of life?  Do your highest aspirations really include having more things?

Taking it one step further, if you were to die tomorrow, what would you like people to remember you for?

Do you want people to remember you for your killer shoe collection or your perfectly decorated house or the great parties you held or fantastic meals you cooked.  It’s doubtful you want to be remembered for being totally self-absorbed or that you did nothing to help others. Or wow, she had a whole lot of stuff she didn’t need.

The Bible tells us to store us treasures in heaven, for where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.

Remembering our end goal makes it a whole lot easier to set our priorities and determine what matters most.

Our Priorities

The Bible is pretty clear on letting us know what our priorities should be:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phillipians 4:8

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10.

Do you notice the recurring themes?  We are called to live a life of love, joy and peace. To practice kindness, patience, gentleness and self-control.  Toserve with compassiona and humility.

There is nothing here about having the best of everything or about taking as much as we can get or even about being in perfect fitness, beautiful or dressed to the nines.

If we look at ourselves in terms of eternity – instead of what we want right now, having a designer wardrobe, bigger home or prettier kitchen or cool car just doesn’t seem so important.

Taming the Green-eyed Monster

Setting our priorities is only one step.  We have to find a way to stop being swayed by the temptations of everyday life.

We all have temptations.  You might like clothes, gadgets, material goods.  I might like camera gear or cars or chasing girls.   Our temptations might look different but chances are it leaves you feeling inadequate.

No matter where dissatisfaction strikes or where we feel we don’t measure up, the green-eyed monster will destroy us if we let it.  true contentment will never be found by looking outward.

If we struggle with wanting things we see around us we have to stop looking.  If your struggle is with certain people who bring that insecurity , that longing, youmay need to take a temporary break.

Another person’s success or talent doesn’t negate your own.  Likewise, another person’s wealth doesn’t make our lives any less valuable.  Romans 12:6 tells us “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”.

No two people will walk the exact same path and nothing someone else has will fulfill us if we are not already filled.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Discontentment can sneak up on us so quickly we don’t even know it is happening.  It can be helpful to have daily conversations about the blessings in our lives and the things we are grateful for.

Phillipians 4:4, 6 – 7 reminds us “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”.

Be Intentional.

We should endeavour to bring our concerns and requests before God.  We can forget that we need to be intentional about thanking God for what he has done in our lives and in the lives of  others.

Take time to consciously list all the specific ways in which we have been blessed can help our perspective.

An attitude of continual gratitude is the fastest way to chase away the green-eyed monster.

If you are really struggling with feelings of discontentment you may not be feeling very blessed.  However, just consider the following:

  1. You are reading this blog post. According to UNESCO, 26% of the adult population is illiterate and women make up 2/3’s of this number.
  2. You are not hungry. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 870 million people, 1/8 of the worlds population is suffering from chronic hunger.
  3. You have access to medicine.  The World Health Organisation estimates that between 1.3 -2 billion people do not have access to basic medicine.
  4. You most likely can drive.  If you own your own vehicle, you are in the lucky 9% of the worlds population that does.
  5. You most probably have a place to sleep tonight.  According to the UN Commission on Human Rights, there are approximately 100 million people without homes around the world. A place to call home is a gift.
  6. You can turn on the lights.  More than 1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity.  Electricity is a gift.
  7. You are not thirsty.  780 million people in the world lack access to clean water. Clean water is a gift.

There is magic that happens when we stop comparing our lives to those we perceive as having more and instead, intentionally begin appreciating all that we already have.

We tend to take for granted the boring and basic stuff and also forget the gifts we have been blessed with that others do not have.

When we open our hearts just enough to see the blessings we’ve already been given our worldview changes from one of longing to one of overwhelming gratitude and joy.

Living Well Spending Less Part III: We All Have A Sweet Spot

This week we continue going through Ruth Soukup’s book “Living Well Spending Less”.

Book cover - living Well Spending Less

We All Have A Sweet Spot

This week we start on Secret #3 – We All Have A Sweet Spot.

As a starting point here is a quote from Romans 12:6-8 (NIV)

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with youra]”>[a] faith;if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,b]”>[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

We are all different.  We will achieve better in some areas of life than others or when compared to others.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  In fact it’s actually perfectly natural based on the gifts we have all received.

I’ll precursor this chapter now and personally say that it is not engaging as chapters 1 & 2.  However, it needs to be thought of as one part of a whole and collectively goes with the earlier chapters and forthcoming chapters we’ll go through later.

Finding Your Sweet Spot

Where is your passion?  What do you love doing most of all? If you could do only one thing right now, what would it be?

Our sweet spot is that place where our greatest passions and our talents or abilities intersect.  Living in our sweet spot means not only taking the time to discover our passions and to realise what it is we were made to do but also being willing to take the next step.  We have to do it.

Most of us have the tendency to put our dreams on hold in favour of the practical.  the hard truth is that following your passion and living out your dream is incredibly scary. There is a huge potential  for failure. It makes us vulnerable to criticism.

It means taking a step into the unknown, where anything can happen and where we often do not have control.  It is so much easier to find shelter in the known than risk the heartbreak of failure.

You probably have an inkling on what you are best made for and what ignites your passion.  If you can incorporate your true passion in your life you can find your sweet spot and your life will be more full as you are in the right place where you need to be.

Bloom Where You Are

There are times however when we have no idea what our sweet spot is or how to find it.  As life progresses we may find that our dreams, aspirations and callings change too.  Sometimes seeing what someone else is doing makes us see what we truly want or need to do.

Other times we  may have to accept that we currently are not living in our sweet spot but are still called to make the most of our circumstances right now.

There is a big difference between wanting what we don’t have and wanting to do something else because we know deep down it is where we are meant to be.  How do we remedy the tension between choosing contentment against striving for more?

You have to try to bloom where you are.

At any given time we all have room to grow and bloom, no matter where we are planted.  No matter the season of life, we have opportunities to learn more, develop more, give more.  Our sweet spot doesn’t have to be some grand life plan.  Sometimes we don’t even know what our sweet spot is but simply need to  follow our current calling or passion.

Finding our sweet spot means listening to that tiny voice inside of us that says, Make the most of where you are right now. Learn. Grow. Develop who and what you are.  And often the sweet spot will emerge, right in the middle of living life.

Identifying Our Gifts

We all have been given our own special gifts and talents even if we do not recognise them.

There is a spectrum of gifts.  Below is just a few:

  • kindness;
  • administration;
  • communication;
  • diligence;
  • generosity;
  • healing;
  • knowledge;
  • empathy;
  • teaching;
  • organisation;
  • creativity;
  • music;
  • doing or serving;
  • stepping up when needed;
  • forging a path for others;
  • leading;
  • administering change;
  • following through.

We are all blessed with any number of special gifts and abilities.

While some gifts may be flashier than others , seem more preferable or more important they are all essential.

Gifts come from God,

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”,  1 Corinthians 12:4-6.

Individually we all have gifts.  However, we are all part of the body of Christ and we are meant to work together1 Corinthians 12:14-18 (NIV), 

14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

Finding your sweet spot often involves finding and then learning to embrace the God-given talents and aptitudes you already have rather than the ones you wish you had.

It means taking the time to discover what you are truly good at and enjoy then figuring out how to merge that talent and those abilities with the ideas and dreams and pursuits you are most passionate about.

Sometimes finding your sweet spot even means taking a wrong turn and failing.

Choosing The Wrong Path

Sometimes you may be tempted to go down a path not of your choosing or you think its what you want to do and yet seemingly this path is leaving you stone cold.  You may reach a point where you feel miserable or just okay.  Is ok enough?

Believe it or not, your dream may in reality be quite different from what you imagined.  Do you keep going?  Is giving up really giving up?  Sometimes it is okay to fail.

Sometimes we become fearful of making mistake, of doing something wrong, of having someone else laugh at us. However failure (in it’s most general sense) is almost never fatal.  Life goes on and sometimes you just have to put one foot in front of the other until a new path becomes clear. While one door may have closed, a whole world of new possibilities opens up in its place.  Quitting or changing can in fact be a bold move to try new things you would never have before.  You can find your sweet spot not despite your failure but because of it.

Jumping In With Both Feet

Some people like to take a cautious approach while other like getting stuck right in straight away.

When following our dreams and finding your sweet spot many of us prefer to slow and steady approach.  Taking a leap of faith can be all at once the most terrifying and the most rewarding thing you may ever do.

For example, you may have a dream to open a business.  You take the plunge and then soon find out that being a business owner is hard hard work.  There are setbacks and disappointments.  You don’t know if you will make it and you may even feel like giving up.  Hopefully you will find your sweet spot, succeed, keep going and pursue the path you were made for.

You may not know your sweet spot yet and you may be worried that you are not quite good enough, smart enough, organised or talented enough.  It can be awfully scary to jump into  the unknown and pursue a dream you don’t know will ever come true.  Speaking from Ruth Soukup’s own experience, it is the most exhilarating jump you will ever take.

You have your own sweet spot.  You will have to become fearless in all that you do, dare to take the plunge even when it risks failure.  Remember these words from Phillipians 4:13:

13 I can do all things through Christa]”>[a] who strengthens me.” (New King James Version).

Don’t let the possibility of fear deter you from trying.  You will make mistakes.  You will screw up along the way.  There are times that you may even have to accept defeat. Keep going.  Use the lessons as opportunities to discover what doesn’t work and always persevere.

Challenge: Identify Your Sweet Spot

Spend some time thinking about your dreams and passions.  What is it that you love to do most of all?  What makes you jump out of bed in the morning or rushing back from work?

If you could do only one thing right now, what would it be?  Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t quite gathered the nerve to try?

Next spend some time listening to the holy discontentment in your life.  Is there something in your life that isn’t quite right?  Do you have a feeling you are on the wrong path?  What would it take to make a change?  Think about the direction that you need to take or where God is leading you:

I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress.”  Psalms 32:8 (The Living Bible).

Finally, consider your own gifts and talents.  What are your areas of expertise?  What are you good at?  What do you most enjoy?  What is your sweet spot?  Remember you have been given many gifts and talents for your work individually and collectively as part of the body of Christ.

Ignite that spark within you and give yourself permission to try, to leap in with both feet, even if it means risking failure.

Commit to spend time each day to pray for guidance on where you should be focusing your talents and gifts in work and at Church.

As I said earlier, this chapter isn’t as personally engaging as the previous two chapters. However, make your own assessments on what Christ is telling you and what and how you can implement any of the Ruth’s suggestions.

If you are enjoying going through the book “Living Well Spending Less”, please support the author Ruth Soukup and purchase her book.

Living Well Spending Less: Contentment Is A Choice

This week we continue going through Ruth Soukup’s book “Living Well Spending Less”.

Book cover - living Well Spending Less

Contentment Is A Choice

This week we start on Secret #2 – Contentment is a Choice.

As a starting point here is a quote from 1 Timothy 6:6 – 8.

“But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that”.

As Ruth says in her book, “I can see it so clearly in my oldest daughter – that constant yearning and wanting and needing something more.  No sooner than she than she gets what she wants than she is onto the next thing, constantly pining for something else that is just out of reach”.

This yearning can be so draining and worse yet, never ending.

You go out to dinner with friends and you’ve barely started your main and you are already looking at the dessert menu.  You look at what your partner is having and it looks and smells incredible and you hope they’ll share with you.

Why didn’t I order that?

You open your closet full of clothes and decide…I’ve got nothing to wear. Everything in my closet is ugly!  plus it makes me look fat!

Didn’t you just buy some clothes last weekend?

What is it you are still looking for?

You’ve been re-decorating the house.  New flooring, rugs, shelves, furniture.  Everything matches your vision.  Your partner agrees, “It’s amazing”, you briefly think its all finished and then you reconsider and think...Oh no, there’s still more to do. it can’t be finished already? When will I be done?  Or do I even want it to finish?

Ruth sees that her children can often be an honest reflection of herself.  She knows that the discontentment in her daughter is often present in her own life.  She often gets caught up in the pursuit of wanting something new, telling herself the reason she isn’t satisfied is because she doesn’t have X or hasn’t achieved Y.

These are familiar lies  that keep creeping back over and over.

Well, these lies seem to affect so many of us in the daily lives we lead.  These are the lies we need to rebel against and actively fight back against.  Defeating the lies is a conscious decision, one that requires daily effort, persistence and grace.

This is a battle we have to win on purpose; we must choose contentment.

It can sometimes feel that the world is one big advertisement.  Between books, tv, online media, magazines, billboards and even messages from friends and family it is practically impossible to escape the pressure to:

  • have more;
  • do more;
  • be more.

The idea that what we already have ad who we are is enough is rarely – if ever – promoted.  Contentment just doesn’t sell.

This leads us to a number of questions:

  1. How do we choose contentment when it feels like life throws us nothing but ways to feel inadequate?
  2. How do we find fulfillment in what we have, when we keep being told what we are missing?
  3. How can we choose to be satisfied when the yearning for what we don’t have feels so insatiable?

Knowing What Matters Most

The only real solution is to change the message in our brains.  This starts by realising our priorities.

If we aren’t perfectly clear about what is most important in our lives, it is all too easy to be swayed by anything that comes our way.

Your highest aspirations

What would happen if we wrote down our current priorities.  Would our perspective change if we took just a few minutes to determine what we want most out of life?  Do your highest aspirations really include having more things?

Taking it one step further, if you were to die tomorrow, what would you like people to remember you for?

Do you want people to remember you for your killer shoe collection or your perfectly decorated house or the great parties you held or fantastic meals you cooked.  It’s doubtful you want to be remembered for being totally self-absorbed or that you did nothing to help others. Or wow, she had a whole lot of stuff she didn’t need.

The Bible tells us to store treasures in heaven, for where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.

Remembering our end goal makes it a whole lot easier to set our priorities and determine what matters most.

Our Priorities

The Bible is pretty clear on letting us know what our priorities should be:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phillipians 4:8

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10.

Do you notice the recurring themes?  We are called to live a life of love, joy and peace. To practice kindness, patience, gentleness and self-control.  To serve with compassion and humility.

There is nothing here about having the best of everything or about taking as much as we can get or even about being in perfect fitness, beautiful or dressed to the nines.

If we look at ourselves in terms of eternity – instead of what we want right now, having a designer wardrobe, bigger home, prettier kitchen, new mobile phone or cool car just doesn’t seem so important.

Taming the Green-eyed Monster

Setting our priorities is only one step.  We have to find a way to stop being swayed by the temptations of everyday life.

We all have temptations.  You might like clothes, gadgets, material goods.  I might like camera gear or cars or chasing girls.   Our temptations might look different but chances are it leaves you feeling inadequate.

No matter where dissatisfaction strikes or where we feel we don’t measure up, the green-eyed monster will destroy us if we let it.  true contentment will never be found by looking outward.

If we struggle with wanting things we see around us we have to stop looking.  If your struggle is with certain people who bring that insecurity , that longing, youmay need to take a temporary break.

Another person’s success or talent doesn’t negate your own.  Likewise, another person’s wealth doesn’t make our lives any less valuable.  Romans 12:6 tells us “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”.

No two people will walk the exact same path and nothing someone else has will fulfill us if we are not already filled.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Discontentment can sneak up on us so quickly we don’t even know it is happening.  It can be helpful to have daily conversations about the blessings in our lives and the things we are grateful for.

Phillipians 4:4, 6 – 7 reminds us “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”.

Be Intentional.

We should endeavour to bring our concerns and requests before God.  We can forget that we need to be intentional about thanking God for what he has done in our lives and in the lives of  others.

Take time to consciously list all the specific ways in which we have been blessed can help our perspective.

An attitude of continual gratitude is the fastest way to chase away the green-eyed monster.

If you are really struggling with feelings of discontentment you may not be feeling very blessed.  However, just consider the following:

  1. You are reading this blog post. According to UNESCO, 26% of the adult population is illiterate and women make up 2/3’s of this number.
  2. You are not hungry. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 870 million people, 1/8 of the worlds population is suffering from chronic hunger.
  3. You have access to medicine.  The World Health Organisation estimates that between 1.3 -2 billion people do not have access to basic medicine.
  4. You most likely can drive.  If you own your own vehicle, you are in the lucky 9% of the worlds population that does.
  5. You most probably have a place to sleep tonight.  According to the UN Commission on Human Rights, there are approximately 100 million people without homes around the world. A place to call home is a gift.
  6. You can turn on the lights.  More than 1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity.  Electricity is a gift.
  7. You are not thirsty.  780 million people in the world lack access to clean water. Clean water is a gift.

There is magic that happens when we stop comparing our lives to those we perceive as having more and instead, intentionally begin appreciating all that we already have.

We tend to take for granted the boring and basic stuff and also forget the gifts we have been blessed with that others do not have.

When we open our hearts just enough to see the blessings we’ve already been given our worldview changes from one of longing to one of overwhelming gratitude and joy.

Turning Insecurity Inside Out

The feeling of gratitude and joy can be fleeting and so often replaced by feelings of self-doubt.  The battle to choose contentment in the midst of inadequacy never really goes away.  It’s always lurking there in the background.

One approach is to stop thinking about only yourself.  Try to find someone you can bless today and everyday.  The opportunities to mentor and encourage others are all around you if you look hard enough.

We can let our insecurities get the better of us. Because we may feel weak, we turn inward, focus on our self-doubts and fears and wish that others would reach out and provide the validation or encouragement we are sometimes desperate to hear.

But this is the wrong approach.  Contentment comes when we are able to make the conscious decision to turn our insecurities inside out.  To focus on what we have to offer others rather than on how they can serve us.

Eliminating Temptation

Sometimes finding contentment is as simple as steering clear of the things that cause us to stumble.

It means staying away from all the things that make us feel unworthy or like we do not have enough.

It may be staying away from your local mall, unsubscribing to emails, blogs and catalogs that keep tempting you.  It may mean reading less Facebook and Instagram, avoiding certain tv shows or websites.  It may even mean spending less time with certain friends.

A life of contentment is one we have to work for and one we have to actively choose.  It means:

  • Taking the time to identify our priorities and to know what truly matters in life;
  • Being intentional about desiring the things we can’t see rather than all that glitters around us;
  • Making the decision to stop looking at what everyone else has;
  • Adopting an attitude of gratitude for all we’ve already been given and being willing to turn our insecurities inside out;
  • Actively eliminating those things that tempt us most.

Are you ready to make the choice?

Challenge: Choose Contentment

Spend a few minutes thinking about your priorities.

What are the things that are most important to you?

What kind of person do you want to be?

Then take it one step further.  If you were to die, what would you want people to remember you for?

Next, think about the people you most often compare yourself to. What is it about their lives that makes you feel envious or inadequate?  Would your life really be different if you had what they have?

Now think about all the blessings and gifts that you have.  Write them down and spend some time in prayer, thanking God for all he’s given you.

Finally, think about where you can actively eliminate temptation in your life.  What stores can you stay out of? What magazines, tv shows or websites can you turn off or avoid?

Develop a concrete plan for keeping temptation at bay.

Remember what our priorities should really be in the life we live.

If you are enjoying going through the book “Living Well Spending Less”, please support the author Ruth Soukup and purchase her book.