If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

Today, I have to make a list of the “musts” in my life versus the “shoulds”.  Not “I should lose five more pounds”, but “I must stay within a healthy weight range so I can enjoy life to the fullest.”  Not “I should reduce my debt”, but “I must pay off my credit cards so I can be generous when the opportunity arises”.  I may or may not share the list below, but I will post it somewhere conspicuous so I see it often.

Although my key verse is 2 Chronicles 7:14, I’m also read Ecclesiastes 5:10, Matthew 6:26, and  I Timothy 6:10.

PBS defines “affluenza” as “the bloated, sluggish, and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses.  “Credit-itis” (per Adam Hamilton) is “the opportunity to buy now and pay later”.  Are there signs of affluenza and credit-itis in my life?

Yes.  Let’s be honest, even as rough as the last few years have been financially, you don’t get into the credit issues I’m in without some credit-itis.  I’m getting better; I didn’t use Fingerhut for Christmas gifts.  Until I stop having the affluenza that makes me want to keep up with my ex (I never have worried about the Joneses), I’m going to have problems. 

I’m read Matthew 13:1-23.  What happens to the gospel in my life when I am consumed by a desire for wealth?

The desire for wealth can consume me, choking out the life given by the gospel until it’s lost completely.  Even if I manage to not have the gospel choked out, the very act of worrying about stuff means that I have spent more time, money and energy on stuff than on God.

I’m praying for commitment to this process and that I learn gratitude through each step.  As part of that, I’m giving up whining.  Whenever I want to complain about something, I have to Pollyanna it and find the bright side.

Day one, here we go.

  • I must stay healthy for my kids.  Weight only matters so much as it inhibits my ability to stay active and healthy; appearance is secondary to a healthy body mass. 
  • I must use moderation in exercise.  Over-exercising is as unhealthy as not exercising at all.
  • I must watch what I eat so my kids don’t have to deal with the effects of colitis.
  • I must get out of debt so I can get past worrying about it.
  • I must learn to live below my means again so I can take care of my kids, pay my tithe, and practice random acts of generosity.
  • I must stop valuing things more than people.
  • I must realise I’m not taking anything with me when I die and put my treasure in eternity.
  • (more to come)

Have you ever had a great idea… but didn’t do anything with it?  Or maybe you started a project with lots of steam, but never quite got to the end?  I’ve been there many times myself.  I’ve noticed, most often, that I fail if I don’t follow five easy steps toward success.

1.  Take a step.  You’ll never finish what you don’t start, so do something right now.

“The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

I have a treasure chest of things that were great ideas that I just never did.  Songs I never composed, letters I never wrote, words I never said.  In each instance, I just never got started at all.

Sometimes I let fear hold me back.  Failure is an awfully scary prospect, after all.  Sometimes I procrastinated until the moment passed.  Sometimes I just wasn’t sure where to start.

Here’s the key: start anyway.  Do something about your idea.  Write it down.  Do research.  Get a plan.  Just do something and do it now.

2.  Make a map.  Every undertaking, even the small ones, fares better with a plan.

“You can do anything, but not everything.”  David Allen

Far too often, we try to do everything at once.  I do it all the time.  I get so caught up in the excitement of getting started that I think I can do it all in one day.  Then I burn out four days later and the idea goes away completely.

Do yourself a favor.  Make a plan.

Start with the big picture.  Where do you want to go, what do you want to do, and why?  Write it down, because you’ll need this information again and again.

Outline the very biggest steps to get to your goal.  Say you want to become a published author.  The big steps are brainstorm ideas, research the market or idea, write the book, and market the book.  Huge steps, but a clear roadmap.

See if you need to go back and break down the big steps into even smaller steps.  This isn’t always necessary, but if you’re writing a book, you may break your book down into pre-writing, outlining, writing, editing, and rewriting.

Finally, make a to do list every single day.  Use a piece of paper.  Get a calendar or planner.  Put it in your Outlook calendar online or on your phone.  Make it as detailed (hour by hour) or simple (a checklist) as you want.

Now you have a map of where to go.

3.  Start walking.  Work on your idea or project every single day.

“Many people who succeed in the face of seemingly impossible conditions are people who simply didn’t know how to quit.”  Robert Schuller

Go run a marathon.  Go on, right now.  No?  Okay, maybe you can’t run a marathon today.  But you can probably do a marathon distance, little by little, if you work at it everyday.  You might even be able to do a real marathon by the end of it… if you work on it every day.

Remember the to-do list?  Here is where it’s essential.  Every single day, make yourself a to-do list of at least three items.  Do not go to bed until those three items are finished.

“One of the secrets of getting more done is to make a to do list every day, keep it visible, and use it as a guide to action as you go through the day.”  Jean de la Fontaine

4.  Always have a destination.  Remember why you’re doing this.

“Remember that your own resolution to succeed is far more important than any other.”  Abraham Lincoln

Remember when I said do write down WHY you’re doing this?  It’s important.

You don’t usually take a trip without knowing where you’re going.  Don’t start a project or goal without knowing why you need to get there, either.  This motivation will carry you past slumps, rocky moments, and plain old laziness.

Ever started a diet just because you felt you should lose a few pounds?  Those diets are generally not successful.  Go on a diet because your health is at stake and you suddenly have motivation.

Keep it at the forefront of your mind.  Use a photo, a key phrase, or just a single word, but always know WHY you’re doing this.

5.  Reach your destination.  Never quit until you’re finished.

“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Aristotle

You can eat an elephant if you just keep taking bites.  You can run a marathon if you just keep taking steps.  You can reach your goal if you just don’t stop.

That doesn’t mean not to take breaks.  If it’s a long-term goal, schedule some rest breaks.  But then start right back up again.  The important thing is to never, ever quit.

Use these five steps, throw in your own willpower, talent, and life experience, and you’ll finish what you started, with flying colors.