Prosper By Degrees

Originally published Jun 8, 2012

When my husband and I learned about the principles of prosperity and began to consciously live by them, we experienced dramatic results, tripling our income in just 3 months. But the ‘good fortune’ wasn’t going to last forever.

Trying to be super-smart with our new-found wealth, we anxiously invested it in a number of wrong places. A combination of inexperience and haste led us to invest poorly, and get in over our heads to a dangerous level.

Add to that the fact that we had involved ourselves with business people who eventually slipped into hiding or went to jail, and perhaps you can get a glimpse of how quickly a fortune can be lost, even with the best of intentions.

In the wake of our poor decisions, needless to say, we were left with a big mess to clean up. But no worries – we understood the principles that had brought us the wealth to begin with, so we would just practice them again, and turn things around in short order.

Or so we hoped.

But we discovered that sometimes the consequences of our decisions have a more far reaching effect that can’t be turned around with just a snap of the fingers, so to speak. Turning a corner like that is something like turning a massive cruise ship around. You might get the rudder turned in the right direction, but it can take some time before the effects are noticed.

We had erroneously believed that we could “make” those bad decisions into good ones somehow just by “thinking right.” While it may be true that in every adversity there is a seed of equal or greater benefit, that doesn’t mean the adversity will go away with right thinking. It only promises that something good can be born from it.

In a determined push to create another massive financial breakthrough like the first, I locked on to the vision of a quick rescue, another big windfall. I’d seen them before, experienced them more than once. Many, many times we had used the principles to produce tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in a short period of time, so that’s what we were running for.

But something was different this time. For some reason, the mental discipline and goal setting strategies weren’t paying off like they had in the past. It seemed that something was preventing the blessing. The formula wasn’t panning out.

In time, I stopped trying so hard, out of sheer exhaustion. I started to accept whatever was, just as it was. I decided to find peace and happiness even in our mess, and begin focusing again more completely on my family relationships.  It seemed I no longer had real influence or control over our finances (since I kept failing to meet my goals), so I directed my attention to the little things in my world over which I could make a difference.

It was during a Sunday School lesson at church that I had my next great epiphany. The class discussed a story about two groups of people who lived more than 2000 years ago, comparing and contrasting their experiences:

The first group was led by a man named Alma. Alma and his people were devout believers who worshiped God and were diligent in keeping the commandments.

The second group was led by a man named Limhi. Limhi and his people relied just a little too much on their own strength and wisdom. Both groups were in subjection to the same oppressive government.

When the government sent an army to destroy Alma and his people, they were warned by God ahead of time and were able to escape.

When the army came to attack Limhi’s people, they were given no warning.

Limhi’s people tried three times to deliver themselves from the oppression, and each time, they failed. Eventually, they began to reevaluate their approach, and decided that they needed to pay more attention to the commandments, and rely on God for their success with patience.

The record then states:

“…the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of [their oppressors] that they began to ease their burdens; …The Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage [yet]… they began to prosper by degrees in the land, and began to raise grain more abundantly, and flocks, and herds, that they did not suffer with hunger.”

That description – that the Lord did not see fit to deliver them, but allowed them to begin prospering by degrees – was my answer.

I had been expecting a big miraculous rescue, and was dissatisfied with anything less. I had thought I was being obedient to the commandments of God all along, but recognized I could do better.

What I feel that God wanted me to learn was simple: to not run faster than I had strength as I had been, but to take it at a pace that I could maintain throughout my life, so that I don’t burn myself out and become completely useless to Him.

So I slowed down and began to envision Him opening doors and preparing the way for long-term success. I lost interest in anything that promised big, quick bucks, because we had already experienced that kind of success. Instead, I became increasingly interested in principles that would allow us to rebuild on a more solid, long-lasting foundation.

It’s just a matter of getting back to the basics. It’s making smart choices, and sacrifices. It’s being smart with what we have, and anticipating gradual improvement. It’s watching more closely how we spend our money, and watching for evidence that we are being prospered by degrees.

We started noticing and celebrating each little bit of evidence, and realized that were were being prospered by degrees. I stopped lamenting the lack of a massive windfall, and started being grateful again for every simple blessing. The growth has been gradual but consistent. Our good fortune has been added upon every day.

When the needed rescue doesn’t come by one miraculous windfall,  look for evidence that you’re prospering by degrees.

It’s been a humbling process, but one that I am grateful for. I know we’re wiser for the experience, and that it will make a big difference for our future. Our family is already much happier, too, because I’m finally living at a pace that I can maintain.

Read The Unexpected Cure for Doubt

There’s time to build your life right. There’s time to build your business right. There’s time to build relationships right. Looking for shortcuts can become an addiction. As you slow down and prayerfully live receptive to God’s guidance, you’ll find that there is no greater shortcut than that.

And when that guidance says, RUN!” then by golly, you’d better run!

But sometimes we run when we’re really supposed to stop and take the time to sharpen the saw, and reconnect with God.

Originally posted June 8, 2012

Read more details about our experience here. And as always, I appreciate your comments!

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When Have I Done Enough?

Years ago, my friend Natalie taught a lesson during our women’s meeting at church about “Having Temperance in All Things”, which had a profound effect on me. I’d like to share my epiphany.

First, let’s establish a definition:

Temperance = moderation and self-restraint

Before her lesson, I’d say I easily understood the concept of “moderation” in terms of harmful substances (like sweets), or addictive behaviors (like binge-watching your favorite shows). But when I thought about what temperance in ALL things means, I had some trouble.

For example, I was never very good at knowing how to be temperate in goal achievement. I’d aim high, and then I’d overbook myself and get overwhelmed by all that needed to be accomplished.

I didn’t know at what point I could take a break and say, “I’ve done enough.”

Part of the problem was that I truly had the mindset that I could do anything – and that there was no such thing as doing “too much”.  I didn’t always know how to temper my ambitions, because frankly, they helped me achieve some things that I was pretty happy about.

However, sometimes my mortal body couldn’t keep up with the pace of my thoughts and expectations, and so predictably, I went through periods of unbridled ambition, followed by periods of crashing and burning, until I regained my strength to start it all over again.

I’m telling you, that kind of pattern can eventually break a person, like bending a metal rod back and forth until it finally snaps.

According to the Law of Cause and Effect, I knew that each time I took a step toward my goal, it took a step toward me. So I wondered, “How could it ever be okay to stop stepping?” Well, that morning before church it felt like I was on the verge of another crash-and-burn, so I prayed for insight. I wanted to know how I could keep making progress without burning myself out or incinerating my relationships.

We got to church and during the third hour, I joined the ladies meeting.

That’s when Natalie, at the front of the room, began. She said:

I like to make cookies.  In fact, I have a wonderful recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies that just works. Over the years I’ve used it, as long as I follow the right steps, we predictably end up with perfectly delicious cookies.

If I set the timer for 13 minutes and take them out when it dings, they’re perfect.  But if I get busy and ignore the timer, pretty soon I’ll start to smell them, and by then it’s too late. Even if I get a whiff and then run to take them out, it’s too late. They’ll be hard, dark, and good for nothing, except to be thrown away.

So, after mixing all the ingredients together, letting them bake is one of the most important parts – otherwise, you just don’t have a cookie. But baking them for the right amount of time determines whether or not they will turn out good. That’s why the timer is so important: to help you make sure the cookies don’t burn.

Life is the same way.

When you’re trying to accomplish something good, your energy and attention on the goal is one of the most important parts, like heat in the oven baking a batch of cookies.  However, you’ve got to turn off the energy and attention when the “timer” dings, or you just might ruin it all. So listen for (and heed) that inner voice that says, “Ding! That’s enough…”

Wow. I got it. I finally understood how too much of a good thing can be bad.

That lesson had a profound and lasting effect on me. I was amazed and grateful that the Lord answered my question so directly, so clearly, and so quickly! For the first time in my life I could finally understand that yes, there IS such thing as too much, and if you push the limits, you run the risk of ruining everything.

Too much of even the most wonderful things can turn into something bad. So remember:

When the “dinger” rings, it’s not just okay to stop, it’s critical!

Finding that middle place, finding your “13 minutes”, is so important. We have to trust that it is by “small and simple things” (instead of longer-than necessary intensity on things) that “great things are brought to pass”. Choosing this belief and abiding by it is an act of faith of the highest order.

After my epiphany that day, I tried to listen more carefully to the Spirit of God that serves as my “timer”. It quietly alerts me when I’m pushing things too long or too far. And instead of rationalizing that “I can still do MORE!”, I try to remember burnt cookies, so that 1) my goal can get just the right amount of energy, and 2) so that I can also avoid burning myself out as well.

As for the Law of Cause and Effect? Well, sometimes the right action is to take no action at all.

Natalie concluded her lesson that day by giving us each a perfectly formed cookie and saying:

“Careful baking is what determines the quality of my cookie, and temperance in my actions determines the quality of my life.”

Thank you, Natalie, for being an instrument in God’s hands that day. My prayer was answered (and my family thanks you for it, too!)  🙂 Originally published Mar 27, 2010


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Is Victory Really Possible?

When challenges come, it’s easy to doubt whether there really is success to be had on the other side. The wall seems too high, the bricks too large, you feel too small to go over it, and too weak to break through it. A continual barrage of setbacks can cause you to question even the possibility of victory.

At a time when I was beginning to wonder if some of MY dreams were like the proverbial carrot, dangling in front of my face and never getting any closer, some of them felt like they were already years overdue. I tried to keep moving my feet in that direction, but I was really beginning to wonder. I don’t think I had ever been stretched that far…

But gratefully, God finally let it materialize. I felt sobered and grateful, and I didn’t take it for granted.

If you’re questioning the possibility of victory, know that the success is already there awaiting your arrival, and keep moving in that direction until you reach it. There is no “IF;” there’s only “WHEN.” I know that’s true on a deeper level than before. I’m a different and better person for having my own perseverance so severely tested.

I knew the challenges were good, because I had long since learned that with the laws of success, the challenges are actually part of the recipe for the very cake I ordered. But I had begun to wonder if the challenges would ever give way to the victory. Gratefully, I was reminded (again) that they eventually do.

Every time I have set a goal of significant magnitude, I have been obliged to face a challenge or two (or three, or a HUNDRED) that needed to be overcome before I would finally enjoy the victory I sought. But now I can say with certainty that our dreams are ours because they are possible, and are waiting for us at the end of our persistence test.

By the grace of God, it comes. But God does not give us the victory if WE stop preparing for it.

Each time, this goal setting process seems to stretch me to my limits, and beyond. Yes, each time. The more I go through the process, however, the more practice I have in enduring it. Every story of success I share with you has an untold struggle that went with it. No matter how many times I’ve succeeded, the process repeats itself to some degree.

Having an understanding of the process doesn’t take the process away, it simply makes it bearable and helps me to keep doing my part. It gives me peace of mind to realize and be consciously aware that the darkness, uncertainty, and turmoil in the middle is simply the gift, the opportunity to prove myself. It’s where I can exercise my faith like a muscle, demonstrate my drive to press on (though it may feel like I’m crawling to the finish line, bleeding and delirious), and hold fast to my expectancy of the WIN on the other side. Knowing how the Law works, I begin to feel differently about the struggle, and seeing it for what it is, I’m able to be more grateful for it, and thus the sooner I’m able to receive.

The Miracle’s Promise

My son has been putting himself through college with a determination to pay as he goes. Each semester has had its own set of challenges, and each time he has discovered different and unexpected solutions that helped him through. Two weeks before the end of his most recent semester, he called and said, “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. I’m just DONE.”

So I gave him a pep talk, encouraging him to find the strength to give it just two more weeks and finish strong, imagining how good it will feel to look back on it with relief and amazement at what he had accomplished. He had already long since let go of the hope that he would get straight A’s, which would have been his ticket to tuition waivers for future semesters. He was resigned to getting B’s in half of his classes, but even still, he couldn’t seem to muster the energy to go even another day.

We brainstormed on a few next steps that he could take to get himself out of the funk. I reminded him to speak strength. Instead of affirming that he can’t keep going, I wasn’t going to hang up the phone until I heard him say, “I can do this” and then projecting our minds forward, I also wanted to hear him say, “I DID IT.”

I also encouraged him to talk to one of his professors and explain the reason he missed the mandatory attendance day. He had skipped class that day to drive 4 hours and pick his sister up at the SLC airport to deliver her to the MTC – the last time he would see her for 18-months. We decided it couldn’t hurt; maybe the professor would show some mercy and adjust his score.

As he spoke strength, he immediately gained strength. We finished our call and he was back to the books.

Two weeks later, he called to say, “Well, it’s all done. It’s over. Every single class is behind me now, and I’m on my way home (a 16 hour drive).” He related how he felt about each of his finals, and though he knows his performance wasn’t totally stellar, he was at peace, knowing he had given it his all. He had done better than expected in a few of them, but it was yet to be seen how his final projects would be graded.

Twenty MINUTES later, he walked through my door! That kid totally punked me! He and his brother had actually finished the day before, and had driven through the night to surprise me. I was SO thankful I didn’t know they were on the wintery roads and driving through the night; it spared me 16 hours of worry. 🙂

Soon after, he logged into the system to check his grades. Somehow, he ended up with straight A’s after all. He kind of just stared at it numbly with a faint grin on his face. It was the only reaction he had energy for, after such a grueling 4 months.

Later he came to me and thoughtfully reflected:

“Mom, I don’t think miracles have ever made my life easier; they just made things possible.”

I have pondered that many time since. And it’s true. Maybe you didn’t know this is how the Law works.

Your job is to set the goal, see it done, feel the victory ahead of time, take action when opportunities and/or ideas come along (no matter how frightening they may be), and finally, do not neglect the final ingredient to the recipe:

Perseverance.

Because your greatest victories will always follow the most intense struggles.

“Then, what is are the laws for if I still have to endure challenges?”

They simply guarantee you will be provided with everything you need to accomplish the goal, and that it will all show up just when you need it, at the right and perfect time, and sometimes only after appearances indicate the opposite, and after you choose to be at peace, anyway. It promises that if you can conceive it, you can achieve it.

It’s amazing if you think about it. Isn’t it better than no guarantee at all?

So now, think about that goal you want to achieve, and know this:

It’s possible, and that’s a miracle. So keep at it until you achieve it.  Originally published Mar 29, 2008

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Dealing with fear in relationships

An anonymous letter from one of our Mindset Mastery participants:

I married someone who has a lot of struggles inside.  He is a good man, but as soon as we were married, he showed a temper I had no idea he had.  He never hurt me physically, but I was constantly worried about his reactions to everything, and when ANYTHING else in my life felt out of my control, I panicked, knowing I couldn’t keep peace with him, be a capable mom, and take care of whatever else was suddenly going on, and what his reaction would be.

His struggles are his, but for a while, he was more than willing to try to make them everyone’s, and I let him.  After nearly ten years of marriage, I put my foot down (trembling the whole time) and said things had to change, or we were through.  I couldn’t stand doing that, but his constant unreasonable outbursts were the way we gauged everything in our lives, and it wasn’t healthy for the children to be raised in that environment, or for me to live in fear of it.  He backed off considerably, much to my relief, but I realized, as the years passed, that he was who he was–even if he kept his outbursts limited and only in front of me–and his struggles were what they were, because in his heart, he hadn’t let go of whatever he struggled with emotionally, and he didn’t see it, either.  I knew that even if I walked away from this relationship, I’d still have to know how to handle my actions around someone like that since the chances of never encountering an angry or insecure person again were pretty small.  

I began praying more than ever, but my prayers changed.  I wanted to know how to help and support my husband, how to be the mom that empowered her children, and to be so secure and peaceful inside myself, that no one could shake my faith or my confidence.  I had been raised to worry about what everyone thought, and to “make them happy.”  I hadn’t bought into that (I thought), but when I got married, that original programming came out like a hidden monster.  It was not like me to be so rattled, but I’m grateful it happened, because it showed me the monster, and it showed me that I had a choice as to what to do about it.  

At this time (which was at about 15 years), several things showed up for me, and the Jackrabbit Factor was one of them.  I started to dream about things I never knew could even be done, and realized I was not a victim, but had subconsciously been telling myself I was one.  All of the resentment, frustration, and defeat because of my fear to push too far surfaced in a glaring light.  I had a health condition that pushed me to the edge mentally, emotionally and physically.  Prayers turned into meditation as well, and petitions for an occasional Priesthood blessing.

At the beginning of the Mindset Mastery Program I knew I had to grow more than I had, because I felt that while I had “learned much,” I was not progressing past a certain point.  I felt I had done a lot of work, but there was still some fear that wouldn’t let me get past the “wall”–something I now refer to as “The Terror Barrier.”  I felt my Father in Heaven was more than happy to let me choose what to do, but I had to decide to do it.  I kept forgetting that He was on my side–I just had to believe it and be on His.  There was a line I was afraid to cross, and I always held back.

My goal was to be myself, to cross that line and not be so “trained” by fear that I would always quit right before that place of freedom was reached.  I was tired of living in a land of “what-ifs” and “when-you’re-in-a-corner-give-up-or-you-won’t-get-out.”  I wanted to be firm about standing up to my husband when needed, but coming from a place of love, and forgiving him, and loving him while being steadfast and immovable.  I wanted my choices to be about what was right, and not worry if he was desperate to be the one who was right.  He could do what he wanted, but I wasn’t going to hold back when things got intense, anymore.

I thought of all of my scriptural heroes, who had so much opposition, but so much faith that no one could make them do or say anything that they didn’t feel was reconciled with God and His will.  I wanted to be like that.  I realized many times, that the only thing keeping me from breaking out of the prison I had made for myself in my subconscious was the fear that my kids would suffer emotionally if I really ever told my husband my true opinions or feelings at times when it could bring a negative reaction from him.

I also realized that I was setting the example for my children, of being afraid, and of not standing up to someone when it was the right thing, even if the conversations that were intense happened in private with my husband.  Also, I wanted to show my kids that being angry back was not the answer.

This all got wrapped up in my goal in the Mindset Mastery Program. After I set the goal to let go of fear and trust God, one of the things that happened to help me push through the Terror Barrier was a blessing I received, telling me to not be afraid of the reactions of my husband, and to move forward, without fear, because God would take the fear away if I asked. I could easily fall back into fear if I wanted, but I made a choice, and got it out of my head and into my heart. I decided that whatever happened, it would be okay, and I haven’t looked back, even though it’s sometimes tempting to do so!  I just tell myself–I am creating a great life moment by moment with God, and I am so grateful for everything!  I’m grateful even for the challenges, because even though I don’t understand everything, I know God loves His children, and good will come of everything, somehow. 

I have a choice, and I choose to believe.

We have been married now over twenty years this week, and my oldest is getting ready to be married. She has chosen wisely, and I’m so grateful for that! More work will always need to be done, because new goals will always need to be set, but for the first time in a very long time, I no longer make every choice based on the reaction–or possible reaction–of others.  It is so freeing and healing to no longer be Pavlov’s dog.  The learning that has happened as a result of this relationship may not have happened if things had been easier, so I’m grateful for that, too.  Like I said before–I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m excited about it now, instead of being defeated and resigned to something I have to fear.  What does that mean, exactly?  I guess we’ll see–one choice at a time as I draw closer to Christ.

My response:

Thank you for taking the time to share such a tender, difficult story. You’ve done an amazing job at using the principles to transition to a better place. There are a lot of women (and men, I’m sure) who live under the same kind of fear every day.  Thank you for allowing me to share it (anonymously). I also want to commend you for your stedfast intentions to make the changes with love and consideration for your husband, rather than out of animosity or defense.  I’m sure it’s not always easy even still (even the most ideal situations have their rough spots), but I’m especially grateful because your story paints a beautiful picture of what’s possible, which I’m sure will help others create a more healthy vision for themselves.

Congratulations on your good, hard work. I hope you will continue to stay in touch and keep me updated on your victories, as I’m sure this is only the beginning. 🙂

Her last reply shows what an amazing person she really is, and it paints a vivid picture of the kind of person we might all aspire to be:

I’m glad if it can help people… I was walking on eggshells for so long, and even the money I was given was limited and scrutinized and criticized.  If I didn’t stop talking to whomever I was talking to on the phone, or stop doing what I was doing and do what he wanted, he would get upset and I would worry about the kids.  If I left a room without turning the light out right away, I got reprimanded.  

I know now that my financial–and physical, spiritual, intellectual, mental, and emotional–state are something I can create with my Father in Heaven, and I have a choice. Not everyone knows that. I don’t know what good may come of all of this, but I do know good will come of it–and much already has–and I’m grateful for all the experiences. Whenever I feel that resentment is wanting to work its way back into my heart, I do something to serve my husband. He doesn’t usually notice, and if he does, he doesn’t seem to appreciate it, but that’s not why I do it. I do it because it’s who I am, whether it seems he “deserves” it or not. Plus, it helps bring gratitude and love into my heart, and I want to be that person. What we send out comes back, too, as you well know. But whether I get anything for it or not, it helps me to be better, it changes how I feel, and it shows love where I could show frustration or anger. God knows what I do, and that’s truly enough for me. He is my Father, and I am His child, and I love doing things that help me to feel I’m doing my best to be like Him. I love my husband–I can honestly say that. Those that seem to “deserve” love the least, usually need it the most. So, maybe, some of the good that will come from all of this is to share it with others–I can definitely see that.  I have every belief that that is true. God was on my side all along, I just wouldn’t see it; I didn’t know how. Maybe this will help others who feel the same way. I do want to come from a place of love, and if there’s ever a time when I can tell I won’t, I wait. If what I have to say is needed, the time will come when I feel right in addressing it, and from that place where the Spirit dwells, instead of contention.

Thank you for your words, Leslie.  After reading your books and hearing your podcasts and reading your blog, I’ve come to see your words as those of an old friend–I hope you don’t mind; they do bring me joy and comfort… Thank you for being you.

This dear woman is a Mindset Mastery Program participant. Learn more about the Mindset Mastery program here.

The 12-week Mindset Mastery Program is not to be confused with the 8-week Mindset Fundamentals Ecourse. The Fundamentals Ecourse is a powerful exploration of the principles that govern success, and takes an introductory approach for effective goal setting. By contrast, the Mastery Program is more focused on the *implementation* of the principles and the *achievement* of your goals. It is full of interesting assignments that take you step-by-step through two experimental goals, challenging your thought processes, helping you experience success, and setting up a pattern in your thinking that you will be able to utilize over and over for effectiveness with all of your future goals. I hope you’ll join me in one of these programs, to help you take your understanding and success to the next level in ALL the different areas of your life.

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