Handling Economic Challenges Gracefully

This is one of my brain dumps. It’s not organized with literary brilliance, it’s a brain dump. But it’s important stuff, and I think it needs to be shared immediately. I’ll clean it up later. Maybe.

Here we go:

When facing a tough economic challenge, part of you might wonder what people will think if you have to make some drastic changes. It’s the classic “fear of failure”, and it’s time we address it in a new way:

When you’re hot on the trail of a rabbit (otherwise known as a “goal”), and feeling full of expectation and excitement about achieving it, and you know it’s just a matter of time, this post is NOT for you. Hang up now.

However, if you want to feel the exhilaration knowing you’re on the right track, but are having some trouble getting to that point, then keep reading. I think you’ll find some valuable insight here.

When things get tough, shifting your focus from chasing a dream to just trying to hang on to what you have can create some challenges. To stay on track for the best outcome in the long-term, you need to stop and check in on your primary motivator.

The desire to maintain a particular image with your peers is a dangerous motivator. It’s a trap that leads people in prosperous times to overextend themselves, and it’s a trap that leads people in tough times to take too long to cut their losses and adjust their plan.

“Adjust my plan?? But how is that demonstrating faith and tenacity??” you might wonder.

Note: The goal is in stone, but the plan is in sand, as it should be. When you face challenges, you must be willing to alter the plan.

When times are good, you can avoid this trap by being absolutely clear on your values and simply practice delayed gratification. Make sure you improve your lifestyle only for the purpose of helping you and your family accomplish your greatest potential, never for the purpose of impressing anyone.

When times are tough, reject any concern about what your neighbors might think if they see you cutting back in your lifestyle. There is a force of opposition that fills your mind with fear in order to keep you from doing the right thing for your family.

Think about it. Someone needs to take a stand for what’s right, even when it isn’t popular. And if you do the right thing, you’ll give others around you the courage to do the right thing as well. You may be the only person on your block to cut back on luxuries temporarily, but if it will help you be more free to obtain the true necessities for your family, then just do it.

“Cut back?? Isn’t that operating on a ‘lack mentality’?” you might wonder.

Let me explain. It is critical that you understand this:

The most important factor in your ultimate success is how you FEEL.

So, if you’re feeling fearful of the future, and having a hard time thinking “abundance” in spite of the circumstances, then one of the quickest ways to feel abundant is to TAKE CONTROL of the visible resources you already have at your disposal.

Be the master of your money.

Show yourself that you are still in charge, and that the money is not the master over you. If you cut back on expenses voluntarily before you have no other choice but to do so, then you are demonstrating mastery.

Ironically, there is a great feeling of ABUNDANCE that comes when you choose to pro-actively cut expenses temporarily.

Before our monthly income tripled in 2000, we prepared the soil by first coming to terms with our painful financial picture, and creating a long-term plan for climbing out. We cut back on our spending, and watched every penny very carefully, operating on a focused plan to roll our debt load down.

Although the picture was bleak, we felt rich, because we were doing something smart with our current resources. That feeling of taking control changed our vibration and led us to the opportunity that accelerated our income faster than we thought possible. Within just a few months, we paid off ALL of our debt except our home. This was something we originally thought would have taken 5 years or so on our debt pay down plan.

Did you catch that? Months, instead of years!

Until now, you may have only heard the part of our story that “our income tripled in about three months.” But we sat down several months before, and got serious about doing what we could to reduce our debts with the little resources we had. We got serious about improving our credit. We mapped out a month-to-month plan on how we would roll our debts, and refused to buy anything unnecessary until our finances were under control.

We felt rich, because we had taken control of a situation that had previously felt “out of control”. With that new feeling, we attracted the means to accomplish the goal very rapidly.

The means that showed up required that we go through a barrier of fear. But with our new understanding of the Terror Barrier, and how to get through it, we took the leap, and tripled our income. The Mindset Mastery Program will take you through that process, step by step. If something is telling you to take that leap of faith, have some courage and find out what our graduates have learned. You’re worth the investment. (More on Mindset Mastery Program here.)

Additional Tips to feel Abundant Now:

De-clutter your home. Unload things that you are not using, things that could be enjoyed and used by someone else right away. Let them go, cheerfully, and you’ll feel abundant again. Give them to charitable organizations who will recycle them.

Cut your losses. We’ve made our fair share of poor investments, and the first time we faced losing a lot of money, we used all of our mental toughness, all of the visualization, all of the prayer, hope and persistence we could muster to change the nature of the bad investment. We thought that when nothing changed, we were just not being faithful enough, and that God could certainly cause a miracle in our behalf to turn the bad investment into a good one if he wanted to.

But there was no rescue or change until we became really humble and began listening for, and looking for, other benefits from the experience. The investments actually ended up paying really well in terms of lessons learned, once we decided to stop trying to force them to pay well financially.

If you work to learn rather than work to earn, you will always be well compensated.

So, ultimately, we found the courage to stop the financial bleeding where it was, and through the experience we learned (for the first time) to remove all emotional attachment from financial investments. We determined to be grateful that we only lost about $150,000 in that experience, and discover that we could bounce back after a setback. We found out that setbacks didn’t have to be fatal.

We decided to be grateful that we didn’t learn the lesson on millions of dollars instead of only tens of thousands.

Remember: The tools of visualization are not to manipulate circumstances, but to plant seeds, and to allow the natural processes do what they need to do, to ultimately bring the vision about in the right time and place. Visualization changes YOU, not the circumstances. When YOU are changed, your circumstances will reflect it.

So, if your circumstances seem bleak, use visualization to create the life you expect to live on the other side of the hardship. Most people, who are gripped with fear in their present financial mess, have no visual image of what their life will be like in 10 years. Most are so consumed with visions of a financial train wreck in a few months, that they have not stopped to consider how they might put things back together afterwards, and build an abundant life in the longer run.

Zoom out. If you are gripped with fear, zoom out. The law of rhythm states that all of life’s conditions are cyclical. If you’re having a bad day, you can expect to have a good day soon. If you’re having a bad year, you can expect to have a good year soon. If it’s been a tough decade, then start creating the vision of what a decade of prosperity would feel like. The opportunity for the upturn is there for you, but it requires your hope and optimism to bring it about as soon as possible.

And here’s an important tip:

Don’t avoid thinking about the worst-case scenario.

“WHAT DID LESLIE JUST SAY???”

You heard me right: Don’t avoid thinking about the worst-case scenario. But before you pass judgement that I’ve totally flown off the deep end, consider it this way:

If pushing the fearful thoughts away has not been working for you, go ahead and go there.

Let me explain. If I told you, “do NOT think about an elephant,” then you could spend all day long pushing elephant images away. What you’re essentially doing is thinking about elephants non-stop.

So maybe you’re facing the loss of your home. Maybe you’ll lose everything. Maybe you’ll have to go bankrupt. Go ahead and create a contingency plan: what would you do to start over? What is your ultimate goal? What is the life you’re trying to build? Stop avoiding the images of hitting the bottom, because by pushing them away all day, you’re essentially giving them a whole lot of attention. Get it over with. Think them through and finish the exercise with the vision of bouncing back afterward. See yourself successful on the other side.

Did you know that most highly successful people have lost, or nearly lost, everything, at least once? Bob Proctor says he has nearly lost everything twice. The law of polarity states that as bad as things are, is how good things are (or can be – if you’ll allow it) on the other side. The harder the fall, the higher the potential bounce. So many people face the loss of everything, but we find out soon enough what a person is made of by how quickly they bounce back.

How quickly a person bounces back depends on how quickly he/she comes to peace with what is.

So go ahead and think through the worst-case scenario, and come to peace with it as soon as possible:

  1. Think about it unemotionally – with a mindset of fixing it, in case that’s where you go. Then,
  2. Create a plan for avoiding the worst-case scenario, and let yourself get really excited about the success!

Address both the bad and the good possibilities, but address the bad with composure, and address the good with excitement.

The conditions connected to the dominant emotion will have the greatest affect the final outcome. So go ahead and think it through, experience the fear if you must, create a contingency plan for recovery, and then pull yourself together. Then spend the rest of your time and energy going forward on the plan for only prosperity and success. End your exploratory session on an optimistic note, and feel good knowing that you’re going to be okay no matter what. This exercise helps you get back to being in the right vibration for success, which is a much better place to be than in constant conflict of trying to think prosperity when you’re feeling so much anxiety.

Get back to the basics. Focus on your family. Your family is yours in good times and in bad times. So focus on building and strengthening those relationships. If you’ve already come to peace with the worst-case scenario, then you’ll find it easier to let go of your stresses to enjoy the kids, and your spouse. Really, what do you have to lose? (You might say, “everything!” but whether you do or you don’t, you can grow stronger as a family through it, and not let it fracture the most important thing: your relationships.)

Taking time to put family first will increase your emotional and spiritual vibration and prepare you to make better decisions when you return to the grind.

Prepare for emergencies. Historically, when the economy has suffered, other calamities have piled on top of it to add stress to an already weakened people, such as war, or widespread illnesses. This is a time of testing. Keep your head on and follow your intuition. Have some extra food on hand, in case you have to stay in your home for extended periods of time. If you are prepared, you will more easily avoid falling into fear. Remember, a mind full of fear cannot simultaneously be full of faith. A mind and heart full of faith will be in tune to receive inspiration that can help avoid or overcome hardships.

Take inventory of lessons learned. If you’ve made some mistakes with your money, learn the lesson and move on. Yes, we are to think abundantly, but we are also to be wise stewards of the resources we’ve already been given. It is important to know that God can and will provide abundantly all that we need to accomplish all He wants us to do, but if we slip into an entitlement attitude, that we should always have all we want right now, and that it will never run out, no matter how careless we are with it, we have swung too far into an irresponsible, immature mindset that is no better than a teenager’s who lives with a rich and indulgent parent. God will not spoil us… so if we think abundantly without regard to the rest of his universal laws, we are setting ourselves up to be humbled.

Practice gratitude. You have all you need in this moment, so recognize it, acknowledge it, and express your gratitude for it. Even selfish teenagers get more favors from responsible parents when they show genuine gratitude.

“So is there, or is there not, abundance??”

There is abundance. There is only abundance. We can have all that we need to enjoy freedom, and reach our highest potential.

In fact, we already do. We have all we need right now to learn today’s lesson. We will have all we need tomorrow to learn tomorrow’s lesson. Remember to always work to learn, and you’ll live an abundant, fulfilling life.

The journey will have some bumps in the road, and for good reason. Stay faithful, trusting that there is good in all of it, and you’ll come out on top. It is only by faith that miracles are wrought, and yet sometimes we have to take a step back and get our feet solidly back on the ground before we’re ready to climb that next mountain. When you start approaching your challenges in the right way, you’ll feel the joy, and the soul-expansion, of choosing the right.

If you haven’t been feeling that for a while, take a deep breath and assess your situation, right where it is. Face the facts – know where you are. The GPS (global positioning system) will only accurately take you to where you want to go if you accurately identify your starting point. If you haven’t done that for a while, (i.e. pulling your bills together and identifying your income/expenses), then doing it now can actually feel GOOD, because it’s RIGHT. Doing the right thing will bring you peace of mind, which is the first step to being open for further instructions.

It’s not over… it’s a wonderful new beginning! Originally published Jan 22, 2009

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Surviving a Faith Crisis

I had my own faith crisis a few years ago.

When I found myself with more questions than I had answers, I felt like the earth had fallen out from beneath my feet for a time. But then ultimately I decided to focus and reflect back on some of the answers I had already received in my life, and by doing so, I began to more easily recognize the source of my confusion.

I got through my crisis by looking back and reflecting on the times when the Lord’s guidance was clear and the answers were sure. To be honest, they were few. I was reminded of how quiet, but piercing, unmistakable and true His answers were – something that cannot be duplicated by anything else – and the memory of it was enough to get me through another day.

It was different than a feeling of “wow,” “amazing,” or “empowerment,” “love,” and “light”. Those feel good and expand my soul, and I’d prefer to only feel those things.

But this was deeper than that. It was more like a sobering Alma 36 moment – like the jolt you feel when you suddenly realize you nearly fell asleep at the wheel with your family in the car.

God doesn’t ONLY deliver love and light. Sometimes out of love he also delivers uncomfortable wake-up calls. The God I follow does both, and so I have to be willing to receive both.

Did you know there are other ‘gods’ that would have our devotion? I’m not talking about ‘materialism’ or other worldly distractions, I’m talking about literal spirit beings who love to build their following of worshippers, but who did not CREATE us.

At one time I felt a sharp reprimand – the words delivered to a crowd, but striking me with particular force, “Return to the God of Israel.” It was an odd thought, but it certainly got my attention – I didn’t know I had left. I never intended to, and I didn’t think I had, but it definitely got me thinking and discerning more carefully. Before that, it never dawned on me that there were other so-called ‘gods’ competing for my attention, but there are. Not all promptings that make you feel good and light are from the one true God. Other ‘gods’ promise to lead you to a life of love and freedom, but only One will deliver on his eternal promises, and His is a straight and narrow path.

I had to make a choice and finally declared, “I could be wrong here, but here it is. I CHOOSE to believe.”

Regardless of what we know or don’t know, we have a CHOICE. And I chose to believe.

Afterward I felt a renewed and unexpected confirmation of peace. Unmistakable. Love, light, assurance, all of it. Even “wow”, “amazing”, and “empowerment”. The best feeling, though, was the PEACE – a peace that no other feeling can touch. It’s not grand. It’s not earth shattering. It’s too quiet, too deep, too solid, too sacred. It’s anchoring. But it only came AFTER I made my conscious choice, not before. That’s agency.

That’s the test: we have to study things out in our own mind, come to a conclusion, and then ask God (not Google, not Facebook) if we are right. There are wonderful answers online, but the only kinds of answers that endure faith crises are the ones that come directly from God. (James 1:5)

I don’t need people at church to be a certain way. I don’t even need the sermons at church to say a certain thing, because I can always learn and study true doctrine on my own. People are imperfect and get it wrong all the time. But they get it right a lot of the time, too. They’re trying, and there’s grace. We’re all just doing the best we can.

My relationship with God is personal. I feel that He still wants me there. I go to worship, serve, learn, teach, and most importantly, renew my covenants. Covenants with God are as old as the earth. I wouldn’t dare presume that we’ve evolved so much as a people that they don’t still matter in 2017. There is at least one very real and jealous influence that would love to make us believe otherwise, but the potential consequences of letting go (to me) just aren’t worth the risk.

I trust the Lord’s pace for my understanding.

I choose to stay, and I am at Peace.

“When problems arise and questions come, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you don’t have… I’m not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!”

“Honestly acknowledge your questions and concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe. Be candid about your questions; life is full of them. But please don’t hyperventilate if issues arise that need to be examined. What we know will always trump what we don’t know. So don’t let questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.”

~ Jeffrey R. Holland (emphasis added)

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Talking to teens

An actual message to one of my teenagers who was complaining too much about his responsibilities:

You’re doing so well in so many areas. But it saddens me that you blame dad when you don’t feel like doing your duties.

You’re old enough to govern yourself, so govern yourself or be governed. If you were governing yourself, you would already have plans to be where you’re supposed to be, even if dad wasn’t going, and even if he wasn’t expecting you there.

Freedom isn’t about doing whatever you want, it’s about willfully choosing to do the things that keep you on track to qualify for all the blessings that heaven has to offer. Each right choice increases your freedom. Each poor choice diminishes it. And I’m not talking about “consequences” that are implemented at home. I’m talking about your agency and how you get to use it every day in how you think and what you do.

As you know, we look for every possible reason to give you as much freedom as we (in good conscience) can. When you feel more restrained than you like, I encourage you to notice how good you have it, and be grateful instead of belligerent.

Your attitude (above almost everything else) has the greatest effect on, or is one of the greatest indicators, for what direction your life is headed, for good or for bad. Please, do not grieve me, and please do not disrespect your dad. He asks so little and gives you so much. Either way, you’ll answer to God for how you honor him, and you have so little time with him left.

Make this last year you’re home be one that you have no regrets about. I love you and am so proud of how much you’ve matured. I was impressed with how hard you worked this morning and I recognize you could have put up a much bigger stink than you did. Just pay attention to how you feel when you’re doing the right things, and then notice how much better it feels when you do the right things with a cheerful heart.

It’s a choice, and it will pay you great dividends if you learn that lesson early. Good night.. if you want to talk to me about this more, let’s do it after you get a nap tomorrow.

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My Unsolicited Marriage Advice

A friend wrote me about someone’s failing marriage. She said, “..they knew they were supposed to get married [but it was] before they had an opportunity to fall in love.” And now they are divorcing because they are so wrong for each other.

Well, here’s what I have to say about that:

They married before they had an opportunity to fall in love?

Did they forget that love is not something that happens to them, but something they’re supposed to DO? As if love is a noun, and not a verb.

Marriage is a commitment to learn how to love – it’s a lifelong pursuit, even in the best of marriages! The marriage covenant is what binds us together during those times when we don’t feel loving – it’s the glue that keeps us together until we come to ourselves and try loving each other again—else what is the promise for??

It’s the bond that holds the family unit together during the rough patches when only one of the partners feels like doing his/her part. This is what marriage is – a contract that society is leaving behind.

Sounds like they are expecting a fairy tale to me. All the fairy tale lovers who wake up one day and wonder where the magic went… what they wouldn’t give to have had a sure answer from God about what was right (like these two did).

Even if they had felt the “fall in love” feeling in the beginning, nobody can expect that “fall in love” feeling to last forever. And if they knew it was right before God even without that “feeling”, then what a gift they received. Thereafter, it was simply their opportunity to create the feeling.

To think it needs to be there from the beginning and forever after, let me tell you: that’s truly a fairy tale. This doesn’t mean you can’t feel more and more deeply in love as you go – you should! But you create that fairy tale love by paying a price: by working through challenges, sacrificing for one another, and sharing your life together.

Here’s where too many people get it wrong:

The price for that kind of fairy tale love cannot be paid without challenges to work though, sacrifices to make, and sharing a life while working and sacrificing. So, the sooner you can look at the challenges as a gift, and tenaciously do your best to respond well to them, your love will grow.

No matter what twitter-pated lovebirds feel before having an opportunity to prove their love through hardships, what they feel up front can NEVER compare to the feeling that comes as a reward for letting challenges bring them together instead of apart.

But it takes charity, as described by the apostle Paul in the Bible. If they both had a confirmation that they should marry each other – what a revelation! What knowledge! What a mystery revealed!

But now this:

“…though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

In other words, the revelation of who to marry is worthless if they do not continue on in charity toward each other. But if they do, what love can be built!

Here is the best marriage advice ever given:

“…Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)

Show me a person who lives by this creed, and in time, you will find a person who experiences something more grand, more rewarding, and more everlasting than any fairy-tale love. Yes, even if only ONE of the partners lives by it. Jesus Christ showed this kind of love to the vilest of sinners, never once receiving it to the same degree in return. He is the bridegroom, and showed us by the way he treated the church how we must treat our spouse.

And this kind of love is what changes people.

With this Christ-like love, hearts soften, wounds heal, inadequacies are filled, and injustices are eventually compensated. Yes, it’s a lofty ideal, but it’s worth the life-long effort to achieve it.

The adversary has developed tools that twist reality (movies, books, porn, etc) to confuse us about what we should expect out of marriage. I hope your friend is smart enough to know the difference between reality and fiction. Some people just don’t get it, but I really hope he does.

Love is a choice. It’s something you DO. It’s not something that happens TO YOU …at least not the kind that lasts.

(There is at least one exception to this: the love that Christ has for YOU. That love is freely given, and yours without condition. It is something that can happen TO you, as you allow it. Seek Him. And as you feel it from Him, you’ll more easily have it to give to your spouse and others.)

If only people could take the thousands of dollars normally spent on the wedding, and instead save it to celebrate the marriage after they’ve made it 25-50 years. Oh, what a worthy and deserved celebration that would be!

Rant over.

PS. I understand there are life-threatening circumstances and other situations that warrant divorce. But I also believe it happens too often with situations that do not.

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