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!


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


Hope Like a Balloon

Hot air balloons. Helium balloons. Truly magical, if you don’t understand the science behind their buoyancy. And even magical if you do, in my opinion.

Do you remember how it was to experience your first helium balloon?  When you were a child, were you astounded at how everything else you knew fell downward… except that beautiful, shiny ball in the air? It did two things: it ascended upward, and it helped you feel happier.

As you got older, maybe you allowed it to become more of a a commonplace phenomenon.

Even now, every time I stop to think about it, my spirits are lifted as I watch the pull of a balloon rising in the opposite direction of everything else around it.

All it is, is a container full of a gas that happens to be lighter than the oxygen/carbon dioxide mixture in the air, and when a balloon is full of a gas that is lighter than the gas mixture of its surroundings, it naturally rises above them.

Our thoughts, kept buoyant by focusing on the positive, also have the ability to pull US up and out of downer circumstances.

Every time you consciously choose a solution-oriented, hopeful, enthusiastically-expectant-of-good-things kind of thought, you fill your MIND with stuff that is lighter in nature than the common thoughts of negativity and discouragement.

It’s science:

Hopeful, buoyant thoughts do more than just help you feel good; they literally LIFT you above adversity like helium in a balloon.

So fill your mind with light-thinking, and in time, you’ll naturally rise above the gunk. The stuff that pulls you down will fall out of your life, like ballast out of a hot air balloon.

For a tank full of helium of the mind, I strongly recommend joining me in the Mindset Mastery Program.

I’ll help you keep your thoughts buoyant. I’ll give you REASON to hope, and a valid reason to have it, too. I’ll fill your mind with the stuff that will help you rise above your challenges, no matter what they are.

To your success! Originally published Oct 27, 2009