Stuck in a Rut? Ribet!

I’d like to begin today’s message with a parable about finding the strength to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. We all find ourselves in situations from time to time that we’d desperately like to change, but sometimes the motivation just isn’t quite there. Until life throws a knuckle ball that we have no choice but to hit.

A frog was hopping down a dirt road, happy as a lark and full of life. After a while, he came upon the sound of a toad crying for help. The toad was stuck at the bottom of a deep rut and couldn’t get out. He’d climbed and jumped all night but kept falling back down to the bottom. His situation seemed hopeless, and there was little the smaller frog could do but go try to find some help.

An hour later, unable to find any way to help his friend, the frog sat beside the road to think. A few minutes later he heard a familiar sound and, to his amazement, along came the toad. “That rut was too deep!” the frog exclaimed. “How on earth did you ever get out?” The toad simply replied, “There was a truck coming … I didn’t have a choice.”

Sometimes, it’s not enough to want something. We can dream about it, plan for it, set goals, and spring into action, only to fall right back to where we started. After a while, we begin to think maybe we just set our goals a little too high. Maybe this is beyond our capabilities. Besides, this rut isn’t so bad after all.

This is true in many areas of life, but especially when it comes to finances. No matter where we are on that mountain, most of us want to climb a little higher. But that takes work, and right now there are just too many other things we need to do. Sound familiar?

More often than not, time really is on our side. The bills are being paid, there’s food on the table, and maybe even a little left over for savings and vacations. What’s the rush? Then the ground begins to vibrate, and you hear an unwelcome sound headed your way, getting louder by the second. Time is no longer a luxury. You have to do something now, or just lay there and await the inevitable.

Thankfully, for most of us, it’s not really a truck headed our way. Sometimes it’s a serious health issue that won’t be covered by insurance. Or maybe you go into work one day to find a box sitting next to your desk as the boss says, “It’s not personal – just business.” Or you get a letter from the bank giving you ten days to pay up or move. But at this point, ten days just isn’t enough.

It all comes down to a pretty simple concept – dig the well before you get thirsty. Things happen that we never planned on, and emergencies have no regard for the size of our bank account. They’ll take it all, and then some. And nobody else cares, as long as they get paid. Your emergencies aren’t their problem. You figure it out.

If you suddenly found yourself in that rut with a truck bearing down, you’d find the strength to get out of the way. We all do. The key is to find that strength now, before you need it, and get out of that rut before the truck ever hits the road. Dig the well before you get thirsty.

Digging a well takes work. It’s not convenient, and a lot of people may even question why, especially when there’s a faucet on your kitchen sink. “You don’t need this! You’re comfortable! Let’s go grab a beer!” But when that day comes that you turn on the faucet and nothing happens, you’ll be glad you put in the effort. And you’ll meet friends you never knew you had, but that’s a different story.

Find that sense of urgency now, before life does it for you. Life will still throw some knuckle balls, and you may already be sitting on two strikes. The question is, will you be ready for it? Will you simply reach into your bank of resources and handle the problem, or let the problem handle you?

If there’s something you could do in the face of an emergency, what are you waiting for? Do it now. Then, when those emergencies arise, you can focus on the real issue instead of the fallout.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

One Degree at a Time

Mark Twain once said everybody always complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. I guess it’s good that we can’t actually do anything about it, because that would just give us all one more thing to fight over. And I’m pretty sure I’d never live long enough to get my turn at the thermostat. If I did, I’d set it to 80 and break it.

My wife and I have a running feud over the inside temperature of our house. Well, it’s more like a disagreement. Okay, it’s a game of cat & mouse. She keeps turning it down, then I sneak down the hallway to turn it back up. We’ve done this several times a day for the past five years. We both think the other won’t notice, or maybe we just hope we’ll get at least an hour or two of relative comfort.

And, are you ready for this? Our difference in the definition of “acceptable” is one degree. One. Singular. You can’t even measure it in degrees, because there’s only one of them. Seriously? In fairness, that’s just the temperature where we’ve agreed not to compromise. She would be happy with five degrees colder, and I’d be happy on a tropical beach.

Now, there’s no way our bodies can tell the difference between 68 and 69 degrees. But that’s where we’ve drawn the line. At this point, it’s more of a moral victory than anything really meaningful. Yet, we play the game. Day after day, year after year. I can’t wait to see what we’ll be like in our eighties.

I guess this is a (somewhat) amusing way of illustrating a more important point. It’s natural to want to live in our comfort zone and, for most of us, stepping outside that comfort zone is a big deal. Even if it’s only by one degree. We know where life feels good, and that’s where we want to stay.

But all too often, what we perceive as our comfort zone really isn’t that comfortable at all. We just live our lives in a state of compromise and acceptance, never really trying to make it any better. Because, in the very act of making it better, we have to abandon what we’ve come to know and take a chance on breaking the thermostat completely.

And, it’s that risk that keeps most of us right where we are. That, and a feeling of relative comfort. Sure, you’d like to make more money, or live in a bigger house, or get a better job, or break away from a toxic relationship. But that means stepping away from what you’ve come to know and into the unknown. It means change, and change isn’t something we always handle very well.

So, we sit right where we are, in a state of relative discomfort, simply because it’s easier than making the changes that would increase our level of comfort. After a while, we even embrace that level of discomfort, because it’s what we know. This is the very reason the vast majority of lottery winners are bankrupt within a few years. The change is just too sudden.

But, here’s the thing. The temperature in our house didn’t suddenly change one day from 75 degrees to 68. It was a slow progression – a trick wives learn in bridal school where they teach them to conquer the household one degree at a time. And husbands, gullible as we are, don’t even notice it until there are icicles on the bathroom mirror. By then, we’ve been had.

The same is true of changes in your life. The big bang approach usually doesn’t work, because it’s too much change too fast. Why do you think all those New Year’s resolutions fail? But if we approach change a little at a time and give ourselves a little time to get used to the change, it adjusts our comfort zone and becomes another normal part of our day.

Your comfort zone is like a rubber band. It can sit there for years, never doing anything besides just existing and getting moved from one place to another. But in order to be of any value at all, it has to be stretched. And, the reality is, someday you’ll stretch it too far and it’ll break. So, you reach into the drawer and get a new one that you can stretch even further.

One degree at a time. It may not fix the ongoing battle over the temperature in our home, but it can make a huge difference in your quality of life if you’ll just let go of that one degree that’s holding you back. You can’t find a new comfort zone by resting comfortably in the one you’ve got. Step outside and explore. You never know what you may find.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Change is Not a Four-Letter Word

We’re all creatures of habit. Some a little more than others, but we all get into a comfort zone and tend to stay there until something comes along to change that. Those habits could be anything from which side of the bed we sleep on to which shoe we put on first, the route we follow driving to work, and how we spend our first five minutes on the job each day.

Most of our habits are completely inconsequential. Does it matter where you sit in church, or which shoe goes on first? Not a bit. In fact, some experts suggest we should change those habits from time to time, just to break up the monotony.

Beyond that, I think it can help us learn to adapt to change, so the thought of changing a habit isn’t quite so daunting. Because, let’s face it, we tend to make a big production of changing our habits. We make resolutions, set dates, create checklists, and put stars on our daily calendar like a kindergarten teacher to show the days we were “good.”

It’s no wonder we’re so reluctant to change. And if it’s that hard to change something relatively minor, how on earth can we tackle the changes that really matter, things like giving up smoking, losing weight, following an exercise program, or devoting a little time each day to building a business? All of these things can have a profound impact on our lives. And the stronger the impact, the more we resist making the change.

I think two things hold us back. The first is comfort. It’s human nature to seek a place of comfort. And when things are going well, and nothing is forcing us to change, it’s easy to sit back and say, “This isn’t so bad. I’ve done it this way all these years, and I’m still alive. In fact, I kind of enjoy how things are going right now. Why rock the boat?”

That’s great if you want to stay right where you are until the reaper pays a visit. But if you want to step things up a notch, something has to change. To have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. That’s one of my favorite quotes, and it resonates perfectly in this context.

The first step in making that change is to get a little uncomfortable. If we’re cruising along with little or no discomfort, there’s little incentive to change. We know what we really should do, but the urgency just isn’t there. Until the mortgage company calls and says pay up or pack up. I hope none of you ever have to experience that, but I think we can all agree, it would light a fire.

Beyond that, we need to break these major changes down into smaller bite-size pieces. One of my goals for the year is to finalize my financial situation in preparation for retirement. If you could see my bank and 401k statements today, you’d know that’s a huge undertaking. And, I’ll be honest – looking at the end goal, it’s really hard to visualize.

But, if I break it down into smaller goals – paying down the credit cards, shedding some unnecessary expenses, and building some sources of ongoing income, it becomes a little more realistic. And if I take any one of those goals and break it down even further, I can come up with a list of actionable items that can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.

It’s all about habits. Form the right habits, and you’ll work toward your goal without really thinking about it. It becomes second-nature. And once that habit is firmly in place, you can start working on the next one. Instead of trying to leap-frog right to your ultimate goal, you do it 21 days at a time.

If there’s something you’d like to change, a habit you’d like to develop (or break), it only takes three weeks. You may or may not reach your big goal by the end of the year, but think of how much closer you’ll be. All it takes it to get a little uncomfortable with the status quo, make a decision to do something about it, then commit to doing that for the next three weeks.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, day after day, and expecting different results. To have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. Embrace change, one little step at a time, and there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved