Master the Spending Game

Cheryl Denton author of Among the Ashes and The Road to Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of www.purchasingpower.com

Jack Canfield’s Success Principle #59

Spending too much can prevent us from achieving financial success. When our debts outweigh our savings, our focus turns to consumption, rather than wealth. Today, Jack provides some helpful tips for mastering our spending.

Keep track of expenses.
Recording every purchase in a notebook or on the computer for one month can be eye-opening. We may not think we’re over-spending, but this may reveal something surprising.

Joe and I did this a few years ago, and we discovered that we were spending a fortune on fast food and restaurants. While a dash through the drive-up window or Starbucks may not seem like a big purchase, all those little receipts can really add up over the course of a month, a year, or a lifetime.

Start paying cash for everything.
If we pay cash for everything, we become far more aware of the limitations of our stash. A debit card or credit card causes most people to overspend, because they have no clue what their balances are.

Joe and I began using Dave Ramsey’s envelope system a few years ago. It has given us control over our spending like nothing else has. The system is simple. Using My Total Money Makeover online, we figured out how much we make and budgeted how much we wanted to spend. Then, we created an envelope for each expense category, such as groceries and gas.

Now, I go to the bank once every week with a check made out for the amount of cash that we will need. The cash goes into each category’s envelope. If an opportunity to spend money comes up, and there’s no cash in the envelope, we don’t buy at that point.

Reduce the cost of your lifestyle.
We can live the type of lifestyle that we desire without paying top dollar for it. I recently bought some beautiful designer clothes at a Goodwill Boutique. It’s a second-hand shop that specializes in upscale goods. Our daughter goes to the opera, the ballet, and off-Broadway shows for just a few dollars with an Enjoy the Arts card that she paid $35 to obtain. We can all save more by shopping for discounts, using coupons, and buying many things second-hand.

Take steps now to become debt-free.
Jack suggests the following five steps for getting out of debt:

1) Stop borrowing money.
2) Don’t take out a home equity loan to pay off credit card debt.
3) Pay off your smallest debts first.
4) Slowly increase your debt payments.
5) Pay off your home mortgage early.

Cutting up every single credit card is crucial to getting out of debt. At the same time, saving for emergencies is a necessity. Otherwise, every time the furnace breaks or the car needs repairs, there is no cash on hand.

Dave Ramsey makes these same suggestions for reducing debt, but he recommends taking on an additional part-time job and creating what he calls a Debt Snowball.

We have been using the extra income Joe makes from a part-time job to pay off debts. With each small debt paid off, we take that payment and add it to what we’ve been paying to reduce the next bigger debt. In this way, the amount of money snowballs, until the cash available for debt pay-down is huge. We aren’t quite finished, but we’re getting closer to living debt-free.

As I mentioned yesterday, Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is a great place to learn money management. Dave makes all of these suggestions and more. You can find a financial coach or class near you by going to www.mytotalmoneymakeover.com.

As with any lifestyle change, money management adjustments take perseverance. James 1: 12 (NIV) reminds us, Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. Having financial security is a blessing, and one that is worth pursuing in our quest to thrive.

Today’s Challenge
Buy a notebook or set up a computer file to track every single expenditure. Begin noting everything that you spend money on, no matter how small it is. Save your receipts throughout the day and record them every night. Don’t wait until the end of a month to write down the expenditures. This will only leave you feeling overwhelmed. Pray for God’s guidance as you work hard to reduce your debts to achieve financial peace.

I am thankful to God for giving me the skills and time to publish three books. Click on the image below to find out more about my writing and my ministry.
 Among the Ashes When Hope was Gone Forgive Cheryl Denton Books Mystery

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Pay Yourself First

Cheryl Denton author of Among the Ashes and The Road to Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of http://www.investingtips360.com

Jack Canfield’s Success Principle #58

We’re in the home stretch…only seven more days remaining in our discussion of Jack Canfield’s Success Principles. Today, we learn about the importance of paying ourselves before paying anyone else, because our financial success contributes to our ability to thrive.

Start saving early.
Albert Einstein once said, Compound interest is the eighth natural wonder of the world and the most perfect thing I have ever encountered. That’s quite a statement coming from the genius who discovered the law of relativity.

Jesus taught a parable about the kingdom of heaven in Matthew chapter 15, comparing the outcome of our Christian service to that of financial guardians of his day who invested their master’s money. It clearly shows that the wise servant invests his money to earn interest, and the foolish servant buries his in the earth. Even in Jesus’ time, people understood the power of compounding interest.

The sooner we start saving, the easier it is to become wealthy. If Mary invests $150 per month from age 25 to 35 and then stops, she will have invested $18,000, which will grow at 8% interest to $283,385 by the time she retires at age 65.

By contrast, if Tom invests $150 per month from age 35 to 65, he will have invested $54,000 and will only earn $220,233 by the time he retires at 65. The sooner we start saving, the greater our compounded interest will be.

Make saving a priority.
The goal of saving is to become financially independent. This means that we could live off of nothing but the interest we earn on our investments. By methodically saving 10 to 15% of our income, we can discipline ourselves to begin building our fortune. We also force ourselves to earn more if we want to do or have more.

If we can’t find ways to cut the budget so that we can afford to save 10 to 15%, we can start with as little as 1% of our income. The habit of saving develops each time we practice it. Eventually, we’ll be able to save more if we work at it.

Become an automatic millionaire.
Few people are able to discipline themselves to save without automatic deductions. We can arrange for our employers to automatically place money from our paychecks into our savings accounts. If we arrange to have our money placed into a retirement fund, we don’t have to pay taxes right now on this savings.

Some companies, like the hospital Joe works for, offer matching contributions. If Joe puts in 10% of his income each pay period, the hospital puts in 5%. Get on board with this today if your company offers it. It’s free money being given away to people who are smart enough to grab it!

Follow the 50/50 law.
John Demartini is a chiropractor who now conducts seminars on building wealth. He created the 50/50 law, which means that we never spend more than we save. I think this is a brilliant idea.

Let’s say that I want to buy Joe a boat for his birthday. It costs $10,000. If I can’t put $10,000 into savings first, and then set aside another $10,000 for the boat, I don’t buy it. The key here is that we don’t raise our lifestyle until we have earned the right to have it.

Build assets, not liabilities.
Robert Kyosaki wrote the book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Our son recommended it to us several years ago, and we were impressed with the insights of the author. One of his most important points is that we must build assets, not liabilities.

One way to think about this is to consider the purchase of a home. Many people believe this is an asset, but it’s not, according to Kyosaki. An asset is something that puts money into your pocket. I don’t know about your house, but mine sure takes out a lot more than it puts in!

Assets that put money into our pockets are things, such as investment real estate (rental properties), small businesses, stocks, bonds, gold, and so on. If we want to become rich, we put our money in these things first. Only when they are generating enough income to support us and our purchases do we buy things such as homes and cars.

Hire a financial planner.
After our nest egg begins to grow, it’s important to hire a financial planner to help us invest it. To illustrate the importance of investing our money and not just stashing it under the mattress, Jack tells the story of Oseola McCarty of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Oseola dropped out of school in the sixth grade to wash and iron other people’s clothes. For 75 years, she worked and saved. In 1995, she donated $150,000 of her $250,000 savings to the University of Southern Mississippi. If Oseola had invested her $50,000 in 1965 to earn about 10% interest per year, she would have had just shy of $1 million–four times what she saved!

Protect what’s yours.
In this day and age when people are swift to sue, it’s important to protect our assets with adequate insurance, particularly if we run a small business. I also believe that disability insurance is critical, because I didn’t have any when I was running a small business a number of years ago. Without insurance, we lost our shirts when I became too ill to work.

Today’s Challenge
There are many good points in today’s lesson, and it may take you a while to implement all of them. Start by setting up an automatic deduction from your paycheck into a savings account. If your employer offers matching contributions, invest as much as you can to maximize the free money that’s waiting for you.

I am thankful to God for giving me the skills and time to publish three books. Click on the image below to find out more about my writing and my ministry.
 Among the Ashes When Hope was Gone Forgive Cheryl Denton Books Mystery

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You Get What You Focus On

Cheryl Denton speaker and author of Among the Ashes and The Road to Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of http://www.asianefficiency.com

Jack Canfield’s Success Principle #57

If we don’t place value on money and seek it, we won’t receive it. Many of us survived abuse, but we still carry around such poor self-esteem that we don’t believe that we deserve to have money. My mother told me that I was more worthless than yesterday’s trash. I had to shake off that limiting belief, decide that I was a worthwhile person, and that I was worthy of wealth before I could even begin to think about earning anything.

What’s holding you back from your financial goals?

Decide to be wealthy.
If we want to be wealthy, we must make a conscious decision to do so. We have to decide from someplace deep within us that we want wealth–without worrying about how we’re going to get it.

If you’re stuck because you still don’t believe that it’s godly to have wealth, think about what the Bible has to say about the love of money:

Whoever loves money never has money enough. (Ecc 5:10 NIV)
You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matt. 6:24 NIV)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.(I Tim. 6:10 NIV)

Notice that the second verse capitalizes the word, Money. The point in all of these verses is that if you love Money and make it your god, evil will follow. Becoming wealthy is not evil, but failing to share that wealth with others or to thank God for it is. Greed, envy, and criminal conduct involving money can get us into trouble. Having wealth, however, does not automatically make us evil. We can use our wealth to bless others in need.

Joe and I decided a couple of years ago that we wanted to make as much money as possible so that we can support the work of our church. We have cut back on expenses, worked extra, paid down our debts, and kept our budget on-track; so that we can give more to people in need.

What could you do if you had more money to give?

Decide what wealthy means.
There is no right financial goal, but each of us must decide what we want. Some people want to retire with a million dollars. Others want to make millions and give their money away as scholarships. Decide what you want and then write down your goals. Some examples include:

I will have a net worth of $_____ by the year ________.
I will earn at least $_________________ next month.
I will save and invest $________________ every month.
To become debt free, I will ________________________.

Find out what it costs to finance your dream life.
Right now, we are all living the life we dreamed of in the past. It’s not the same life that we hope to be living when we retire. We need to decide what kind of lifestyle we want in the future so that we can visualize it.

We can research how much it costs for our dream life, which might include: setting up a scholarship fund, eating in fine restaurants, giving to support orphans, going on vacations or mission trips, buying a different home, and so on. Remember, at this point we’re not worrying about how we will achieve these things; we just need to figure out how much they would cost.

Get real about retirement.
I think that the concept of retirement is completely wrong. People work all of their lives at a job they hate, looking forward every day to the moment when they will be free. A week later, they drop dead.

I don’t ever plan to retire, but if you do, take time to figure out what you would need to maintain your current lifestyle once you stop working. Charles Schwab advises saving $230,000 for every $1,000 that you will need each month in retirement. For example, if your current expenses are $5,000 each month, you would need to have saved $1,150,000 just to maintain the way you live today.

Become conscious about your money.
If we want to become financially successful, we must develop a consciousness about our money. We need to know precisely what we have so that we can figure out how much we will need for the future. Do you know:

your net worth (total assets minus total liabilities)?
your savings?
your fixed and variable monthly expenses?
your total debt?
your annual interest expenses?
your insurance coverage?

Everyone must have a financial plan. Otherwise, over-spending lands people in hot water, such as the mess we’ve been seeing lately with foreclosures and repossessions.

In addition, it’s important to have an estate plan and a will. If you don’t have one, take time now to get it in order. Even if you’re not a millionaire today, it will save your heirs a lots of trouble and money later.

Jack has more to say about these topics, but I believe the best place to go for advice about money is to Dave Ramsey. You can find him online at www.mytotalmoneymakover.com, on the radio, and in classrooms taught by trained advisors all over the country. Joe and I attended a 10-week class, and it completely changed the way we use money.

Today’s Challenge
Decide today what your financial future will look like. Remember, you get what you focus on. If you’re thinking only about your debts, you’ll keep getting more. So write down your goals for the long-term. Then, find a financial advisor to help you achieve them.

I am thankful to God for giving me the skills and time to publish three books. Click on the image below to find out more about my writing and my ministry.
 Among the Ashes When Hope was Gone Forgive Cheryl Denton Books Mystery

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Develop a Positive Money Consciousness

Cheryl Denton author of Among the Ashes and The Road to Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of wistatetreasury.wordpress.com

Jack Canfield’s Success Principle #56, continued

All success starts in our minds. First, we must decide what we want. Next, we have to believe that we deserve it and that it’s possible. Third, we must think about any success and visualize it as if we already have it. And finally, we must be willing to pay the price to achieve our goals through discipline and perseverance.

Most people never achieve financial success, because their beliefs limit them. Yesterday, we learned about our limiting beliefs that developed as a result of childhood sexual abuse. Today, we shift gears to take a look at how limiting beliefs can prevent us from achieving financial success. Jack identifies limiting beliefs, suggests steps for eliminating them, and then provides ideas for turning around those beliefs.

Identify your limiting beliefs about money.
We may not even be aware that we have limiting beliefs about money. Many of them were probably instilled in our minds when we were children, just like the inappropriate ones we developed about love in the context of sexual abuse. The following is a list of typical limiting beliefs about money:

Money doesn’t grow on trees.
You have to have money to make money.
Money is the root of all evil.
People with money are evil and unethical.
People with a lot of money are selfish.
You can’t buy happiness.
It’s impossible to go to heaven if you’re rich.

That last belief on the list held me back for years. Jesus said, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven….I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (Matt 19:21, 24 NIV)

The point of Jesus’ lesson was to make a rich man see that he was coveting others’ possessions. By telling him to sell everything, Jesus pushed the guy to look at his sin. Jesus’ message, if taken out of context, can be sadly misinterpreted to mean that Christians should not have wealth.

I was previously married to a millionaire who also happened to be an abuser. His actions made me come to the conclusion that all rich people are evil and don’t deserve to get into heaven. I didn’t want to be like him, so I developed the limiting belief that it’s impossible to get into heaven if you’re rich.

Joe had been taught the limiting belief that it was more godly to be poor than to have money. When the two of us got married, our limiting beliefs nearly destroyed us financially. They took us from a place of financial security to a point of living on groceries from a food bank and accepting hand-outs from the church.

God doesn’t want us to be poor. He promises blessings throughout the Bible. One of God’s dearest saints was Abraham, who eventually owned more land and possessions than we can imagine. God wants to bless each of us abundantly, just as he blessed childless Abraham, who ended up having more descendants than the stars in the sky.

Take three steps to turn around limiting beliefs.
It’s possible to change our limiting beliefs with a simple three-step technique that Jack outlines. He suggests doing it with a partner or a group of people. Working with others can be far more powerful, not to mention, fun!

1) Write down the limiting belief.
For example, we can write down, If you’re rich, you can’t get into heaven.

2) Challenge, make fun of, or argue with the limiting belief.
We could brainstorm a list of new beliefs to challenge this old one. By making the ideas outrageous or silly, we can create a more powerful shift in our thinking. So, we can write out something new, such as:

*If you’re rich, you can’t live in a housing project.
*If you’re rich, you can’t get into the food bank.
*If you’re rich, you aren’t automatically limited spiritually.
*Some people with money may not get into heaven, but wealth can’t keep me out.

Dave Ramsey teaches that money is nothing more than a tool. Like a hammer, we can use it to build something, or we can use it to smash in someone’s head. The hammer isn’t good or bad. Our use of it merely dictates the outcomes for us.

3) Create a positive turnaround statement.
When we are finished brainstorming, we can choose a positive statement that turns around our old beliefs. For instance, I may replace It’s impossible to go to heaven if you’re rich with It’s possible for me to go to heaven after receiving unlimited wealth here on earth and sharing God’s abundant blessings with others.

Like all of our goals, we need to write our new financial beliefs on index cards and add them to our stack. If we take time every day to read them aloud with intense emotion and imagine how we will feel, our money affirmations will come true.

Today’s Challenge
If you haven’t yet created personal affirmations about money, start today. Write down your financial dreams on index cards. Bring up images of checks in the mail, big paychecks, royalty checks, dividend checks, and cash in your hand. Visualize your ideal bank statements, stock reports, and retirement fund returns. Add your feelings to these visualizations, along with gratitude for already having these things.

I am thankful to God for giving me the skills and time to publish three books. Click on the image below to find out more about my writing and my ministry.
 Among the Ashes When Hope was Gone Forgive Cheryl Denton Books Mystery

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Releasing Our Past

Cheryl Denton author of Among the Ashes and The Road to Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of http://insideoutwellnesscoach.com

Jack Canfield’s Success Principle #56
I am splitting up this principle and presenting the second half of it first. Tomorrow, I will go back and share Jack’s thoughts about how to develop a positive money consciousness. For today, I want to share with you some insights that I have recently learned about the power of releasing our past.

I once spent the weekend at a retreat. There, I learned that God’s love is infinite. I experienced for the first time what it felt like to fully receive that love from him and from others.

As an incest survivor, I discovered that we expend huge amounts of energy pushing away love. The type of inappropriate love we received as children causes us to develop the limiting belief that love is evil. I now know that some evil people label their sinful actions as love, but God’s love is pure and comes to me only for my highest good.

For a long time, whenever I tried to challenge my limiting beliefs about love, I got stuck. That weekend took me through specific steps toward accepting God’s love. Jack Canfield suggests using something similar known as the Sedona Method to help us move forward. The five steps of that method follow.

1) What am I feeling right now?
We can ask ourselves what we are feeling. As abuse survivors, this may be difficult, because we are told that our feelings are not valid, should be kept secret, or may lead to punishment.

I kept pushing aside my feelings of anger toward my mother for failing to love, protect, and nurture me as a child. Every time I tried to connect with God, these negative feelings got in the way. Eventually, I learned to allow myself to focus on those feelings, instead of resisting them or reacting to them.

2) Could I welcome and allow it?
In a safe environment, we can welcome the intense feelings that were brought on by childhood sexual abuse. We don’t react to the feelings at this point. We simply let them come to us and observe what they are.

Sometimes, feelings come to us in the form of symbols. For me, whenever I closed my eyes during that retreat, I saw warm golden light with an ugly patch of dirty fabric overlaying it. In time, I realized that the light was God’s pure love, and the filthy rag represented my tattered relationship with my mother. My anger toward my mother was holding the patch in place and preventing me from fully connecting with God.

3) Could I let it go?
When we are ready, we will know when the answer is yes. For a while, it may be no. That’s okay.

For months, I could not let go of this frayed patch, because I didn’t understand what it was. When I finally realized that the patch represented my mother’s lie that abuse is love, I reached a point of preparing for release.

4) Am I willing to let it go?
If the answer to this question is no, we can ask, Would I rather have this feeling, or would I rather be free?

As soon as I recognized that the black patch represented my mother’s abuse and the lie that abuse is love, I was willing to let go of the anger that held it in place. I understood that holding onto anger was not doing me any good. It wasn’t changing my mother’s behavior, and it wasn’t altering God’s reactions to those behaviors. In fact, holding onto my anger and all of the memories of the past was hurting me, because it was blocking me from receiving the fullness of God’s love.

5) When will I let this go?
Eventually, we come to the realization that now is the best time to let go of whatever it is that we have been holding.

That weekend, I decided that it was time to let go of my anger. As soon as I released it, the black patch was consumed by the warm golden glow of God’s love. Peace flowed in as I have never before experienced it.

This process of releasing may take time, and we may need help. With perseverance, however, we can all experience God’s blessings across every area of our lives.

Today’s Challenge
Use the Sedona Method as outlined above to release your past. If you’re stuck, search out a counselor, or trusted friend to help you move forward without the hindrances of your past.

I am thankful to God for giving me the skills and time to publish three books. Click on the image below to find out more about my writing and my ministry.
 Among the Ashes When Hope was Gone Forgive Cheryl Denton Books Mystery

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Be a Class Act

Cheryl Denton author of Among the Ashes, When Hope was Gone and The Road to Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of http://www.americancinematheque.com

Jack Canfield’s Success Principle #55

A successful person acts with class and attracts other people who also have class into his sphere of influence. In today’s society of mediocrity, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pinpoint individuals such as these.

What does it mean to be a class act?
Jack names Jimmy Stewart, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Nelson Mandela, and Winston Churchill as examples of class acts. They rose above their fears to create their own unique worlds of expanding awareness, creativity, and accomplishment.

For Joe and me, Christian minister Bob Russell has served as a model of class. He was the lead pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky when Joe was attending seminary. On any given weekend, the church held nearly 20,000 people during its numerous services.

On Easter Sunday one year, I was in a wheelchair following an episode of paralysis. We decided to leave the back of the sanctuary during the last song to avoid the difficulty of maneuvering through the crowds.

Bob Russell met us in the hallway and asked what was wrong. I told him that doctors had no idea what had caused the paralysis, and Bob offered to pray for me. I was dumbstruck that this man who was responsible for leading such a huge church would take the time to kneel down before me to ask God to intervene on my behalf.

There are two reasons, I believe, that Bob Russell has risen to such a high level of success. First, he has always expected excellence out of himself and everyone who works with him. This expectation stems from his intense love for God and his belief that God deserves our best. Second, Bob has never let success go to his head. Every time I meet him, I feel equally important to anyone else in the crowd. He is truly a class act.

Follow the ten attributes of people who are class acts.
Jack shared a list of attributes that characterize a class act. Life coach Dan Sullivan created the list, as follows:

1) Live by your own highest standards.
Class acts live by higher standards than those of most people in conventional society. Their goals are consciously chosen and applied.

I have been writing about these success principles for months, and I hope that it has inspired you, dear reader, to apply them to your own life. Without high standards, we merely become one more mediocre individual in the great cattle herd of society.

2) Maintain dignity and grace under pressure.
People who are classy do not become perturbed when chaos ensues. They remain so calm that it gives others courage. They are so certain that God will work all things out for the good of those who love him that they are capable of leading others with ease.

Joe exhibits this type of grace under pressure. Years ago, I injured my leg, and he had to take me to the emergency room. On the way there, the hospital paged him to help a family deal with an unexpected death. While I lay on a gurney in one cubicle, I could see Joe calmly talking to the hysterical wife of the deceased man and her teenage daughter, who was lying on the floor and screaming.  Joe’s quiet spirit provided strength to everyone on staff who was trying to deal with the situation.

3) Focus and improve the behavior of others.
Class acts are excellent role models. Their higher standards of thinking and behaving begin to make an impact on others. Under their leadership, people improve their own acts.

Whenever Joe is faced with a difficult situation, I frequently ask him how Bob Russell would handle it. Remembering Bob’s expectations of excellence helps Joe to make decisions that most conventional people would not.

4) Operate from a larger, inclusive perspective.
This is a modern-day version of Jesus’ new testament commandments from Mark 12:30-31 (NIV): Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself.

5) Increase the quality of every experience.
People with class look for ways to enrich the lives of others. They do this by introducing greater beauty and significance into every experience.

My Aunt Marjorie certainly was a class act in this regard. As a teen, I cut her grass weekly. Whenever my work was done, I found a beautiful luncheon laid out for me in her dining room. She served me as if I were a visiting dignitary; the table was set with freshly starched linens, fine china, sterling silver, and sparkling crystal. She had the ability to turn a simple meal into a beautiful and significant experience.

6) Counteract meanness, pettiness, and vulgarity.
We are surrounded by mean, petty, vulgar people in our society. With the invention of television, we can now view them regularly in our own living rooms. Class acts counteract these negative qualities with courtesy, respect, gratitude, and generosity.

Our brains will model what we see the most. If we are surrounded by crass people–either in our daily walks or through what we view on TV–we will eventually become like they are. I refuse to watch TV, because I don’t want to ever become like most of the characters depicted on the screen. I want to be a class act.

7) Take responsibility for actions and results.
People with class accept responsibility for their actions when most other people would hide from the truth. They see failures as opportunities to do better the next time.

As survivors of abuse, we frequently become defensive if someone points out an error we have made. Our minds have become so well programmed to expect further punishment for mistakes, that we automatically lash out when corrected.

Unfortunately, our defensiveness often prevents us from reaching the levels of success we desire. To become people of class, we must first learn to accept the truth about our actions. Only after doing so, can we look for ways to improve ourselves.

8) Strengthen the integrity of all situations.
If we want to become class acts, we must constantly strive to grow by setting clear goals that stretch our current abilities. Creating a list of goals, along with action steps to meet them, is a must.

9) Expand the meaning of being human.
People with class do not confine themselves to old ways of thinking and doing things. They push the envelope and expect more of themselves. This provides them with the freedom to do what God sent them here to accomplish. By living so freely, they set an example for others to do the same.

Survivors of incest often live by old rules of silence and shame. I have frequently made others in my family uncomfortable and angry by speaking out about the ugly truth of childhood sexual abuse. Those who cling to the old ways struggle with their ways of coping. Some, however, have found freedom in expressing their pain as a result of my speaking the truth.

10) Increase the confidence and capabilities of others.
By acting with class, we inspire others. Whenever we enter a room, other people feel an increase in their energy, and their confidence increases. By choosing our governing ideals and sticking with them, we can help others to create ways to grow, too.

Like attracts like.
If we make the decision to live by a higher set of standards, we will attract people of similar dispositions. Like attracts like.

Recently, someone showed me an internet video of a woman sitting on a toilet, presumably in the act of using it. Throughout the entire thing, she kept repeating stupidly, “Sittin on da towlet.” It was the most base thing I have ever viewed.

I immediately thought of Bob Russell and wondered what he would have to say about such classless behavior. He certainly wouldn’t be forwarding it to his friends. If we want to be a class act, we must be careful about what we attract.

Today’s Challenge
In order to be a class act, we must look around at the friends, coworkers, partners, and clients that we are attracting. Are they class acts? If not, make the decision today to re-design yourself as a class act. Do everything better. Raise the quality of your attitude and actions to discover what type of people you begin attracting.

I am thankful to God for giving me the skills and time to publish three books. Click on the image below to find out more about my writing and my ministry.
 Among the Ashes When Hope was Gone Forgive Cheryl Denton Books Mystery

 

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Keep Your Agreements

Cheryl Denton author of Among the Ashes and The Road to Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of http://strategicvirtualsolutions.net

Jack Canfield’s Success Principle #54

When I was growing up, men shook hands after making an agreement. Their word was their bond. Over time, contracts replaced hand shaking, because no one seemed to be able to keep their word.

You can imagine my surprise when we moved to the country and discovered that people still keep agreements based only on handshakes. I have made handshake deals with contractors to repair my house, with farmers to buy their beef cattle, and with a man buying a piece of property from us.

I believe that individuals living in small communities tend to keep their promises more readily than those living in large cities. It’s easy to disappear into a crowd and never keep a commitment if someone can’t find us. Living in a small town makes it awfully difficult to hide from someone we’ve made a promise to. Our reputations are more readily tarnished in a small community where everyone knows everybody else.

Why don’t people keep their agreements?
People frequently make agreements, knowing that they’ll break them before agreeing to them. I once overheard a bride saying to her father on the way down the aisle, “If it doesn’t work out, I’ll divorce him.” Within six months, the couple had gone their separate ways.

Why do people break their commitments? They don’t want to feel uncomfortable questioning the terms of an agreement. They don’t want to be the focus of negative attention. They prefer to avoid confrontation of any kind. Survivors of abuse often break commitments, because they fear retribution for not going along with whatever others tell them to do.

Calculate the costs of breaking agreements.
When we don’t keep our agreements, we pay both external and internal costs. Externally, we lose trust, respect, and credibility with others. This includes our family, our friends, our co-workers, and our customers. After a few incidents of breaking our promises, people stop trusting us. We lose authority with them. In time, our relationships deteriorate.

Internally, the costs of breaking promises are even higher. Each time we make an agreement with someone, our brain hears it and registers it as a commitment. When we don’t follow through, we begin to distrust ourselves. We lose self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-respect. We lose faith in our ability to produce a result.

Follow Jack’s tips for making and keeping agreements.
I believe the following suggestions may prove helpful to us in limiting the number of commitments we make and keeping the ones we agree to.

1) Make only agreements that you intend to keep.
We must be very careful about entering into agreements without taking time to think and pray about them. If we check in with our gut feelings, God will give us a sense about whether or not an agreement is right for us.

I meet many women who are in marriages with the wrong men, because they didn’t stop to take the time and think about the obvious red flags in these men’s actions. They marry abusers, knowing that the men are exhibiting symptoms of violent behavior. Women who were abused as children suffer from such low self-esteem that they place themselves in abusive marriages to unwittingly perpetuate further abuse.

Keeping a commitment with an abuser can make a woman’s life miserable and is inadvisable. And breaking a vow to a violent man can be difficult, not to mention life-threatening.

As survivors of abuse, we must move slowly whenever we are asked to agree to something. Our fear of rejection frequently causes us to say yes to things that are not in our best interest. When our hearts tell us to say no, we need to be true to ourselves and decline such commitments.

2) Write down all the agreements you make.
In a calendar, journal, notebook, or computer program, we can record all of our agreements. By doing so, we remind ourselves to stick with them. In addition, we prevent ourselves from over-committing our time and setting ourselves up for failure.

3) Communicate any broken agreement at the first opportunity.
If a snowstorm prevents us from getting the car out of the drive, or our child is sick, or our computer crashes; we must notify others as soon as possible that we can’t keep our commitments. By doing this, we demonstrate our respect for others’ time. We can then reschedule and limit any potential damage.

4) Learn to say no more often.
We need to take plenty of time to think over our commitments before we make them. Jack writes the word no in yellow highlighter on all of his calendar pages to remind himself of what he may be giving up by saying yes to something new. I love this practice, because we often forget what the costs will be if we can’t keep our promises.

Up the ante.
Jack claims that if we really want to make sure that we keep a commitment, we can set up a consequence that is far greater than the payoff. Martin Rutte, a Jew, promised to write a $1,000 check to the Ku Klux Klan if he failed to learn to dive by a certain date. Having to write that check to an organization he despised would have been far more painful than overcoming his fear of diving. In spite of the challenges, Martin learned to dive.

Follow Biblical principles to keep commitments.
I prefer to follow God’s principles for keeping our promises. Jesus spoke to a crowd about keeping oaths in Matthew 5:33-37 (NIV), and I prefer it to Jack’s advice for upping the ante: Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Today’s Challenge
Write out a list of all the commitments you have made. Put a checkmark in front of the ones you are keeping with ease. Highlight the ones that you need to re-negotiate. Take care of those today. Then write no with a highlighter on every day of your calendar to remind yourself to think twice about saying yes to new commitments you may not be able to keep.

I  said yes to follow my dream of becoming a writer. I am very grateful to have had three of my books published.  It is my hope you will enjoy reading them all.

Click on the image below to find out more about me and my books.
 Among the Ashes When Hope was Gone Forgive Cheryl Denton Books Mystery

 

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Practice Uncommon Appreciation

Cheryl Denton author of Among the Ashes and The Road to Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of http://www.scarymommy.com

Jack Canfield’s Success Principle #53

Mother Teresa once said, There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread. Today’s lesson focuses on the power of expressing gratitude to others.

Understand the power of appreciation…and the lack of it.
Most employees, when asked, will tell their supervisors that the most important way to motivate them is to express appreciation. Unfortunately, most supervisors list appreciation low on their list of priorities. Many people in positions of leadership focus more on productivity than on employee satisfaction.

Nearly fifty percent of people leave their jobs because they feel unappreciated. I don’t have the statistics to prove it, but I’d be willing to say that many spouses leave marriages for the same reason.

If we want to become successful at work and in our relationships, we must learn to master the art of appreciation. It doesn’t cost us much, other than a few moments of our time.

There are three kinds of appreciation.
The brain takes in information in three different ways: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. People receive gratitude via these pathways, with one of them being foremost for each individual.

Auditory people like to hear our appreciation. If we take the time to stop and speak to them, they are thrilled.

Visual people prefer to receive something that they can look at for a long time. They enjoy love letters, cards, flowers, plaques, certificates, gifts, and pictures.

Kinesthetic people need to feel our appreciation. They enjoy a hug, a handshake, a pat on the back, a massage, or time spent doing something active with them.

If we want to become a pro at expressing appreciation, we should learn which type people like. We can ask them to describe the most memorable expression of gratitude they have ever received. Their answer will help us to determine whether they are primarily auditory, visual, or kinesthetic receivers.

Master the perfect combination.
If we aren’t sure which form of appreciation a person likes best, we can combine all three. A pat on the back, a sincere compliment, plus a gift or card can help us to make our point.

As a teacher, I observed pretty quickly that students responded better to compliments than they did to criticism. My first year of trying to deal with inner-city children was a disaster. The teachers around me had no respect for these little people whose mothers were prostitutes and whose fathers were inmates. I had no one to model appreciation toward students.

The following year, I was blessed with a position in the same building as our county’s Teacher of the Year. His kindergarten classroom was a quiet hum of activity. I observed students playing with live bunnies, listening to auditory books, and building with blocks. There were no fights breaking out over the sandbox or squabbles over the baby dolls. What was he doing differently?

As I observed this amazing man at work, I suddenly realized that he had a great deal of respect for the kids…the same inner-city mix I had encountered the year before. He was down on the floor, crawling on his hands and knees with them. With smiles and pats on the back, he expressed gratitude for their outstanding behavior with tokens that they could later trade for small rewards.

The Teacher of the Year understood Jack Canfield’s principle of expressing uncommon appreciation. I immediately adopted this same practice with my students, and I was amazed by the turn-around. When I built up the kids with appreciation, they became incredibly eager to please me more. They actually enjoyed behaving well, because it earned them my respect, love, and appreciation.

Give thanks to others and to God.
Successful people practice thanking others, as well as thanking God for the blessings he gives. Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:16-18, Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. We are called to thank God and to appreciate others, even when things are not going perfectly for us. By remaining in a grateful mindset, we attract others to us. We also attract more of God’s blessings.

Today’s Challenge
Put an index card into your purse or pocket today. Every time you express appreciation to someone, put a check mark on the card. Don’t go to sleep tonight until you have expressed gratitude to at least 10 people. Repeat this daily until it becomes a habit.

I am thankful to God for giving me the skills and time to publish three books. Click on the image below to find out more about my writing and my ministry.
 Among the Ashes When Hope was Gone Forgive Cheryl Denton Books Mystery

 

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