Organized Meal Planning

Cooking during the week when you’re working full time can be stressful. If you don’t prepare, you can spend all day wondering what you’re going to make. It’s this kind of situation that can make you hate cooking and dread the kitchen.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult.

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Preparing your meals a week at a time is much easier than starting from scratch each day. It also means that you can plan out how in depth you want to go. You can go out and buy bread, or you can plan to bake it yourself.

Make a Favorites List

If you’re planning on (or already have) taking over the majority of your household’s cooking, the best place to start is by making a list of your favorite meals. These can be as simple as frozen pizza, or as complicated as chicken cordon bleu. Just make a list of everything that you know how to make that your family enjoys.

You probably have at least 15 different meals, right? That’s two weeks right there. I would suggest trying to get to around 30 basic meal ideas that you can easily pull from when making a meal plan. If you use each recipe during the course of a month, you’ll only be eating the same thing 12 times a year, so you won’t get tired of it!

Once you have your list, pick out the ones that may take longer to make than others. I love making chicken alfredo, but only if I make the noodles from scratch. Making noodles takes several days to do right, so if I decide to make that, I’ll make sure that the rest of my week is full of easy, “throw it in the pot” recipes.

Unless I got a huge burst of energy, there’s no way I’d make noodles, pizza crust, and pastries in one week. Don’t overload yourself with work. The best part of making a meal plan is that you get to decide what you’ll do.

Check your Pantry

Before writing down your meal plan, check the ingredients that you already have. Chances are, unless you keep a very low stock of ingredients in your house, you’ve probably got enough to make at least one meal, if not more. By being aware of what we have, we can normally keep our weekly grocery budget under $30, unless we have to make a big meat purchase. For two people, that’s not too bad.

Skim the Store Sales

This step can be skipped, and sometimes I do if I don’t have the time or interest to check them out. Once you’ve determined what you can make from your pantry, check the flier for your store and see if there are any ingredients that you can work into a meal.

Write Out Your Meal Plan

Now that you’ve made a few decisions, make sure you write down your meal plan. Most days my husband picks me up from work and asks “what’s for dinner?” About half the time, I have no answer for him. I don’t remember what I wrote down, but that’s okay. The fact that I wrote it means that I have all of the ingredients and can make it quickly.

As you’re writing your meal plan, write your shopping list, too. I write them right beside each other, so if I’m at the store and I wonder why I put something on the list, the answer is right there.

Write Out Your Prep

I also like to write out what prep work I’ll need to do for the next day. Normally this consists of transferring meat from the freezer to the fridge to thaw. If I’ve decided to make something more in depth like meatballs, then I’ll transfer the meat to the fridge two days ahead of time and form the meatballs the day before so they’re ready to be cooked the day of.

Listing prep work separately is something fairly recent for me, and it’s helped so much! I used to make a plan, but then I’d forget to thaw the meat the night before, so I’d get home to completely frozen chicken. I do occasionally still forget that, but it’s much less frequent.

Do you have any special tips for meal planning? Let me know!

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Surviving Rock Bottom (Finale)

Over a month and a half later, and this plot line is finally wrapped up!

If you’ll recall, my husband and I were going through a financial hardship back in March. We owed a lot to the IRS for taxes, and I’d had one of my bank accounts hacked, too!

Well, despite a lot of research and discussion, we weren’t able to find a way out of the tax debt, but I finally got my money back! So, you know, there’s…something.

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Looking back on the whole situation, I’m pretty happy with the way we handled it. In dealing with the tax issue, we talked to several people for advice, and did a lot of research. We were able to take a good look at our money and determine what areas we could pull from to pay for the debt. Then, when it became obvious that we still weren’t able to get the money in time ourselves, we put aside our pride and asked for help.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything we could have done better in that situation.

After dealing with the banks and Google Plus (which is how the money was stolen), there was definitely a lot I wasn’t happy with, but it’s not really something I can change. It may help you to have these tips, though.

  1. Make sure your bank will fight for you from the start.
    What bothered me the most about my particular situation is that my bank wasn’t willing to fight for my money on my behalf unless I showed them proof that I had tried and failed to make any progress. This is total crap. What is a bank for except to hold and protect your money? If you’re in the market for a new bank, make sure to ask them about their policies regarding fraud. If they won’t handle a difficult situation like this for you from the start, you probably don’t want to give them control of your money.
  2. Be careful about what sites you buy from.
    We still aren’t totally sure how my card numbers were stolen, but it may have been from a site I used to get a bridesmaid’s dress. The site in question is prefectbridal.com. A further search into this site revealed that some people had experienced problems with their products and website in the past. I received my dress without any apparent issues, but I do wish I had checked for reviews on this site before I made the purchase. If you’re not sure about a site, do a search of the website name and the word “scam.” If anything comes up with people sharing bad experiences, avoid the site, even if it means you have to spend a little more. Again, we have no way of confirming that this site is the source of the issue, but it’s still a useful tip.
  3. Don’t take “no” for an answer.
    In order to get my money back, I had to spend a lot of time on the phone, or chats with Google Play trying to figure out what had happened. This was incredibly frustrating, especially when I could tell half the time people were just spouting a scripted, “I know how stressful this must be for you.” Since I’ve worked a phone job before, I have a hard time being rude to people on the phone. I’ve been on the other side, so I just don’t want to make someone else feel the way I did. But honestly, if you’ve lost a large sum of money, the situation is serious. Don’t waste your time talking to someone who has no idea what they’re saying. Request a transfer to someone in charge, and make sure that they speak the same language as you. Being firm may feel terribly rude to you, but keep it businesslike and the person on the other end won’t fault you.

So, there we go. A few tips that will hopefully help you avoid any problems like the ones I had to deal with.

Turn on the Fan!

If you haven’t cleaned your stove top recently, you may have yelled this recently while in the middle of making dinner. I know I have. I’m sure our neighbors harbor a grudge over how many times our smoke detector goes off.

I wasn’t very interested in cooking or cleaning when I was growing up, so when I moved into my first apartment, I basically knew nothing. I was definitely frustrated that I hadn’t asked my mom to teach me this stuff, because it’s kind of important. Instead, I had to call her several times with desperate questions, or resort to a Google search if she wasn’t available.

Sometimes, like this week, I got lucky and found something out by myself.

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In particular, it was about cleaning my stove top. I’m not talking about the glass top kinds, because if you’re lucky enough to have one of those, you probably don’t have to worry about burned on food causing the fire alarm to go off.

What I already knew, was that you have to pull out the coils and remove the bowls in order to clean them.

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I’m sure there are plenty of different cleaning solutions for getting burned on food off your stove elements, but I’ve always used regular baking soda. It’s easy to use, cheap, and you don’t have to deal with any chemical smells. It does require some elbow grease, though, so be prepared to work those muscles! For a tougher mess, you can use some vinegar with it. The chemical reaction between them is great for clearing out clogged sink drains and breaking down mildly difficult messes.

So that’s what I already knew how to do. What I was left with was a messy stove top and four holes that I didn’t know how to clean, like so.

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Getting to this point was so frustrating. I just thought to myself, “Why can’t you just lift this thing up like a car hood? Then it would be so much easier to clean!”

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Turns out, YOU CAN! Dangit!

Anyone who’s cleaned a stove like this before, you probably already knew this, but I had no idea! So anyway, for those of you like me who didn’t know this, the entire top panel of your stove should just raise up like it’s on a hinge, and then the poles on either side will hold the entire thing up once they’re lifted into position. Just like a freakin’ car hood.

I didn’t use any special cleaner for this section either. I just work with dish soap and baking soda. Before closing the lid, I made sure to wipe the whole area dry. Not sure if it was necessary, but I didn’t want any lingering hard water to cause an issue. Wiping down the top of the lid is fairly self explanatory, as well, same basic principle.

Once you’ve cleaned the lid and scraped out the bowls, it’s time to put it all back in. The coils (which I wipe down, too) fit back into the slots that they came out of. I always make sure to put the same coils in the same slots when I’m done. I’m not sure if this is necessary either, but it seem like a good idea.

Once it’s all back together! Voila! You’re ready to make dinner again without having to wave a newspaper at the smoke detector!

Pro-tip: Once you’ve gone through all the trouble to clean your stove out really well, try to avoid making something that can overflow and mess it up all over again. At least wait a few weeks. Prior experience, people.

Well, I’m off to go clean my stove AGAIN! What seemingly simple cleaning tricks did it take you forever to figure out?

Separation of Work and Home

When you’ve got a lot going on at work, it can be difficult to stop in the middle of a task at the end of the day. I definitely have a bit of a workaholic tendency, so I never want to stop unless something is finished. If your spouse isn’t this way, this can lead to frustration at home.

The secret to preventing any frustration is to compartmentalize your life. Work stays at work, and home stays at home. That way, you don’t run the risk of feeling like you’re giving up any family time.

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Here’s a few tips on how to keep home separated from work.

At work:

Adopt a clean desk policy. Before the day is over, go through the odd tasks sitting on your desk and arrange them in a way that you have a set plan for the next work day. It will help to relieve some of the stress of leaving things unfinished. It also gives you a chance to look through everything and remind yourself about what it is you have to address. When you’ve already got a plan, you don’t have to think about it at home.

Treat work time as quiet hours. I would say this is normal work etiquette, but just to make sure it’s said, don’t spend your work time on your phone. Unless there’s some emergency to deal with, keep your phone on vibrate. My phone has a quiet hours setting, which is great, especially when I get a phone call from a telemarketer. With your phone set to quiet, you won’t be interrupted and will get more done.

Talk with your boss. If you find that you’re getting a lot of after hours calls or have to work overtime and it’s putting a strain on your marriage, try talking to your boss about it. They may be open to any boundaries you need to set, especially if it’s affecting your home life. This won’t be the case for every boss, but most will understand and be willing to work with you.

At home:

Don’t talk about work. Your spouse can quickly get tired of stories about your work frustrations, especially if you have no way to fix them. And it can be equally as frustrating to you if they don’t respond to your venting in the way you need them to. Just avoid it.

Prep for work once. If there’s something that you need to do at home to prepare for work, make sure to get it done at one time so that you’re not spending too much home time thinking about work.

So, what do you think? Are there any other tips for keeping work and home separate?

Dealing With Exhaustion

Is there anything worse than coming home from a rough day at work and realizing that you still have to make dinner and none of your dishes are clean yet? Well, I guess there probably is, but when you’re in that situation, it sure feels like you’ve reached the ninth circle of hell.

So how do you deal with the exhaustion and stress and still manage to take care of everything that needs doing?

dwe.jpgThis is Bessie, one of our guinea pigs. Isn’t she adorable?

Well, first, I’d say you need to come to grips with the fact that; you probably won’t. People have a tendency to come up with a lot of ideas of what needs to be done. I know I sure do. I almost always end up coming up with a list so long that just looking at it makes me tired.

Even if your list of household tasks is longer than your arm, it’s good to get everything that you’re hoping to do written down. It’s important to see what you want rather than just thinking it. Try splitting up big tasks into smaller ones, so they feel less daunting. For instance, you could separate “Laundry” into “Wash/Dry” and “Fold.” What are the most important things for you? What’s going to bug you more; a pile of unfolded laundry, or a stack of unfiled paperwork?

Once you’ve got the list written down, try to think about how long each task will take you. Really think about it, too. I have a bin hanging on the wall for any papers we get that need to be filed. I usually just pile things on until it seems like the bin might fall down. It stresses me out to have to think about going through all that information and sorting it, but in reality, it only takes about 15 minutes for several months’ worth of paperwork.

Don’t make it harder than it has to be!

Now, look at your list again. Are there tasks that you can get done at the same time? You can use the time while laundry is washing to clean your bathroom, or plan out the meals for the week.

In our house, Wednesday is pizza night. We always use frozen pizzas, because I haven’t been able to find a homemade recipe that comes close tot he flavor of Digiorno. When the pizza is cooking, I know I have 19 minutes to do a little bit of cleaning or planning or whatnot. I could just waste that time by checking my Facebook or Pinterest (and sometimes I do), but it’s a much better use of my time to get through a quick task and check it off the list.

Find the little pockets of time that allow you to keep up with your house, rather than falling behind.

It’s also important to take advantage of the times when you have the urge to do something. For me, that time normally comes at around 9:00 at night. Some people find that urge early in the morning, but I get an extra charge by the moon, so I always end up wanting to do my tasks during inconvenient times.

In the interest of not bugging my neighbors, I do have to funnel my energy into tasks that sometimes I don’t want to do. Here’s the secret, though.

The hardest part of any task is starting.

So, as comfortable as the couch can be after a full day of stressful work, get up and do just 20 minutes of cleaning. It’ll ease your mind, even if only a little, and you might even get the urge to keep going!

Extra Cash, APPEAR!

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If only, right?

I’m taking a short break from the Principles of Success series because I realized that, other than some generic descriptions of how to change your mindset, I haven’t been giving any tips lately! Don’t worry, there will be more principles later!

Anyway, here’s an update on our rock bottom situation. It’s been almost a month since we discovered that my bank account had been cleared out. After having to deal with multiple people who didn’t seem to know anything, I’ve basically decided that the money is gone, but I’m still working with the bank. Hopefully it’ll all work out.

We’ve also finally got all the money together to pay for the taxes that we owed. Man, writing that check hurt!

Now, in the aftermath of one of the most stressful months in our recent history, we’re at the point where we can move forward. I just checked our finances today and they’re definitely going to be tight. So, the next question is; how can I make some extra cash on the side?

In the past, I’ve tried various online methods. Keep in mind, that these are very easy.

Easy does not mean lucrative.

Normally, I’ll do these a little bit throughout the year and then cash in whatever I can around Christmas to ease those costs. Here are a few of the ones that I’ve used in the past (all links are referrals):

Online Surveys
This method can be helpful, but you’ve got to be willing to go through some mind numbing work. I’ve used several different websites for this.

  • Pinecone Research
    This is my favorite survey/product testing site. Once you’re a member, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you qualify for whatever survey you take. They send you a survey, you take it, you earn 300 points (equivalent to $3). You’ll normally get about 2-6 surveys per month, so it’s not a huge amount, but there’s no minimum withdrawal amount, so you can cash out any time!
  • Opinion Outpost
    I’ve had a lot of success with this one as well, but you do have to worry about not qualifying for surveys. There are almost always surveys available, but you’ll probably be disqualified from at least half of the ones you click on. Still, it’s possible to make about $10 per week if you really go for it, which can get you over $500 per year. Not too bad, especially when you only need $10 to cash out.
  • Swagbucks
    I really dislike this one. It claims that you can make a ton of money on surveys, but I’ve never had much luck. They mostly want you to use the offers section, so you can sign up for services and memberships that you probably don’t want (warning, some of them are really hard to get out of!). Otherwise, you’re making tiny, piddling amounts of points. Not worth it.
  • Inbox Dollars
    See above. Totally not worth the time.

Grocery Apps
These can be really great, but make sure to double up these deals with your store’s weekly sales, for maximum savings!

  • SavingStar
    I’ve had the most success with this one. I’m pretty sure the cash out minimum is only $5.00, so you don’t have to spend forever racking up enough money. You can also access this on the Internet, so you don’t have to rely on your cell phone.
  • Ibotta
    This one’s pretty good, too. It’s really simple, but I don’t remember it all the time, and most of the brands listed are out of my budget. You have to have $20 to cash out, which can take a while to get. The only issue I’ve had is being able to use it on my devices. As a Windows Phone owner, I can’t get this app, and you can’t use it online. I have to use my husband’s phone to get these deals. It does work on iPhone, iPad, and Android phones (but not Kindle tablets).
  • Checkout51
    This one is basically the same as Ibotta, but it seems to have more niche brands. I’ve not heard of some of the ones that I’ve seen, so it’s a little hard for me to earn money with it. I haven’t been able to cash out yet.

There are a few other methods, like using Ebates or other such sites to earn cash back when you’re shopping online, but I didn’t include that, because it often encourages you to spend more than you ordinarily would just to get more cash back.

After figuring out that our finances were going to be tight, I checked my various accounts on these sites to see if I could cash out anything. It turned out that I had over $90 across these sites that I could cash out without even knowing it! As rough of a time as we’re going through right now, every penny counts, so that was a nice surprise!

Have you ever tried any sites like this? Are there any that you would recommend that I left out?

Principles of Success #4 – Logistics

The principles in this series are loosely based on the Principles of Wealth, written by Erik Hamre, and featured in the novel The Last Alchemist.

The next principle is logistics. You want to get into the habit of figuring out the logistics before you start barreling through.

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My dad has a knack for building. He’s always told me that if I want something built, all I’d have to do was figure out how to make it and he’d take care of getting the supplies. I’ve taken him up on the offer for everything from a simple shelf to multiple custom built mannequins for a school project.

show.jpgWhat, you thought I was kidding?

Before my dad would ever get started, he needed a plan. Most of the time I come up with projects that are a little out there, so the plans aren’t easily accessible. This takes some research on my part to determine exactly how I’m going to make these things. If we wait to figure that out until we start the project, we’d only be wasting time and wood.

By taking a half an hour or so to take a few measurements and make some calculations, I can save time and prevent my dad from getting a headache. Then I can give him a clear list of the supplies needed and the steps we need to take to create whatever weird thing I had in mind.

So, before you do anything, sit down and think it through. This applies to life, as well as carpentry projects. You know where you want to end up, and you’ve got some idea of how to get there, right? Now you need to figure out the specifics.

What do you need to move forward?
How much will it cost?
What’s your timeline?
What skills do you need to learn?
Where can you learn those skills?
What potential challenges should you be aware of? 

These are just a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself before starting anything. Prepare for as many contingencies as possible and your journey will be that much easier.

At this point in my life, I’m pretty used to going through this checklist of questions for just about any situation. I would guess this is because I’ve been trained to think this way (thanks Dad!). If you’re not like me, and you normally dive into things without a plan, don’t worry. It’s an important skill to learn, but it’s not a hard one.

Start with something simple, like the weekly grocery shopping.

Rather than just making a list of what you have a craving for, start with a meal plan. That’s your intent. Once you’ve figured out what you want to make for the week, check what you have (it’s always a good idea to base your meal plans off of what you have first, and store sales second).

Then make your list, keeping in mind the layout of your store. Write your list so that you can make the shortest route to everything without having to backtrack (don’t put lettuce or fresh fruit at the end, because it’s normally the first thing you walk past). Beside each item, write an estimate of what you think the cost will be, so that you can make sure you’re remaining within your budget.

Then, all you have to do is put your plan in action! Simple, right?

Planning out the logistics for your future is the best way to ensure that it will turn out the way you want.

Will you have setbacks? Sure. But you’ll have prepared for them. Just because you’ve made a plan doesn’t mean that it’s set in stone. You may have to make a few adjustments once you’ve gotten started, but when you begin with a direction, you’re already closer to achieving your intent than you think.

Write down your plan for your life now. It will give you an opportunity to see where the gaps in your plan are. How could you deal with those obstacles once you get to them? If you can point out your mistakes before you’ve started, you’ll be able to avoid them.

 

 

Principles of Success #3 – Decision

The principles in this series are loosely based on the Principles of Wealth, written by Erik Hamre, and featured in the novel The Last Alchemist.

Now that you’ve found your Faith and solidified your Intent, it’s time to make a decision. This principle is about more than just formally declaring “This is what I’m going to do.” You’ve already done that. This is about getting yourself ready for the long road ahead.

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A lot of people struggle with making decisions, especially when the problem is particularly difficult. For instance, I had no idea what to do a few years ago when we were hit with a large medical bill after my husband got sick. The fees seemed outrageous and it felt like we’d been taken advantage of by everyone who had been involved. In order to resolve the issue, we gathered up the money and paid all of the bills as quickly as possible.

Making a quick decision is very important, but (and I can’t stress this enough);

If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you will make a bad decision.

So, rather than just making a decision because it’s quick, you’ve got to do some research. Make sure that you fully understand what the situation is and all of the options you can take.

I later found out that you can negotiate your hospital bills down. While it was good that I made a quick decision, it turned out that it wasn’t in the best interest of my family. Had we taken the time to research more options and get tips from people who had already been in our position, we might have been able to save ourselves some money while appeasing the medical system.

Despite knowing that we could have made a better decision, I don’t regret making the choice that we did. By making a quick decision and taking care of the problem right away, we were able to keep moving forward.

Even if you make the wrong decision, you move forward in some way.

While it would have been nice to have saved more money, we learned a lot about stressful situations like the one we had been in. We learned how to support each other, and we got a better idea of each other’s strengths in these situations. In the future, if we have to deal with this again, we’ll be much better prepared.

Forward motion, people.

Otherwise, you spend your time in limbo while you hem and haw about what should be done. If none of the options before you are exactly ideal, then you either need to do some more research or choose the one that you’ll be able to live with the most.

The fact that we could have been in a better situation had we done a little more research was moot for us, because the issue was already resolved. Which brings me to another important point;

Once you’ve made a decision, don’t change it. 

While it’s bad to waste time by being indecisive, it’s even worse to waste time by reversing a decision you’ve already made. Stand by the decisions you make, and deal with the consequences as they come.

You will have to make a lot of decisions on the road to success. Chances are, the snap decisions that you make with your gut are the best ones for you. After making sure that you understand your situation, stick with the choice that jumps out at you. Even if it seems like you made the wrong one, something good will come out of it.

You’ve already made a few important decisions here. You’ve decided to believe in your abilities over your fears. You’ve decided what you want to accomplish and that you will accomplish it. Don’t let that momentum go away. Keep at it.

You’ll be able to say you’re successful soon as long as you just keep moving forward.

Principles of Success #2 – Intent

The principles in this series are loosely based on the Principles of Wealth, written by Erik Hamre, and featured in the novel The Last Alchemist.

If you’re really serious about working to make your life the way you want it, you have to start with more than just a wish. Everyone has wishes and hopes and dreams. To be truly successful, you need to do more than just write down a goal (although writing your intentions does help).

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The difference between a goal and an intent is the severity of your ambition. If you set goals for the day and you don’t get to all of them, it’s not such a big deal. You can always do it tomorrow; it’s not urgent. An intent is urgent. While a goal is something that you want to do, an intent is something that you will do.

I can say over and over that I want to lose weight, and I want to be healthier, but it’s not going to happen until I really make it a priority.

The push to intention normally comes after some event that serves as motivation. It could be a bad experience at work that forms into a serious plan to open your own business. Maybe you find out that you or your spouse has a medical condition that encourages you to eat healthier.

That doesn’t mean that there has to be a serious impetus to take this step.

If you’re thinking about working toward your goals, you already have the motivation. You just need to turn it into an intent. Think about everything that frustrates you about where you are right now. Make a list of them, and rank them from most frustrating to least. Now, really look at each of those items. How many of them are actually impossible for you to change? Chances are, very few.

Whether or not you’ve chosen to believe it, you’re in control of your own life. If you’re not where you want to be, it’s because you’ve been too afraid to take the chance and go there.

Have faith.

Turn your goal into an intent.

“But where do I start?”

This is a question for your heart. What do you love to do? The road ahead is going to be tough. If you keep your heart in it, the process will be that much easier.

If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do, that’s okay. Your heart does. 

Personally, I’ve always had a fascination with fibers. In following this passion, I’ve learned how to sew, knit, embroider, upholster, bead, and weave. While I still feel like I haven’t found exactly what I want to do, there’s a definite path that I’m following, just based on my personal interests.

Follow where your heart leads. 

Once you have an idea of what you love, think about how that can lead to your intent.

What do you really want to do with your life? What do you stay up at night wishing you could accomplish? It doesn’t have to be a fully formed idea right now. Your end goal might be as simple as cooking a homemade meal every night for your family, or going to every one of your son’s soccer games. Your goal might be to become a multi-millionaire.

My intent is to be able to stay home with my children. For my situation, I need to find a way to use my passion to be able to supplement my husband’s income enough that we can survive with only one steady paycheck. The path that I take to achieve my intent could be anything from knitting scarves to reupholstering furniture. The fact that I don’t have all of that figured out right now isn’t a big deal.

You will be presented with opportunities that match your passion. Make sure you keep your eyes open so you don’t miss them.

Principles of Success #1 – Faith

The principles in this series are loosely based on the Principles of Wealth, written by Erik Hamre, and featured in the novel The Last Alchemist.

Before anyone runs away, let me specify that this principle does not necessarily center around a religious faith. For me personally, and for my family, it does. That doesn’t mean that a belief in God is required. I am going to talk about my beliefs, though, so if that’s upsetting to you, you might just want to skip over the next section.

In Hamre’s novel, this principle came second. After some introspection, I came to the conclusion that before you can start thinking about what you want to do, you’ve got to iron out your beliefs. The Last Alchemist goes into a mini spiel discounting religion and any belief in God; focusing on the belief in one’s self over the belief in a higher power.

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Why does it have to be one or the other?

I will admit, for a while in college I totally thought I was too smart to believe in God. I thought that believing in a higher power was a crutch for people who weren’t strong enough to get through life on their own.

The entire time I believed this I was miserable.

I had no idea why. I felt so strong and independent and intelligent, but I was empty, too. Nothing I did mattered. I created things that had no purpose, so everything I did felt worthless. Then, one day I realized that the reason I have the skills and opportunities that I do is because God gave them to me. This knowledge gave me a purpose, which has truly made my life richer.

I can believe in myself because God has given me the tools to be successful.

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pos-faith

Faith

The true lesson of this principle has nothing to do with religion. Whether you believe your talent and ability come from God or a rock, the point is this:

You cannot be successful if you’re held back by fear. 

For my husband and I, this fear is for our children. The main fear, of course, being financial. How are we going to be able to provide for them when we seem to be back at rock bottom so frequently?

The answer is so simple I felt a little dumb when I realized it.

We’ve already figured it out. We’ve done it before. We’ll get out of it, because we already have. Each time we’ve experienced a financial setback, it’s been incredibly stressful, but we’ve learned to plan for them. Because of this, we’ve never had the same setback twice. Needing a major repair on our only car a few years ago rendered us nearly destitute, but now we budget for automotive surprises. Although this was different from the time we had a major health bill to deal with, the principles for getting back to security were the same.

Chances are, the fears that you have are over obstacles that you’ve already overcome.

Let go of the fear of failure. I know it can be awful to get on Facebook and see all of your friends doing great when you’ve just found out that you’ll be eating peanut butter for the next month. That stuff is going to happen. Life isn’t a steady ride to the top, it’s a series of successes and failures. Some days will suck and others will make you feel like you’re on top of the world.

It’s easy to believe in yourself when your day is going exactly the way you want it to. It’s on the days when your worst fears are realized that you need faith. You are capable of surviving. You already have.

Believe you can do something and you’ll do it.

Now, I’m not saying that working toward a successful, joyful life isn’t difficult. It is. It takes planning, sacrifice, and persistence. No one’s going to hand you the key to happiness on a silver platter. God will provide the door, but you’ve got to get up and walk through it. Faith in your ability will simply make the process that much easier and more enjoyable.