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Why The Most Abundant Life Is A Simple Life

What if I told you that a journey toward a simple life is the best way to walk into a truly abundant life?

That smacks against what most people think of when they hear the phrase, “abundant life.” Doesn’t abundance imply wealth, having the biggest house you want, having all the things you want?

On the other hand, a simple life must resemble what  Thoreau wrote about it in his classic book, Walden: living in a small shack with barely any furniture, and subsisting mostly on food you grow yourself – namely, corn, beans, and squash.

Abundance isn’t about material wealth

Living an abundant life may include an excessive amount of money, which provides the ability to purchase a lot of things. However, on the financial side of things, you don’t need millions in order to live an abundant life. You simply need enough to pay all the bills, plus extra for fun and for investing. This brings you closer to the simple life.

Besides, owning material goods just for the sake of owning them actually impedes your ability to live a life of abundance.

How?

It drags you down emotionally.

In other words, at some point ownership reduces, rather than facilitates or increases, happiness. In their classic book on personal finance, Your Money Or Your Life, Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez refer to this as “The Fulfillment Curve.” Once a person has everything they need, and a few luxury items – things they really want but could live without – anything else they buy after this point makes a person feel less fulfilled in the material realm, rather than more.

Why?

The more things you own, the more stress you have

The more things you own, the more space you need for storing them. So you need a bigger dwelling, which leads to more work and expenses down the road. And the simple life begins to elude you.

The things themselves require maintenance – regular dusting, if nothing else – and there is always the fear that your more expensive things might be stolen.

More things leads to more work and more worry, which leads to less happiness and freedom.

When you don’t feel free psychologically and emotionally, your life is not abundant.

Thus, the simple life is a more abundant one.

CLICK HERE to check out my reader-acclaimed book on simple living!

But this principle extends well beyond the arena of material wealth.

Simplicity everywhere

Eating simply leads to a healthier life. And the healthier you are, the more simple life becomes because you are sick less often. Therefore, you don’t have to spend time and money on making yourself well nearly as often. This will make your life more abundant.

Simplify your relationships by cutting toxic people out of your life and pursuing close relationships only with those to whom you truly feel connected. Nurture these relationships. The more you do, the more abundant your life will feel.

A simple life consists of systems and good habits that help your everyday life run like a well-oiled machine. It consists of activities that are important to you and don’t cause you undue amounts of stress. It has plenty of leisure time because you’re not volunteering out of guilt, dealing with negative people, or having to put in a lot of time and energy cleaning and maintaining an excessive amount of things.

Having more leisure time more often than not leads to the feeling of greater abundance.

The most important connection between the abundant life and a simple life

A truly simple life is one of purpose and calling. When you have a strong sense of what you are called to do, you automatically cut out the fluff. You easily say “no” to opportunities that don’t fit into your calling, serving as distractions and time-wasters instead. You can organize your life more easily, because you are more focused.

And when you are working on walking out your calling, you can’t help but feel fulfilled. You will recognize that you are, indeed, living an abundant life.

All because you endeavored to live a simple life.

Simplicity + abundance = an extraordinary life of joy and freedom.

Need or want some guidance on living a more simple life? Click here to check out my reader-acclaimed book, Crazy Simple: 307 Ways To Save Money, Your Health, And The Planet.

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Finding Abundance Amidst The Storm Of Grief

When it comes to working toward living a more abundant life, there is a massive obstacle. And that is that ninety percent of what happens in your life is beyond your control.

That thought alone is enough to make most people throw up their hands and give up. After all, what good is putting all your energy and focus into ten percent of your life?

How about the fact that the ten percent is the difference between living a vibrant, fulfilled life, and one that is filled with struggle and misery?

Yet, even the most diligent and visionary people encounter challenges that threaten to suppress their potential and tempt them into making compromises that will ultimately keep them from all the abundance that they want. Today I want to specifically address the challenge called grief. Why?

My mother’s second husband died on Christmas Eve morning this year.

If you read this post, you’ve probably widened your eyes and groaned in sympathy for my family (thank you, if you have). You might even wonder if God is trying to tell somebody in my family something. I believe so, and I know who and what, but that’s none of your business.

Your business right now is to understand that if you have not yet experienced the death of a loved one (I include close friends in that phrase), your day is coming. And when you do, it will cause an internal upheaval that could shut down your desire to achieve your goals and dreams.

It will cause you to grieve.

It will be especially tumultuous if the death is completely unexpected, leaving you with agonizing questions that can’t be answered. It will be even worse if you have no relationship with your Creator (essential to a truly abundant life, as I describe in this post).

If you have experienced the death of a loved one, you know what I’m talking about. In fact, you in fact may have given up on moving toward an abundant life and are reading this post to find hope and motivation to get back on track.

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but following are some ideas I have about finding abundance even in the midst of grief.

Idea #1: Believe the best.

Believe the best about person you are grieving. An atheist would have to be satisfied with the fact that the person is no longer suffering, and/or will no longer have to endure the trials and stresses of life.

If you believe in an afterlife, believe that where your loved one is now is a much better place than Earth. For some, this belief comes easily. For others, not so much.

For the last thousand years – maybe even fewer – Christians have been taught that there is such a thing as an eternal hell, and that everybody who doesn’t consciously accept Jesus as their Savior while they are alive will burn for all of eternity. What if I told you that the early Church didn’t believe that? What if I told you that faith-practicing Jews don’t believe that?

What if I told you that this belief has been perpetrated by mistranslated and misinterpreted verses in the Bible, and that there is actually more evidence for Universalism (all eventually making it to heaven) in the Bible than not?

I – and many others throughout Church history  – could be wrong. But if you believe in the Bible, recall the verse where it says that God looks on the heart, and He is the only judge. Who are you to condemn someone to an eternal hell, just because you don’t know that they ever committed their life to Christ? How do you know God doesn’t give people a chance to do so once they pass over to the other side?

Believe the best about where your loved one is now.

Idea #2: Let yourself – and give yourself time to – grieve.

When my stepdad passed on, my mom reminisced about my dad and grandmother passing fourteen years earlier. She told me that she never really gave herself time to grieve those two deaths, and that if she could do it over again she would have taken two weeks off from work instead of going back into work almost immediately after my grandma’s funeral.

Because she didn’t give herself enough time to grieve those two losses, she broke down at the funeral of a friend of her second husband a year later. She sobbed hysterically as though this man had been her best friend or father, when in actuality he had been barely an acquaintance to her. A song sung at the ceremony took her back to my dad’s funeral, and the long-suppressed grief forced its way out.

 She couldn’t believe the pain of the losses was still so strong a year later, but it was the result of never having given herself time to grieve.

The grieving process is also a healing process, and to live an abundant life you need to heal from any and every emotional wound that afflicts you. So give yourself both permission and time to do so.

Idea #3: Know that the one your grieve wants you to move on.

If you believe in life after death, chances are good you believe in a perfect place full of happiness, peace, and joy, where everyone is made whole in every aspect of their being. And anyone who is completely whole and healthy emotionally and psychologically wishes everyone else could achieve that state. They wish everyone could be eternally happy.

So, while grieving is a necessary process, as you grieve keep in mind that the one you grieve doesn’t want you to grieve for very long. They certainly don’t want you to wallow in misery and despair. Rather, they want you to move forward with your life – a more abundant life than the one you are currently living.

Even though you may feel anything but fulfilled and joyful in the middle of your grief, knowing that your loved one hopes the best for you can help feel more blessed than circumstances seem to dictate.

Idea #4: Surround yourself with other people.

After losing a loved one, you will probably have several people approach you and tell you that you can call and talk to them anytime as you grieve.

Take them up on it.

Isolating yourself at a time like this is the worst thing you can do, and may lead to depression. There are times when it’s healthy to lock yourself in your bedroom and cry. But those times are few and far between.

Most days, make time to reach out to a friend or close family member who is willing to walk along side you during the grieving process. It might look like a phone call where you spend most of the time weeping while your friend prays for you. It might look like going to see a romantic comedy movie with a relative and laughing together.

Stay connected to people when you’re struggling, and your life will automatically feel more abundant.

Idea #5: Help others.

Once you’ve intentionally surrounded yourself with community, take a step up and begin to help others. When you help others in need, you gain a new perspective on your own problems. You also find fulfillment and joy when you serve.

The caveat here is: Don’t do it as a means to ignore your pain. In fact, if you have even the slightest sense that such is your motive for getting busy, step back down and seek deeper support from your friends and family. Get more help for your own healing, and only get back to helping others when you are doing it because the giving of yourself brings joy and inner freedom, not because it covers up your pain.

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Feeling that you’re living a life of abundance is difficult during times of grief. But it’s not impossible. Try at least two of the above ideas, and I believe you will find the abundant life even in the midst of a storm.

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‘Tis The Season To Be Grateful

Two things are hard to find inside a culture of materialism: financial freedom and gratitude. And often, people who are working toward paying off all their debt and/or an early retirement are just as ungrateful as those who unwittingly spend themselves into debt. They are so focused on their financial goals that they worry over every little setback – or potential setback – and forget to appreciate all the good things in their lives.

In this post where I talk about grief and the holidays, I imply that one of my problems with the whole Christmas thing is how it brings out the greed in people, especially in children. No matter how much adults push the concept of Christmas as being a time of sharing and caring, Madison Avenue sabotages those attempts at every turn.

For many – most? – Christmas brings on an entitlement attitude and consumerist mentality. Instead of being grateful for what they have, people hope for – even demand – more of what they don’t need.

There’s an old song that comes from (I think) a children’s Christmas musical. The title of the song is “Presents.” It goes like this:

Presents.

All I think about are presents.

Lots and lots of pretty presents.

Dream and dream about my presents.

Give me, give me, give me presents.

The lyrics could, unfortunately, define what many people are thinking the whole year through.

I need this year’s style of clothing.

I want the latest iPhone.

This house is too small.

I wish I could afford a BMW.

I want to vacation in a resort, not stay in a Motel 6.

I could go on and on and on and on.

But I won’t, because you get my drift.

We think that financial freedom will bring us happiness. We think that buying the latest trend will bring us happiness.

Let me tell you what – my husband and I achieved financial independence in our early forties. And we still sometimes are tempted with the idea that more would be better.

And I shouldn’t have to tell you that the more material wealth you accumulate, the more you want. You’ve experienced it. I’ve experienced it. Getting is the easiest path to greed.

The solution? Intentional gratitude.

Every morning before your day starts, sit down and think about five things you are grateful for. If you have been struggling with gratitude and contentment, you might want to start a gratitude journal and write down your list.

Every night before bed, think of five specific things that happened during the day for which you are grateful. Write them down, if you find it helpful.

After you get into the habit of intentional gratitude twice a day, challenge yourself to find things to be grateful for throughout the day. Even the smallest things count!

“I’m grateful my boss smiled at me this morning.”

“I’m thankful my spouse helped me with the housework yesterday.”

“I’m grateful for these pants not wearing out while I save up enough money to buy some new ones.”

“I’m grateful for this manicure scissors so I can cut off the broken fingernail before I accidentally rip it down to the quick.”

“I’m thankful that my friend wrote an encouraging message to me on my Facebook wall.”

People bemoan the loss of the true spirit of Christmas, and much of it has to do with our having forgotten to be grateful for everything good. When we’re not grateful, we’re not content. And when we’re not content, we get greedy.

Whether you’re striving for financial freedom or not, you will be happier and healthier if you cultivate a habit of intentional gratitude.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas season, during which you realize how blessed you are. Because when you do, your life will feel much more abundant without any external circumstance having changed.

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Give Yourself The Gift Of Financial Freedom

A lot of people working toward financial freedom – however they define the phrase – run into trouble once they hit the end of November. All of a sudden, the money they’ve been working so hard to save disappears into the black hole that I affectionately (okay, not really) refer to as Christmas Consumerism.

No condemnation or judging if that’s you. Most of us Westerners have been brought up to believe that during the month of December, we are obligated to throw our hard-earned money away on people that don’t need it and events that will not matter to us in a year.

But if you’re serious about continuing to work on your financial freedom goals even as Christmas approaches, you need to wash your brain in the other direction. You need to come to the realization that spending money and celebrating do not arbitrarily go hand in hand.

You can have a lot of fun while spending a lot less money than you’ve been in the habit of doing.

You know the old saying, “The best things in life are free.” I would modify it to say, “The best gifts in life are free.” And one of the most important gifts you could give to yourself is financial freedom.

In order to give yourself that gift, you need to save money at Christmas. You need to take some time to reflect on what aspects of the celebration have, over the years, given you the joy and pleasures that the season is supposed to offer, and eliminate – or at least reduce – the other aspects as much as possible.

For example, as a child the biggest part of Christmas for me was the anticipation involved. Everybody thinks that has to do with getting presents. But does it really? Or does the anticipation simply have to do with knowing that the day is going to bring fun surprises that you normally don’t experience?

Hold on to that question while you read on for three ideas on how to save money at Christmas, so you can get closer to getting that precious gift of financial freedom.

#1: Give the gift of special experiences

If you’re married with children, why not take everyone to a fun place on Christmas Eve (or earlier, if it’s not open that day) and reduce or even eliminate gift-giving altogether? A family of four going to watch a movie, including purchasing snacks, will cost between $40 and $50 (middle-American prices, understand), which is well under the cost that most parents spend on gifts for just the children.

If you take them to a science museum or aquarium, you’ll pay more. But the experience – especially if they’ve never been before – is likely to be remembered and treasured much longer than most gifts of toys, which kids tend to get bored with after only a week or two of play.

Some fun and memorable experiences can be free. For example, touring a neighborhood that gets all decked out with lights and decorations for the holidays. Back when we lived in the suburbs, a lot of people in our neighborhood put up outdoor decorations, and our son delighted in taking a twenty minute walk to absorb all the light, colors, and – at some houses – sounds.

You might throw a potluck Christmas party, which can be geared to whatever age bracket you want. Tell all the guests to bring a Christmas treat to share, and plan to watch a Christmas movie or three (some are available for free on YouTube). You could also plan a few games that require few to no materials.

And what about free Christmas concerts? Get your head out of the “it has to cost something” box, and get creative!

#2: Talk to relatives about the adults not exchanging gifts.

You will get one of two responses. Some will resent the idea, but if they’re mature and really care about you, they will understand after you explain that you want Christmas to be about sharing in each other’s company, not giving things to each other that nobody needs or will probably care about.

Think twice about telling them that you’re trying to save money at Christmas in order to reach financial freedom. They may accuse you (mentally, if not verbally) of being selfish. Because of course it’s selfish to want a life with less stress and greater freedom, and not selfish at all to demand things that you don’t need for the sake of upholding tradition.  (She said sarcastically.)

The other response you will get is relief. Your relatives may even admit that they’ve been wanting the adults to quit exchanging gifts for years, but didn’t want to rock the boat over the issue.

#3: Cut back on travel.

If you are married and have tried to please each set of parents and other relatives every Christmas by traveling to everybody’s place during December, that right there might be the major obstacle of the holiday that keeps you from rolling you toward financial freedom.

Visiting is a two-way street, so to speak. And then there is this modern mode of communication you may have heard of this thing called Skype.

Again, you may end up having to handle resentment and/or protests when you announce that you’re going to dial back from what has been your usual holiday travel plans. That decision may cause more hurt feelings or stress than you’re willing to deal with, so handle the situation with kid gloves.

Just remember – ultimately, if you want to achieve any goal in life, you’ll never achieve it by trying to please everyone.

Financial freedom, here I come!

There are other ways to save money at Christmas, of course.Those three are the biggies. You might brainstorm with a friend or spouse about other things you can do in order to focus on the best parts of the holiday celebration and reduce expenditures in the process.

“But, Emily, it’s too late for me to make changes this year!”

Probably so. So make plans to save money at Christmas next year. In the meantime, there are New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and probably several birthdays (at the very least). How can dialing back on those celebrations bring you closer to financial freedom?

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