Investing In Peace

Dear Peace-Deprived,

Are you satisfied with the progress you’ve made so far this year? If not, you still have time to make some positive changes in 2011. There are three weeks left in the year. Lucky for you, it only takes 21 days to start/break a habit. What’s one positive change you would like to accomplish in 2012? What’s one thing you have no desire to bring into your New Year? What areas of your life are you struggling to find peace…  finances? your relationship with God? your marriage? your job? your health/weight? What do you do that stresses you out? Think about it. Go ahead… take a few minutes. Got it? Good. Now that you’ve identified your struggle, let’s do something about it. There’s a simple solution to your complex case: you have to start doing things that will produce harmony instead of hostility; serenity instead of stress. You have to start investing in peace.

An investment is simply a commitment of time, energy, or resources with the expectation of future gain. Simply put, it’s sowing a seed to reap a reward.  Your life is a giant investment portfolio of the decisions you make and the risks you take. The value of your portfolio (aka, your self-worth) is based upon how much weight you give to your experiences and accomplishments. Your daily actions and behaviors are an investment of your time/energy/resources that will reap either positive or negative results. If your portfolio is consistently experiencing poor performance, you have to get rid of what’s weighing you down and begin investing in things that will bring you peace. What stress/struggle do you want to be free from in 2012? Well, in order to make that happen, you’ve got to start tackling it today. You must become proactive instead of reactive (lead by your emotions). Let’s handle that, shall we? Here’s your investment plan:

1. State your objective. What is the primary goal you are trying to accomplish… a better handle on your finances? debt reduction? weight loss? lower blood pressure/cholesterol? Whatever your goal is, make sure it’s S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound). Let’s say you want to build up your cash reserves. A S.M.A.R.T. goal would look like this:

“I want to have an additional $3,000 in my emergency fund by 12/31/2012. I will accomplish this goal by saving $250/month into my savings account for the next 12 months. I will monitor my progress quarterly. Because I have created a budget based on my income and expenses, I can realistically expect to save $750 per quarter (which will total $3,000 for the year). Yes, I can do this!”

Write the vision and make it plain. Put your objective in writing and read it aloud to yourself. You are more likely to reach a goal if you simply write it down. And hearing yourself voice your desire causes you to take ownership of your objective. Investing in peace is all about knowing what you want for yourself. You can’t change anyone else and nobody can change you. You have to do this for your own peace of mind.

2. Identify the positive rewards of accomplishing your objective.  Investing in peace will reap some wonderful rewards: less stress, more joy, better sleep, healthier attitude towards yourself and others, etc. Make a list of all the perks that come as a result of reaching your objective. This is the positive return on your investment.

3. Identify the negative consequences of not reaching your goal. Write down the “poor performance” you might experience if you don’t start investing in peace. Depending on your goal, some examples may include: depression, stress, anxiety, increased debt, reduced savings, heart attack, stroke, poor self-image, hopelessness, strife, etc. This is the negative return on your investment. Compare this list to the list of your positive rewards. Which would you prefer? Keep both of these lists in mind when you get discouraged. Oftentimes, we don’t think twice about divulging in unhealthy behavior when we don’t acknowledge the risks associated with it.

4. Get a Peace Partner. This is someone you trust who can respectfully hold you accountable to reaching your goal (and who is not struggling in the same area you are). They will be there to keep you on track when you want to give up. And they will celebrate your  accomplishments in the process. Having someone to hold you accountable will significantly increase your ability to make your dreams come true.

5. Manage your risk. Reduce/eliminate your distractions. What people, places, and/or things often distract you from staying on course? If you’re trying to save money, you probably shouldn’t hang out with friends who spend money like it grows on trees. If you’re trying to reduce your debt, stop carrying your credit cards in your wallet. It’s amazing how much easier it will be to focus on your goal when your vision isn’t clouded with temptation.

6. Take a daily Peace Pill. What is ONE Thing you can do every day to help you reach your objective? This is your Peace Pill. Doing ONE Thing consistently everyday for the next 21 days will help you form a positive habit that will not only assist you in reaching your goal, but will also give you more peace in the process. It’s much easier to reach a goal if you break it down into baby steps. Smaller pills are far less difficult to swallow. So, focus on changing just one bad habit at a time for 3 weeks straight.

7. Monitor your progress. Break your goal down into shorter intervals and monitor your progress accordingly. Check in with your Peace Partner to let them know how you’re doing and discuss any challenges/frustrations you might have. And don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon… just jump right back on and keep it moving!

FYI: It’s not good enough to simply know these steps. You must implement them in order for them to work. Commit to this process and above all else, invite God to lead the way. Stay prayerful. Seek His face throughout each of these 7 steps. The Holy Spirit will guide you and the Prince of Peace will keep you. Investing in peace is about doing the little things that will produce positive results for your peace of mind. It’s about taking good risks. Make a conscious decision to invest in your peace every day- no matter how big or small. Consistency is key. Acknowledge how counterproductive it is to waste your time, money, and energy on things that will ultimately steal your joy. Short-term pleasure often produces long-term pain. Enough of that already! You’ve been going in circles for too long… can we agree that it’s gotten you nowhere? Take ownership of where you are and how you got there. Here’s the good news: when you focus on doing the right thing, you leave little room for the wrong thing to take root. Even when you experience the volatility of life, you can experience positive performance. You’ll be more at peace with yourself and others, and your quality of life will grow exponentially. Sounds like an excellent return on investment, if you ask me!! Peace is priceless… get yours today! 🙂

Practically Yours,

~The Practical Chick

P.S. If you’re dealing with long-term issues that you can’t seem to resolve on your own, or if you feel your situation is hopeless, don’t give up! Seek the counsel of your Pastor, therapist, or other mental health professional. For additional resources, check out ShareCare at www.share.care.com, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)…. www.NAMI.org or (800) 950-NAMI. Support, education, information, referral and advocacy is available to you! It’s not too late. You can do it, and they can help!

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Crack Kills

Dear Struggling and Strung Out,

One more hit. Just one more rush. It’ll be your last time, for the last time. For real this time. Just one more intoxicating high and you’re all done. At least that’s what you tell your self… and your friends… and your kids. But before you know it, one hit turns into two and two hits turn into too many tomorrows and suddenly, you see your self years later- still strung out. You tried to let it go, but the lifestyle keeps calling you back. You risk all that you have for the comfort of just one more hit. Hooked, you give in for the last time- again. The hole in your heart cries for mercy, but you cave- yet again, to the false security of empty promises and lust-filled fervor. You’re looking for love in all the wrong places and filling the void with temporary pleasure. Instead of self-improving, you’re self-medicating… diseasing your mind in the process. You want more. You deserve more, but just can’t imagine life without the fantastic lies you’ve grown accustomed to. And so you settle- once again- for a life of loneliness and shame. You settle for a cracked life. No drugs necessary- you are addicted to the stability of your comfort zone. Yes, you’re cracked at the core, filling every crevice of your being with nothingness. No, no drugs necessary. But this crack does kill.

Crack will have you dressed up, stressed out, standing still, lying down, living for lust and dying for love. You’ll find yourself doing things you never thought you would do. Who or what has you open like that? Who’s got you climbing the walls and leaving a piece of your soul in their bed every time? What’s keeping you from your Promised Land? What cracks are in your foundation? I know- you want to do better, but you’re stuck. It’s like the world is turning so fast and you want to get off the ride, but you’ve grown accustomed to the cycle. It’s familiar. Some of the symptoms may be physical, emotional or even financial, but the core issue is spiritual. And unfortunately, withdrawal is short-term when sobriety seems impossible. But take heed to the following and you will overcome your dysfunction once and for all.

1. Acknowledge Your Problem– I know, that seems too simple. But it’s true. If you don’t acknowledge that you’re engaging in self-destructive behavior you’ll never be able to get the help you need. Face it- you’re strung out on him, her, a high-maintenance lifestyle, maybe even the rush of pounding your fist to someone’s face. Your life has become unmanageable. Everyone sees it, and you’ve refused to believe it. Stop making excuses and you’ll start making progress. Crack kills, but it doesn’t have to kill you.

2. Kill it at The Root- When you truly want to be free of something, you eliminate every trace of it. Otherwise, even the smallest seed will begin to grow by simply watering it with your attention. When the children of Israel were preparing to enter the Promised Land, the Lord instructed them

“to destroy their enemies totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.” (Deuteronomy 7:2)

Now, please don’t get it twisted. I am not advising you to kill anyone (besides, our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood but of evil spirits in heavenly places. See Ephesians 6:12). What I recommend is that you destroy all ties to anyone or anything with a poisonous presence in your life. If it’s a person, get rid of their souvenirs (gifts, clothes, etc.). Stop staring at their picture. Delete their number from your phone- it’s only going to remind you of them every time you scroll by. Take their e-mail out of your contacts list. Stop calling them, and stop accepting their calls. No more text messages, DM’s, in-boxing or on-line chats. Defriend and unfollow. They don’t love you and you don’t need them. Love doesn’t live in double lives and secret seductions. It doesn’t dwell between the sheets of manipulation and abuse. And it certainly doesn’t hurt…. Perhaps you have an issue with overspending. Stop carrying the credit cards in your wallet. Discontinue the e-mail reminders for shoe sales and special events. Stop negotiating with the negative forces in your life. You can’t afford to flirt with temptation. Destroy it before it destroys you!

3. Expose The Cracks- Take some time to discover who you really are and how you got to this low place. What cracks are in your foundation? What led you to fill your void with false love? If necessary, seek professional help. The sooner you expose the hurt, the sooner you can mend your brokenness.

4. Seal The Cracks– This is the last vital step to take. You have to seal the cracks. Just ridding yourself of the temptation isn’t good enough. You can get rid of every booty call in your phone book, but if you don’t change your environment, break free from your circle of “friends”, and begin to see yourself as worthy of true love, you’ll find yourself attracting the same parasites all over again. Likewise, you can clean out your entire closet and one day find yourself binge shopping because you never got a healthy dose of self-esteem. You don’t see yourself as more than enough- without all the external clutter. Jesus warns,

“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes several other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:25-26).

If you have tried to rid yourself of the temptations in your life only to find that you are worse off than before, it’s probably because you never sealed your cracks. You left your spiritual house unoccupied. The moment the next good-looking person glances your way, you find yourself right back in a compromising position (or two). And so your downward spiral begins- again. You must seal the cracks. Spend time discovering what God says about you and the gifts and talents He has placed inside of you. Allow the Lord to fill all the empty spaces in your life. He has created you for a purpose. When you fully understand what that purpose is, you will begin to walk in victory. And that victory won’t have time to wade in defeat.

God has created each and every one of us with a secret place that only His love can fill…. this is the God Spot. Allow Him to seal your cracks and fill your empty places with His love. I promise you will never be the same again. With His help, you can live a life of abundant joy and peace. Don’t worry about how you’ll get there. Just take it one day at a time and commit to the process. Yes, crack kills, but it doesn’t have to kill you.

Practically Yours,

~The Practical Chick

P.S. If you are dealing with domestic violence, or you have been involved in a pattern of abusive relationships, help is available to you! Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or log onto http://www.thehotline.org. Advocates are available 24/7. Anonymous and confidential.