Friday, January 28, 2011

Control Freak

Sometimes when I'm meeting with people they will tell me that their significant other (or kids) has told them they're a controller (or a control freak). Often they can't believe it - how could they say such a thing? Most people see themselves as caring very much for these people and they can't understand how their loved ones could see them this way. Perhaps you've had these labels applied to you?

When clients share this with me I like to help them to test if they are guilty of controlling or not. First of all, I help define controlling for them:

Controlling - using control behaviors.

Control behaviors - behaviors which are used to influence someone else's decision making, but in a way that does not respect their right to choose their own destiny (or without accepting the person's freedom to say no.) Control behaviors include demanding, angry outbursts, manipulating, guilting, pressuring, nagging, lecturing, bribing to control, silent treatment/withdrawing to control, etc.

Whenever we use these behaviors, not recognizing other people's rights to say no/choose their own actions, we are trying to control them. If we try to get them to change without controlling, it is influencing. People ALWAYS resent control behaviors. It is built into our DNA, we resist other people not respecting our freedom. When we trying to control others we damage our relationships with them, build resentment, and act in an unloving way towards them (control and love cannot go together). Because people make their own choices anyway (even if they feel controlled, they still choose their actions), control is always an illusion. You can't control anyway, so why try?

God doesn't control us . . . because he loves us. Control and love cannot co-exist. You can only control yourself (and that's really tough). We think controlling actions work but they don't. We may have someone go along with us in body, but not in their heart. And of course it's the heart that matters in the long run.

One of my clients has begun using this info on control at work (where he is a supervisor) and it is transforming his life. It's remarkable actually. He's way less stressed (and angry), has won the respect of his co-workers, and is teaching others. He's a recovering controller. Like me! My favorite control behavior to use was manipulation (makes sense coming from a counselor right?) but I've used them all. I pass on this info to others because it was very helpful for me. I'm definitely not perfect, but I'm recovering slowly. How about you?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Getting Away

"Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other."
-Henry David Thoreau

One of my goals for this year is going to be to get away at least twice to do some reflection and spend time with God. Another goal is going to be to do 2 outdoor adventures. On the 4th and 5th of February it looks like I will be able to do both! I'm planning on getting together with two other guys and going up to Pinawa for some monastic stuff, some hanging out with other guys stuff, and some XC skiing. Good for the soul, good for the body. I very much need it! We have some extra space available so if you know me and would like to come along, feel free to email me for the details!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Today I took my kids to the library. It felt different, usually when I'm in the library I like to take out several books but today I just couldn't bring myself to take out even one. I think it's a mixture of things.

In The 4 Hour Work Week (an extremely radical book), the author Tim Ferris theorized that one of the reasons people aren't more productive or more successful (even possibly less happy) is because they read too much. Yes, that's right too much! His thinking is that we waste alot of time reading about things that aren't really helpful or that we won't ever apply and so we read too much. That's a pretty simplistic summary of his argument, but it got me thinking. Is it possible I read too much?

Ferris challenged people to try fasting for a month or two from reading books, newspapers, and magazines and see how productivity increases. This is just the kind of radical experiment that I would like to try. I'm kind of trying this but I'm not doing well (so far I've read three books of fiction). But the idea of fasting from reading feels like something that might be helpful for me for a season. So this is one factor that has kept me from actively searching for books to read.

The second thing is that the books I have read so far have impacted me in wanting to move closer to Christ. I suppose God used them (along with other things) and I have enjoyed feeling more appreciative and humbled before Him. The closer I feel to Him, the less I feel like reading (Christian and secular books). And if I do read, it feels different. I find myself reflective and searching and trying to enjoy being with God as opposed to learning about him. When I'm in this mode I find that even when I'm reading the Bible I limit how much I'll read in a sitting.

The third reason I find myself pausing in my reading is that I learned so much last year with my "book a week" program that I feel like I need to time to reflect and then take action. In some ways it was like trying to drink from a fire hose. This causes me to see new books as something for the future, after I've implemented what I've already learned.

All of this to say, that I'm feeling a desire to pause in my reading of books. Kind of.

Monday, January 17, 2011

5 Ways To Find Investing Money

"Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again."
– Ecclesiastes 11:1

Saving is good, but I've heard it said that saving money makes losers of us all. How you ask? Because saving money usually ends up in you losing money, just not as fast as spending it. Let’s say you are making 2% a year in a savings account. If you realize that you will be taxed a significant percentage of that and that inflation will increase faster then your interest rate you’ll see that you are actually making minus percentage points. Yikes. One alternative to this slow bleeding of resources is invest and make your money grow. But how do you get the money to start investing with? Here are a few ideas:

1. Pay Yourself First. Almost everyone could put 5 to 10% of their income aside (first) every month and then invest it. This is by far the easiest and most productive way to raise money for investing. It is a great habit to get into. If you are on a salary, you could start with a small amount and have it automatically taken off your cheque and put it into an account until you have enough to purchase an investment or asset that will make you money.

2. Windfalls. Most people over their lifetime will receive a windfall, an unexpected blessing of money. Maybe it will be a lottery, a contest, an unexpected tax refund, an inheritance, etc. Instead of blowing it all on something that will depreciate quickly (like a car), why not put the lion’s share into an account for investing? That way when opportunity knocks you’ll be ready.

3. Sell something (or somethings). Most people have between $500 and $1500 of things around their house that they could sell. Or if you have a $20,000 vehicle, you could sell it and buy one for $10,000 leaving you with $10,000 to invest. Your $20,000 vehicle will only depreciate anyway, why not use some of it’s value to make yourself some money?

4. Use the equity in your home. Many people look forward to the day they pay off their house, but in the meantime that equity (the difference between what you owe and what your home is worth) is doing nothing. Why not unlock some of it and use it? We did this to purchase our first rental property – we didn’t even have to take any money out, we just used it as collateral. Another great way to use your home’s equity is to get a line of credit. The interest on a l.o.c. is often extremely reasonable. Just be careful that you invest in something relatively safe when using borrowed money.

5. Work a bit more. Doing a little work on the side (consulting, babysitting, etc) or even working overtime is a great way to make some extra money to invest. Even $100 extra a month is $1200 a year.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

James and Me

I'm reading through the Book of James right now. Although Martin Luther called it "a right strawy epistle," the book of James is very special to me. It was the first book of the Bible that I read and . . . it hit me. I mean really hit me, the kind where you find yourself convicted, crying, and connected to God. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in my room, home from the first year of Bible College and enjoying my summer. I had read through the Bible during that year but and although I learned lots and enjoyed it, it was nothing like I felt that day. I opened my Bible and randomly picked James and as I read everything suddenly got intense - and I became super focused. Every word burned in my heart and the conviction was almost unbearable. I found tears in my eyes as I felt God speaking to me through his Word. I sensed his will for me. It was all very unexpected and wonderful.

I don't feel that way very often when I read the Bible, but when I do I am extremely thankful. That day was a gift and a reminder that God can indeed speak to us powerfully. And I still never tire of reading James' letter and his call to action:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
James 2:14-19

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Financial Goals

I just read this morning that research shows that writing down your goals makes you much more likely to accomplish them then if you just visualize them. I was thinking about financial goals and their importance. Do you have any financial goals for the new year? Would you like some (or even one) but aren't sure where to start? Here are a few potential ones:

1. Give (consistently) a portion of your income. Whether it is the classic 10% or something more or less, giving is perhaps the greatest financial habit you can master. Why? Because it makes us feel good and shows us that we are not slaves to our income - we are the masters. For Christians, giving is a unique form of worship that is both a command to be obeyed and a blessing to be experienced.

2. Spend less then you make. The reduction in stress one feels when one keeps one's spending below what one is making is huge! I have met many people who make less then $40,000 a year who are much more at ease and less stressed then their "wealthier" friends who make 2 or 3 times what they do (but spend more then they make). The first kind of couple are wealthier - they have something left over at the end while their "richer" friends are in the hole.

3. Pay off debt. Setting aside a portion of your income to pay back debts builds your self esteem and reduces your stress. Even paying off smaller debts has great benefits.

4. Buy some assets. Purchasing things that put money into your pocket (instead of taking some out) just makes sense. It is short term gain (going without that new TV or car) for long term gain (seeing your nest egg increase, adding to your monthly income). Assets include stocks, real estate, small businesses, etc.

5. Pay yourself first. Putting aside a percentage of your income every month to invest will pay off in 5, 10, or 20 years (depending on how aggressively you invest). After giving, this is in my mind the most important thing you can do for yourself financially.

6. Track your income. Also known as (ahem) budgeting, tracking your income causes you to face the truth about where you are at and find ways to achieve your hopes and dreams. Budgeting takes a lot of discipline at the start but when it becomes a habit you'll wonder how you ever lived without it!

7. Increase your income. Instead of complaining about how you don't have enough money to meet your needs (or wants), take action. Set a goal to increase your income by a certain amount. If you don't know how, then brainstorm and research. Ramit Sethi has a lot of ideas in his "An Extra $1000 a month challenge."

8. Learn something new. If you aren't quite ready to take action, maybe you can inspire and educate yourself. There are plenty of good books out there that will not just tell you things but inspire and motivate you to do better with the money God has given you.

9. Find a mentor. Do you want to handle you money wisely? Then find someone who does so and ask if you can learn from them. Most people who are wise with finances learned it from others and are more then willing to share. Arrange to meet with them once a week/month/quarter to hear what they have to say and let them speak into your life.

10. Pray about your finances. Many people believe that the more faith you have, the less you think (or care) about money. Yet the Bible is full of advice, thoughts, warnings, and encouragement about how to use the money we get. God does care about these things. Praying for wisdom, control, balance, and that He would take care of you and your family when it comes to finances is a great thing to do. To make sure you are praying healthily, it is good to study what the Bible says about money and keep those thoughts in mind as you pray. God isn't Santa after all.

So there you go, 10 basic potential financial goals for the new year. Let me know if you think of any more.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Goal Setting for 2011

Are you setting any goals for this year? If so, what are your reasons for/against? At one of my recent family gatherings I asked people if they had any goals for the year or if they were making any New Year's Resolutions. Almost all of them said no. Most of them said no adamantly. Several said something like "My New Year's Resolution is not to make any New Year's Resolutions!"

It is not my goal to judge those who have this view, but I will say that setting goals is really helpful for me personally. For me, to aim at nothing (and hope for the best) doesn't work - too frequently I get what I aimed for! Currently I'm brainstorming possible goals and weighing them in my mind. I plan to have measurable goals in the following areas:

-As a Christ follower
-In terms of my physical health
-As an adventurer
-In terms of my financial health
-As a husband
-In terms of professional development
-As a father

I told Jobina that I want to take 24 hours and go find a quiet place to pray and finalize these. To keep myself accountable I'll post them on my blog.

In my mind you have two choices: One big fat hairy audacious goal (like I had last year) . . . or several ambitious (but not too impossible) goals. Either way works. What are your goals for this year?

I think alot of don't make goals because we are afraid of failure, disappointment, or having others know we failed. But like I tell my clients, it is always better to strive after something and fail then to not strive for anything. It is in the striving that we grow, are stretched, and produce character. If we achieve our goals we celebrate, and if we fail to achieve them we learn and grow from it. Either way, we win. The only way we lose is if we don't strive for anything at all.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Costly Gift

Sometimes around Christmas I'll receive some gifts of appreciation from my clients. One particular client is a person gifted with a great intellect, a compassionate heart, and a sincere faith. But due to setbacks in his life he is very financially challenged. I know how small of a living space he lives in (smaller then most of your bedrooms), how much money he lives on, and how he doesn't have enough to take care of some of his most basic needs.

He surprised me recently by giving me a Christmas card with a Tim Horton's gift card in it. I was very moved by this gift. You see, it was the costliest gift I'd received this Christmas. It wasn't a lot but it was a huge gift. How so you might ask? What this man had freely given me was a much larger percentage of his income then any of the gifts anyone else had got me this Christmas. Wow. I was greatly humbled and greatly blessed.

His generosity reminded me of this passage:

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Top 10 Books From My 2010 Book A Week Challenge

OK, here are my favorite books that I read this past year. If you've got some Christmas money kicking around and you wanted to pick up something enlightening to read, here's a few ideas:

1. Last Child In The Woods - Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder
by Richard Louv. This book reinforced why nature is so important for our kids and what we can do to help them rediscover it. Seriously this book blew me away.

2. When The Game Is Over It All Goes Back In The Box by John Ortberg. If you are feeling a little unsure about your purpose in life, this could be a great book for you - especially if you are task oriented, materialistic, or prone to people pleasing.

3. The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns. This huge book is now an essential part of my counselling library. If you are hesitant about going to see a counselor but need some practical help for your anxiety, depression, or other common problems in living - this book is like a psychologist in box. So very useful.

4. The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey. Trust is the only way to live, conduct business, and feel good about yourself and others. This book was like an ethical slap upside the head to me. For those wanting to build the trust of others, this book is essential reading.

5. The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. Easily the most radical book I read this year, I'm still reeling from his ideas. So many of our most common ideas about work, retirement, and living life are exploded and reconstructed here that you will be left feeling like Pandora's box has been opened and you can never close it again. . .

6. The Richest Man In Babylon by George Clason. Short and poignant stories of wisdom on how to handle your money wisely that if applied would benefit everyone. I only wish I'd read this when I got married! It's that powerful.

7. Switch -How To Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. A great book - I was shocked at how easily the authors put together what is necessary to change self, others, and groups of people into short, easily understood instructions. Amazing and insightful.

8. The Sex Starved Marriage by Michele Weiner Davis. This book is hopeful, empowering, and super practical. My new favorite sex book to recommend to others - whether your marriage is sex starved or not.

9. Every Man's Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. This book is not a magic trick that if you read it, you will always be able to withstand sexual temptation. But the ideas and stories are real, and if you take the author's advice to heart, this book can really help you.

10. Rich Kid, Smart Kid by Robert Kiyosaki. The best way to help your kids manage their money is to teach them - preferably a lot of the ideas in this book. Though not an instruction manual, it has so many good things and as a parent you will certainly learn as you teach. So helpful.