Yesterday Matters

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“Celebration of Life” services can be a time for reflection and can give attendees a sense of joy in knowing the person being honored. I attended one of these services for a friend and found it a time for contemplation for a life well lived. The stories told spoke of a husband who loved his family. The kids described their lives growing up in a way that made me feel honored to know this man of God. When I attend such services, it almost makes me wish to die the day after my funeral so I can hear from the people who meant the most to me that my life was not lived in vain.

A well-known author and speaker often talks of a mini version of the “celebration of his life.” For decades he spent the last seven days of the year in reflecting and contemplating on the previous 51 weeks. He takes out his diary and asks the question: “How did I make a difference in the lives of individuals I met in my daily life?” Often, we begin the New Year with a determination to make the next 12 months the best by setting new goals and fresh resolutions. Although that is admirable, it may not be in the right order. If we don’t have any idea of what we did or didn’t accomplish during the previous year, how can we make intelligent and thoughtful objectives for a new year? Start with these three areas of life:

Money
As you look back over the last twelve months what has been your attitude toward money? Ask these important questions: Do I believe that finances have made me or my family happy and content? Do I continually want more? Have I found myself constantly preoccupied with things, stuff, or more possessions? Have I been envious of others? Has materialism become an obsession? If it has, then determine that in the coming year you will first be thankful that you have the ability to earn a salary. Secondly, you will return a tenth in thankfulness to your Creator and be generous to your congregation and community. Finally, you will determine to reduce your debt to zero, take control of your dollars and cents by having a household budget and a financial family plan, put money away for your children’s education and your sunny retirement, and if necessary, seek professional help.

Family
When President Theodore Roosevelt was asked who he enjoyed spending his time with, his instant response was his family rather than the world’s dignitaries with whom he became acquainted. To be successful in your relationships these four areas may help you reflect on the past year and what you can do in the next 12 months: Did you attend your children’s ball games or recitals and were birthdays and anniversaries at the top of your list? Was there one-on-one time with your spouse and children? Did you put your family first or did work get in the way? To assist in this quest, mark the important events in your family’s life on your calendar. Every day think of something you are grateful for about your spouse and kids.

Health
Without abundant health all the other aspects of life are deficient. Ask yourself, during the last year have I eaten balanced meals, been physically active, obtained adequate sleep, reduced stress, and relaxed? It seems that with the increase of depression and pessimism in our society we need to be more aware of the emotional and mental aspects of our lifestyle. Determine to make health and wellness needs a core value in your considerations for the coming year.

Once you have decided on the areas of improvement and change then follow these few suggestions:

Start Small
It is easy to be intimidated by the largeness of the task of improving your life and lifestyle. I advocate taking small steps. As you succeed taking each ‘baby’ step, it motivates you to accomplish the next small step, and will soon result in you being victorious. Remember by starting small you stay focused and able to concentrate your emotional and mental energies.

Start Soon
If we want to change and grow we need to get started without delay. Author Dick Diggs said, “The greatest gap in life is the one between knowing and doing.” Too many of us say, “I will start when I lose ten pounds, when I get married, when I retire, when I begin my new job . . . or whatever excuse or justification for not proceeding. Don’t be the person with regrets—why didn't I start immediately?

Start Slowly
If you look at the list of areas you may need to give attention to, you may be overwhelmed and give up. To make the greatest progress you must focus on just one goal, one area at a time. Making decisions are critical but it is character and perseverance that determine the outcome after that vital decision has been made.

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