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Respect the Good Times

Our lives seem to follow a rhythm that flows between good times and bad times.  Some days we’re up and some days we’re down.  Some days we feel rich and some days we feel broke.  The transitions are a natural occurrence that happen in everything from biology to economics and are called cycles.  You can read more about cycles at the website for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles.  The foundation was started by Edward R. Dewey, an economist, who worked for President Hoover and was tasked with trying to find the cause of the great depression.

The Bad Times

When times are bad, we have a tendency to want to make things better.  After a while, that desire will build up enough to actually illicit an action.  The action is what transitions us from the bad times to the good times.

Have you ever noticed that when you feel poor, you tend to not buy as much stuff.  Typically it’s because you don’t have much of a choice, but that is still what happens.  You forgo the purchase of some doodad because you didn’t really need it that bad.  Or maybe you’re feeling out of shape so you decide to eat healthy for a month.

Before you know it, your hard work has paid off and you’ve got something new to be happy about.  Now you’ve made it to the good times.

The Good Times

The opposite thing happens in the good times.  After a spending a lot of energy pulling out of the bad times and making ourselves better, we tend to let ourselves coast.  We’re happy to have reached our goal.  We look good and we feel great. We’re full of energy and deserve whatever reward we owe ourselves… which almost always means a break from the regimen that got us here.

The problem is that the break is never just a break.  Being stuck in the bad times was our motivation for change.  Once the bad times are gone, so is our motivation.  So we don’t take a break, we completely quit.  And then one day we find ourselves back in the bad times wondering what the heck just happened.  Sometimes we fall so far we find ourselves in a worse position than where we started.

Adjusting Response to Cycles

When we’re in the time of harvest, it’s really hard to remember to keep pushing along.  This is the time when opportunities come up and we don’t have a good excuse to say “no.”  When your friends invite you on a trip and you have absolutely no money to your name, you say, “no” because it’s impossible to say “yes.”  But when you have that money, you’re tempted.  You might not even consider declining the invitation.  But this is the important decision.  It is where you exercise your self control and choose to go only if it doesn’t interfere with your future goals.

A year ago I decided to do the opposite of the norm.  During the usual lulls of life, I was just going to coast.  When things weren’t going well, I was going to avoid taking on new tasks and projects.  My only goal was to make sure I didn’t slip backwards.  I was going to do just enough to make sure I didn’t have a mountain to climb back up when the bad times were done.  But during the good times I was going to fight for my improvements.  I was going to use that extra energy to make the drastic changes in my life.

The results have been very positive so far.  When things were going great I made a lot of progress, achieved new goals, and made big life-changing decisions.  When I eventually ran out of steam, I just sat back and let the cycle do it’s thing.  The low parts are much less exciting and less enjoyable, but I kept tending my fire.  I kept those embers warm and made sure I didn’t slip backwards.  When my life got back into the exciting and happy phase, I picked right back up where I left off… only I had even more energy because I was aware of how much I disliked the negative side of the cycle.  Now I find that I work even harder in the good times to make the bad times less bad.

Real Examples

Financial Windfall

If everything goes as planned, next week I will finish a business deal that will push me to the next level (financially).  By April 15, 2010, I’ll have “made” more money in 2010 than I did in all of 2009.  That’s a pretty big jump in income considering back in September I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to pay all of my bills.  It really takes all I have to not let it get to my head.  I’d love to buy the sports car I’ve craved since 2007.  I’d love to put a down payment on a house that is 3 times as big and 100 times as nice as my current townhouse.  I’d love a new TV, stereo, and computer.  I could spend all of that money before the check even clears the bank and I’d have a great time doing it.

And with all of the fun I’d have, I have to dig deep and avoid the pitfalls.  If I let myself do everything I’d wanted, I’d find myself with no money and a lot of new monthly payments.  I’d be more broke than I was a year ago.

You’ll notice in the beginning I put quotes around “made” when I first mentioned my income.  Thats because I didn’t actually do anything in 2010 to earn that money.  It was all just one big payout from work that I started doing actively 3 years ago.  I can’t count on that kind of income in the future; there’s no telling when I’ll find my next deal or how long it’ll take to mature.  As much as I would love to enjoy every last fruit of my labor, I am forcing myself to resist.  Some of that money will be used to reward myself, but the major portion of this found money will be used to plant new seeds.  And those seeds will hopefully continue to grow and bring me more harvests.

Spring Chickens

I recently started a relationship with the girl I’ve been dreaming about for a long time; she is all of the things I wished my ex-girlfriends were.  You’d be safe to say I’m smitten and if you’ve read about the five love languages, then you know I’m currently in the “falling in love” stage (or cycle, if you will).  Hanging out with her is effortless and enjoyable just as it should be.

Every person I’ve ever known with a great marriage has told me that there will be some bad times.  No marriage is ever 100% happy 100% of the time.  To be proactive, I’m using what I’ve learned from Dr. Chapman.  I’m taking the days where things are effortless and adding a little something extra.  So some day when I hit that bump in the road that everyone tells me will come, it’ll just be a small bump.  Our love tanks will be so full that the bumps will be bumps and not stop signs.

Final Thoughts

Our overall demeanor is a good indicator of how much time we spend on any particular side of a cycle.  Do you spend a lot of time feeling broke and out of shape?  Or do you spend a lot of time feeling rich and healthy?  When times are great, take advantage and make yourself better.  When times are lean, don’t fuss or beat yourself up.  Just continue with a slow, steady, and methodical plan to ensure you don’t lose all of the things you’ve gained.  Eventually the cycle will flip the other way and you won’t want to have to regain that ground.  The cycles are inevitable, but your reaction isn’t.

Eventually we might find ourselves in a place where our bad times are good and our good times are great.  If you can adjust your actions and control yourself through the changing cycles, you’ll have taken another step toward infinite happiness.

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