My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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What it means to “Spend out” (Commandment #7) and why it’s a good idea to spend out.

ScoreboardProbably the most idiosyncratic and cryptic of “My Twelve Commandments” (see left column) is “Spend out.” What does it mean?

Spend out encompasses several resolutions.

I have a miserly nature; by spending out, I mean to stop hoarding, to trust in abundance. I find myself saving things, even when it makes no sense. Not long ago, my last pair of jeans started falling to pieces. I made myself go shopping, bought two pairs — and yet, I’ve still only worn one of the pairs. Why am I saving the others? Not wearing clothes is just as wasteful as throwing good clothes away.

I also need to spend out by letting things go. I re-use razor blades too many times, I keep my toothbrushes for too long. There is a preppy wabi-sabi to soft, faded khakis and frayed cotton shirts, but it’s not nice to be surrounded by things that are worn out, or stained, or used up.

Spend out applies to creativity as well as to possessions. I find myself thinking, “I should save that story…” or “I don’t want to use all my best examples now…” But pouring out ideas is better for creativity than doling them out by the teaspoon.

The most important meaning of “Spend out,” however, is that I shouldn’t be a score-keeper, I shouldn’t stint on love and generosity. As St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote, “When one love, one does not calculate.”

I have a bad habit of keeping a running tally of who’s done what.

“I gave the Little Girl a bath last night, so you…”

“I let you take a nap, so you…”

“I had to make the plane reservations, so you…”

NO! Spend out.

The vital notion behind spend out is that by spending, I create more gain.

I was intrigued by Arthur C. Brooks’s article in the November Portfolio magazine, Giving Makes You Rich, which presents analysis showing that people who give money to charity end up wealthier than those who don’t give to charity.

I was astounded by this quite literal proof that “Spend out” does work.

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Somehow I missed this great post, A Zagat-Style Approach to Your Career, from the Shifting Careers blog when it ran last week. Ah, the joys of the RSS, so easy to catch up!

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