I read an article recently in Mother Earth News entitled, “Beautiful and Abundant” by Bryan Welch. He said, “No species has ever consciously recognized the limits of its habitat and adjusted its behavior to live within those limits. If we are to change our course before some natural calamity forcibly curbs our expansion, that change of course will be plotted in the human imagination.”
While Mr. Welch was speaking to global environmental issues, it occurred to me that the same could be said for our individual “habitats”, i.e. our homes, our families and social network, our jobs, our physical well-being. We are the masters of our destinies much of the time but our societal influences can be hard to overcome.
We all have a personal economic “habitat.” Most of us are limited by our income. The size of our family will change our economic habitat. Our skills and ability work and generate income influence our economic habitat.
Many of us live beyond our means or make plans that may be unrealistic. A good example of that is buying as much car as possible within a “monthly payment” limit. Or maybe you use your credit card for entertainment purchases. Both of those things are extremely acceptable in our society but that doesn’t make them good choices. Just as ostentatious consumption of fossil fuels and a dependence on global markets for cheap goods is harder and harder for our world to support, so it is difficult to sustain our personal lifestyles when we are overextended and living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Just as air pollution and water pollution and global warming and deforestation impact our global environment, our economic habitat can’t continue to support us if it becomes polluted. How is your economic habitat looking? Has it been polluted by overspending and debt? Or have you been conserving the resources of your economic habitat so that others aren’t burdened by your choices?
Do you have a savings account? When the housing market busted a few years ago, it was discovered that Americans had a negative spending rate, meaning most of us spent more than we made and that we weren’t saving anything! That is a recipe for disaster. If you have read this blog for any time, you know that Mrs. Roy is a huge saver. It began simply - $10 taken out of my paycheck and put in a credit union account before I got my paycheck. (Mrs. Roy loves payroll deductions!) Over the years, that nest egg has grown and Mrs. Roy has seen the benefit of having something set aside for a rainy day. Like Dave Ramsey says, it IS going to rain; you might as well be ready.
When we take care of our global habitat, we know we are helping ourselves and others live better lives and we are providing a better place for future generations. I believe our personal economic habitats are similarly impacted by our actions. When we are frugal, conscientious consumers and money managers, we have the ability to help others – perhaps by supporting a local merchant or by being charitable to those in need. We have the ability to help our family and friends if needed. And we create a good example for our children and grandchildren, a model of success for them to follow.
Just as our global environment is impacted in places I'll never visit because of my lifestyle choices here in the US, all aspects of our personal habitat are effected by our decision. Here's an example of how everything overlaps.
We each have a habitat that is comprised of our home and work environment. I’ve been a rabid recycler for many years and I know that makes a lot of folks roll their eyes and call me a nut. But I have grandchildren now and our county commission recently stated that solid waste is one the biggest problems our county faces – both from a revenue perspective as the cost of using the local landfill keeps going up as population and volume of garbage increase and from a political perspective because citizens expect the government to take their garbage. It has become a serious issue that is not going away any time soon. It is increasingly obvious to me that my grandchildren are going to be stuck with the results of whatever decisions our present community leaders make but they are also impacted by my personal decisions. So I recycle – and I recycle some more. I’ve even started looking at less packaging and buying local and upcycling.
These choices impact my home and work habitat but they also impact my economic habitat. The same principle applies to both situations. If I’m more conscious about how I spend my money and what I spend it on, then I’m setting a good example for my grandchildren and I’m putting myself in a position to help them if the need arises. Conversely, if I live in a constant state of near disaster, they are likely to learn bad habits and continue the cycle of poverty. Do I want to leave them a pile of debt when I die or do I want to leave them an inheritance to help them move forward? It is important that I “recycle” and “reuse” and “repair” my assets so that I’m not negatively impacting those around me with my poor financial habits.
We all have a physical habitat, too. It is not fun to “consciously recognize the limits” of my 50-something body but they still exist. We can pollute the earth and pretend it is someone else’s problem, but when I pollute my body, I can’t really pretend I’m hurting anyone but myself. Recognizing my limits means watching my fat intake to keep my cholesterol under control and not trying to keep up with my grandkids when we play. It means taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking around the block now and then.
Changing my eating and exercise habits isn’t easy and it isn’t fun. I love cheeseburgers and fries. I love a soft drink as much as the next guy. I’d much rather sit and sew or sit and watch television or read a book than be outside in the heat perspiring. We even had a family joke when my kids were growing up that they had never seen me run and I told them I didn’t perspire! I think they nearly believed me! Mrs. Roy has had to get proactive here and live VERY intentionally. We are eating better – lots of vegetables and very little meat, watching fat content, and yes, even exercising! Our bodies are very forgiving but if we abuse them consistently, we could lose the mobility and function God created us with. Remember, we only get ONE body, just like we only have ONE planet. We have to take care of it!
Back to that Mother Earth News article, Mr. Welch makes an important point when he says we need to “change our course before some natural calamity forcibly curbs our expansion, . . . “ Do you really want to keep mismanaging your financial habitat until you are forced to change by bankruptcy or a job loss or a foreclosure or an arrest for bad checks? Do you really want to keep throwing things in the trash can until they start piling it up in your yard? Do you really want to keep eating Oreo’s until you have a heart attack?
We each have a choice each day on how to live our lives. We wake up each morning and have a whole day of opportunities to live better, to make choices that will benefit us and those around us and future generations. Whether we are concerned about global energy, overpopulation, saving the whales, or space junk, we must stop and make conscious choices, not just keep going with the flow.
That is much more true on a personal habitat level. We must, we must, make conscious decisions about our personal lives in order to succeed. To just float along with whatever comes next is a certain recipe for disaster. To live intentionally is to honor the gift of life that God has given us. To live intentionally is to recognize our own limits as well as our dreams. To live intentionally is to give our children and grandchildren the gift of a life well-lived while being well-loved.
The choices we make today have consequences, no matter what society tells us. Break out – live a life of conscious choice. You’ll be glad you did.