How do you want your life to end? With your final breath do you want to utter, “What a satisfying, fulfilling, and meaningful life I have lived”? Do you desire your relationship with your spouse and children to grow closer and stronger right to the very end? Do you want to leave a rich legacy of material and nonmaterial treasures for your heirs? Do you hope that friends and coworkers who attend your memorial service are filled with gratitude for your contribution to their lives? I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t give anything to finish in such a way.
So here’s the rubber-meets-the-road question: Do you know how to get there from here? Are you headed toward a positive outcome in your daily, weekly, and monthly choices, or are your values and priorities veering you off in another direction? You definitely can get there (the life you really want) from here (the life you presently lead) when you apply the principle that small changes can make a big difference over the course of your life.
Vector, a term in mathematics and physics, quantifies the speed and direction of an object. If you were the pilot of a jetliner, you would use vectors to define the course to your destination. When you are given a new vector by the control center, you turn the plane to line up with that heading on the compass, creating a new vector angle.
Obviously, even the smallest vector change in the cockpit can make a big difference in the plane’s ultimate destination. Though it may seem an imperceptible change, with every mile traveled you are farther from your previous course. For example, you could make a tiny vector change while flying between New York and Seattle and end up in Los Angeles instead. Some vectors require a drastic change of direction, such as taking off to the west and vectoring 180 degrees for an eastbound flight. However, most flights are achieved through a series of rather small vectors, minor turns and course adjustments that allow the cockpit crew to fly the plane from point A to point B.
The Vector Principle applies to our lives in the same manner. Even if you never fly an airplane, you are vectoring through life by the choices you make. You are currently on a course that was determined by choices you have made since you were aware of your capacity to choose. Many of these choices seemed rather insignificant at the time, but small changes make a big difference over time.
I am absolutely convinced that this principle will take you where you want to go. How can I be so sure? My wife and I have lived the Vector Principle for the past twenty-plus years and are today experiencing the fruit of the vector changes we have made. Here’s our story.
We’d had another tense and tearful evening at home. As was often the case, the snipping started over my insensitivity. I had brought home a bunch of buddies from my softball team after a game, expecting my wife to be ready with cookies and lemonade for everyone. But Nancy didn’t have anything ready because I hadn’t said a word about the guys coming over or about refreshments. Her displeasure at a surprise visit by a bunch of sweaty ball players was obvious.
“Why can’t you be nice to my friends?” I demanded when we were alone.
Nancy fired back, “Why is my life always about adjusting to what you want in your life? What am I—the maid? Do you bring your buddies home just to show them how I can trot out the cookies on command?”
“Look, is it too much to ask for a few cookies and drinks for my friends?” I asked not too kindly.
“I’m not your mom!” Nancy exploded.
The familiar argument blazed hotter from there. When we married a few years earlier, we settled in my hometown where Nancy knew no one. We both worked full-time, but Nancy came home after work and took care of most of the household jobs. I revisited my preuniversity lifestyle—hanging out with friends, joining old softball and basketball teams, and leaving my wife home alone to do most of the work. On one occasion I took Nancy to a party, only to desert her at the door while I went to talk with my friends. My ongoing lack of attentiveness soon prompted bitterness and anger in Nancy.
Tonight’s clash quickly spread to other areas of conflict. I chipped at Nancy about the household chores. Nancy railed on me for my irresponsibility with finances. Then at bedtime the fiery exchanges turned stone cold. We climbed into bed and switched off the light without saying good-night, immediately turning back-to-back, hugging our respective sides of the bed.
Lying in the darkness, I pondered how my dream marriage had become a nightmare in less than three years. Feelings of love had been overcome by frustration, friction, and anger bordering on hatred. What have I gotten myself into? Is this the way it’s always going to be with her? I can’t go on like this. What am I going to do?
Nancy’s constant nagging about my independent lifestyle was getting on my nerves. And our finances were a disaster—bounced checks, maxed-out credit card, zero savings, past-due bills—giving us even more to fight about. Since I was just starting my career, I wasn’t making much money. And I didn’t really enjoy what I was doing. I wasn’t using my talents, and I felt trapped. My whole life seemed to be going flat all at once, and I wished I could trade it in and start over. I had to do something.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the bed, tears rolled down Nancy’s face onto the pillow. My lack of sensitivity and leadership in the home left Nancy feeling betrayed, abandoned, and scared.
The wall of isolation between us grew taller and wider. As I poured more of my time into my friends and unfulfilling career, Nancy became less attentive to me. We were already in trouble financially, and I wasn’t doing anything about it. Trying to balance the checkbook every month left her in a panic.
This isn’t the man I thought I was marrying, Nancy thought. He only thinks about himself; he’s not interested in me or my needs. He’s spending us into the poorhouse. He hates his job. What if he gets fired? We could lose the house. I can’t stand this kind of pressure. It would be different if he really loved me and was concerned about me, but I sure don’t feel it. And I’ve lost any feeling of love for him. I wonder if this marriage was meant to be.
A few weeks later, one of Nancy’s coworkers invited her to join a study group on how to renew love in your marriage. Her first thought was that her marriage was beyond hope. Attending the group seemed like such a tiny step toward solving a huge problem. But what did she have to lose? So she joined the group.
Nancy’s eyes were opened as she met other women who struggled with the same concerns in their marriages. In the group she learned how to encourage her husband, esteem him, and pray for him instead of nagging at him. Since the nagging and yelling hadn’t worked, she decided to try a positive approach.
The first thing Nancy noticed was a gradual change in her own attitude and feelings toward me. She was less critical and more sympathetic than she had been. Her new attitude had an effect on me too. When I came home from work one day, I said to Nancy, “I heard about a seminar on finances being held next weekend. It’s supposed to help people organize their money. Do you want to go . . . I mean, together?”
Nancy wanted to be encouraging, but she was skeptical. “We can’t afford to go to a seminar.”
“The way things are,” I said almost apologetically, “maybe we can’t afford not to go.”
So we went to the seminar. Much of the content was either over our heads or unrealistic for our situation. But we did come away with one simple idea. We had to work through a few arguments to get it done, but we finally agreed on a bare-bones monthly budget. Attacking our financial problems together brought us closer. Nancy noticed that I worked hard to make the budget succeed. Little by little she began to trust me with our finances.
In the midst of our slow progress, we took another small, positive step together. We decided to attend a local conference on building healthy marriages. Again we came away from the conference with one simple idea for improving our marriage. We joined a small group of couples in the community who sought to grow harmonious, positive marriage relationships. We began to bond with some new friends who were also dealing with incompatibility, money issues, parenting, and various areas of conflict. Whenever we picked up a helpful strategy, we tried it out. Step by step, decision by decision, strategy by strategy, our love was rekindled and our lives grew in fulfillment.
With things progressing on the home front, I attended a class at a local university to help me identify my strengths and interests for building a fulfilling career. I realized I had a lot to offer the business world. I began to use skills I never knew I possessed. I gained confidence in myself, and Nancy began to see a difference in my ability to take responsibility at home.
The twenty-plus years since that time have seen continuous growth in our lives and marriage. We followed these simple, early baby steps of progress, along with many others, in the areas of finances, marriage relationship, friendships, and career. Good things happened. Though all wasn’t sweetness and light—we still had misunderstandings, mistakes, and arguments—most of the time our conflicts ended with a positive step to remedy the problem.
As we continued to hone our marriage skills in the support group, we fell in love all over again, and our relationship began to flourish. We continued to attend marriage enrichment conferences and apply what we learned step-by-step. Eventually we became the leaders of a similar group of couples, and for the last several years we have been speakers at the same conference that nudged our marriage in the right direction more than twenty years ago. We are still close friends with many from that first support group, and we have had the privilege of encouraging others in their marriages.
Our attention to sound financial principles brought stability to our income and spending. As we became more stable financially, I made a career change and eventually started a successful business that has afforded us increasing levels of financial freedom. Our financial stability, in turn, allowed us to devote more of our time to volunteer activities.
We recently celebrated twenty-five years of marriage. We aren’t the perfect couple, and we don’t have it all together. But we are light-years from where we started. We still fine-tune all areas of our life—marriage and family, finances, health and recreation, career, friendships, faith—one step at a time. We learned long ago that most successful people rarely get where they want to go by radical 90- or 180-degree changes. Rather, they take one simple step after another in the right direction, make minor course adjustments over time, institute small changes, and follow a series of less-than-earth-shattering decisions. And it all starts with a few small choices made in the right direction.
The Vector Principle states, Achieving a desired outcome in your life is the result of consistently making positive choices that vector you toward that outcome. In other words, if you want a happy, fulfilling, lifelong marriage, you must consistently make choices that contribute to such a marriage. The same goes for your finances, career, health, other relationships, and faith. Yes, you may need to make a few sharp turns along the way to chart a course toward your life vision, such as a major career change, a move across the country, or a choice regarding faith in God. But most of your vectoring will occur as small adjustments to keep you on course.
The Vector Principle changed our lives, and it has changed the lives of many others we have taught and coached over the years. We have discovered that small adjustments grow into significant transformations over time. More specifically, we have personally experienced the transformation from a life of struggle, dissatisfaction, and despair to one of fulfillment and significance. In the terminology we like to use, we have discovered how to vector our lives to achieve true personal wealth—which we call lifeWealth.
This book is about helping you get from here to there—from whatever state of struggle or emptiness you are experiencing to a life of true personal wealth. It doesn’t matter if you are twentysomething and just starting out, fortysomething and well down the road, or sixtysomething and closer to the finish line. It is never too early or too late to vector toward a life of true personal wealth. Here is the course we will take.
Some of the most formidable roadblocks to true personal wealth are the myths about success and fulfillment that are widely accepted as truth in our culture. In part 1 we will explode the myths and misconceptions that may have stalled your progress on the road to true personal wealth.
In order to get from where you are to where you want to be, you must see the big picture. You need a wide-angle, aerial overview of the path to true personal wealth—and the paths that won’t get you there. In part 2 we will demonstrate how applying the Vector Principle over the long haul will get you where you want to go in life.
Understanding the big picture is vitally important, but we live day to day. True personal wealth is achieved as we vector through life’s opportunities and challenges one at a time. In part 3 we will equip you with proven strategies for moving steadily into a life of true personal wealth.
If this is what you want in your life, then join me as we begin this journey to discovering your path to a fulfilling life.
Small Change Challenges
• Think about your life story. Make a list of small vector changes that changed the course of your life.
• In a sentence, what is a course change that you would like to make at this point in your life?