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Winning Your Future!

ROANOKE, Va. — We have nearly completed the first quarter of 2012 and it is time to take stock of where we are and where we want to go. It is time to develop a plan for the future.

It has often been said that failing to plan is planning to fail. In many ways, our happiness is dependent upon how effectively we manage our time and resources. In this column, I will discuss the need to keep our lives in balance, avoiding overemphasizing one part of our life at the cost of another.

We should be making goals and developing plans to improve some key areas in our lives: employment, finances, physical health, education, and social and emotional strength. Winning your future depends upon your ability to deal with all these areas at the same time.

Most of us spend a large amount of our time working on the employment portion of our life. I am blessed to have found laundry management, a vocation that I truly enjoy. But this is not the case for everyone.

I once knew a Milwaukee bus driver who hated driving a bus. He made sure that all his friends knew how much he hated it and how anxious he was to get his 20 years in so he could retire. Unfortunately, he only counted down the days to his early retirement and failed to develop other marketable skills that would help him find a job later. Consequently, after he had retired and moved to another state, he ended up once again driving a bus because it was his only marketable skill.

We should have a plan in place that will improve our marketable skills and help us get a better job in our field or in a new one. The laundry industry is facing many challenges, and we need to stay abreast of the skills and knowledge needed to meet them.

We also need to improve how we manage our finances. My mother told me that our needs, wants and desires always expand faster than our paycheck. A key to winning your future is to effectively live within your means.

Your happiness is not based on how much you make but on how effectively you manage your expenses. Our society encourages people to buy now and pay later, so it is easy for people to accumulate too much debt. The housing crisis is a stark reminder of what happens when we overreach our income.

Physical health is also important. It is certainly something that younger people do not spend a lot of time worrying about. When we are young, we believe we will live forever and there is no direct cause and effect between our choices and our health. As we get older, the realization that certain choices do affect our health is a hard pill to swallow.

I have put myself on a fairly vigorous exercise and diet program. My goal is to trim down and improve my muscle tone so my choices in my retirement (4 years, 10 months away) will not be limited. Many health insurance programs are now giving incentives for people to make healthy choices and improve their lifestyles. The trend is moving in that direction. I encourage you to get ahead of the trend and start now instead of later.

We all have untapped abilities, and we should look for opportunities to expand our knowledge in areas that we find interesting. We often think of education as something we only did when we were young and went to school, or those things we must learn for work. Education can enrich our lives and expand our horizons. There is so much to learn, and numerous opportunities await us online, at local colleges, and in our neighborhood bookstore.

The need to develop social and emotional strength recognizes that none of us are an island unto ourselves. We need the touch and companionship of other people. We need to be able to deal with rejection or criticism. We need to develop strong bands of fellowship and love.

Winning your future depends upon developing realistic goals in each of these areas and, most importantly, trying to keep your life in balance. If we emphasize one area of our life for too long, it will negatively affect other key areas. The person who is always at work may find that both his health and his social life are suffering. Many a marriage has ended in divorce because a person failed to keep an appropriate balance in his or her life.

Take charge of your life. By developing a plan for winning your future, your reward will be happiness and peace.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].