Excelerated Reserves

Having “enough” means having a reserve. Until you get your basic physical and psychological needs met, it is difficult to concentrate on your higher purpose. But when you take steps to get your physical and psychological needs met, you free up time and mental energy to devote to achievement and self-actualization.

Scarcity or Abundance?

Here’s a question for you: Do you have a “scarcity mindset” or an “abundance mindset”? Your answer to these questions can tell the story.

  1. Do you believe that the things you need to progress toward your goals are plentiful? Or do you see them as limited and in danger of running out?
  2. Do you see unlimited opportunities in your life? Or do you see life as a “zero-sum” game – the more others have the less is available for you?
  3. Do you understand that resources are plentiful and can be replenished? Or do you see only a lack of resources, a lack that prevents you from moving ahead?
  4. Do you see your life as growing and getting bigger? Or do you think your life is shrinking and getting smaller?

If you answered “yes” to the first part of each question, you lean toward an abundance mindset. But if you answered “yes” to the second part, you may have a tendency toward a scarcity mindset.

We see the world in different ways and the way we look at the world shapes our reality. In terms of having enough, if we have a scarcity mindset, we see that there is not enough to go around. If one person takes more than “their share”, it leaves less for the rest of us. Often the person with a scarcity mindset considers it necessary to “look out for number 1” . . . if you don’t grab what you need, someone else will get it.

On the other hand, an abundance mindset sees that there is more than enough for everyone. Dr. Stephen Covey said: “It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody… It opens possibilities, options, alternatives and creativity.” [Covey] It removes any need for grasping and hoarding because we see that there is plenty to go around.

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Why Choose to Have a Reserve?

Moving from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset helps you progress up the hierarchy of needs to self-actualization. You must experience having enough at the lower levels of physical and emotional needs in order to move to the higher levels and towards self-actualization. Having more than enough is necessary to advance from basic physical needs, the need for safety, and the emotional needs of love and belonging, into the upper realms of esteem and self-actualization.

Before we can become our best selves, we must get our basic physical and psychological needs taken care of. Not just enough but more than enough to keep our brains from going back and dwelling on a lack of resources in any area. Having a reserve calms that fear and allows us to focus on higher goals.

Do you ever find yourself struggling to get your basic needs met because you don’t have enough of something – money or material goods, time, or space? Have you ever started cooking dinner only to discover you are out of a basic ingredient? Have you reached for a paper towel (or worse, the toilet paper) only to find the roll empty and no other in the house? Have you needed to pay a bill but didn’t have enough in your account to cover it? Do you find yourself rushing from appointment to meeting to kid’s ball game or music recital? Do you waste time trying to find an item you need but it isn’t in its place? Or it doesn’t even have a place because you don’t have enough room for everything?

If you’ve experienced any of these or similar situations recently, then you, too, are a person who needs to build a reserve.

What Having a Reserve Is Not

Stockpiling is an exercise in accumulation, which is a step toward building a reserve. But having a reserve is much more than simply accumulating resources.

“You may need reserves to experience a reserve,” says Thomas Leonard, “but reserves themselves are not enough.” [Leonard] Creating reserves isn’t about conspicuous consumption or amassing goods for the sake of having more stuff. Stockpiling is a necessary step in accumulating some reserves, but stockpiling materials alone is not having a reserve.

You must look deeper.

Now, we aren’t talking conspicuous overconsumption – 12 pairs of black shoes or 15 fine ink pens isn’t a reserve. Having a reserve is having enough — enough that you aren’t wasting mental energy worrying about that area of your life. Enough means different things to different people. What does it mean for you?

What Having a Reserve Is

What is a reserve and why is it important? Having a reserve is a state of being and a state of mind. Building a reserve is an integrated process that strengthens your foundation.

A reserve is a feeling or a state of mind. It is the sense that you have enough so that it is no longer something you have to think about. Reserves may be a stockpile of supplies, such as household goods. Reserves may be extra space that results from simplifying your life. It may be free time that comes from rethinking your priorities and commitments.

Acquiring more is the starting point, the beginning of the process, but acquisition alone doesn’t give you a reserve. Having quantities of various resources gives you reserves (plural). Having a reserve (singular) means understanding the principle of why you need to have enough.

What Having a Reserve Does

In the early 1940s, Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs – motivators of human behavior that he saw as falling into a specific rank order.

For example, at the lowest level of the hierarchy, Maslow placed physiological needs, such as the need for food, water, and air, for sex, sleep, excretion (or elimination of wastes), and homeostasis – the need for the body to maintain equilibrium among its systems, for example keeping the body’s temperature at 98.6 degrees (F).

After physiological needs in the hierarchy came, in the order Maslow placed them, Safety, Love & Belonging, Esteem, and at the top of the pyramid . . . Self-actualization.

One reason Maslow ranked the various needs into a hierarchy is this: If you have an unmet need at a lower level, you are not going to work on your needs at a higher level.

For example, if you are sitting in a room, and suddenly all the air is removed, you are only concerned with one thing . . . being able to breathe again. You aren’t going to be thinking of security or employment or even sex. Your only motive is to get air. If you are starving, your primary objective is to find food. If you haven’t had water in a couple of days, your main objective is to get a drink. You get the idea.

This is where the concept of Excelerated Reserves™ — building your reserves in all areas — comes into play. Having enough resources comes pretty low on the hierarchy. And if you don’t believe you have enough of __________ (you name it), you likely are not going to focus on the higher levels . . . you certainly aren’t ready for self-actualization. But it seems that many of us don’t really pay attention to these unmet needs.

Also, the idea of building Excelerated Reserves™ goes beyond the 1st or 2nd level of Maslow’s hierarchy. In fact, it can apply to the needs on any level. Excelerated Reserves™ are not simply material needs, although they certainly do apply to those, but non-material needs as well, needs such as love, time, space, leisure, respect, etc., etc. You aren’t stockpiling inventory simply for the sake of amassing possessions. Instead, as Thomas Leonard said, “You just want to be so well supplied that you will be able to lead a terrific life far enough beyond the reach of scarcity.” [Leonard]

What Having a Reserve Doesn’t Do

Having a reserve mindset and building reserves is not a one-and-done operation. You’ll need to set up systems to be sure you continue to keep reserves once you have established them.

This is no cookie-cutter exercise. Only you can decide in what areas and how much of a reserve you must have to feel a need is met.

Benefits of Having a Reserve

Having a good reserve in all areas of your life is essential for your personal development. When taking care of your physical needs consumes most of your time, you can’t think about your higher calling. Until you have your physical and psychological needs taken care of, you will not have the energy or the focus to discover and share your unique purpose. Until you get your basic needs met, it is difficult to concentrate on your higher calling. But when you take steps to get your physical and psychological needs met automatically, you free up time and mental energy to devote to achievement and self-actualization.

How do you get your needs met automatically? By building and keeping reserves of time, money, supplies, resources, people, and love, you are no longer in survival mode. By building reserves of the things you need, you free up the energy that you spent to survive and use it to grow and thrive.

And by building reserves, you know you have “enough”. You don’t have to continue amassing, you can move on to enjoy other things.

Five Areas to Build a Reserve

Here are five areas to consider as you build your reserves. There are other places you’ll need to have a reserve, of course, but these five are a good place to start.

Keep a financial reserve.

  • Keep $100 that you never spend. If necessary, start by putting aside $5 or $10 each week. Keep this in a safe place in your wallet or purse. NEVER touch it.
  • Save 10% of your income. Pay yourself first by having this taken out of your income and automatically deposited in a savings account. If 10% seems too large, start with 1% and gradually increase your savings.
  • Give away 10% of your income. Give to your church or to an organization that does work you consider important in the world. Give to whomever or whatever contributes to your own spiritual growth. Giving away part of your income establishes an abundance mentality. Again, if 10% seems too large, start small and work up.
  • Have a “splurge” account. A large portion of the money you are saving should be for building an emergency fund and for retirement. But set aside a portion of your savings for fun – a vacation, a trip, a special set of golf clubs . . . things that contribute to your enjoyment of life now.
  • Build an emergency cushion. One of the first things you should save for is to accumulate enough cash to cover three months of expenses. Once you have that, then continue adding until you have 9 months of expenses covered. Knowing that you can take care of yourself and your family in the event of a job loss, a health issue, or other crisis brings peace of mind.

Make a reserve of time.

  • Arrive 10 minutes early to meetings and appointments. This gives you time to breathe and relax rather than rushing in at the last moment, breathless and harried.
  • Keep some time free – don’t overschedule. Having a cushion of money for emergencies brings peace of mind. Having a cushion of time has the same benefits. Don’t try to cram so much into one day. Keep some breathing room.
  • Take time off. Seneca said, “. . . constant effort will sap our mental vigor, while a short period of rest and relaxation will restore our powers. Unremitting effort leads to a kind of mental dullness and lethargy.”
  • Delegate. This is probably one of the most powerful and most underused time management skills. Just because something must be done doesn’t mean you have to do it. Expand your capabilities by becoming excellent at delegating.
  • Don’t do that which doesn’t need to be done. As Peter Drucker said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Maintain a reserve of supplies.

  • When you open the last, get a new one. This is a tip I learned from a friend who was an inventory manager in a large company. It works well for supplies and staple items. As soon as you open the last package or container of an item, put it on the shopping list.
  • Have enough but don’t hoard. There is a line between having a reserve and hoarding and that line is different for each of us. The key is to have enough so that your brain isn’t constantly worried about running out and then stop stockpiling.
  • Buy on sale. Years ago, I read a financial tip that said ‘Never pay full price for shaving cream.’ You know that you are going to need shaving cream, toilet paper, paper towels, soap, toothpaste, etc., etc. If you have a reserve of these, then you are free to watch for them to go on sale and buy them then. If you don’t have a reserve and run out of a necessary supply, then you have to pay full price to get it now.
  • Keep a shopping list. Using a shopping list is necessary to help you with the preceding steps. It also removes the burden of your brain having to remember what you need and when you need it.
  • Fill your gas tank when it reaches 1/2 full.
scarcity or abundance
Photo by Marianna OLE

Build a reserve of energy.

  • Get sufficient rest. Most adults need 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night. Decide when you want to get up, then subtract 7 or 8 hours. That tells you the time you should be in bed.
  • Eat for energy. Food is fuel. The quality of your food/fuel contributes to your level of energy and the quality of your life.
  • Practice Tai Chi or Qigong or some other activity. Tai Chi and Qigong help you become aware of the energy forces within and around you.
  • Follow your energy rhythm. Be aware of and use your “circadian rhythm” to determine your hours of peak energy and low energy/rest times during each day.
  • Know your energy sources and drains. Use the “Gains And Drains” worksheet to map the people, places, and events that add to and subtract from your energy levels. Do more of the first and less of the second.

Have a reserve of fun.

  • Keep a list of new things to try and new places to visit. Aim to mark at least one item off the list each month.
  • Make a list of 100 things you want to try, see, visit, taste, or do. Some people call this their “bucket list” (a name I don’t really care for). These can be big and small experiences you want to have before you “kick the bucket”.
  • Schedule fun activities. Don’t leave having fun out of your schedule. Fun is too serious to be left to chance.
  • Be a tourist in your home town. You don’t always have to travel to distant places for excitement or new experiences. Find local activities and places to visit and enjoy.

How to Start Building Your Reserves

Here are practices to help you get started.

  • Identify and remove the thing that is draining a reserve that you already have.
  • Become an investor instead of a spender.
  • Focus on creating your life, not having a lifestyle.
  • Get more space, then get even more space.
  • Take the steps necessary to get your personal needs met.

Here are some ways you can begin putting these practices into action. Use these ideas to prime your own creativity to come up with other things you can do to get the feeling of having a reserve in all the areas of your life.

Use the “Gains And Drains” worksheet to identify the people, places, and events that add to and subtract from your reserves of energy, time, money, security, love, and self-esteem.

Plug any leaks that are draining away reserves you have already accumulated. Building a reserve is only part of the process. The second part is to eliminate unnecessary drains and protect against losses. Remember Warren Buffet’s “Rule Number 1”: “Never lose money.”

Have one shelf in your home or in a closet that you keep completely empty. Gretchen Rubin suggested this in her best-seller, The Happiness Project. The empty shelf (or it could be a drawer, etc.) symbolizes room and space for growth.

Try the “zero-sum” exercise to re-evaluate all your commitments, roles, and obligations. Take each of your commitments or obligations and ask yourself, “If I were to take this on today, knowing what I now know, would I still take this on?” If your answer to any commitment, obligation, or role is “No. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t start this today”, then begin making plans immediately to hand it off or give it up or otherwise get out. Of course, you do this in a way that is fair to all concerned.

Do something radically different today to start building a reserve in one area of your life. Usually, I advocate building a new habit by taking the smallest step possible. But occasionally, you need to get your momentum going and you can do that by making a radical change. “It’s easier to act your way to a new way of thinking,” said Marianne Williamson, “than it is to think your way to a new way of acting.” Do one thing completely differently. Then, act on any ideas that come to mind.

What Not To Do

“You can have anything you want in life,” said Peter McWilliams. “You just can’t have everything you want.”

You can always have enough. Having “enough to get by” is not a reserve nor is it enough. On the other hand, if you keep amassing resources beyond your reserves, you end up giving most of your time and life source to accumulating.

Why waste time and energy pursuing things you don’t want when you get them? Knowing what you want and what you need requires some inner work and reflection. And once you know what you need, build that into your reserve.

When You Choose to Have a Reserve

When you choose to have a reserve, you choose saving over spending. Robert Kiyosaki, in Rich Dad, Poor Dad, gives us this definition of assets and liabilities: “An asset puts money in my pocket, a liability takes money out of my pocket.” [Kiyosaki] I once heard a friend say, “I want to invest in a good camera.” Do you see what is wrong with that statement? Buying a camera or a car or paper towels is not investing . . . it’s an expense. It’s spending. Obviously, you’ll need to spend for some things but never think of it as “investing”. And choose to save whenever you have the choice.

When you choose to have a reserve, you are more generous with time and money. Because (1) you can afford to be and (2) you understand that you are a river, not a reservoir. To keep the flow coming in, it also must go out.

When you choose to have a reserve, you have a large sum saved and you don’t need to use it. This is a psychological buffer as well as a financial buffer against you ever being broke. Have an emergency fund but keep a separate amount that you don’t ever spend. (Such as carrying $100 in your wallet.)

When you choose to have a reserve, you avoid people who don’t have a reserve. Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the drama and neediness of others. You won’t always be able to avoid them but limit your exposure as much as you can.

When you choose to have a reserve, your problems get bigger – but you are better able to deal with them. “You can gauge the limitations of a person’s life by the size of the problems that get him or her down. You can measure the impact a person’s life has by the size of the problems he or she solves,” said Jeff Olson in The Slight Edge. If you are caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day living, fighting fires, and dealing with unmet needs, those are the problems that have your attention. A person who hasn’t had water for a couple of days isn’t interested in much more than finding a drink. Once you have taken care of the basic needs, then other, bigger challenges can hit your radar. But don’t worry – as you grow, you’ll be better equipped to handle bigger and bigger problems. The size of the problems reflects the size of the person.

When You Don’t Choose to Have a Reserve

If you don’t have a reserve of resources in all areas of your life, you spend your time scrambling to get your basic needs met. Without reserves, your energy is taken up by thinking about and dealing with survival.

You can have anything you want if you really want it. A key to living the Excelerated Life™ is to have enough – enough time, enough money, enough resources, enough love. Enough.

Take The First Step

When is enough Enough? When you say it is — when you have your needs met at the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy so that you can focus on the higher levels . . . and on your higher calling.

“Struggling is an expression of one’s unmet needs.” ~ Thomas Leonard. What are you struggling with or struggling against? There is a place you need to build a reserve.

Having “enough” means having a reserve. Until you get your basic physical and psychological needs met, it is difficult to concentrate on your higher purpose. But when you take steps to get those needs met, you free up time and mental energy to devote to achievement and self-actualization.

How do you get your needs met automatically? By building and keeping a reserve of time, money, supplies, resources, people, and love. When you have a reserve, you are no longer in survival mode. You free up the energy that you spent to survive and use it to grow and thrive. And by building a reserve, you know you have “enough”. You don’t have to continue amassing, you can move on to other things. You can move on to the next step of embracing your Excelerated Life™!

Where do you most need reserves? Finances? Relationships? Time? Energy? Other?
What small step could you take consistently to build reserves in that area?
Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Excelerated Reserves™ — moving from scarcity to abundance — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.

Read more about the Excelerated Life.


Covey, Stephen R. The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

Kiyoski, Robert T. and Sharon L. Lechter. Rich Dad, Poor Dad. New York: Warner Business Books, 1998, 2000.

Leonard, Thomas. The 28 Laws Of Attraction. New York: Scribner, 1998.

McWilliams, Peter. Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life In School – But Didn’t. Allen Park, MI: Mary Books/Prelude Press, 1994.

Olson, Jeff. The Slight Edge. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2005-2013.

Rubin, Gretchin. The Happiness Project. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.

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