Keep A Reserve

Got enough . . . really enough? Enough that you are no longer engaging in survival thinking? Surviving isn’t thriving.

Many years ago, I was in the bathroom at work when I heard someone enter the stall next to mine. After a few minutes, I heard my boss’s voice. “Got any extra paper?”

“No, I’m sorry,” I said. “There’s barely enough for me.”

There was a pause for a few seconds, then . . . “Got change for a $10?”

Clearly, we were in need of a reserve.

Get Out Of Survival Mode

I hope you’ll forgive this rather crude illustration, but it is a good example of why you need to keep a reserve. Not just of toilet paper — although that should certainly be considered — but in all areas of your life.

When we lack basic necessities (however you define those), an inordinate amount of energy is spent in survival mode. Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – physical, safety, and emotional needs must be met before one gets to self-actualization. If you are always thinking (consciously or subconsciously) about not having enough of what you need, you have little capacity left to grow and prosper.

The wise person ensures she or he has more than enough time, money, supplies, love, competence, self-esteem, freedom, and so on to free up psychic energy for creating one’s best life. By building and keeping reserves, you free up the energy that you are spending to survive and use it to grow and thrive.

Identify Where You Need Reserves

This is by no means a definitive list of areas where you need a reserve. But it’s a start. Begin now to think about actions you can take to start building your reserves. Use this list as a starting point to begin identifying your own personal areas where you need to have reserves.

  • I keep my gas tank at least half full.
  • My closets are empty of all that I don’t need right now.
  • I arrive 10 minutes early to every meeting or appointment.
  • I am free of all addictions and attachments.
  • I don’t tailgate, run yellow lights, or speed. I let other drivers in.
  • I put relationships ahead of results.
  • I treat everyone extremely well, from clerk to spouse.
  • I am efficient with things and effective with people.
  • My life and my environment are free of clutter.
  • I have six months’ worth of household and office supplies.
  • I have $100 in my wallet that I never touch.
  • I have a reserve fund of $500 in ready cash for minor emergencies.
  • I pay credit cards in full each month.
  • I tithe 10 percent to church, charity, friends, or those who have made me successful.
  • I “eat to live”. I only eat foods that nourish me.
  • I have kicked the adrenaline habit.
  • I don’t tolerate anything.
  • I focus on outcomes, not methods.
  • I am not attached to any result.
  • I trust a higher power.

Begin Building Your Reserves

Here are some ways you can begin building reserves. Use these 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.

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.

Use 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 accept it?” Then look at each of the roles you fulfill and ask the same question: “If I were to start this role today, knowing what I now know, would I still take it 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.

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.”

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.

You Can’t Run Long On Empty

It is wise to build a reserve in all the resources of your life – money, time, health, energy, love. Having a reserve in every resource in every area of your life frees you up to create the life you want. Without reserves, your energy is taken up by thinking about and dealing with survival. Building reserves is a way to acknowledge the abundance you already have in your life. No more running on empty!

Excelerated Reserves — building your reserves in all areas — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life, a life of well-being, meaning, and purpose.

Read more about the Excelerated Life.


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

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