Where To Have A Reserve . . . And How

“Build a superreserve in every area: have more than enough.” ~ Thomas Leonard

Out Of Gas

I was on my way to work and decided to stop at a nearby store to fill my car’s gas tank. As I was waiting for the tank to fill, I noticed a woman who was trying to fill a gas can but was obviously having trouble understanding how to use the pump. I walked over and offered to help.

As I filled the can, she told me that she had run out of gas a short way from the gas station. A policeman had given her a ride to the store. She said she had a pre-op appointment with her doctor that morning. She had spent the night with her mother because it was closer to the doctor’s office.

Now, she was in danger of missing this important meeting with her doctor because she had run out of gas. As she told me her story, I thought to myself, “Here is a person who needs to keep a reserve.”

The Fear Of Scarcity

I learned about the concept and the importance of having reserves from Thomas Leonard, the “father” of life coaching. Leonard said the we are “programmed first and foremost to survive” [Coach U 335] and we spend a good deal of our energy being concerned about survival. In The 28 Laws Of Attraction, Leonard said: “Scarcity-based worrying is a leading cause of fear. You can’t totally eliminate fear from your life. Nor would you want to; it’s a valuable teacher, after all. But you can keep fear from being an overwhelming, personality-distorting presence in your life. The starting point is realizing that having enough to get by is simply not good enough for you.” [Leonard 48] You need sufficient reserves.

A Hierarchy Of Needs

In 1954, psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced his theory on a hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s hierarchy includes Physiological needs such as air, food, water, and shelter. Then it moves up through the levels of Safety, Love and Belonging, and Self-Esteem. At the highest level, which Maslow called Self-Actualization, we cultivate talents and pursue creative and fulfilling activities, finding meaning and a higher purpose.

In Maslow’s hierarchy, the needs on the lower level must be satisfied before you can move, psychologically speaking, up to a higher level. At the most basic level, until our Physiological need for air, water, food, and shelter are met, those get our full attention.

Once these basic needs are met, we move up the hierarchy to Safety, having security and stability in our lives. Then we move up to Love and Belonging, then to Self-Esteem, and finally to Self-Actualization.

A little thought shows that we don’t strictly follow a linear rise up the hierarchy. Still, it seems reasonable to assume that you will move farther up the Needs hierarchy if you take steps to meet the needs of the lower areas first. This is where the concept of reserves comes in. Building reserves in the lower levels allows you to feel confident that your needs in these areas are met and you feel open to pursue the higher levels.

Where To Build A Reserve

Here are 5 suggested areas to begin building reserves. When you examine them, you’ll see that they fall into different areas on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You can also see that there are many other areas where you might want to create reserves. This is merely a starting point. Use these suggestions to stimulate your own ideas for building reserves.

This is a personal exercise – what constitutes a reserve for you is likely different from what I need. The objective is to get your brain out of survival mode so you can move up the hierarchy of self-actualization.

Five Areas To Build Reserves

o 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. You can 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 6 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 crises brings peace of mind.

o Have 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 vigour, 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.”

o Keep 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 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. This is an idea I’ve shared before from time to time and is illustrated in the opening story.

o 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 “What Builds And Drains Your Energy” work sheet 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.

o Have A Reserve Of Fun

  • Keep a list of new thing 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 in 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 experience.

Action Item

Choose at least one suggestion from each of the five categories and begin building your reserves in that area. Repeat until you have the reserves you need.

Move Out Of Survival Thinking

Only you can decide in what areas and how much of a reserve you must have to feel a need is met. We aren’t talking mindless accumulation but having more than “enough” so that you can be freed from having to get the need met over and over.

Our culture tends to have us fixate on the lower levels of physiological and safety needs. By setting up reserves in these areas, your mental, emotional, and creative resources are freed up and you can move up the hierarchy toward self-actualization. That is embracing the Excelerated Life™!

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


Coach U, Inc. Coach U’s Essential Coaching Tools. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005

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

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