Why You Need A Reserve

To reach the peak of Maslow’s Hierarchy (self-actualization), you must first get the basic needs met. After you build and keep a reserve in these areas, then you are able to focus on achieving your full potential.

Out Of Gas

A few months after I got my driver’s license, I drove to a neighboring town to apply for a summer job. On my way back to school, the car quit running, slowed down and came to a stop on the side of the road. It was out of gas.

I had seen that the gas was low but foolishly thought I could drive till I made it back home. Now I was stuck.

This was well before cell phones, so I had to knock on doors and ask to use the phone. At the first house, a young women surrounded by children answered. She informed me that her husband told her not to let strangers in. No one ever answered at the second house. There was a lady working in the yard at the third house. She wouldn’t let me in to use her phone either, but she did agree to call a service station to deliver gas to me.

I would like to say that I learned an important lesson that day and never ran out of gas again. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I operated on minimums . . . letting my gas gauge hover close to empty most of the time. Not only in my car, but in all areas of my life.

Small Steps Toward Having Reserves

Thus many years passed before I learned the lessons of building and having reserves. The ideas came slowly at first. For example, in a financial column I read, the author made the statement that he “never paid full price for shaving cream”. His point? We know there are certain necessities that we always use: shaving cream, deodorant, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and so forth. It makes sense to stock up on these items when they are on sale. You’ll always have them on hand and you never pay full price for them.

A second lesson came when I was chatting with a colleague at work, who was a stock room manager. He told me a stock room best practice is to re-order an item when you open the last package – not when you run out. I began practicing this at home as well, adding an item to the shopping list when I opened the last one.

But it was after I was introduced to Thomas Leonard and CoachU, and his ideas around keeping super-reserves that I began to understand the importance of having a reserve in all areas, not just household items.

A Hierarchy Of Needs

Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s research is often cited as the forerunner to the Positive Psychology discipline. In 1954, Maslow introduced his theory on a hierarchy of needs.

The hierarchy is depicted as a pyramid. At the bottom are the basic physiological needs such as food, water, shelter and warmth, and rest. The next level includes the need for security and safety. Then we move up to love and belonging — the need for intimacy and friendship — and esteem, which includes prestige and accomplishment. At the tip of the pyramid, we reach self-actualization, the achievement of one’s full potential.

As the pyramid indicates, the needs on the lower level must be satisfied before you can move up to a higher level. Until you satisfy the basic physiological needs for water, food, and shelter, those get your full attention.

Once these basic needs are met, we move up the hierarchy to Safety, having security and stability in our lives. Then we continue 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 a reserve comes in. When you build reserves in the lower levels, you to feel confident that your needs in these areas are met and you feel open to pursue the higher levels.

Reserve vs. Reserves

As I began years ago to take the first small steps to having a reserve, I stockpiled physical reserves. Thomas Leonard explains that stockpiling is the process of accumulation, a step toward building a reserve, but not a reserve in itself.

A reserve is a feeling. Building a reserve is an integrated process that strengthens your foundation. Stockpiling is an exercise in accumulation, which is a step toward building a reserve. “You may need reserves to experience a reserve,” says Leonard, “but reserves themselves are not enough.” [Leonard]

With that in mind, here are 10 ways Thomas Leonard suggests for you to begin building a reserve, along with my commentary.

“1. Pick a single area in which you can develop a huge reserve within a week.” [Leonard]

Maybe you stock up on toilet paper or other supplies. Or you cancel an activity that no longer interests you to free time on your calendar. Take one small step to get the feel of having a reserve.

“2. Identify and remove whatever is eating away or draining a reserve that you already have.” [Leonard]

Look for money drainers, time drainers, and energy drainers. You could use the “What Builds And Drains Your Energy” work sheet at TheExceleratedLife.com.
Make three copies and substitute “money” and “time” in place of “energy”.

“3. Make a radical change of some sort, just to rattle your own cage.” [Leonard]

Author Marianne Williamson says, “It’s easier to act your way to a new way of thinking than it is to think your way to a new way of acting.” Your old ways of thinking about saving and spending need to be disrupted. Make a drastic change – even if it’s temporary – to bring one aspect of your behavior into conscious focus. “… redirect an old habituated pattern,” says Leonard, “and see what happens next.”

“4. Become an investor rather than a spender.” [Leonard]

You’ll never become financially independent until you get more pleasure from saving than from spending. But this is not the pleasure a miser gets from seeing the money pile up. Rather, as you watch your savings grow, you become proud of your accomplishment and you have a sense of comfort knowing an emergency isn’t going to send you in a downward spiral. The thrill you get from spending is fleeting and temporary. The sense of security you get from saving lasts.

“5. Grab stuff even if it makes you feel guilty.” [Leonard]

“If you want something for your reserve,” says Leonard, “take it.” If it is readily available, take and use it without feeling guilty. This includes all the areas where you need a reserve – time, money, ideas, love, people. When you are interested in someone, take some of their time and get to know them better. If you charge less for your services than you are worth, raise your rates. If a good idea comes your way, borrow it and adapt it to your situation.

“6. Get your personal needs met.” [Leonard]

Unmet needs are like the holes in a sieve. They drain away your reserve. Identify your basic needs, then take steps to have them fulfilled. Make a plan to keep them satisfied.

“7. Reduce your lifestyle significantly.” [Leonard]

As Leonard says, “a lifestyle isn’t a life.” How much time, energy, and money go to maintaining your lifestyle? How much of your lifestyle reflects the real you, your valid values and your priorities? How much is for “show”? Simplify your lifestyle and it won’t require as much to keep it going. Simplify until you feel your reserve steadily rising. Get rid of the time and energy and money drainers. [See step 2.] “The less you have to lift,” Leonard reminds us, “the higher you can rise.”

“8. Hand over big chunks of your adminstrative/management time to experts.” [Leonard]

Brian Tracy, author, speaker and self-development teacher, encourages people to calculate how much they are paid per hour of work. Then, don’t do anything that pays less than that. Those other tasks can be hired out. Remember this advice from Jim Rohn: “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.”

“9. Get a lot more space.” [Leonard]

“Space” can take many forms. It could mean letting go of “shoulds” (and not “shoulding” on yourself) or giving up roles and goals you never chose for yourself. It can of course mean physical space. For example, have one shelf or one drawer in your home or in a closet that you keep completely empty. The empty space symbolizes room for growth.

“10. Handle the money, honey.” [Leonard]

Cash reserves are foundational for building a reserve. If you don’t have a long term savings plan, begin one today. If saving 10% is too much of a stretch, start with 1%. The specific amount isn’t as important as consistently saving. Start small and gradually increase the amount you save. As saving becomes a habit, you’ll build a financial super reserve automatically. Consistency is key. But you must start now.

Rev Up Your Game

“You don’t want to be greedy and you don’t want to be needy. 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]

According to Maslow’s hierarchy, you aren’t able to move toward self-actualization unless and until you get your basic needs met. To believe and know that you have met them, and to keep from having to constantly revisit them, you must build a reserve in any area where you have needs. Then, inevitably, you’ll climb higher and higher toward self-actualization and reaching more and more of your potential. 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.


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

build a reserve

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