Vote for the Winner of Improve Yourself! 2010 – Engaged Marriage

Vote for the Winner of Improve Yourself! 2010

By Dustin | Individual Fulfillment

Vote!After an incredible eight weeks of motivation, accountability and an awesome sense of community, the Improve Yourself! 2010 challenge has come to an end.

It is now time to crown the champion of the contest and award them with a well-deserved $100 gift card to Amazon.  I had originally planned to pick the top three participants based on their achievements, but that was frankly just too tough.  Plus, I make the rules around here, so I picked five! 🙂

In case you haven’t been following the challenge closely (or you were a drop-out), I have included the “final report” from each of the five finalists.  Please read these fantastic achievements and select your favorite in the poll below.

Voting ends Sunday, March 7th at 11:59 p.m. central time so don’t hesitate!

The Final Reports From Our Five Finalists:


Wow…8 weeks went by really fast. My original goal was to work on not getting so irritated when my husband offers advice or instructions in what I call his “talking to a two year old tone.”  I can honestly say that while I may still get a little irritated I have stopped saying mean or rude things back and starting a fight.

After reading The 5 Love Languages I was reminded of how important it is to show him how much I love him in the way he wants and needs me to. That resulted in me re-discovering how much I love him making it easy to not want to fight with him and get irritated. All in all, I learned that even if we don’t have “big issues” to work on it is not ok to coast along.

All the attention I have been paying to my role in our relationship has resulted in me making our marriage a priority and that is a good thing! The bonus was Mark noticed the changes I made and read The 5 Love Languages himself and that resulted in some great conversations between us. I feel closer to him and more in love with him than ever. No more letting things just go along.

The second part of my goal was to focus on a different spiritual quality every week. I have a book that helps you focus on a different quality that promotes spiritual growth. This one was a lot harder for me and I did not get through 8 qualities…in fact I’m still working on #2. But I don’t feel like I can move on to the next until I fully embrace the 2nd quality. This is something I will continue working on and really want to work my way through the whole book. The bonus to this goal was that I had great conversations with my Dad about my struggles spiritually and found that has had has some of the same issues and he helped me work through some of them.

I’m not sure if I can pinpoint anything I should have done differently to be more successful…I’m just happy that the changes I made lead to amazing conversations with my husband and my Dad, and that I truly feel like my husband and I made what was a great relationship that much closer to an amazing relationship. I can’t wait to see how we continue to grow and change. I now know that with constant attention to our relationship in good and not so good times we will only be stronger for it!


I feel really good about the financial goals that I’ve (we’ve) met over the first eight weeks of this year. I set out with a goal to save at least $700 and pay down at least $1500 in overall debt. I really underestimated the debt repayment since we paid nearly $6k in overall debt ($5926 to be exact). It did help to receive a tax return, but we could have chosen to spend that money on junk instead of paying down debt. We paid off one auto loan and we’re well on our way to paying off a student loan in a month or so!

However, we didn’t do so well with savings. We only saved an additional $185. But we also had about $800 in unexpected expenses over the past couple of months, so I don’t feel so bad about missing the savings goal. Although, I know we could do better here.

Dustin, I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this challenge. It really has given me some perspective and has given me a better base for getting our debt paid down. I get so overwhelmed by the amount of student loan debt we’ve acquired, but during this challenge I’ve seen so much movement in our debt reduction that I feel encouraged again.


“My goals for the year pertain to fitness/health.

I am to lose 10 pounds by 3/1/10, in order to get back to my healthy weight from college.

Starting on Jan. 6th I’m going to start eating paleo.
I’m going to run at least 30 min 4x a week.
Go for a 1 mile walk at night.”

Looking back on the last 8 weeks, I’m proud to say that I have lost 14 lbs! That reaches my weight loss goal! :) Overall my husband and I have done really well on out paleo diet, and eating healthy. I wish I could say that my running has been going as well. I only went 3 times a week most weeks, and we only went walking probably 4 nights a week. Although this challenge is ending my husband and I are starting P90X, we did the first workout today.

This challenge has been great for our marriage as we have been supporting each others’ fitness/diet goals, and we will continue to do it in the future. It has also helped us to communicate more about our budget and track our spending better, as one of his goals was to get our credit card debt payed off. (Almost there, should finish next month!)
Thanks for sponsoring this and all of the wonderful posts for improving our marriage!


Diets take a team, and that is something this blog helped me with! I got motivated and set 3 goals: 1. loose 25 pounds, 2. pay off credit cards by June, 3. take GMAT (entrance exam for MBA programs).

Well, I meet goal 1 going from 255 to currently 227. I plan to keep pushing hard till I can reach 215 but it just takes time.

I also have been working hard to pay off the credit card. Only one more month and all $10,000 of credit card debt will be paid off! 3 months ahead of schedule! I started using and it is really interesting to see how the money is being spent.

As for the GMAT I have decided not to take the GMAT and instead just apply for MBA programs that didn’t require it. I know it is a little cheating but it is going to get me to the same end goal.

Thanks all for the support! I am not stopping because the challenge is over so hopefully the good progress will continue!

And my wife reminds me that I am supposed to talk about our marriage, too! Well, it definitely brought us together, let us get our goals together and really encouraged us to work together to reach them. We were more open with finances, and it really helped us pay off the credit cards way earlier then initially anticipated.


So, I wanted to be a better mom.

Tall order, eh?

But I did it.

(Notice, I didn’t say I want to be a *perfect* mom. Why set oneself up for failure?)

My SMART goals looked like this:

I want to be a better, more engaged parent…

…By caring about ME through diet, exercise, taking my vitamins, trying to get adequate sleep and not feeling guilty about taking some necessary ME time.

DONE. I have been eating better, including a 5-day sugar kick, which made me feel so much better. I have been working together with my husband (parenting is a team effort!) to get our baby sleeping better so we sleep better. I have been exercising, taking my vitamins and, when necessary, turning the kids over to Hubby for a few if I need a little alone time.

…By taking better care of my kids’ bodies.

DONE. Again, not perfect. We haven’t gotten rid of the Kraft mac n’ cheese, but it’s only a once-a-week thing. I’m not trying to HIDE veggies in their foods, I’m working with them to get them to eat the stuff they truly like, and getting them to try new things. It’s working, slowly. I am sure if I am consistent, they will learn to like more variety.

…By stimulating my kids’ minds and spirit

DONE. We have limited TV and Wii time. I read to them more. My four-year-old is reading to ME. He is excitedly learning math. My baby now pulls books off the shelf and carries them around and will sit and listen to one. My kids are also so much happier when I stop doing housework and PLAY with them. I am thrilled with the progress that has been made on this goal and will continue to do these things.

…By stimulating my kids’ souls, making the home a more pleasant place.

DONE. I have become much better at NOT becoming irritated when they do KID things. I have been cherishing moments that once would have annoyed me. My little ones are growing up so quickly. I will CRAVE these days when they’re big, grown boys. I am trying to soak it all in. These moments are so incredibly precious.

…By managing my time more wisely, therefore allowing more of my less-stressed self to be given to my kids.

A WORK IN PROGRESS. I have been working to de-clutter my home so that it’s easier to keep clean, so I don’t have to push my kids off. Some areas are DONE. Some still need work, but every little bit that gets done takes off some of the stress.

My blog is called Musings from Mom School. Mom School, because once you’re a mom, the learning never ends. I am constantly learning how to better myself as a parent. This challenge allowed me to focus on it, but it also has taught me that the learning and self-improvement will keep going all my life. I will continue to Improve Myself throughout 2010 and beyond. As my kids grow and change, so will my parenting.

Another positive from this challenge: Becoming a better parent makes ME happier, makes the KIDS happier, makes my HUSBAND and MARRIAGE happier and makes our home in general a more positive place.

I never really realized that me getting annoyed when my son, for example, rams his monster truck into my foot for the fiftieth time while I’m fixing dinner actually has a landslide effect on our evening. I get irritated and yell at my son, he gets upset, my husband gets upset, the baby gets upset because we’re all upset, and we’re all just crabby. It’s no way to live. By redirecting my irritation and encouraging my son to, for example, zoom his trucks down the hall instead, no one gets upset and the night is still peaceful (and after the boys go to bed, Hubby and I aren’t left scowling at each other).

I have learned that little changes like that can make a big difference, and I LOVE the improvements I’ve seen in my household throughout this challenge. I can’t wait to see what else we can do.

This has been a fantastic challenge. Thank you so much for doing it.

There you have it…five of many incredible stories that have been shared through this challenge.  Thank you to all of you for your participation and/or support!

Don’t forget to vote below.  And please note that voting is on the honor system.  Please vote based on who you think truly deserves to win for their accomplishment, and please only vote one time.  We have a great community, so I know I can trust you to treat this final vote with respect.  Thanks!

Photo by √oхέƒx™

About the Author

Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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(8) comments

Vote for the Winner of Improve Yourself! 2010 | Engaged Marriage | Paleo Diet | if you do the paleo diet you need supplementing

[…] Original post by Dustin […]


Looks like everyone did a great job. I’m a little sad to see that this will likely be a “whoever has more friends online will win” kind of thing, but oh well! At least I “won” by improving my life and the lives of my family members!

Thanks again for the challenge. I won’t say it was necessarily “fun” since it forced me to step out of my rut, but it wasn’t hell and it was totally worth it!

.-= Krystal´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: I am dying to hike! =-.


    I appreciate your thoughts, Krystal, and I agree that all five of you have already reaped great results from your amazing efforts.

    I hope this does not turn into a “spam-fest” or popularity contest vote, and I added some thoughts above to remind folks of that. I honestly believe the community here at Engaged Marriage is better than that, and I don’t expect it to be a problem. If it becomes an obvious issue, I always hold the right to change course to avoid any abuse.

    By the way, right now you’re the most popular kid online! 🙂


To all 5 of us…great job! I don’t know what prompted me to participate in the challenge…totally not like me, but I’m so thankful I did and no matter who wins we all have put in a lot of hard work and have received many benefits!

Krystal – I voted for you! Being a Mom is hard work and working to make improvements and changes in the home is not easy when little people are involved. Kids are our future and you are doing a great job to help shape a great future for your kids and society!

Dutin – Thank you for such an awesome blog! You share so much of yourself and have created a safe place for the rest of us to share our accomplishments and our room for growth. Thank you for hosting the challenge and keeping us all on track!


    Thank YOU, Jen! You honestly just made my day on a morning when I could use some encouragement.

    I love this site and the community we’ve created together. It takes a LOT of my time and energy to keep it fresh, active and alive, but it’s you guys and your willingness to participate in this journey with me that make it all worthwhile. Thanks so much for that.


      I can’t imagine how much time the blog takes (I have a hard enough time posting regularly on my own blog that my friends and family follow) but, I’m sure it is a lot of your “spare” time! The time and energy you dedicate to it is truly benefitting others and making the world a better place one follower at a time. That is pretty powerful!


Thank you Jen! Great job to you too. Some of the things you accomplished are things I’d really like to accomplish too. Parenthood has pushed my marriage onto the back burner sometimes and I know that’s not the way it should be. I feel like we’re stretched so thin already, but you just have to ask yourself, what’s more important?! Maybe that will be my next self-improvement challenge! I’m going to have to check out that book.

I don’t know what prompted me to enter either. I read about the challenge and within a minute I had it in my head to do it and I knew exactly what I was going to work on. It was great timing.
.-= Krystal´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: I am dying to hike! =-.


[…] votes are in, and the winner of Improve Yourself! 2010 is…[drumroll]…[loud cheering]…[unbridled […]

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