Improve Your LifeIf this site or this post’s title caught your interest, I’m willing to bet that you have a desire to improve your life.  Well, you’re in luck!  I have assembled seven tips that I know from experience can help you meet your goals and achieve more personal success.

Does this sound familiar?

You feel insanely busy with a lot of pressing demands for your time and energy.  You know you need to take care of yourself, but you inevitably put your needs last as you focus on taking care of your family, helping others and advancing your career.

Those things are obviously important, but the truth is that we can accomplish more in all areas of life when we improve ourselves…and we have to quit using those outside influences as our crutch or excuse.

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If you’ve been around this site very long, you know that I believe strongly in a holistic approach to marriage.  There is a reason I write about topics like individual fulfillmentspirituality, and finances & careers

A healthy life feeds a healthy marriage, and vice-versa.  Improve your life…for the sake of your spouse.

I encourage you to check out the seven success principles summarized below.  In each case, I’ve suggested a book that will help you take your understanding and inspiration to a deeper level.

(By the way, if you were involved in the Improve Yourself! 2010 challenge-and you actually completed it- these tips may sound familiar.  However, I’ve condensed them to focus on the core qualities and put them all into this single post for easy reading.)

1. Set SMART Goals!

SMART Goal Setting I am a huge fan of goal-setting and believe it makes a profound difference in the level of success we achieve in our lives. Based on my own experience and lots of reading on the topic, I recommend the  SMART Goals approach to setting specific aspirations in all areas of your life, including your marriage.

What is a SMART Goal?

Specific – What are you going to do? Why are you doing it? How will you accomplish it?

Measurable – Establish concrete measures of your progress. Your goal must be quantifiable.

Attainable – Challenge yourself, but be realistic.

Relevant – Be sure your goal fits into your overall lifestyle and greater desires.

Time-Bound – Every goal needs a completion date associated with it.

Recommended Resource:

The Success Principles

The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield.  This book is not specific to SMART goals, but it is a classic best-seller on the topic of achieving what you want in life.

2. Take Baby Steps!

If you have heard of Dave Ramsey and his financial advice, you are certainly familiar with his Baby Steps for Financial Freedom.  My wife and I followed this plan to pay off $54,500 in debt, and we continue to apply these principles in our family financial planning.

The great thing about the “baby step” approach is that it is fully applicable to any area where you want to improve yourself and meet some big goals.  Taking baby steps is simply the act of breaking down your overall goal into bite-sized chunks.

Every day that you apply yourself to achieving success is another baby step in your journey of self-improvement.  If your goals are fitness-related, it could be losing one pound, exercising three times this week, or even passing on dessert one evening.  Don’t get overwhelmed and discouraged by a larger goal of losing 20 pounds.  Just keeping baby-stepping your way toward success each day!

Recommended Resource:

The Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey. This book is a personal favorite of mine and a book that changed my family’s lives.  If you want to get your finances in order, pay off debt and “change your family tree”, then you must read it.  And Dave’s entire approach is centered on his famous Baby Step system to meeting big goals.

3. It’s About Time!

If you have not read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  The seven habits Dr. Covey outlines are legitimately vital and practical.

My favorite principle from the book is Habit 3: Put First Things First, which is focused on personal time management.  Basically, there are four areas, or quadrants, where we can classify every task in our lives: Urgent/Important, Not Urgent/Important, Urgent/Not Important,  and Not Urgent/Not Important.  The key to success is to maximize the time you spend in “Quadrant II: Not Urgent/Important” and this is where many of us struggle.

When we manage our time effectively enough to focus on issues that do not require immediate attention (not urgent) but are in fact important to our lives, we become strategic planners and we take actions that will benefit us in the long-term.  If you are a regular reader of Engaged Marriage and/or you put the tips from post into action, you are spending at least part of your time on Quadrant II activities.  Nice work!

Except in emergency situations, there is nothing necessarily urgent about your fitness level, your financial strength, your spiritual life or even your marriage.  That’s why it’s so easy to get into a rut in all of these areas.  When we lose focus and don’t manage our time effectively, the more urgent (even though less important) tasks begin to rule our days.

By setting goals and devoting your time to meeting them, you are setting yourself up for success and becoming effective in that area of your life.  When you use your time wisely, you not only help yourself, but you are making progress in your marriage and family life as well.

Recommended Resource:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.  If you want to learn how to be more effective with your time and efforts in all areas of life, I highly recommended that you read this best-selling book.

4. Personal Responsibility is Everything!

Here is an incredibly simple but extremely powerful concept: it is your problem, your job and your responsibility.

Personal responsibility is key.  That’s what QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life is all about.

In QBQ, John Miller implores us to get away from the blame-game and our inclination for making excuses for the challenges we face in both business and our personal lives.  Instead of asking who is to blame for the situation, we should ask, “What can I do to improve the situation?” so we can take ownership of the problem and take proactive action to solve it.

Whether you make great progress toward your goals in life or you struggle, the results you see are directly related to the effort and commitment that you apply.  I often find that I get off-track from my goals and priorities, and I make a lot of excuses to myself to justify it.  However, I actually get the results I desire when I quit my pity-party and take responsibility for my actions and my results.

Recommended Resource:

QBQ  Book

QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life by John G. Miller.  This is an awesome book that has the power to change your life.  I highly recommend that you read it and take its message to heart in your daily life.

5. Don’t Be Perfect, Be Remarkable!

When you actually set goals for your life, one of the lessons you learn quickly is that you can never meet them with the perfection that you initially intend.  I can personally think of many times that I have stumbled along, and progress is never as steady and smooth as I  hope.  However, when I stick with it and focus on success, I know that I am still on the road to be remarkable.

Seth Godin created a book that is centered around a fantastic idea that I have tried to apply to all areas of my own life.  You do not need to be perfect, you simply need to be remarkable in what you do.  That’s what The Big Moo: Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable is all about.  It’s an idea book, a manifesto for change and a call to action.  It’s awesome.

So, just what does it mean to be “remarkable”?  The back cover of the book gives some great examples:

Remarkable is being unafraid to stand out.

Remarkable is failing often and then trying again.

Remarkable is having a fire in your belly and an idea that won’t quit.

Remarkable is when you stand for something and make it happen and change the world – or your business or your life – along the way.

It is easy to see how these ideas relate to business and why being remarkable in your career leads to success.  But I don’t think this idea is limited to professional life or entrepreneurship.  Don’t you think you can be remarkable in the way you handle your finances?  In your approach to fitness?  In your marriage?

I do.  And whenever I start to feel lazy, uninspired or apathetic, I take a moment to remind myself of all I hope to achieve in my life.

I certainly fail often.  But, I always try again.  I take a moment to close my eyes and remember the fire in my belly that led me to make such bold statements about my SMART goals and aspirations.  I will change the world, if only for my wife and my family.

Recommended Resource:


The Big  Moo

The Big Moo: Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable which is edited by Seth Godin. This is an awesome book that has the power to change your life.  The book is actually a compilation of short writings by 33 of the world’s smartest business people.  It is built upon the idea of being remarkable, which originated in Seth Godin’s bestseller Purple Cow.

6. Communicate for Success!

When I take some time to reflect on my life and identify areas where I have been successful, I can quickly see that good communication is a key to success.  In my career as a consulting engineer, it’s not math or even reason that sets apart the best engineers and companies.  Nope, it’s the ability to convey complex ideas in understandable terms both in person and in written form.

Engaged Marriage has a lot of growing to do to meet my goals for this site and its reach to married couples throughout the world.  However, I think it’s fair to say that our first 7+ months here have been quite successful.  Obviously, the content is critical for the success of any blog.

But I think the real growth of Engaged Marriage has been fueled by the sense of community that we’ve developed as well as my own efforts in reaching out through social media to colleagues and perspective readers.  I think the recent Love Everyday project provides a good example of this approach.  And it all comes down to a commitment to consistent and effective communication.

The same cause-and-effect relationship exists for most aspects of life: finances, parenting, sports, politics, sales, even war.  High-quality communication is a certain key to success.

And, oh yeah, communication plays a bit of a role in this whole marriage thing as well. :)

The book behind this success principle is centered around the idea that understanding how our spouse/significant other best communicates is a major help in achieving the extraordinary in our relationships. That’s what The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate is all about.

While working as a marriage counselor for more than 30 years, Dr. Gary Chapman identified five specific love languages:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

I bet that even without reading the book you can immediately relate to some of these categories.  Can you already see which areas you speak best in, and which areas apply to your spouse?

The Five Love Languages will lead you through a fun and rewarding process of discovering the love languages in your marriage.  And with that knowledge, you can improve your relationship with your spouse.  See what I mean about the importance of great communication?

Recommended Resource:

Five  Love Languages

The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Dr. Gary Chapman.  This is yet another awesome book that has the power to change your life. I highly recommend that you check out what may be the single most important book you can read for your marriage, aside from The Bible.

7. Don’t Settle for Mediocrity!

If you’ve read many posts here at Engaged Marriage, you have probably picked up on the fact that I feel strongly that we should all be proactive and give our best efforts to our marriage and family life.  One of my favorite mottoes is: “When it comes to the most important relationship in your life, don’t be normal.  Normal sucks.”

I feel the same way about all aspects of my own life: career, spirituality, finances, parenting, friendship, fitness, hobbies, writing and all the rest.  Does this mean that I don’t have bad days in all of these areas?  Does it mean that I am expending insane amounts of energy in all of them all at once to try to be the very best in the world?  Does it mean that I consider myself a failure whenever I slip up in my progress?

Of course not.  I’m a normal guy and I’m human, so I know I won’t be able to excel at all things at all times.  However, that doesn’t mean that I have to settle for mediocrity in my life either.  And I feel passionately that I don’t want to be mediocre, and I always want to be getting better even if it’s only in small increments.

I want to improve myself…life is just too short to do otherwise.

The final book recommendation is all about climbing out of the rut that you find yourself in and seeing the awesome opportunities that are all around you.  No More Mondays by Dan Miller (a fellow contributor to the Love Everyday project by the way) is an awesome book that focuses on helping you find work that you love in both traditional and non-traditional ways.

Although the book focuses on career issues, I believe its lessons and guidance will help you in many areas of your life.  It was actually one of the inspirations behind Engaged Marriage, and I hope you will take a few minutes to read my full book review of No More Mondays and the story of how it motivated me.

Recommended Resource:

No More Mondays: Fire Yourself and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work by Dan Miller.  I highly recommend that you read this book and take its principles to heart.  I think you’ll love it.

Do You Want Killer Success?

I hope that these seven tips have opened your mind a bit and inspired you to set and meet new goals in your life.  I truly feel that we all have the potential to achieve so much with the gifts that we’ve been given by God.  And we owe it to our spouse and family to be good stewards of the blessings given to each of us.  Be Remarkable!

What success principles have you found most helpful in your own life and marriage?  What other resources would you recommend to help others in the community here grow and achieve personal success?

Photo by Sara. Nel


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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  1. Dustin,

    I have read many of the books listed above, the ones I have yet to read will soon go on my reading list. I am on a constant quest to try and live my best life; it’s refreshing to come across a like minded person.

    I love this line “I will change the world, if only for my wife and my family.”

    Thanks for sharing.
    .-= Shannon O | Confessions of a Loving Wife´s last blog ..Loving Quick and Easy Ways to Relax =-.

    1. Right back at you, Shannon! I love to learn and better myself, and I keep trying to do so even though I screw up pretty often. 🙂

  2. Great post Dustin! Life really is all about constant change and growth and the books you listed are great. I have read most of them, but there are a couple I need to pick up and read. Thanks again for sharing your tips and keeping us all focused!

  3. I’m particularly fond of “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield. It is a fabulous book! This one book alone could total transform your life. Of course, I think all of your recommended resources are excellent, but reading and applying the principles that Jack puts forth would take most of us well beyond what we’ve dreamed was possible.
    .-= Jeff@MySuperChargedLife´s last blog ..Opening Up My Creativity: Right Brain Resources =-.

    1. Thanks for the insights, Jeff! I have not actually read “The Success Principles” but it’s on my to-read list, in part because I’ve seen you recommend it and I trust your judgment.

  4. Dustin, I added a few comments to your ClearBlue post. I’m a little behind–sorry! Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve forwarded your review to quite a few people! It will be a great resource for me.

  5. What a great list of tips! I’ll have to write down a few of these books and get to them some day. Great post!
    .-= Ken´s last blog ..Friday Findings =-.

    1. Thanks, Ken! I have read most of these books, and they are some of the most powerful and helpful resources I’ve found in helping me in my (married) life.

    1. Right on, Tim! I’m at the point where I don’t have too many “Mondays” but I still have my share. I’m working on it!

  6. I have heard a lot about Jack Canfield and his great books and I’m planning to get a copy of his Success Principles. Thanks for this motivation.

    1. Thanks, Walter! I’m in the same boat as you. Jack Canfield comes highly recommended by many, but I still need to read his stuff. I’m confident it will be excellent.

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