Improve Yourself!

Wow!  We are now entering the FINAL week of the Improve Yourself! challenge.  I am excited that you are still reading this series, and I hope you are closer to reaching your goals now than you were seven weeks ago.

A Peek Ahead

This will be the last giveaway week before we crown an overall winner who will walk away with a $100 gift card from Amazon.  So, this week you’ll just give the typical update about your progress over the past week.

Next Sunday (February 28th), you will each provide a summary of what you accomplished during the full 8-week challenge.  Based on those summaries and my own impressions throughout the competition, I will pick the top three contenders from the group and ask them to share their story in a special post a few days later.  We will all then vote for the top story and those votes will determine the overall winner.  Then comes the glory and the cash…now back to this week!

Want A Happier Marriage?

Great! Grab our 7 simple steps to improve communication in your marriage (in less than 15 minutes):

Mediocrity Sucks

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.

This week’s book giveaway 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.

This Week’s Awesome Prize

This week’s giveaway is another awesome book that has the power to change your life for the better. I highly recommend that you read No More Mondays: Fire Yourself and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work.   I think you’ll love it.

Just enter your weekly update in the comments below, and you’ll be eligible to win your own copy of No More Mondays. Click the link above to read more about this best-selling book and learn what it can do in your life.

Just a short perfunctory reminder: if you are a participant, you must leave a comment below giving an update on your personal progress. Please do so by Tuesday, February 23rd at 11:59 p.m. central time to be eligible for this week’s giveaway. If you are not signed up, feel free to leave a comment anyhow and give your thoughts on this week’s post or your own progress…you just won’t be winning any prizes.

And please don’t forget that you must subscribe to Engaged Marriage via either RSS or Email to be eligible for prizes. There is a secret code at the bottom of the post (just above “Related Posts”) that is only visible if you read this post via an RSS reader or in your email. If you are selected but aren’t subscribed (you don’t know the code when I email you), the prize will instead to go the next person drawn.

Last Week’s Lucky Winner

Congratulations to our lucky winner of the Week 7 drawing:

Kathleen who won The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate

Thanks to This Week’s Awesome Sponsors!

The great prizes being given away throughout the challenge are only possible through the generous support of our sponsors. Please take a few minutes to visit this week’s sponsors and check out what they have to offer.

Enemy of Debt is the place to be if you want to get out of debt or simply celebrate the goodness that your debt-freedom has brought to your life. Brad is a passionate and informative resource offering a unique perspective on the personal finance scene.

Make Mine Happen “Stop Dreaming and Start Doing” by putting the motivational and informational posts at this site to work in your life!

Budgets are Sexy is simply awesome. J. Money provides a site that is packed with really useful info about the world of personal finance, and he does it in his own (pimpin’) way. Entertaining and informative.

Budgets are Sexy

MomStart is a fantastic resource created by a mother of two who provides an incredible amount of reviews, giveaways and writings related to all of the new things going on in the world of parenting.


That’s it from me for Week 8 of the challenge! Look for the post next Sunday where you can leave your final reports. Get your progress stated below, visit our sponsors and Be Extraordinary this week!

Don’t miss the other Improve Yourself posts…here is a running list:

  1. Improve Yourself! 2010 Announcement. This is the place to start and sign-up by leaving a comment with your area of focus.
  2. The Prize List. This is where you’ll get the details about the awesome prizes and learn about our generous sponsors.
  3. Week 1: Set SMART Goals. Learn about smart goal-setting and leave your specific goals for the challenge in the comments.
  4. Week 2: Baby Step Your Way to Success. Learn how you can achieve any goal by breaking it down into small, easier-to-handle tasks.
  5. Week 3: Prioritize Your Time for Progress. Learn the importance of focusing on important, but not urgent, tasks to improve your life and achieve long-term effectiveness.
  6. Week 4: YOU are Responsible for Your Progress. Quit making excuses, take ownership for your results and do the work necessary to make your goals a reality.
  7. Week 5: Don’t Be Perfect, Be Remarkable! You do not need to be perfect, you simply need to be remarkable in what you do. Don’t you think you can be remarkable in the way your handle your finances? In your approach to fitness? In your marriage?
  8. Week 6: Stick With It! I applaud you for sticking with your commitment to yourself and your fellow challenge participants. You are now in the minority as we close in on the finish line. Don’t Quit!
  9. Week 7: Communicate for Success Communication is a certain key to success in nearly all aspects of life.
  10. Week 8: Don’t Accept Mediocrity! Always get better even if it’s only in small increments.  Life is just too short to do otherwise.


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. This week has been challenging; I’m not as far along with organizing my life as I’d like to be, but I have definitely made strides. This week, yet again, I received another fun 3rd trimester ailment – back pain, so bad that it has woken me up in the middle of the night in tears. On the up side, I have begun setting up our nursery, and have ordered the majority of the materials that we need to complete the set-up, and the remainder will be picked up this week when I travel for my Dr’s appt. I have organized my finances for the next month in preparation for my maternity leave, as well as scheduled some meetings to attend to other areas of my finances in the coming week. I have also begun the wind-down at work, handing off my work, and training others so nothing falls when I leave. Finally, I finished my course and set up a study schedule for my exam that I write at the beginning of March.

  2. I have been really happy with my progress the last several weeks. I started out wanting to focus on not being so sensitive to comments from Mark, comments that he does not mean to be taken in the way I take them, and I have done so much better! Reading The 5 Love Languages helped a lot, and even Mark decided to read it, which has lead to some great conversations! The 2nd part of my goal was to focus on my spiritual life. I have a book that gives a different spiritual quality to work on each day…I decide to work on each one for a week and got stuck on the second one…prayer. Being raised in a very strict religion that taught there is only one right way to pray and if it is not their way it is wrong and not heard has had a huge impact on my life. I left that religion 10 yrs ago and have not said a prayer since. I didn’t feel like I would be heard, so why bother. The last several weeks I have been stuck on that quality and have tried to pray and just can’t do it. Last night I had an amazing conversation with my Dad, who also left that particular religion, and he struggled with prayer for years as well. But, he found a way to get back to his spiritual self, and after talking to him last night I felt so much better! He suggested I take small steps, just offer up a few thoughts in prayer and work up from there. Last night is the first night I actually completed a prayer in a very long time. It was short and I didn’t lay my heart and soul out by any means, but it is a start and I aim to keep building from there.

  3. Last week was a really good week for financial goals! I paid off one of the vehicles in our household and make some movement on a student loan (thanks to the tax return)! Spent more than I should have this weekend, but I’ll make up for it next weekend. I also had to shell out about $200 for an unexpected expense this week. The savings account keeps taking hits!

  4. Everything fell apart this week. I’ve had a fever for most of it and have been a miserable sick mess. I’m hoping I feel better in the next few days and can get back on schedule by the end of this week.
    .-= Cassidy´s last blog ..Date Night! =-.

  5. I was good this week! Not too much shopping, not too much eating out, and I stayed perfectly within budget. There were a couple of times where I could have gotten derailed but stayed on path. On Sunday we like to do breakfast after church but I cooked at home instead of us going to Hendel’s. Also, I did a good job this week of assessing my pantry and freezer inventory and tried to use as much as that as possible and that really cut down on grocery costs. Oh, and when I went to Target to get cleaning products I avoided all the fun aisles that usually derail me.

  6. This past week has been so-so with limiting my snacks. Why is it at the end of the day when I can finally sit down and relax, I feel the need to grab a snack? It’s almost mindless or automatic. I did manage to go without snacks 2 nights and that’s only because I hit the hay at 9:30.

    What I have done and done well is exercise! This past week I fit in 3 days of walking fast at 40 minutes a pop. And yesterday, the most exciting thing, I jogged!!! (Not for 40 minutes though.) I asked my husband to join me yesterday morning at the track because I thought I’d like to measure how far I walk. The track was snow covered so we hit the streets and it was a beautiful, sunny, 38 degrees out and the feeling hit me! I said let’s jog to the stop sign and we did! Then walked. Then jog to the telephone pole. And we did! It was on and off jogging for about 25 minutes and I couldn’t believe I could jog again! Then later on I went out again with my 12 year old daughter and did another 25 minutes of walk/jog. So 3 days at 40 minutes of walking and 1 day of 50 minutes of walk/jog. I am psyched. =)

  7. I love Dan Miller and this book! It’s so inspirational! I’m currently reading “The 4-Hour Workweek,” by Timothy Ferriss. I’ll let you know what I think once I finish it!
    .-= T Marie´s last blog what am i reading? =-.

    1. Thanks, T Marie! I also read The 4-Hour Workweek and really enjoyed it. There is an updated version out now that I need to check out.

  8. It may be over but I am not done! Hopefully this month I will paid off with Credit Cards!!!! I have also lost 23 pounds and still have 15 more to go! I think I am going to start P90X. I am excited to see if it help me get to that point! Thanks all for making me stay true!

    1. I thought you meant to post here, Toby. 🙂

      I just replied to your first comment on the Week 1 post. Great work!

      For the record, I try not to comment on these Improve Yourself posts so I don’t mess up the prize drawings, but I need to say that you all are doing fantastic!

  9. Well I have to say this has been a very busy month for me. As a bookkeeper “tax season” starts a little early for me. Clients come out of the woodwork looking for help in getting their books in order.

    I’ve been working a lot of extra hours which has put a lot of extra stress in my life. I’ve also put in a lot of late nights which tends to detract from my sleep.

    All this to say the added stress affects my weight and blood sugar goals. I have found myself in a catch-22 with my blood sugar meds and the weight loss. I need to continue taking the meds until I can control the bs with diet & exercise alone. Weight loss will help to achieve that goal. However, the meds get in the way of losing weight. What would normally produce a 3-5 lb weight loss in others gives me about half to 1 lb loss.

    I’ve been consistent about connecting with my health coach. I’ve been consistent with my planned diet. I’ve been fairly consistent testing my bs each morning.

    I feel very good about achieving a weight loss of 8-10 lbs (weight fluctuates) and maintaining my bs between 105-115 for most of the time since I started this 8 week challenge. I also feel good about the mental progress I’ve made and plan to continue working to achieve optimal health.

  10. Oops – almost missed my chance!

    I won’t even say a thing about your mediocrity thing . . . Haha, you already know what I think on that subject.

    This week was not great for me. I did all my blog-writing but got nowhere on my story-writing. I don’t know where my head has been. So I almost made it but not quite. Not sure if that counts. I’ll try to double my efforts this week.
    .-= Kathleen Quiring´s last blog ..Objection #1 to Early Marriage: Economic Insecurity =-.

  11. I made it through another week of getting on the treadmill. I made it running for 12 minutes. Other things are going well, too. Water, veggies, and Scripture reading.

  12. Well I can’t believe how quickly the time has went by! This week has been good on the diet front. I’ve been having a hard time being motivated to run with it being cold out, I only went twice this week. I have lost a total of 13lbs through this challenge, so I think I’m 2lbs shy of my original goal. My husband and I are going to start the P90X program next week, and we are going to stick with our healthy eating. Thank you so much Dustin for putting this on and keeping us accountable!

  13. I sent my manuscript to two people last week and haven’t done any writing since then. I’ve been getting some good edits and suggestions for revision from one of the two people, but the other hasn’t started editing yet. That’s okay. I feel more liberated now that my work is in someone else’s hands. I’m hoping to receive feedback this week. 🙂

  14. Woo! I almost missed it again! I was upstairs and in bed and realized it was Tuesday night and I needed to check in.

    What a great week it was, too! I was sugar detoxing and thought I’d be cranky and no fun but instead it was fantastic. We went to the children’s museum, went to the park, built a snow man, went for a family winter hike on Sunday. It was a week of pure joy spending time with my children and husband. I feel like this challenge has given me back some of the sparkle that had gone missing in my life and I can’t wait to write my summary.

    Another reward from my diligence, as a direct result of this challenge… I’ve been reading to my kids as I promised I’d start doing again, and today my 1-year-old took it upon himself to sit and look at books on his own for a LONG TIME. That made me glow. I am so glad I joined this challenge. It has made a lot of difference in me as a mom. It gave me back something I’d let go because I was overwhelmed. Now I feel like I am refocused on what’s most important–my family.


  15. I was MIA for a week but I didn’t go anywhere. The truth is that I am very disappointed in myself and was too embarrassed to admit for a third or even fourth week in a row that I failed miserably at achieving even my small goals.

    I generally go through cycles, and start good when I make myself, but as usual—and the real reason behind my failure—I fall off the horse and get dragged for a few months before I get back up. I really want to end this cycle that is standing in the way of me and my health but honestly feel like a lost little puppy, or better yet a newborn baby who knows nothing but to cry. I am lost.

    I can tell you how it goes down. I start good, and then my schedule causes me to deviate from my plan, BAM!, and I go right back to the old ways. I am the reason I am struggling to do this. It is my fault that I lack the discipline to finish. I need to buckle down and just do it and stick to it, because I know I need to.

    I’m back in and I am not giving up. I am going to meet my goals before the end of the year, I just have to keep trying. I did have a great couple of weeks where I lost a total of 12 pounds. What did I do those weeks that made the difference? That’s what I need to do again!

    I’m not giving up!
    .-= Brad´s last blog ..It’s Your Money, YOU Spend It! =-.

  16. Sorry I’m just now getting back!

    I thought my 8 weeks was up! I had really lost track of time!! I’m glad I have a few more days to reach my goal of 8 lbs. lost in 8 weeks. For the longest time, I was stuck at 5 lbs. Now, I seem to be stuck at 6 lbs. Maybe, by the 28th, I’ll reach 8 lbs.?! But, the key is that I have been able to stick to this healthier style of eating–primarily with smaller portions and snacks in between meals. I was already eating pretty healthy in general. I’m continuing to exercise a little more. It’s tough for me with all the snow and cold. I will only exercise more as it warms up. I just have to get outside and walk whenever it is pretty!!

  17. Hi Dustin!

    Sorry that I was terrible and didn’t post for a couple weeks. What a loser I am! Anyway, I made good progress during this challenge and right now I stand at a weight loss of 9lbs. Should be at 10 by Sunday. Maybe 11. Who knows? I wanted 15 but I will take this. My workout plan has been pretty consistant and so has my healthy eating. All of this has led to me being more productive at home, a better husband, parent, and more career driven.

    Thanks for doing this!


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  19. Oh snap I completely forget to weigh in on the week. It wasn’t a good week either. We didn’t get any problem solving completed. So if was a major Fail. The only bright spot was my quietest employee gave a presentation to her peers and our managers. She knocked it out of the park and impressed the hell out of everyone. She was able to show everyone how she problem solve a major issue us. She was able to show the process and all the think that went into solving it. I was very proud of her, and now other people from outside our group are asking for help. So I guess that is a win for us.

    .-= Jeff´s last blog ..Can You Be Content While In Debt =-.

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