2017 Examination of Ideals

It’s time for my 2017 Examination of Ideals. Like all years, 2017 had ups and downs. This year didn’t end up how I expected in both good and bad ways. I didn’t make much progress with my ideals, and in some areas I even went backwards. That’s the bad. The good is that I grew so much closer to God, I have a much better idea what he wants me to be doing. This means change is in order. I will be moving away from this set of ideals and replacing it with a new set that fits better with where God is calling me. See the end for more details.

For full descriptions of each ideal, refer to my Personal Catechism.

Prayer Ideals
1.1: I should pray to God as if He was my best friend. Grade: 5/5
I thought my relationship with God was strong last year, but it became even better this year. I have grown so much in the last year, I frequently take little leaps of faith trusting that God will make sure everything works out.

1.2: I should listen to God. Grade: 3/5
Other than a couple months, I didn’t do a good job listening to God. I did pretty well following his commandments and Church teachings, but I wish I had spent more time in silence with God. My trust in God has reached a point where I will follow him almost anywhere, so one of my big goals for 2018 is discerning a vocation. I don’t know if my health is even good enough for any vocation, but I am willing to try for God.

1.3: I should pray informally throughout the day. Grade: 3/5
I did really well at this around 4 or 5 months of the year, but the rest of the time I was poor at praying during the day.

1.4: I should pray formally once a day. Grade: 4/5
I was able to improve in this. Most of the year I prayed twice a day, morning and evening, but there were a couple months I skipped prayer entirely, a big mistake that caused me a lot of suffering.

1.41: My formal prayer should be productive. Grade: 3/5
Most of the year I did well at getting up on time to have room for prayer and stopping everything early enough to have time for prayer before bed. There were 3 or 4 months I was not doing this though.

1.42: I should include the Bible in my formal prayer. Grade: 5/5
I was able to maintain this practice again in 2017, so another perfect score.

1.5: I should pray the Rosary once a day during Lent and once a week during the rest of the year. Grade: 3/5
I got better at going to bed on time, so I did better at praying the Rosary. However, there were still a couple months I didn’t pray at all plus a few more months I had to say a shortened Rosary to get to bed on time. I know I can improve.

1.6: I should spend time each week with the Blessed Sacrament during Lent. Grade: 0/5
I again didn’t start this ideal, but it might be possible this year. My health is doing better most days of the week. However, I am not interested in making a new commitment while I am still discerning. Once I know better what God is calling me to, I will be able to decide how and when to add this ideal.

1.7: I should go to confession once a month. Grade: 1/5
I wasn’t able to add this ideal to my life, only going during the normal Advent and Easter seasons. My health just wasn’t good enough last year for an increase. My health is doing a little better now though, so I might finally be able to do this.

Study of the Faith Ideals
2.1: I should recite the common prayers, the Church prayers, and the Rosary prayers from memory once a day. Grade: 4/5
Other than a couple months, I did this every day in 2017.

2.2: Once a day I should read a Catholic article. Grade: 3/5
I moved away from reading a Catholic article this year. It had started to feel like a chore. I replaced it with working on an indulgence each day. I found it a lot more meaningful to help souls in purgatory. I scored myself a 3 though because I did a lot of reading anyways for my writing this year. It may not have been daily, but I definitely read a lot this year.

2.3: I should read about the feasts on feast days. Grade: 0/5
This is another ideal that felt like a chore, so I don’t know if I will be following it. However, there are some indulgences for special days of the year that I might try to put on my calendar. It’s not the same thing but similar.

2.4: I should read a few chapters of a Catholic book each week. Grade: 3/5
Like last year, I did a lot of reading during Lent, but not much outside of that. I wasted a lot of time during the summer. In the fall, I chose to focus more on prayer to get my relationship with God back to where it should be.

Teaching of Others Ideals
3.1: I should teach through my words. Grade: 3/5
At the beginning of the year, I had a big goal of writing an article each week, but I got burned out by the end of Lent. I returned to writing in the fall, so I somewhat salvaged things. Overall, it was an improvement. I have some exciting things to write this year, but they probably won’t be finished until the second half of the year. I still want to do stuff in person one day, but my health is not there yet.

3.2: I should teach through my actions. Grade: 4/5
I feel I became even holier in 2017 than I was in 2016. I became closer to God than ever before and his perfection rubbed off on me a little. I still have sins and virtues to work on, but I am very happy how I ended up.

3.3: I should teach friends and family. Grade: 2/5
I have a hard time with this one because I mostly only talk to my parents. Them being my elders makes it hard for me to justify teaching them very often. There were a few times, but it didn’t happen very often. I don’t have any friends these days, so I didn’t have anyone else to teach.

3.4: I should teach acquaintances and strangers. Grade: 1/5
My health is still in the way from real progress in this one. I did a lot of work writing online, but I’m sure I could make a bigger impact in person. My health is doing well enough to at least try some things in person if God calls me to do that, but that won’t be until after several months of discernment.

3.5: Whenever someone asks what I did over the weekend, I should always mention attending Mass. Grade: 0/5
This used to happen a lot when I went to the bank, but I rarely go now because of direct deposit. I don’t remember ever being asked what I did over the weekend. I am keeping it at a 0 because I probably wouldn’t remember to mention mass even if I was asked.

3.6: It is sometimes okay to be silent. Grade: 5/5
Silence is always easy for me as an introvert, so I got another perfect score.

Service Ideals
4.1: I should address the greatest need with my donations. Grade: 0/5
I wasn’t able to donate in 2017 just like 2016, but this year will be different for sure. I have enough money now. I am excited to finally be able to contribute.

4.2: I should donate to charities that are in line with Catholic teaching. Grade: 5/5
I’m giving myself a 5 because I’m sure any donations I would have made would have gone to charities in line with Church teaching.

4.3: I should give a 10% tithe per month to the Church and other charities. Grade: 0/5
I didn’t donate anything this year, so it’s another 0 score.

4.4: I should serve at least 6 hours per week. Grade: 3/5
I was able to increase my prayer and writing in 2017, but I wasted several months during the summer. Also, I still didn’t get to do any service in person.

4.5: At least one week per year, I should participate in a special service opportunity that uses a lot more time. Grade: 0/5
Just as I predicted, I wasn’t able to do any special service this year. I am expecting that to be the case in 2018 as well because my goals don’t leave much time for anything else.

Work Ideals
5.1: I should always do a hard day’s work. Grade: 2/5
There were 3 or 4 months, I was not doing a good job going to bed on time and getting up on time. That meant I was rushing to get the same amount of work done in less time. I was also frequently tired at work, reducing my productivity. I can do a lot better in 2018 and expect to.

5.2: I should not become obsessive about work. Grade: 5/5
A big help this year is that my work was steady. I was never surprised by a giant project like last year. I was able to stop work on time and relax pretty well most days.

5.3: I should take breaks during work. Grade: 4/5
I did well at taking breaks most days, but they were sometimes delayed because I got up from bed too late.

5.4: I should finish work before leisure. Grade: 3/5
I did worse this year due to impatience. While waiting for the computer to load, I frequently opened up a website to read an article. Then I’d see another article I wanted to read, and so on until I had wasted an hour. I got into a much better productive state by the end of the year, but I did worse than I should.

5.5: I should find happiness in my work. Grade: 4/5
I did well in this ideal, both with paid work and chores. With paid work, I actively worked on learning more about the things I do. With chores, I got into a habit of infusing prayer to make them all offerings to God.

Health Ideals
6.1: I should eat 3 meals a day. Grade: 3/5
I again delayed lunch many days, but this year it only lasted about 4 months. The rest of the time, I was pretty good at stopping for lunch on time.

6.2: I should eat one serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal. Grade: 2/5
Due to my stomach problems, I can’t eat as much as I used to. This means I usually don’t have enough room for a fruit or vegetable at each meal. Instead, my goal was to eat 2 fruits or vegetables over the whole day. I did pretty well getting it to 1 each day, but never had a good habit of 2 each day. I improved but I could do better.

6.3: I should get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Grade: 3/5
I did well about 7 months of the year. The rest of the time I was staying up too late and losing sleep time. This is another area I improved but could have done better.

6.4: I should give myself enough leisure time. Grade: 3/5
I became sort of a workaholic the first 5 months of the year, but after that I did very well at making time for leisure and relaxation.

6.5: I should do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. Grade: 4/5
I did much better with exercise in 2017. Most of the year I was doing the right amount of exercise. There were a couple months I didn’t keep up with it though.

6.6: I should lift weights 3 times per week. Grade: 4/5
Due to my health, I found it easier to do several light workouts rather than just a few hard workouts. I increased my weightlifting to 5 times per week but only half as many exercises. I did this all but 2 months, so it is a good improvement.

6.7: I should see the doctor at least once a year. Grade: 5/5
As always I had to see the doctor for prescriptions, so I met this ideal by default.

6.8: I should see the dentist at least once a year. Grade: 5/5
I didn’t have the money to go to the dentist in 2017. I don’t think I will in 2018 either because my money is going to other areas of my health. I might be forced to one day if I get a cavity or broken tooth, but so far my teeth have done well with good brushing and flossing.

6.9: I should see the eye doctor at least once every 5 years. Grade: 5/5
I don’t have to see the eye doctor for a couple more years, so I made this ideal by default.

Leisure Ideals
7.1: I should schedule my sleep time. Grade: 2/5
I got into a good habit until Easter. Then I got out of the habit until November. It was not a good year for my sleep schedule, but I am doing better now and expect to continue.

7.2: I should turn off internet-connected devices by 10pm. Grade: 2/5
This ideal correlates with my sleep schedule. When I don’t turn things off on time, I will usually stay up too late. That happened about half the year in 2017. I improved but can do better.

7.3: I should install an internet filter on all internet-connected devices. Grade: 4/5
In 2017, I started using a company-supplied computer for most things. I didn’t want to tamper with it in any way, so I didn’t install an internet filter. I am not having any problems with looking at bad things on the internet, but setting a good example is always good. If I go back to a private computer, I will make sure to use one.

7.4: I should avoid immoral movies or TV shows. Grade: 5/5
I did perfect with this ideal again. I don’t have trouble with this, so I expect to continue being perfect in this every year.

7.5: It’s okay to waste some leisure time. Grade: 3/5
I did a little worse in this ideal because the first 5 months of the year, I was really strict about my prayer and writing every evening. I was trying to do too much. It was like working 12 hour days. I did much better in the summer and found a nice balance by October.

Money Ideals
8.1: I should spend no more than $100 per month on leisure. Grade: 4/5
A few months I spent more than this, but most of the year I spent nothing on leisure. It averages  out to less than $100, but I need to be more consistent.

8.2: I should save at least $100 per month for retirement. Grade: 0/5
I would have enough money in 2018 for this, but my focus is on charitable donations. I want to make up for the years I didn’t donate anything, so I’m putting off retirement again.

8.3: I should save at least $100 per month for emergencies. Grade: 3/5
I didn’t really save for emergencies, but I did pool extra money to pay for more health treatment in 2018. My health isn’t extremely urgent, but it does limit my activities, so I kind of consider it an emergency.

8.4: I should donate any money earned over $30,000 per year to charity. Grade: 5/5
My income was again less than $30,000, so I didn’t have to worry about this ideal.

Year 2017 Statistics

Chapter Name Lowest Grade Highest Grade Average Grade
Prayer Ideals Ideal 1.6 (0/5) Ideal 1.1 & 1.42 (5/5) 3.0/5
Study of the Faith Ideals Ideal 2.3 (0/5) Ideal 2.1 (4/5) 2.5/5
Teaching of Others Ideals Ideal 3.5 (0/5) Ideal 3.6 (5/5) 2.5/5
Service Ideals Ideal 4.1, 4.3 & 4.5 (0/5) Ideal 4.2 (5/5) 1.6/5
Work Ideals Ideal 5.1 (2/5) Ideal 5.2 (0/5) 3.6/5
Health Ideals Ideal 6.2 (2/5) Ideal 6.7, 6.8 & 6.9 (5/5) 3.8/5
Leisure Ideals Ideal 7.1 & 7.2 (2/5) Ideal 7.4 (5/5) 3.2/5
Money Ideals Ideal 8.2 (0/5) Ideal 8.4 (5/5) 3.0/5
Overall Worst: Service Ideals (1.6/5) Best: Health Ideals (3.8/5) 2.9/5

All Time Records
Worst Chapter: Service (1.4/5) in year 2016
Best Chapter: Tie between Work in year 2016 and Health in 2017 (both 3.8/5)
Worst Overall Average: 2.76/5 in year 2016
Best Overall Average: 2.98/5 in year 2015

How I Graded

I did better than I expected with my ideals in 2017. There were some months I wasn’t working on them at all, but when I look at the whole year, I actually did better. My overall score this year (2.9/5) ended up being just below my best overall score (2.98/5) set in 2015. I am happy I did so well considering the big changes that happened this year. Prayer is still doing well this year. Service remained my worst ideals because I am still unable to serve out of the house. Teaching of Others also suffered for the same reason. I got a little worse in Work ideals because of laziness. At least my Health ideals improved. Despite doing better in 2017 compared to 2016, I am moving away from these ideals.

When I originally wrote these ideals, a lot of them were not really mine. They were things I had heard or read about from others as things good Catholics do. I thought if I wanted to be a good Catholic, I needed to do these things. Some of them were my own ideas but probably half of them were “best practices” I wanted to follow. Now with more experience in the faith, I know the most important thing is my relationship with God. To this end, I am creating new ideals tied completely to this one aspect of my life.

There is a lot of work to do so it’s not going to be soon, but it’s going to be a lot better for me in the end. I also think these ideals may help others, so I will be writing this for anyone, not just myself. I expect to continue my yearly examinations, but all future ones will all be based on the new list of ideals.

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2016 Examination of Ideals

I’m a little late this year, but it’s time for my 2016 Yearly Examination of Ideals. Each year I examine how I did with my ideals, hoping to improve until I am consistently meeting all of them. I may never get there but regular evaluation of my standing is the only way to make sure I am doing my best. For full descriptions of each ideal, refer to my Personal Catechism.

Prayer Ideals
1.1: I should pray to God as if He was my best friend. Grade: 5/5
My relationship with God is very strong, so I did well here.

1.2: I should listen to God. Grade: 5/5
Early in the year I added discernment to my daily prayer. Every day asking for guidance really made a difference. I can’t remember ever getting clear answers to my questions, but I think God subtly guided me where I needed to be.

1.3: I should pray informally throughout the day. Grade: 5/5
A big change I made this year was to not stretch myself too thin. I stayed focused on just a few things at a time, giving me the time to really think about every situation I was in and pray as needed.

1.4: I should pray formally once a day. Grade: 5/5
I did pretty well at this ideal in 2016. I got much more organized about my daily schedule and got into a good habit of praying at the same time every morning.

1.41: My formal prayer should be productive. Grade: 1/5
A frequent problem I had was getting out of bed too late, leading to having to rush my morning prayer. This happened quite often, so I did worse in 2016 unfortunately.

1.42: I should include the Bible in my formal prayer. Grade: 5/5
This is one area I greatly improved in. I added a short Bible reading each day including time for reflection and prayer.

1.5: I should pray the Rosary once a day during Lent and once a week during the rest of the year. Grade: 1/5
I was doing pretty well with this one going into 2016, but I faltered early on. In my busyness I got into the habit of staying up late. I skipped the Rosary entirely for several months. Even the days I did pray the Rosary, I was usually rushing through it right before bed. I can do better.

1.6: I should spend time each week with the Blessed Sacrament during Lent. Grade: 0/5
This is one ideal that isn’t really possible now. I still hope to get there some day, but I am too busy these days to do anymore activities out of the house.

1.7: I should go to confession once a month. Grade: 1/5
I only went to confession during the normal Easter and Advent seasons. This is an area I can improve on in the future, but I am not there yet. Maybe by the end of the year, but there’s a good chance it won’t be until next year.

Study of the Faith Ideals
2.1: I should recite the common prayers, the Church prayers, and the Rosary prayers from memory once a day. Grade: 5/5
I added a daily study time to my schedule this year and got into a good habit for it. I can’t recall ever forgetting to recite the prayers, so I now consider myself perfect in this ideal.

2.2: Once a day I should read a Catholic article. Grade: 5/5
Like my prayer reciting, I made time every day to read at least one Catholic article. Another perfect ideal!

2.3: I should read about the feasts on feast days. Grade: 0/5
I forgot about this ideal entirely last year. It’s something I should add to my daily study time. I should be able to do better this year.

2.4: I should read a few chapters of a Catholic book each week. Grade: 2/5
I got several Catholic books this year and did read a lot during Lent, but outside of that, I didn’t read very often. I plan to add a reading day to my schedule though, so I’m hoping I will do better next year.

Teaching of Others Ideals
3.1: I should teach through my words. Grade: 1/5
I can do this primarily through my writing, but I just didn’t have the time to write much in 2016. It was disappointing, but I am sure 2017 will be better.

3.2: I should teach through my actions. Grade: 4/5
I lived a pretty holy life in 2016, so I was a good example to others. The only way to do better would be interacting more with fellow Catholics. I was just too busy in 2016, and 2017 will probably be the same.

3.3: I should teach friends and family. Grade: 5/5
I am happy to still be perfect with this ideal.

3.4: I should teach acquaintances and strangers. Grade: 1/5
Public speaking isn’t my strength, so this ideal will always be hard. I can do better, but I am too busy at this time. With my current plans, I don’t think I will do better for possibly a few years.

3.5: Whenever someone asks what I did over the weekend, I should always mention attending Mass. Grade: 0/5
I was never asked what I did for the weekend, but if I were asked, I probably would have forgotten. I get a 0 for this one.

3.6: It is sometimes okay to be silent. Grade: 5/5
Just like last year, I didn’t have to defend the faith. I put a 5 because I am a very good listener. I can keep quiet when I know it would be useless to speak.

Service Ideals
4.1: I should address the greatest need with my donations. Grade: 0/5
I only had a little money to donate this year, so I didn’t look into the greatest need. I will look into it when I have extra money again. That probably won’t be in 2017 though.

4.2: I should donate to charities that are in line with Catholic teaching. Grade: 5/5
My one month’s donation went to Catholic charities, so I met this ideal perfectly.

4.3: I should give a 10% tithe per month to the Church and other charities. Grade: 1/5
Due to my medical treatment I was only able to donate money one month out of the year. This year 2017 will probably be the same, but I expect to do better the year after.

4.4: I should serve at least 6 hours per week. Grade: 1/5
My medical treatment also took up most of my free time, so I wasn’t able to serve much. I should have more time in 2017, so I expect to improve greatly on this ideal through my writing and praying for others. I won’t count it as a perfect score unless I can do some service in person though, so the maximum score I can get in 2017 will be 4/5.

4.5: At least one week per year, I should participate in a special service opportunity that uses a lot more time. Grade: 0/5
Due to my health problems, I wasn’t able to do any special service opportunities in 2016. I am still dealing with the health problems, so I don’t think I will be able to do any better in 2017.

Work Ideals
5.1: I should always do a hard day’s work. Grade: 3/5
One of my big goals for 2016 was being more productive. While I succeeded in some areas of my life, work was not one of them. I am much more organized this year, so nothing will stop me this time.

5.2: I should not become obsessive about work. Grade: 4/5
For the most part, I wasn’t obsessive about paid work or service work, so I improved quite a bit. There were still a few occasions I stayed up late doing work or preparing for work. Most of my staying up late was due to my health problems or treatment for them.

5.3: I should take breaks during work. Grade: 3/5
I was pretty good at taking breaks except several days I had lunch way too late. I need to be eating more towards the middle of the day rather than having lunch and dinner bunched up. This happened probably half the year, so there is a lot of room for improvement.

5.4: I should finish work before leisure. Grade: 5/5
I did perfect here. Overall, I had a very productive year considering how much time I spent dealing with my health problems or the treatment.

5.5: I should find happiness in my work. Grade: 4/5
I improved on this ideal, but I can still improve. Here and there I stayed up late to relax after getting all my work done when I should have been satisfied with the day and gone straight to bed.

Health Ideals
6.1: I should eat 3 meals a day. Grade: 3/5
I did eat 3 meals a day, but there were too many times that I delayed lunch. It became a trend. I went in the wrong direction on this ideal, but I fully expect to improve in the new year.

6.2: I should eat one serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal. Grade: 0/5
I never even got to this ideal in 2016, but I have added it to my plans for 2017. I can’t see myself not improving.

6.3: I should get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Grade: 1/5
My staying up late for the website was replaced with staying up late due to health problems or my treatment. I never got into a good rhythm of going to bed on time more than a few weeks at a time. It disappointed me a lot because I know how important quality sleep is.

6.4: I should give myself enough leisure time. Grade: 1/5
I didn’t do well in this area as I was just too busy. Thankfully, I am getting to a more regular schedule each day, so 2017 should see an improvement.

6.5: I should do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. Grade: 3/5
Exercise took a back seat to my treatment most days, so most of 2016 I only had around 90 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. I expect to improve in this area now that my days are a little less chaotic.

6.6: I should lift weights 3 times per week. Grade: 2/5
I was only able to lift weights 2 times per week in 2016. I also didn’t have the time to do as many repetitions, so I regressed on this ideal. I will do better in 2017 for sure.

6.7: I should see the doctor at least once a year. Grade: 5/5
I had to see the doctor for my prescription refills, so it was another perfect year.

6.8: I should see the dentist at least once a year. Grade: 5/5
I saw the dentist like normal, so I was perfect in this area.

6.9: I should see the eye doctor at least once every 5 years. Grade: 5/5
It was an off year for glasses, so I didn’t have to see the eye doctor. I got a perfect score here by default.

Leisure Ideals
7.1: I should schedule my sleep time. Grade: 1/5
I did pretty horrible at sleeping on time in 2016. Most nights I was late by an hour or more. I don’t see anything stopping me from doing better in 2017 though.

7.2: I should turn off internet-connected devices by 9pm. Grade: 0/5
I needed the computer to look up things for my treatment most nights, so I wasn’t able to meet this ideal at all in 2016. For 2017, I am changing this ideal to 10pm. I am so busy I need a little more computer time.

7.3: I should install an internet filter on all internet-connected devices. Grade: 5/5
The internet filter remained on my computer all year, so I was perfect again.

7.4: I should avoid immoral movies or TV shows. Grade: 5/5
I have no interest in immoral garbage, so this was an easy one.

7.5: It’s okay to waste some leisure time. Grade: 4/5
I did a little better this year. I didn’t have as much leisure time in 2016 as I did the year before, so the little I had was usually unstructured.

Money Ideals
8.1: I should spend no more than $100 per month on leisure. Grade: 4/5
There was one month I spent too much money, but other than that one slip-up I was perfect.

8.2: I should save at least $100 per month for retirement. Grade: 0/5
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any extra money this year. I had a lot of medical bills and some unexpected taxes too. I hate to say it but 2017 is probably going to be the same. The taxes are done, but the medical bills are still ongoing.

8.3: I should save at least $100 per month for emergencies. Grade: 0/5
I didn’t have the extra money to save for emergencies, so I wasn’t able to save any money.

8.4: I should donate any money earned over $30,000 per year to charity. Grade: 5/5
My income was less than $30,000 in 2016, so I got this ideal by default.

Year 2016 Statistics
I took the scores I gave myself above and averaged them within each chapter and overall. It will be interesting to compare these scores each year. I will also keep track of my best and worst averages in each chapter and overall per year.

Chapter Name Lowest Grade Highest Grade Average Grade
Prayer Ideals Ideal 1.6 (0/5) Ideal 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 & 1.42 (5/5) 3.1/5
Study of the Faith Ideals Ideal 2.3 (0/5) Ideal 2.1 & 2.2 (5/5) 3.0/5
Teaching of Others Ideals Ideal 3.5 (0/5) Ideal 3.3 & 3.6 (5/5) 2.7/5
Service Ideals Ideal 4.1 & 4.5 (0/5) Ideal 4.2 (5/5) 1.4/5
Work Ideals Ideal 5.1 & 5.3 (3/5) Ideal 5.4 (5/5) 3.8/5
Health Ideals Ideal 6.2 (0/5) Ideal 6.7, 6.8 & 6.9 (5/5) 2.8/5
Leisure Ideals Ideal 7.2 (0/5) Ideal 7.3 & 7.4 (5/5) 3.0/5
Money Ideals Ideal 8.2 & 8.3 (0/5) Ideal 8.4 (5/5) 2.3/5
Overall Worst: Service Ideals (1.6/5) Best: Work Ideals (3.8/5) 2.76/5

All Time Records
Worst Chapter: Service (1.4/5) in year 2016
Best Chapter: Work (3.8/5) in year 2016
Worst Overall Average: 2.76/5 in year 2016
Best Overall Average: 2.98/5 in year 2015

How I Graded
The year went in a different direction than I planned when health problems got in my way. I either wasn’t feeling good or was too busy with the treatment. While I am still working on my health, the problems are better under control. I was able to improve in Prayer, Study of the Faith, and Work, but everything else was quite a bit worse. That was enough to lower my average below 2015’s average. The year 2016 was disappointing in that I didn’t get much done, but what I did needed to get done. Now that most of it is out of the way, I should be back to a more orderly life. With that comes the hope of a much better year in 2017.

I see many possibilities to improve myself. I expect my average score in Service and Money to remain low, but I should improve in Study of the Faith, Teaching of Others, Health, and Leisure. If I can maintain my pretty good Prayer and Work Ideals, I might have a very nice record score to report on. I am eager to see what I can accomplish in 2017.

2015 Examination of Ideals

The new year is almost here, and it’s time to see if I measured up to my ideals. As Catholics, before we go to the Sacrament of Confession, we do an Examination of Conscience to help us remember all the sins we committed since our last confession. My yearly evaluation of my ideals follows the same formula, but instead of thinking about my sins, I compare what I did during the year to my ideals. In some cases, my ideals might even need to be changed. Onward to my 2015 Examination of Ideals:

Prayer Ideals
1.1: I should pray to God as if He was my best friend. Grade: 5/5
This one comes easy to me since I see God as my best friend. Many times prayer from the heart is all that gets me through a hard day.

1.2: I should listen to God. Grade: 1/5
I started the year doing pretty well here, but unfortunately got out of the habit. I was so busy writing thoughts, I didn’t have time for more than a few basic prayers.

1.3: I should pray informally throughout the day. Grade: 4/5
I generally did well at recognizing things to pray about throughout the day. Sometimes I was in a rush, which didn’t give me enough time to think of prayer.

1.4: I should pray formally once a day. Grade: 3/5
For most of the year I diligently prayed every morning. However, I got out of the habit during a few busy months.

1.41: My formal prayer should be productive. Grade: 3/5
I did well most of the year, but during those busy months, I just rushed through my prayer many days. My prayer was not productive those days.

1.42: I should include the Bible in my formal prayer. Grade: 1/5
I started the year experimenting with some prayers related to the Bible, but I got out of the habit. In fact, I didn’t really read the Bible at all except for a few rare occasions. I need a lot of improvement here.

1.5: I should pray the Rosary once a day during Lent and once a week during the rest of the year. Grade: 2/5
I got into a good habit the last few months of the year to pray the Rosary daily, but before that It was super rare. Mostly only prayed regularly for a few days when I was going through a tough time.

1.6: I should spend time each week with the Blessed Sacrament during Lent. Grade: 0/5
This is one ideal that isn’t really possible now. I’m not ready to say too much about why at this point, but there’s a good reason. It’s still a hope I want to fulfill one day.

1.7: I should go to confession once a month. Grade: 1/5
I went to confession during the normal Easter and Advent seasons, but no more. My reasons for not going more often are largely the same as my reasons for not doing Ideal 1.6. I will write about the reasons eventually.

Study of the Faith Ideals
2.1: I should recite the common prayers, the Church prayers, and the Rosary prayers from memory once a day. Grade: 4/5
I did this nearly the whole year, but there were a couple months that I wasn’t really doing any reciting at all.

2.2: Once a day I should read a Catholic article. Grade: 3/5
I did better at the end of the year, but most of the year I only did this when the idea came to me. Even if I’m not interested, I want to have the discipline to read a little each day.

2.3: I should read about the feasts on feast days. Grade: 0/5
Last year I read about a saint every day as part of a special project, but this year I didn’t read about them at all.

2.4: I should read a few chapters of a Catholic book each week. Grade: 3/5
I didn’t set aside any time for this really, but I started a good practice of reading a few pages before Mass started. I need to work on this more.

Teaching of Others Ideals
3.1: I should teach through my words. Grade: 2/5
Since I communicate best through text than speech, writing is how I can teach. I really didn’t do any of this at all, but my work writing thoughts blog had to get done before I could do any writing to teach. Since that had to get done, I consider it to have contributed to my future ability to do this ideal.

3.2: I should teach through my actions. Grade: 4/5
I did pretty well at following the Catholic faith. I didn’t use bad language and mostly kept my emotions from getting out of control. Doing any better would require me to have a regular group of friends I could help become stronger in the faith.

3.3: I should teach friends and family. Grade: 5/5
I was pretty much perfect with this ideal. Whenever anything related to the faith came up, I jumped in to help how I could. I need to do more studying, but I know enough to usually make good arguments about my beliefs.

3.4: I should teach acquaintances and strangers. Grade: 1/5
I have a tough time with public speaking, so this ideal will always be hard. It doesn’t help that I rarely see the same person again. In my daily life, I just don’t come across a lot of people besides family.

3.5: Whenever someone asks what I did over the weekend, I should always mention attending Mass. Grade: 0/5
I can only remember one or two times someone asking me this. Maybe it’s not important enough to be an ideal, but I didn’t do well. The two times I totally forgot about the ideal. I will probably always have a hard time with this one because it’s so rare for me to be asked this question.

3.6: It is sometimes okay to be silent. Grade: 5/5
This ideal was easy only because I was never in a situation that would call for silence. My faith or beliefs weren’t attacked by anyone.

Service Ideals
4.1: I should address the greatest need with my donations. Grade: 0/5
I didn’t even look into the greatest need. This year I just wanted to start regularly donating since I wasn’t doing it regularly before. Since I’m still very busy with some things in this new year, I’m not sure if I will get to this planning. It’s something that I only want to do at the beginning of the year.

4.2: I should donate to charities that are in line with Catholic teaching. Grade: 5/5
All the charities I am donating to are Catholic.

4.3: I should give a 10% tithe per month to the Church and other charities. Grade: 4/5
I am giving 10% but didn’t get around to planning how much to give to each charity. It was mostly just whatever I thought was best at the time.

4.4: I should serve at least 6 hours per week. Grade: 1/5
I was so busy with writing these ideals and my thoughts, I had no time to serve others. Luckily, those are both done now. I’ve got a little maintenance work to do for the new year, such as writing this examination, but then I should be doing fine with this ideal.

4.5: At least one week per year, I should participate in a special service opportunity that uses a lot more time. Grade: 3/5
I did volunteer for the church rummage sale, but I didn’t put that many hours into it. I worked 3 weekdays, about 3 hours per day for a total of 9 hours for the week. Someday I’d like to do more. I just have to figure out what service opportunity would best fit my skills.

Work Ideals
5.1: I should always do a hard day’s work. Grade: 3/5
I could have done a lot better this year. Many times I stretched my breaks longer than I should have just get a little more work in on the blog.

5.2: I should not become obsessive about work. Grade: 2/5
I did pretty well when it came to my paid work, but not with the stuff I did for the website. I got too obsessive many times about writing my thoughts. While that was not service work itself, it needed to be done before I could use my website for any service.

5.3: I should take breaks during work. Grade: 4/5
For the same reason, I graded badly in Ideal 5.1, I graded well here. I took more than enough breaks. I would have put a 5 down for this ideal except I forgot to take breaks several days during work. Many times when I was dedicated to my paid work, I worked too hard to make up for the breaks I had taken before.

5.4: I should finish work before leisure. Grade: 4/5
I did pretty well. There were a few months that I mostly just lounged around. I wanted to be more productive but didn’t work at it. Most of the year, I did well. Finishing writing all my thoughts was a monumental effort that I am very happy about being mostly done.

5.5: I should find happiness in my work. Grade: 3/5
While I enjoyed my paid work, I didn’t necessarily enjoy all the thoughts writing for this site. It became a chore that never seemed to end. I was not happy writing by the end, but it’s mostly done now. I can move on to service work that I enjoy.

Health Ideals
6.1: I should eat 3 meals a day. Grade: 4/5
I almost always ate regularly. Some days I was working too hard on this website or my paid work. I delayed meals. Once or twice, I even skipped a meal. However, at least 95% of the year I did well in this ideal.

6.2: I should eat one serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal. Grade: 2/5
This was one of the big healthy things I was trying to do last year, but in the new year I was busy and got out of the habit. I have yet to get back in the habit. I hope to do better this year.

6.3: I should get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Grade: 3/5
I recurring problem I had was staying up too late. It usually wasn’t due to leisure activity. Most times it was something to do with this website. While it was good work, sleep was more important.

6.4: I should give myself enough leisure time. Grade: 3/5
Most of the year I did pretty well despite all the work I had to do for this site. However, there were many days I planned to relax a little but then got absorbed by the website. I am hoping I can do better this year now that all my past thoughts have been written and posted.

6.5: I should do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. Grade: 4/5
Exercise was one area I excelled at. There were some health problems out of my control that required me to skip several weeks on two occasions, but outside of those times I did an average of 125 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. I’m not up to 150, but it’s pretty close. My time is stretched pretty thin, however, so I’m not sure if I fully reach this ideal at the current time.

6.6: I should lift weights 3 times per week. Grade: 4/5
It was the same for the weightlifting. I did a great job. Sometimes I did too well though. On a few occasions, I had to reduce my weightlifting after doing too much the previous few days. I am still working out my limits for the various exercises, so I don’t injure myself.

6.7: I should see the doctor at least once a year. Grade: 5/5
I have to see the doctor each year anyways to refill my prescriptions, so this ideal is one of the few that are gimmes.

6.8: I should see the dentist at least once a year. Grade: 5/5
I saw the dentist in the spring.

6.9: I should see the eye doctor at least once every 5 years. Grade: 4/5
I saw the eye doctor and got new glasses. I only graded myself a 4 though because I forgot to put the eye doctor on my medical schedule. I got new glasses because it was getting harder to see, not because I had thought about it in advance.

Leisure Ideals
7.1: I should schedule my sleep time. Grade: 1/5
There were a few stretches that I did well setting my alarm, but most days I neglected this. Occasionally, neighbors kept me up, but that only happened here and there.

7.2: I should turn off internet-connected devices by 9pm. Grade: 2/5
I did this a few times but ultimately, decided to use the computer longer to get more thoughts writing done. If I had not done this, I would not have finished that project for another 2 years. I just couldn’t wait that long. This year should be much better.

7.3: I should install an internet filter on all internet-connected devices. Grade: 5/5
I had a filter on my computer the whole year. It was nice not having to worry about seeing bad things. This is another ideal that will be easy.

7.4: I should avoid immoral movies or TV shows. Grade: 5/5
I was invited to watch shows that I didn’t agree with a few times, but I always turned down those invitations. I think I am very good at doing the right thing when it comes to bad entertainment.

7.5: It’s okay to waste some leisure time. Grade: 3/5
I had a hard time with this one because a lot of times I was using my leisure time to work on the website. I really couldn’t waste much time with how much I needed to do. Now that it’s done, however, I should be getting back to my normal leisure time.

Money Ideals
8.1: I should spend no more than $100 per month on leisure. Grade: 4/5
I think I went above this one month, but the rest of the year I usually didn’t spend any money on leisure. The average for the year was definitely below $100 per month, but I don’t want to rely on an average. Every month should be below that number.

8.2: I should save at least $100 per month for retirement. Grade: 2/5
My taxes were taken care of by my employer two years ago, but my career has transitioned to freelance last year. I am waiting until I file my tax return (and the government assesses how much I owe in taxes) before adding extra expenses like saving for retirement. I should know by summer what my true expenses are, and then I can see if I have the money for this extra saving.

8.3: I should save at least $100 per month for emergencies. Grade: 3/5
I did save a lot of money this year but more to prepare for any taxes I will have to pay. I really didn’t do any planning for emergencies until today. I looked over the emergencies that could occur in my life now and how much they would cost on average. Now I have a number to shoot for, I should do better with this ideal in the coming year.

8.4: I should donate any money earned over $30,000 per year to charity. Grade: 5/5
My income was less than $30,000 for the year, so I don’t have to worry about this ideal. Maybe some day. This ideal is mainly here in case I somehow strike it rich one day. I doubt that will happen, but I want to constantly maintain a giving mood.

Year 2015 Statistics
I took the scores I gave myself above and averaged them within each chapter and overall. It will be interesting to compare these scores each year. I will also keep track of my best and worst averages in each chapter and overall per year.

Chapter Name Lowest Grade Highest Grade Average Grade
Prayer Ideals Ideal 1.6 (0/5) Ideal 1.1 (5/5) 2.2/5
Study of the Faith Ideals Ideal 2.3 (0/5) Ideal 2.1 (4/5) 2.5/5
Teaching of Others Ideals Ideal 3.5 (0/5) Ideal 3.3 & 3.6 (5/5) 2.83/5
Service Ideals Ideal 4.1 (0/5) Ideal 4.2 (5/5) 2.6/5
Work Ideals Ideal 5.2 (2/5) Ideal 5.3 & 5.4 (4/5) 3.2/5
Health Ideals Ideal 6.2 (2/5) Ideal 6.7 & 6.8 (5/5 3.8/5
Leisure Ideals Ideal 7.1 (1/5) Ideal 7.3 & 7.4 (5/5) 3.2/5
Money Ideals Ideal 8.2 (2/5) Ideal 8.4 (5/5) 3.5/5
Overall Worst: Prayer Ideals (2.2/5) Best: Health Ideals (3.8/5) 2.98/5

All Time Records
Worst Chapter: Prayer (2.2/5) in year 2015
Best Chapter: Health (3.8/5) in year 2015
Worst Overall Average: 2.98/5 in year 2015
Best Overall Average: 2.98/5 in year 2015

How I Graded
It makes sense that Prayer was my worst chapter. I really neglected it throughout the year. I did pray pretty religiously for short periods, but it was not nearly frequent enough. Health makes sense being my best chapter because my health was a big focus of 2014. I had already conditioned myself to exercising and seeing doctors. I just continued the same practices for 2015.

A 3/5 isn’t bad for the whole year. I had several 0s, so I did better than I expected. I’m especially happy because I wasn’t trying as hard as I could. I was too occupied getting all my Thoughts on Entertainment written to focus on reaching my ideals. A perfect score will be impossible by design, but I think I can get to 4/5 if I really try. I think a 3/5 will be the minimum acceptable grade. Below that and I’m not even trying. That’s technically what happened this year with the 2.98/5.

Chapter 8: Money

← Chapter 7: LeisureBack to Introduction →

For most people in the world, the more money they have the better. That is not the case for Catholics. While some money is useful and necessary in life, there is a limit to how much money a person really needs. Everything above that is excess. Catholics are called not to live in excess but to give that excess to the needy. It is a sin to do otherwise.

Ideal 8.1: I should spend no more than $100 per month on leisure.

Leisure could be going out to eat, entertainment, or even buying parts for a hobby. Whatever it is, no more than $100 should be spent on it. This can be a tough challenge, but I must realize that all these things will go away when I die. I can’t get caught up on seeing all the latest movies, eating the best food, or keeping up with the other hobbyists. I must be satisfied with less. This requires me to spend more time with things I have before moving onto new things. This is the fundamental part of getting more value for less money.

So instead of buying all the latest video games, I should buy a new one only once a month or less. Then, I should experience everything the video game offers to extract the most entertainment value out of it. I can finish all the quests, try out all the game modes, analyze the themes and characters, write a blog post about it, or tell my friends about it. I can spend a lot more time with less things. I just have to think about it a little more.

Ideal 8.2: I should save at least $100 per month for retirement.

I should look at the cost of living for my area, increase it a small percentage every year to account for inflation, and then estimate how many years I will live after retirement. I should use this information to make a plan for how much money I need to save in total. I should always put aside $100 each month for retirement, but I will probably need more based on my plan. A hundred dollars is only the minimum. This money should be put into a retirement account that will earn a good return. While the economy has ups and downs, retirement accounts gain money in the long run. I can also avoid taxes on that income while it is earning. Then when I retire, I should only take out what I need each year, keeping the taxes on my investments very low.

Ideal 8.3: I should save at least $100 per month for emergencies.

I should estimate an amount for how much various emergencies would cost and how often they would occur. Common big ones are car repairs, medical emergencies, housing repairs, and being laid off, but there may be others. Maybe I need special tools for work that cost too much money to be replaced with my regular monthly income. I should read up on how much my insurance companies will pay for emergencies. Then, I should add all the numbers up to know how much money I would need worst case if everything went wrong at once. I should save at least $100 a month until I reach the number I need for the worst case. The money can go in my regular savings account if I am a good saver. If I have trouble saving, I should create a separate savings account just for my emergency fund.

Ideal 8.4: I should donate any money earned over $30,000 per year to charity.

It costs about $20,000 a year for a single adult to support themselves. This isn’t enough money to save for retirement or pay for emergencies, but it’s enough for basic needs, yearly taxes, and a 10% tithe each year. A comfortable living is $30,000. That’s enough extra to save for retirement and put aside some money for emergencies. Anyone that doesn’t have to worry about emergencies is in pretty good shape.

Once I get above $30,000, I am starting to have a lot of extra money. There is no end to how many things I could buy. I could always find ways to spend that money, but I don’t really need all that money. All my needs are met. I have enough for leisure. The extra money should be donated. This would be in addition to my normal tithe. I am giving more than 10%, but I have the money to give. I will be rewarded in heaven for this. Maybe family and friends are in need. If not, I can donate to several charities as written in Chapter 4: Service.

← Chapter 7: LeisureBack to Introduction →

Chapter 7: Leisure

← Chapter 6: HealthChapter 8: Money →

A lot of Catholics believe that since God is always calling them to serve Him, they can’t really relax. In other words, relaxation is selfish. That is not true. Every person needs some downtime each day to refresh their mind and body after a hard day’s work. Refer to Ideal 6.3 in Chapter 6: Health for more information on that. This chapter is about how best to use my leisure time to ensure I gain the most healing from it without getting carried away.

Ideal 7.1: I should schedule my sleep time.

I need sleep to stay healthy as stated in the last chapter. The best chance to get the right number of hours for sleep is to schedule sleep. That means setting the alarm and going to bed on time. It’s okay during vacation or special occasions to relax this, but most days I should be going to bed on time. I should set the alarm to 8am, and go to bed by 12am every night. If noise or other distractions outside my control make my sleep quality worse, I should give myself more sleep time the next day. Maybe that means going to bed by 10pm or setting the alarm to 10am. I will lose some free time, but getting good sleep might be worth it.

Ideal 7.2: I should turn off internet-connected devices by 9pm.

Praying and studying the faith should be done every night. I can increase the chances that I will do them by setting a limit on internet use after a certain time. Since I go to bed at 12am, disconnecting at 9pm will give me 3 hours every night to pray and study. Other activities I can use this time for are reading, writing, exercising, and playing single player video games. The internet is very fast paced. It can be hard to sleep right after using the internet. By disconnecting early, I will also improve my sleep quality.

I should be cautious with the video games though because computers and modern consoles all have internet access. If I play video games, make sure the device I am using has internet access turned off. All modern consoles have parental controls I can use to achieve this. For computers, I can download free software with the same functionality. If I can’t find a satisfactory solution, I just have to not play video games after 9pm.

Ideal 7.3: I should install an internet filter on all internet-connected devices.

Pornography is a constant temptation for some people. I should never let myself get to that point by just blocking pornography and other bad things from the start. These days desktop computers, laptop computers, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and video game consoles all have internet access. A variety of free and paid software is available for these devices to block pornography. If the device cannot block it, my only option is to disable internet access on that device. The same software might also be capable of disabling the internet connection. This is a sacrifice but a good one. I should always limit any possible temptation in every way possible. Smart TVs in particular probably won’t have an option to block pornography, but they should have a way to turn off internet access. Even better, I just shouldn’t buy a smart TV since internet access is the primary feature.

Ideal 7.4: I should avoid immoral movies or TV shows.

An immoral movie or TV show is one that glorifies drug use, violence, or sex. Anti-Catholic, or more generally anti-religion, movies and shows would also be immoral. It doesn’t matter how good the acting is or how amazing the special effects are if the content is immoral. Over time they can lead me to loosen my own morals, causing me to sin more. I should feed my spirit good material by watching movies and TV shows with good morals. They don’t have to be Catholic or religious. Nature shows and sports games are always great. Reality shows can be good if they send a positive message and the people featured have good morals. There are also many educational shows and documentary movies.

Ideal 7.5: It’s okay to waste some leisure time.

Parents know that kids need to have a mixture of structured time and unstructured time. During structured time the activities are pre-planned, and kids are expected to make progress in their learning. During unstructured time the kids are allowed to make their own decisions and find their own things to do. This is called play, and it’s very healthy. Many adults forget about this when they grow up. Not all time needs to be productive. It’s okay to “waste” some time. The thing is it’s not actually wasteful.

It turns out that some unproductive time is very healthy. It is actually productive towards being healthy to waste some time. This means, for example, that watching TV or chatting with friends is fine. I probably am not making progress towards any goals doing these things, but that’s fine. Not all of my free time should be like this but some of it should be. A healthy amount of unproductive time is around 1 hour per day. More than an hour, and I really am starting to waste time. Less than an hour, and I’m not getting enough time to unwind.

← Chapter 6: HealthChapter 8: Money →

Chapter 6: Health

← Chapter 5: WorkChapter 7: Leisure →

This chapter is about keeping my mind and body healthy. The three basic needs to stay healthy are eating, sleeping, and exercising. It’s easy to simply name them, but there are many approaches to being healthy. I have written down a few ideals I have for each of these based on what I feel are best practices. The spirit or soul also needs to be healthy, but that is covered in the first four chapters of the book (Prayer, Study of the Faith, Teaching of Others, Service).

Ideal 6.1: I should eat 3 meals a day.

The body adapts to eating patterns. If the body doesn’t get food for a long stretch, it holds in more calories at the next meal. That means more weight gain. To prevent weight gain, I should eat 3 equally sized and evenly spaced meals every day. In a normal day, that’s roughly 1 meal every 4 hours. Each meal should be around 700 calories. A healthy snack between each meal is okay but no more than 100 calories. I should avoid sweets and junk food. I should try to eat real food whenever possible. Those bad foods are okay every once in a while, like during holidays, but I should try to stick to a good diet most of the year.

Ideal 6.2: I should eat one serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal.

The food groups most people omit in their meals are fruits and vegetables. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for a sweet fruit or a plain vegetable, but I should eat a serving of them anyway. This is a sacrifice, but it will help me live longer. The longer I live, the more I can serve God and others around me. All Catholics are called to sacrifice for God. Eating good foods that I don’t like is one of those sacrifices.

Ideal 6.3: I should get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.

Some days I have to stay up late getting my work done, but I should try every day to get to bed on time for a full night’s rest. It is easy to get caught up watching TV, playing video games or checking social networks. These are good ways to relax, but good sleep is more important. Getting a good sleep boosts my immune system and reduces stress. It also lengthens my lifetime. This maximizes my ability to do good work for God.

Ideal 6.4: I should give myself enough leisure time.

A saintly outlook is to want to give back all my free time to God. However, I need some amount of rest from work to recuperate. Otherwise, the quality of my work suffers. If I find that I never have any free time, it’s a sign I need to lighten up on some of my activities. That might mean doing a little less volunteer work or planning fewer activities with friends. I should realize what relaxes me and make sure I get enough of that each day to recharge myself for the next day.

Ideal 6.5: I should do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week.

Doing aerobic exercise is one of the healthiest things I can do for my body. Everyone is always looking for a magic pill that will fix all their health problems. For most people, aerobic exercise is that magic pill. For people who don’t do any aerobic exercise as part of their job, doctors recommend 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. I can break that up however I want. Two easy combinations are five days of 30 minutes or three days of 50 minutes.

Aerobic exercise is exercise that gets my heart pumping for a sustained period of time. I should aim for a heart rate of 120 to 140 beats per minute. The cheapest and easiest aerobic exercises are walking, running, and swimming. Other options are aerobic classes and rowing. If I am using gym equipment, I should use the built-in heart rate checker to manage the intensity of the workout to reach the desired heart rate. If I am exercising outside, a chest strap that lets me monitor my heart rate as I exercise might be useful. I can also get a pretty good idea just by how hard I am breathing.

Ideal 6.6: I should lift weights 3 times per week.

Weightlifting is a form of anaerobic exercise. While aerobic exercise improves the heart and circulation, anaerobic exercise strengthens the muscles and bones. I should focus as much as possible on the exercises that I use in my daily life. For example, if I carry a lot of stuff, I should do exercises for my biceps. If I have to crouch down a lot for your work, I should do squat exercises. If I lift weights on the same day that I do my aerobic exercise, I should do fewer weight lift exercises. However, if I don’t do aerobic exercise that day, I should use the extra energy for more weightlifting.

A routine of 2 sets of 10 for each exercise is best for maintaining my current strength level while 3 sets of 10 is best for building muscle at a moderate rate. This means I should do 3 sets of 10 until I can handle a particular amount of weight, then reduce it to 2 sets of 10 for maintenance. I should plan some goals for target weight levels, so I can reach all my targets and maintain them.

I need to be careful not to become obsessed with how my body looks though. I need to give back to God using my body. I should gain enough strength to most effectively do my work and to look presentable. Anything more is called vanity, a waste of time.

Ideal 6.7: I should see the doctor at least once a year.

Using preventative medicine is the best way to stay healthy. This comes in two forms: vaccines and tests. Many diseases, such as Hepatitis B, have vaccines available that will prevent me from getting the disease. These diseases can be costly on top of the disruption it would cause in my life. It’s much better to get a cheap vaccine early and not have to worry about it ever again. Tests are a way to see if I am in the early stages of a serious disease. Most commonly this is cancer. The earlier the disease is caught the greater the life expectancy of the person. Some forms of cancer are very survivable if caught in the first 5 years but nearly impossible to treat after that early stage.

I should ask my doctor about the recommended preventative medicine for my current age and how it changes as I age. For example, the doctor might recommend a blood pressure test once a year and a vaccine I never received as a child. Whatever the doctor tells me, I should write it down on a calendar or somewhere else I regularly see to make sure I follow the recommendation. It’s very easy to forget about a test if it’s a few years down the road.

Ideal 6.8: I should see the dentist at least once a year.

Cavities can form on teeth at any time. The earlier a cavity is taken care of, the cheaper it will cost and the least painful it will be. Also, the teeth are living bone. They can move and form in unpredictable ways. While this movement slows down as I age, it still happens to some extent. A tooth might need to be moved with braces or pulled out, even at a later age. The dentist can diagnose these problems and treat them early.

Just like the doctor, I should follow all recommendations. I should blush and floss well at least once every day, more whenever I feel food stuck in my teeth. I should get any recommended medical procedures done as soon as possible. Dental work can usually be postponed for a short time, but no more than a few months. Of course, the dentists like to see me every 6 months, but generally every 12 months is fine if I am keeping up with brushing and flossing. Any time and money saved can be donated.

Ideal 6.9: I should see the eye doctor at least once every 5 years.

I should get a regular eye exam to update my prescription. The eyes are constantly changing as I age, usually for the worse. I need the right prescription for safe driving and better work. However, new prescriptions usually also require new frames which costs money. I shouldn’t just go as many times as my insurance will cover. I should actively pay attention to my vision and get a new prescription only when I need it. An updated prescription every 5 years is usually good enough. Most likely there is small vision loss every year, but it’s usually not bad enough that I need to get new glasses that soon. However, I should always go to the eye doctor right away if I notice any sudden changes in my vision.

← Chapter 5: WorkChapter 7: Leisure →

Chapter 5: Work

← Chapter 4: ServiceChapter 6: Health →

The first four chapters were focused on Optimizing Catholicism. These were Catholic ideals I aspire to, above the bare minimum requirements to be a Catholic. The remaining four chapters are focused on Optimizing Life. These are ideals that are not unique to being Catholic but represent the organization of life around Catholicism. The Catholic faith stresses specific virtues that Catholics should be expressing when they are out in the world.

In reality, I am a representative of Catholicism when I am out in the world. How I act in the world reflects back on the Church. If I am acting as a Catholic should, the people around me will think highly of the faith. If I am not, however, people around me will criticize both myself and the Church for being hypocrites. This is the primary cause of scandal for Catholics.

Chapter 5: Work includes both the work I have to do to pay the bills and the basic chores that need to be done as part of life. Anytime you see “work” assume it includes both work and chores unless stated otherwise by context.

Ideal 5.1: I should always do a hard day’s work.

If I have a job, I should make sure I do everything my employer expects me to do. I can never become lazy and start wasting time chatting with coworkers or surfing the Internet. These are okay during break times, but when I am on the clock, I must do the work I have been assigned. If occasionally, I need to work late to get the job done, I shouldn’t complain about it. I should work patiently to get everything done. If I finish my work early, I should see if I can help any coworkers with their work. I might also be able to help the company directly by cleaning shared workspaces or researching future work.

If I always do a hard day’s work, my employer will value my contributions over time. At best, I will be promoted more often than the lazy workers. At worst, I will have a much higher chance of keeping my job during a round of layoffs. Any extra money earned through this can be given to my spouse or children to improve their lives or to charity for the less fortunate in the world.

This also includes getting my daily chores done. Many chores need to be done in a certain order, so I should plan out each day what chores I need to do that day. I should write a to-do list of all these chores. When I get off work, I should finish those chores. I will be nice and relaxed at the end of the day knowing my responsibilities were met.

Ideal 5.2: I should not become obsessive about work.

I shouldn’t work just to get rich or to have money to buy everything I want. I should work enough to pay my bills, save for my goals, and donate money to church & charity. The rest of my free time should be resting to recuperate for more work or donating my time for service. I need to serve God, others, and myself. Work mostly serves myself. I should get home at a reasonable time, so I have time to serve God and others. Some days I will have to work late to get everything done, but it shouldn’t be an everyday thing. If that becomes reality, I need to talk to my employer to see if changes can be made. If they aren’t willing to do anything, I need to start looking for another job or maybe even find another profession.

This ideal is not in conflict with Ideal 5.1. I should work hard but not too hard. I should make sure the needs are met. If God has a choice between my money or my time, he will always choose my time. God would much rather I be poor and spending a lot of time serving Him and others than being rich and donating a lot to charity. Jesus was poor, and he went to heaven, so reducing my reliance on money as much as possible is my path to heaven too.

Ideal 5.3: I should take breaks during work.

At most companies I am entitled to one large break and two small breaks for an eight hour shift. I should take those breaks. I shouldn’t just work through them. They are there for a reason. I need food to work at my best. I also need some time off to rest my brain. A good practice for the short breaks is taking a slow walk while praying to God. Some places might have a bench with a good view I can rest at. The key thing is to get away from my work. I must forget it for a few minutes. I shouldn’t worry about it. I can thank God for any good things that have happened so far that day and ask Him for help on any things I am struggling with that day. When I get back to work, my mind will be refreshed. I will be sharper, able to work faster and more efficiently.

The same is true for chores. Chores are work too. I shouldn’t work non-stop when I get home. I should take breaks for meals and to rest just as I do at my job. The more chores I try to do while tired, the more mistakes I will make. Mistakes waste time, which could be used for more leisure or more service work.

Ideal 5.4: I should finish work before leisure.

This is a simple one. If there is work to be done, I should get it done first before relaxing. That may mean some nights I don’t get any free time, but most nights I should have some free time to do what I please. Lumping all my work together makes it easier to see how much free time I really have per day. Then I can more easily decide how much time to volunteer. This does not override the ideal to take breaks during work though. My body needs regular short breaks to do my best job.

Ideal 5.5: I should find happiness in my work.

Happiness is all in the mind. I can be happy without money, without seeing the latest episode of my favorite TV show, without owning the latest gadget, without even having time to relax. Some of the happiest people on earth are poor. Some parents work a full day for their job, then come home and work all evening for their kids. They never get to do what they want to do, but they are still happy. When I am crawling into bed, I should have satisfaction that I got my work done even if I never got any free time to myself. Of course, I can always be happier if I get to do what I want, but I can still be happy on the days I don’t get to do what I want.

← Chapter 4: ServiceChapter 6: Health →

Chapter 4: Service

← Chapter 3: Teaching of OthersChapter 5: Work →

Service is the hardest calling for me because it requires going out of my way. I can’t serve others much by sitting at home watching TV. I have to put time into service, time that could be used for leisure. Getting into service can be hard because there is no single formula to good service. Everyone has a unique set of skills based on their genes, upbringing, and God’s blessings, and so, everyone has a different set of service opportunities they are most compatible with.

Any form of helping others is service, but the most pure form of service is selfless service. This is service for which you get nothing in return other than a good feeling in your heart for doing a good deed. That is a very good reward, by the way. It is a small taste of what heaven will be like, but most people don’t appreciate it. Many saints became obsessed with that feeling, leading them to always serve others even to the detriment of their own well-being. This is what Jesus did. Selfless service is the only kind of service I am concerned with here.

Time, Talent and Treasure

timetalenttreasure

No matter what service I do, it involves some amount of time, talent, and treasure. They are all interrelated. Donating treasure requires me to combine time with my talents to make money or buy objects for which to donate. Donating talent requires putting time in to help out in some task and, at least, paying some money for gas or public transportation to get to the place where my talents can be used. Consequently, donating time also requires donating talent or treasure or both.

In other words, doing service means more than just time and talent but also giving money to those in need. Buying a Christmas present for a poor person is service in the form of giving treasure. Likewise, donation is not just giving money but also giving time and talent. Helping cook for a school event is a donation of time and talent.

Ideal 4.1: I should address the greatest need with my donations.

Say I would really like to volunteer for cleanup at a parish event but find out there is a shortage of waiters for that event. Since there is a greater need in food service than in cleanup, it would probably be best to sign up to be waiter. The only exception would be if I am a horrible waiter. So my personal skills will play into my decision. There might be a great need for health care in the community, but I’m not a nurse or doctor. I probably can’t help in that way, but maybe I can donate to a charity that coordinates discount health care with nurses or doctors. I might not always be able to help the need directly through my talents, but my treasure may be able to help.

By far, preserving life is the most important need. No matter how bad a person is or what mistakes they’ve made, if they live longer there is a chance they will come to believe in the Catholic faith, repent, and change their ways. And if they are a good person, then even more the reason to preserve their life. The basic needs are food, water, shelter, clothing, health care, and faith. All other needs are secondary.

Ideal: 4.2: I should donate to charities that are in line with Catholic teaching.

There are countless charities out there, but some are not acceptable for a Catholic to volunteer at or donate money to. Good charities are in line with Catholic teachings. The Catholic Church itself is a charity, so any donations to it are acceptable by default. Catholic organizations are also acceptable. These charities may be started by the Catholic Church and partially funded by them but still need money to do the bulk of their work. Private charities can also be acceptable, but I need to do research. A charity that supposedly helps poor African families might actually be giving out contraceptives or recommending abortions. The end doesn’t justify the means. The good of giving food and other necessities does not outweigh the evil of giving contraceptives.

A special kind of charity can occur during the random events of life. I don’t plan for these. They just come up in my life. A sudden need arises in my church or community, and I am in a unique position to help. Maybe the parish offices were robbed, and they need money to replace equipment. Another example could be a friend needs help for his or her children’s school books or supplies. Each one is a special opportunity to see firsthand how my money does good in the world. With other charities, a lot of times I won’t know exactly how my money helped, but in these special circumstances I can really see my money make a difference. I should use my knowledge of the faith from my studying to decide whether the donation is acceptable or not.

Ideal 4.3: I should give a 10% tithe per month to the Church and other charities.

Giving a tenth was mentioned several times in the Bible. While the Catholic Church no longer imposes a specific number these days, the standard tithe is still a good rule of thumb to follow. God is, above all, the most important in your life, so I should give His church, the Catholic Church, a 5% donation of my income per month. This can be done through my local parish. Some of the money gets sent to the diocese which distributes it to the Church as a whole as needed.

The remaining 5% donation should be split between other charities. I should follow Ideals 4.1 and 4.2 to decide which charities to donate my money to. I don’t have to split up that 5% donation between several charities every month. Each month I should pick just one charity to give 5% of my income to. The next month I should give 5% to a different charity.

I should count the first month for those special random events that can occur. I will have a month’s worth money sitting in the bank account ready for those emergency needs. I should be very generous with these donations. I don’t want to have any of that extra money sitting around at the end of the year. Rarely some money will be left over due to circumstances beyond my control. I should roll it over to the next year’s special donation fund. I will have a little more money for special donations that next year.

Ideal 4.4: I should serve at least 6 hours per week.

This may seem like too much at first thought, but giving a tithe is service. If 10% of my income goes to charity, then 10% of my work time goes to charity. That means if I work a typical 40 hour workweek, a 10% donation is 4 hours worth of service. I only need to do 2 additional hours of service per week. Attending Mass does not count for this. I do serve God by going to church, but I need to serve others more directly. The same way I donate money to both the Church and other charities, I should donate my talents to both the Church and other charities. I should do 1 hour of service per week for the Church and another 1 hour of service per week for another charity.

I should remember that this calculation depends on working 40 hours per week. If for some reason I am not working full-time, I should do more service to make up the difference. For example, if I work 20 hours per week, I am only giving 2 hours per week of service through my work. I need to give 2 more hours per week to make up the difference. In summary, that would mean giving 2 hours per week of service through my work, 2 hours per week of service to the Church, and 2 hours per week of service to another charity. Note that you don’t have to equally split your service between the Church and another charity. It should be based on the needs in the community.

Ideal 4.5: At least one week per year, I should participate in a special service opportunity that uses a lot more time.

Most parishes have a big fundraiser or other major event yearly. I should sign up for this and put in a lot of hours. The ideal number of hours should be all of my free time during weekdays and 75% of my free time during weekends. For example, if I have 2 hours of free time per weekday and 4 hours of free time on weekend days, I should sign up for 2 hours of service per weekday and 3 hours of service per weekend day. This is hard but manageable. I would get burned out if I put in this much of my free time year round, but I can manage for one week.

← Chapter 3: Teaching of OthersChapter 5: Work →

Chapter 3: Teaching of Others

← Chapter 2: Study of the FaithChapter 4: Service →

If I were to tell someone I was Catholic, would it be a surprise to them? Would they say, “I had no idea!”. or would they say, “What else is new?”. It is the job of every Catholic to make sure those around them know they are a Catholic. I do this by living the faith. A big part of living the faith is teaching others the Catholic faith. Another name is evangelism, which means “spreading the Gospel”.

Teaching of Others can be scary to do because it opens me up for attack. Some people are against religion so much, they will not hesitate to attack Catholics. This can happen both directly and indirectly. Directly, someone might lash out at me when I say I’m pro-life. Indirectly, a boss might promote a co-worker over me even though I earned it more just because he has a negative feeling about my Catholic beliefs. This can even be subconscious. How many times has a celebrity used racist words and regretted it? It was subconscious. They didn’t even think about it until people called them out on it.

Ideal 3.1: I should teach through my words.

This is the most obvious way to teach. It’s what a teacher at school does. They have knowledge of some subject, and they teach all they know to their students. In my regular prayer and study, I will learn a lot about the faith. I shouldn’t hold that back. I should give it freely to everyone around me. Most things I study go in one ear and out the other, but some of them stick. This stuff randomly crosses my mind in conversations. I can call on that knowledge to explain the key to happiness. That’s what the Catholic faith is. Everyone wants to be happy. I just need to explain it in a way people can understand.

Most important of all, I better be following my own words. No one likes a hypocrite. Even Jesus criticized them. I can’t be a hypocrite. If I tell people they should be helping the poor, I better be able to give examples of when I’ve helped the poor in the past. Otherwise, all my words of instruction will ring hollow. They will come to the conclusion that I am a hoax and reason, “Best to ignore anything he says.” This ties in with Ideal 3.2 below.

Ideal 3.2: I should teach through my actions.

Kids learn a lot from how their parents act in various situations. The same can happen when Catholics perform good actions in the world. I don’t even have to speak. If a person sees me volunteering all the time, they have a pretty good idea what kind of person I am. Everyone wants to be happy. If they see that volunteering gives me great happiness, they may one day decide to take up volunteering themselves with the hope of gaining the same happiness.

My inaction can also teach. Maybe someone goes out drinking every night and is rarely happy. Then, they see me never going out drinking, and I seem to be always happy. They might think “They’re not drinking and they’re much happier than me. Maybe I shouldn’t drink too.”

Continue reading

Chapter 2: Study of the Faith

← Chapter 1: PrayerChapter 3: Teaching of Others →

Study of the Faith gives me in some small way, the wisdom of God. This is not the same as wisdom of the world. I won’t know how to make lots of money or have a successful career, but I will know more strongly why following God is the way to happiness and how to make convincing arguments to nonbelievers. I should be constantly learning more each week to become strong in my beliefs. Having a regular habit of good studying is how to achieve this. If my beliefs are weak, I will be easily swayed by the secular society. Beliefs grounded in study will be firm. I will have fewer setbacks on my way to heaven.

Studying also helps in the Teaching of Others (Chapter 3). If I can make strong arguments for why I believe the Catholic way, I will have an easier time persuading people. This can naturally convert confused people. Natural conversion is when a person makes their own decision to believe without anyone having to urge them to convert. They just hear the truth in my arguments and suddenly see the truth for themselves: the Catholic faith is what’s missing in their life. On the other hand, if I don’t do any studying, I won’t be able to make good arguments. Nonbelievers will find holes in my arguments and use them as leverage to deny my arguments.

Ideal 2.1: I should recite the common prayers, the Church prayers, and the Rosary prayers from memory once a day.

While I can rely on papers and books to say these prayers, it is best to have them memorized. Then I can say them wherever I happen to be. No matter the circumstances I can pray in my mind. Papers and books are a crutch. They aren’t always available. Each day I should quickly recite from memory all the regular prayers I use. If I haven’t done this lately, it may take several days to get them memorized. Once I do though, I can easily recite them in a quick five minutes every day.

Common prayers
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • The Hail Mary
  • The Glory Be
  • Grace (prayer before meals)
  • Act of Contrition
Mass prayers
  • The Confiteor (I confess…)
  • The Kyrie (Lord, have mercy…)
  • The Gloria
  • The Nicene Creed
  • The Offertory (May the Lord…)
  • The Preface (The Lord be with you…)
  • Holy Holy Holy
  • Memorial Acclamation (We proclaim…)
  • The Lord’s Prayer + Doxology (For the kingdom…)
  • Lamb of God
  • Invitation to Communion (Lord, I am not worthy…)
Rosary prayers & mysteries
  • Apostle’s Creed
  • Fatima Prayer
  • The Joyful Mysteries
  • The Sorrowful Mysteries
  • The Glorious Mysteries
  • The Luminous Mysteries
  • Hail, Holy Queen
  • Concluding Prayer
Ideal 2.2: Once a day I should read a Catholic article.

Each day I should be growing in my knowledge of the Catholic Church and faith. An article is any short writing that increases my knowledge of the faith. It should take no longer than fifteen minutes to read per day. Stay away from news. While it is good to be informed on the happenings of the Church, news does not help with study. Opinion pieces can sometimes be okay, but they should usually be avoided also. A good argument can help me understand the faith better, but some authors won’t back up their writings with firm church doctrine. I need to stick to hard facts as much as possible.

Ideal 2.3: I should read about the feasts on feast days.

Many days throughout the year are designated as feast days by the Catholic Church. I should check the church calendar each day for feast days. When I see it is a feast day, I should search for that feast day and read about its significance in church history. Like Ideal 2.2, this won’t take longer than fifteen minutes, and it’s only a few days per week at maximum. Most feasts are anniversaries of famous saints. I should be inspired by their stories to become a better person.

Ideal 2.4: I should read a few chapters of a Catholic book each week.

Catholic articles are good to read, but once a week I should spend some time for more in-depth study. A good Catholic book is the best. I should give myself enough time to read the chapters thoroughly without being rushed. If there are any words or concepts I don’t know while reading, I should take the time to look them up. If the reading brings up any other questions or ideas, I should look those up too. A good length of time is about an hour, a half hour for reading and a half hour to study what I read. I can, of course, do more if I am really interested.

← Chapter 1: PrayerChapter 3: Teaching of Others →