Monthly Archives: January 2020

Tasks to Balance your Time and Money

  • Reflect on being financially independent
  • Track expenses for 30 days
  • Brainstorm ideas for increasing your nest egg
  • Brainstorm ideas to declutter and simplify your life by dropping or reducing expenses
  • Set your money goals and define your circle of allies

Three Tools for Success in Becoming Financially Independent

1. Goal Setting and Structure

Without a plan of action, you will achieve little. By creating a game plan for success, you establish a path, and the steps are clear. All that is required is a focus, the support that is provided by your circle of allies, and the desire and perseverance that can come only from you.

The structure is what keeps you on track, especially during times of challenge and discouragement. When the inevitable stumbling blocks appear, you must not only continue to put one foot in front of the other, you also have to know which foot goes first.

2. Circles of Support and Accountability

Without a supportive community, a person can become isolated, lonely, and discouraged. By surrounding yourself with allies — family members, friends, helpers, and colleagues who are willing and eager to see you succeed, the path to balance becomes joyful and easier. Your commitments to action are only as good as the actual work you do.

Your chances for accomplishing this work are increased significantly by having someone hold you accountable, check-in with you to find out what progress you are making, and offer a level of encouragement that is difficult to achieve on your own.

3. Reality Test

Each individual must operate from a high level of certainty and acceptance that the goal is achievable and worthwhile. Until you truly believe in your goal, the necessary passion and motivation required for success are missing. Can you believe in your own new reality?

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Connecting with Allied Voter Campaigns

In conjunction with our 2020 Civic Participation Campaign, Circles USA (CUSA) Board Member Joan Kuriansky prepared this list of allied efforts.

But first, let’s review the basics: How 501(c)(3)s Can Talk to Candidates During an Election Year. Alliance for Justice provides this wonderful resource for nonprofit organizations.

Below, we share other 501(c)3 organizations undertaking voter participation efforts this year in states where Circles Chapters are located. These organizations share our commitment to addressing poverty in our country. 

Connecting with these organizations could be useful this year and for many years to come. In the short-term, these organizations might:

  • Provide Chapters with an easy way to join a voter engagement project
  • Partner with Chapters on efforts to engage candidates or government officials;
  • Share with Chapters relevant information or background on some of the Big View issues being addressed. 

In the long-term, some of these organizations might be partners in the Big View efforts that chapters undertake, bringing new visibility to the mission of ending poverty.

Poor People’s Campaign

This effort was created by Rev. William J. Barber II to raise the voices of the poor and allies of the poor. The Campaign advocates for policy changes at all levels of government and more recently has been engaged in many efforts to “get out the vote.” In addition to collaborating with campaigns across 20 states, the campaign has developed state-by-state fact sheets for nearly all U.S. states. Fact sheets include state-specific data on the extent of poverty in each state, along with principles and a “call to action” with specific policy goals. Between May 2019 and May 2020, the Campaign is leading a major national bus tour. The tour will culminate in the Mass Poor Peoples’ March and Assembly in Washington, DC on June 20, 2020. 

Community Change

This organization works at both the grassroots and national level to affect policy change by empowering women, immigrants, people of color, and those experiencing low incomes. Their goal is a “just, equitable, and inclusive economy and democracy where all people and communities thrive.” They collaborate with many organizations and use innovative community-organizing models. Notable is their work building an “electoral powerhouse” in communities of color through Community Change Action in 20 states. 

Movement Voter Project

This is a nationwide campaign to engage disenfranchised voters to participate in elections at all levels of government. Their innovative approach supports local community-based organizations in 40 states working for both long-term policy change and efforts to “get out the vote.” They are placing emphasis in five key states. Chapters should consider as possible partners the local and national organizations they are supporting.

When We All Vote

Their purpose is to “make sure that every eligible voter is registered and ready to vote throughout the country.” The organization is addressing the race and age divide in voting and changing the culture around voting. They provide tools and training materials to help partner organizations. It was launched by Michelle Obama in conjunction with a large, partially celebrity-led advisory board, and is directed by Valerie Jarrett. 

~Joan Kuriansky, Board Member, Circles USA

Being the Change is Essential to Leading Transformation

. . . transformed people transform people.

— Richard Rohr

To be the change we want to see happen is the lynchpin of the Transformational Map. Dedication to personal growth fosters positive change in the world. How can I change my life so that it’s in alignment with my vision for the world? When we embrace transformation as our personal assignment, we inspire and equip others as well.

I met Diane Pike and Arleen Lorrance, directors of Teleos Institute (, in 1979 at the impressionable age of 21, and they have been a major source of guidance and motivation for my personal growth and development ever since. Diane and Arleen met in 1971 and have been teaching their practical and profound principles through books, workshops, retreats, and speeches ever since.

Diane and Arleen’s Love Principles have been serving me for decades:

  • Receive all people as beautiful exactly as they are.
  • Be the change you want to see happen, instead of trying to change anyone else.
  • Create your own reality consciously.
  • Provide others with opportunities to give.
  • Have no expectations but rather abundant expectancy.
  • Problems are opportunities.
  • Remember, choice is the life process.

Whether you ascribe to these or similar principles, Transformational Leaders must consciously shift from reaction to response, especially when confronted with the resistance to change that is inevitable.

A deep commitment to one’s convictions is essential: Why do I want to realize this particular change? What does it mean to me? What more do I need to change in myself to be consistent with my values? Such self-awareness will ground you when confronting opposition. To be the change, your personal goals and values must be in alignment with the goals and values of the change you are guiding as a transformational leader.

From the book: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Launching Circles USA’s Civic Participation Campaign for 2020

We’re making progress on our New Year’s resolutions here at Circles USA (CUSA). At the top of our to-do list: launching a non-partisan Civic Participation Campaign for 2020.

When CUSA Chapters advance systemic change on key issues, we call this work the Big View. In an election year like 2020, we have a unique opportunity to scale-up Big View efforts across the country and raise visibility for the mission of ending poverty.

Campaign Activities for Civic Participation

Activities this year include:

  • Webinars to support CUSA members to promote voter education and voter turnout
  • Newsletters that share how CUSA members are tackling key issues like affordable housing, the Cliff Effect, transportation, and more
  • Resources that articulate CUSA’s anti-poverty agenda and that enable CUSA members to take action

To begin, CUSA is hosting a February webinar with guest facilitator Amy Basken, a seasoned legislative advocate and volunteer with Circles Sauk Prairie, WI. Amy’s presentation will refresh participants on: how a bill becomes a law; which policy makers to contact; tips for in-person and virtual communication with officials; opportunities during an election year; and the importance of sharing your stories with those in a position to make change.

In subsequent months, we’ll highlight Big View success stories and feature resources on specific issues of critical importance to the network. For example, CUSA Chief Learning Officer Kamatara Johnson recently surveyed all Chapters about their Big View experiences and aspirations. The 24 survey responses revealed these top issues:

  • Housing (19%)
  • The Cliff Effect (12%)
  • Low Wages and Quality Jobs (11%)
  • Transportation (11%)
  • Health and Wellbeing including Trauma (8%)
  • Childcare (8%)

Because those experiencing poverty are considered the experts, input from Circle Leaders will drive our efforts to design community-wide solutions.

By the conclusion of this campaign, we’ll create a compendium with everything we collectively learned this year.

Our Values

CUSA’s Civic Participation Campaign will engage a diversity of political viewpoints. We believe that sustainable social change comes from the bottom up, when individual members of the community compel elected officials and institutions to take action. By encouraging voter education and voter turnout in 2020, we seek to ensure that all candidates elected will embrace an agenda concerned with ending poverty. 

This campaign is non-partisan, and we will provide CUSA members with information about how to be civically engaged while honoring our status as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Get Involved

The Big View Advisory Committee is meeting every 4-6 weeks to lead the campaign’s strategy and activities. Thanks to members, Joan Kuriansky (CUSA Board); Lisa Doyle-Parsons (CUSA Coach in WV); Amy Basken (CUSA Volunteer in WI); and Lynette Fields (Circles Central Florida Director in FL). To join this Committee or contribute to campaign plans, please email me at To stay informed, sign-up for our Big View monthly newsletter on poverty research and policy change.

~ Jamie Haft, Executive Director, Circles USA

Enough Time to be Human

Recently, two people mentioned to me that there was not enough time to get things done. One of them said he was working seven days a week. How does this happen to us? Perhaps the shift to digital technology has pushed our overwork patterns to new levels?

There is certainly an addictive quality to social media, email, and all things related to the computer that make many of us wonder how to rediscover the human being in us while swimming in a growing sea of shiny, digital things. Our ability to focus our attention has been compromised by the pace of digital activity.

Although we are part of nature, the artificial life of the digital age has us living in our heads much of the time. Eventually, we can lose touch with ourselves. We postpone love, art, solitude, engagement, and fun. Why do this? Why not take charge of one’s life and honor it with what it means to be a fully alive human being?

I have been using the clock my great-grandfather built as a daily reminder that there is always enough time to do what really matters. Perhaps we are taking on assignments that others should be doing instead of us? Maybe we feel that staying busy is an important badge of honor? Do we justify our value by our to-do list?

Or is busy-ness a way to medicate uncomfortable feelings of unworthiness that are so prevalent in our society? Do we stay busy so we don’t have to feel the unpleasantness of our own existential angst? Sometimes those unpleasant feelings are a call to a new adventure in our lives. Listening to them might open up a possibility we never thought of before—something profoundly meaningful.

What is a little temporary discomfort in exchange for being able to dramatically improve the quality of one’s life?

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Why Vision is Important

Without vision, the matrix tells us that people feel confusion and a lack of motivation to change. Pain will push people so far, but then vision must pull them toward something attractive. Without vision, old habits persist, and situations will continue to deteriorate. Vision must provide a compelling case for change, a strong description of what could happen if, for example, we ended poverty. And it must provide two or three high-impact strategies that let people know that the vision can be achieved.

The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.

— Rainer Maria Rilke

Individual Change Precedes Social Change

Just as in the cycles of nature, you will move through each of the four seasons of the change process. The first task is to develop a clear understanding of your own vision and purpose.

When we wish to change something in the world, there is often something in our own lives that we want to explore, assess, and change as well.

For example, in my early job experience serving people struggling in poverty, I realized how often people seemed alone with their problems. So, I created support groups as a response to such isolation. Then I looked at my own life and asked, “Where do I feel too alone in my own problems? How can I give myself more support?”

It became apparent that before I could make any lasting social change, I had to commit to changing my own life. Circles USA was the result of an intense soul-searching process that I began in the mid-1990s. Circles is a process of surrounding yourself with people who will be Allies as you make an important change, such as moving out of poverty.

A fundamental assumption underlying our approach is that each of us is more powerful than we give ourselves credit for. One might think global questions are only for world leaders to answer, but it takes only one person to send a breakthrough idea around the world at lightning speed. When we listen to our hearts, make a commitment to action, form a circle of supportive Allies, learn whatever is necessary, and embed change into the culture, the world can be positively impacted.

From the book: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Having Enough Money & Time

When we have enough money, meaning, and friends, we can thrive. We are capable of stepping more fully into our authentic human nature and enjoying what life has to offer at higher levels of satisfaction.

When we have enough of what really matters in life, we do not have to answer the question, “How are you?” with comments like “Things are so crazy” or “I am so busy.” We can give ourselves the time we need to listen to our heart’s whispers of guidance and inspiration. We can spend quality time with our friends and family members long enough to hear what they are experiencing and join them with love and compassion.

While the culture of consumerism screams for us to make money and spend it all as fast as possible, many of us are rejecting this addictive and unsustainable way of life. We are drawn to concepts such as slow spending, small footprints, relational living, local sustainability, etc. We are finding our sense of enoughness that brings us a consistently satisfying life experience.

Climate change is also telling us it is time to slow down. Our bodies are telling us enough is enough. We have exhausted ourselves trying to keep up with a society that is largely out of touch with what it means to be a human being. Yes, we are miraculous beings full of unlimited potential, but we still function in a world of necessary physical limits. We have only so much time, so much psychic energy, and so many physical resources to use. Balancing our unlimited potential with these natural limits is what we as human beings are being called to learn and master at this time.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

The Transformational Map

Leading societal change can be an overwhelming proposition. It’s like crossing the ocean for the first time. We all want navigational tools to know where we are and how to make course corrections to reach our destination.

The Transformational Map was developed by Circles USA (formerly known as Move the Mountain Leadership Center) during a 12-year period with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Transformational Map was tested with leaders of nonprofit organizations and community action agencies that have a federal mandate to end poverty. We provided leadership development training and coaching to help leaders shift the attention of their agencies from managing poverty with low-impact strategies to reducing poverty with high-impact strategies.

Drawn from this experience and beyond, this Transformational Leadership Program takes you through a straightforward process of ensuring that your time and talents are channeled into a purposeful direction.

All transformational efforts go through a cycle of four stages:

  1. Articulating the vision,
  2. Aligning with relevant Allies, including people and organizations,
  3. Learning whatever is necessary in pursuit of the vision, and
  4. Embedding the vision into the culture.

From the book: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

The Key to Happiness

Spoiler alert: My primary theory of happiness is that it grows in proportion to how you use your precious time to have enough money, meaning, and friends and to express your fullest potential.


What do I mean by this statement?

  • Precious time —understanding that no one knows how much time he or she has left in life, but it will never be more than 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or 12 months a year. Being mindful of our limited time steers us toward meaningful activity.
  • Enough money —having a steady and reliable income that covers basic needs, provides savings for emergencies and large purchases as needed, and gives you enough extra to express yourself and to help others.
  • Enough meaning —having a strong sense of your personal mission and following it. The root of the word vocation is vocare , which means “to call.” When we follow our calling in life, we have boundless energy, and we feel a consistent enthusiasm to keep going.
  • Enough friends —having enough family and friends who put energy into your bucket more often than they take energy out of it. Having a strong connection to your family, community, and humanity that consistently shifts your attention from yourself to others. A sense of security that comes from having a community comprised of strong and healthy relationships.
  • Express your fullest potential —listening to your heart’s desire and giving your all to achieving your unique vision. Understand your strengths, core values, and how best to manage weaknesses. Surround yourself with positive people who will cheer you on as you pursue your gifts, talents, and passions.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Changing the Mindset—Can We Believe in Ending Poverty?

One person can make a difference, and everyone should try. — John F. Kennedy

I was in New York City a few years ago having a conversation with a former United Nations ambassador about my first book, Until It’s Gone, Ending Poverty in our Nation, in our Lifetime. He asked me several questions about my assumptions regarding the nature of poverty and about my work at Circles USA. After 30 minutes of dialogue, he revealed what was really behind his questioning when he said to me, “Jesus said the poor will always be with us. Is ending poverty going against the Bible?”

The former ambassador was not alone in asking this question. For many in the nation, the biblical proclamation that “the poor will always be with us” strongly suggests that no matter what we do, we will always have poverty. From this point of view, any attempt to eradicate poverty is a task that has no hope of success. Perhaps the best that we can hope for is to manage poverty or maybe save a few people. But can we believe in ending poverty? Yes, I believe we can do it, but only if we change our mind-set.

Through the Transformational Leadership Program, we will review assumptions about high-impact strategies that are worth investing time and resources in pursuing. High impact means the effort aims to change the mind-set that created the organization or system of organizations. The mind-set informs the goals that shape the programs of the organization. To create a system to end poverty requires that the system change its entire culture.

For example, when people don’t believe that the poverty rate can be reduced, let alone eliminated, they create a poverty management system. To change that system, we will have to apply resources toward affecting the deeper beliefs that shape the system’s culture. How can we can challenge such a dominating belief?

I took the former ambassador’s belief that “the poor will always be with us” to a theologian who works closely with a Circles USA chapter and discovered that the original teaching has been taken out of context. If one Googles “the poor will always be with us,” she or he will find evidence of this confusion with warnings not to use this statement to discourage social action. Additionally, many passages in the Bible suggest a much more active stance toward the poor.

While this example from Christianity is a useful teaching tool, Circles USA partners with a range of secular and religious organizations. Circles USA’s inclusive, nonpartisan community welcomes people from all faiths, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic classes. Understanding the beliefs of these diverse community stakeholders is key.

From the book: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.