Tears, Tales & Triumphs – Transforming Our Relationship to Money
“It’s easy to look back on the past and beat ourselves up for all the wrong turns, incorrect assumptions, and false hopes that have led us to our current financial disappointments. We label them “mistakes” and write them down in our book of life as failures, then wonder why we feel overwhelmed, oppressed, and too scared to try again.”
– Sarah Ban Breathnach, Peace and Plenty; Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity
Ah, money…when it comes to taboo discussion topics, personal finance is often right up there with sex. And that’s a shame. Literally. Talking about money is usually avoided because of shame. Unfortunately, this avoidance simply tends to lead to more of the same mistakes being made.
Fiscally questionable patterns arise when assumptions and habits are left…unquestioned.
In mid-October, a friend and I took a one-day course at Royal Roads University entitled, Transforming Your Relationship to Money. The workshop was taught by Inga Michaelsen, who is a business coach.
The day was a real eye-opener – and heart opener. I was actually pretty surprised at how emotional many of the participants became. Tears fell as tales were told.
When it comes to money, people are often not just ashamed of the choices they’ve made (and the impacts these choices have had on their lives and loved ones), they often also struggle to understand why they made them in the first place – never mind forgiving themselves for doing so.
But of course, before one can understand why a certain financial decision was made, one needs to first be aware that one actually was made. Oddly enough, this isn’t as obvious as it sounds. Apparently, many of our financial “decisions” are, in fact, made more or less unconsciously.
To help us better understand this, Inga started the day off with a group discussion around three common cultural myths beneath many of our beliefs, based on the teachings of Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money:
1. There isn’t enough to go around
2. More is better
3. That’s just the way it is
When it comes to money, time or love, it would seem that a real scarcity mindset exists.
Twist explains the danger of this: “When your attention is on what’s lacking and scarce – in your life, in your work, in your family, in your town – then that becomes what you’re about.”
In other words, what we focus on/pay attention to expands, so we would be wise to focus on all that we do have versus what we do not.
“What you appreciate appreciates.”
– Lynne Twist
However, in my experience and observation, we tend to dwell on what we don’t have – or don’t have enough of…particularly when it comes to money.
But what is enough?
To help us get to the heart of this rather loaded question, right before lunch Inga had us do a simple but effective exercise on gratitude. In our small groups, we each shared all that we have – or have had – in our lives to be grateful for.
After listening to myself tell the others in my group my rather extensive list of all that I am grateful for, I laughed out loud at my bounty of blessings.
I already have enough…of everything. All I have is all I need.
Another interesting concept discussed during the day was that how we spend, save and/or invest our money is connected to our story about money. And apparently we all have one.
To help us get to the root of what our story about money might be, Inga gave us homework to do over lunch. We had to think back on our life, in 5-year intervals, and recall an incident or event in each interval that had to do with money – and then see if any sort of pattern emerged.
In the afternoon we discussed spending habits and how money flows in our lives.
Intentional spending refers to spending your money on what you are committed to rather than on what others want you to want.
In other words, do we spend our money on things we really care about? Or things we think we’re supposed to care about i.e. what advertisers tell us we should care about?
Inga suggested that spending our money is one way for us to express our life’s purpose in this lifetime – so to try and think of our purchases in terms of whether or not they are in line with our life values.
Is the way we spend and/or save and/or invest our money a reflection of our values?
This is an interesting question because when we discussed it further as a group, it became clear that we often struggle with conflicting interests; how we spend our money may have negative impacts on others.
For example, one woman in the class raised the issue of fast fashion and how the dyes used in the garment industry pollute rivers plus millions of tonnes of clothes end up in the landfill after scarcely being worn. She also mentioned the harsh realities of child labour and the horrific working conditions for many people working in the garment factories in developing countries.
Then I brought up my personal concern about my love of travel and how I struggle to reconcile my passion for exploring new places with the reality of the significant impacts that travel has on the planet, such as greenhouse gas emissions.
All in all, I would say the day was a resounding success. The course certainly got me thinking differently about money, which is a step in the right direction towards transforming my relationship to it.
Ten Tips That Can Help Transform Our Relationship to Money:
1. Ask yourself: what is your relationship to money? Love, hate or indifference?
2. Focus on all that you already have – people, pets, purpose, possessions, health, etc
3. What you appreciate appreciates
4. Do not dwell on what you don’t yet have i.e. what you lack
5. What you focus on expands
6. Pay attention to how money flows through your life
7. Think of all the good you currently do – and have done – in the world with your money
8. Forgive yourself for past financial decisions
9. Be mindful of how you spend your money: do your purchases reflect your values?
10. Are you aware of your “story” about money? Is it serving you or holding you back?
Is our definition of success dependent on our financial earnings?
Interestingly, after I finished writing this blog, I watched an excellent interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. My friend Sherry had sent me the link to the interview months ago but I hadn’t got around to watching it. Timing is everything 🙂
In the interview by Marie Forleo, Elizabeth discusses her recent book, Big Magic; Creative Living Beyond Fear, and speaks candidly about how people working on creative projects, such as writers, often expect or demand that their efforts make money – and if they don’t, then it is not really a “success.”
In other words, deep down, do we equate success with the financial rewards our efforts bring us?
That is a question that’s certainly making me squirm, so for the next leg of my transformational journey, I shall be picking up both Big Magic and Lynne Twist’s The Soul of Money. If I can get them at a used bookstore, even better!
Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here.