“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” ~ Mark Twain
In every aspect of our lives we view each situation we encounter through the lens of our experiences, understandings and beliefs. We bring our past experiences and preconceptions to our jobs, our relationships and our families. Our finances are no different.
Money can be a complicated thing.
Money can be something that excites, scares, intimidates or empowers. Our perceptions and understanding of money start at a young age as we watch our parents handle it and are compounded by our own experiences with money as we get older. Whether we grow up with money or without, whether money is a source of freedom or stress, every interaction and experience that we have with money and wealth as we grow up influences the subconscious beliefs that we hold about money as adults. It is these beliefs that can dramatically impact our finances, both positively and negatively, in terms of our ability to earn, hold and grow money.
As human beings we tend to devote our energy to things that interest us and give us pleasure and we tend to avoid and procrastinate when it comes to things we find challenging or don’t like. If you see money as something positive; a tool that can be utilized to build a happy life and give back to your community then it makes sense that you would pay attention to it and try to accumulate it. However, if your experience of money is one that involves stress, challenge or confusion it also makes sense that you’re not going to go out of your way to devote any more energy to it than you absolutely have to. It’s not a coincidence that many people who aren’t happy with their financial situation also hate managing their money. Whether they think that money isn’t important or that only greedy people have surplus money in the bank, their negative perspective on all things financial means that they tend to focus on other, more enjoyable things and hope that their money just takes care of itself.
I say “money”, you say…
What are the first five words that spring to mind when you hear the word money? Often when I do this exercise during a seminar or presentation almost every word that is called out by the audience is negative. I used to feel the same way. The first time I did this exercise myself, during a seminar a couple of years ago, the words I came up with included “stressful”, “elusive” and “complicated“. Looking back over what I’d written, it suddenly became very clear to me that my financial situation wasn’t going to change unless my attitude towards money did. The most empowering thing about this realization was the understanding that I actually had control over my situation; I could change my attitude, find reasons to get excited about money and in the process I could turn my financial future around. Rather than seeing wealth as unnecessary and a burden I started to think of it as something that would allow me to make a real difference in the world. I started to get irritated by the amount of money I was paying to credit card companies and banks in interest and I got serious about paying off debt so I could make my money work for me instead of someone else. I’ve repeated the process with clients and friends and it’s amazing to see what a simple change of perspective can have on your financial situation.
What you focus on expands
Breaking through limiting beliefs takes time but the rewards of taking that time are enormous. I’ve discovered that the concept of “what you focus on expands” is true in every area of life and especially when it comes to finances. If you focus on all the aspects of your situation that are not what you want them to be you’re paying far too much attention to the problem and not enough attention to finding a solution. Retiring happy requires taking control of your financial future, figuring out what your stumbling blocks are and then finding a solution to overcome them. Often those stumbling blocks are rooted in a belief or understanding that just isn’t true and doesn’t serve us. Identifying limiting beliefs is sometimes hard because we don’t want to admit that an opinion we’ve held for so long might be “wrong”. At the end of the day though it’s not really about being right or wrong; it’s about choosing to abandon a belief that no longer serves you in favour of one that does. By focusing on fixing the root cause rather than just a symptom of an underlying problem you can progress much more quickly towards your goal and find yourself a lot happier in the process!
Take some time to think about your response to the phrases “money is…” and “wealthy people are…” How might your beliefs be impacting the way you handle your finances? How can you use that awareness to bring about positive change and take bold steps towards achieving your financial goals?