Friday, October 25, 2013

Happiness or Fear?

I’ve been listening to a podcast series on happiness by Tara Brach, a psychologist and teacher of Buddhist meditation and spiritual awakening. One of her points is that because of the way our minds fixate, and thus create patterns in our minds, we can actually make an impactful difference in how we feel simply by paying attention differently to our thoughts. The more you have fear-based thoughts or worry, the more likely your mind is to keep generating fear. By shifting our focus, we can cultivate a capacity for our own happiness. 

How does this relate to money? Well, many of us walk around worrying about money, but not taking action. It is our default to worry, and with money, that means walking around worrying about not having enough money in our checking account, or enough at the end of the month, or enough for the holidays, or enough for retirement. For many, these are constant fixations or tapes that loop in our minds. We might not be actively worrying about it, but under the surface, it’s constant. 

She makes the point that the more we focus on the things in our life that aren’t working, the bigger they become. I’ve worked with many a person with financial struggles that proudly tell me “I check my bank balance every day.” To them, it is proof that they are trying to be responsible and overcome their issues. 

I’ve decided that checking your bank account balance every day is rarely a healthy practice, especially for those who are experiencing financial challenges or trauma, precisely because of the point Tara Brach makes. By fixating on the worry of it all, we scare ourselves into inaction and overwhelm. My advice to those who are “daily balance checkers” is to choose a specific day and time each week to check their balances, ground themselves in their money plan for the week, and then let fixation go. 

There is nothing positive that comes from the daily checking of your balance. It’s actually not changing your financial position for the positive. You would be far better off spending that time earning more money. Or, from Tara’s perspective, you would be far better off simply focusing on something positive. 

What would happen if you spent those two minutes every day:
  • writing down five things you were grateful for about your money, or 
  • transferring $1 into a special savings account, or 
  • looking at how much you’ve paid off on a credit card you’ve been focusing on, or 
  • reading two pages of an inspirational book on prosperity, abundance or even happiness? 
What could you do to replace the anxiety and worry that you carry around with you about money? Is there an area of your financial life that is positive that you can focus on instead? Sometimes it takes some work to identify those areas, but almost everyone has at least one area of their financial life that they excel at, whether that’s the ability to earn money, or the ability to live frugally, or being a natural saver, or simply being good with numbers. Most of us don’t excel in all areas, but almost all of us excel in at least one area. 

 Are you willing to cultivate a sense of happiness around your money?

-Stacey Powell

Finance Gym offers personal finance coaching in professionally facilitated peer-advisory groups. 
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