Money Can't Always Buy Happiness…
…but it can sure make us miserable sometimes! Let's get smart and ditch the unhealthy relationship many of us have with money. Like any tool, we should learn how to use it wisely and make sure it's in alignment with our highest values.
Money is neither our enemy nor our salvation, but it certainly does seem to play an outsized role in our life. When there's not enough to pay our bills, the scarcity rumbles like threatening thunder in our heart and gut. When there's too much, it can lead to a skewed sense of values and careless spending.
Studies (and experience) tell us, however, that even when we are more comfortable financially, other issues will rise like specters to haunt and remind us that life is uncertain: stock market gyrations, natural disasters, the death of a provider, unexpected and expensive health issues.
To understand the emotions that often infuse our attitudes about money, let's go back to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
In the 1940s, psychologist Abraham Maslow devised a theory that explains human motivation by prioritizing various human needs in a pyramid structure. The basic, fundamental needs are at the bottom of the pyramid, with the more open-ended desires at the peak, with several levels in between.
In his theory, each of the levels supports the next level of the hierarchy, so as we satisfy one level of need, it fades in importance and the next level becomes more of a priority.
Try to be honest with yourself about where you fall on this pyramid right now. It will help you devise a plan to move in the right direction.
Are you stuck in a state of denial or obsession?
What should we do when we experience money mood swings—or when we're stuck at one extreme or the other when it comes to our relationship with money?
On one end of the spectrum, you might be putting your head in the sand and never pay attention to your cash flow or bank statements. You could miss the warning signs that prevent you from going over a cliff.
On the other end of the spectrum, you could obsess about your money until you make yourself miserable and stingy, depriving yourself unnecessarily of some of the simple pleasures in life that money can buy. This dark mindset spills over to pollute your happiness and the quality of your relationships.
Money is only a tool
Don't endow money with more power than it deserves. We often conflate our feelings about money with our beliefs about life, so when life throws us a curve and feels out of control, we tend to become fearful. We lay that fear on top of our feelings about money and start to panic or try to hang onto our money more tightly, feeling somehow that this is what will save us.
Financial expert Suze Orman encourages her clients to address these fearful attitudes by first looking carefully at the way they think about—and talk about—their money. To gain a sense of control over our destiny, she suggests we may not need more money. We might just need a better outlook. Focusing on gratitude can be a powerful antidote to fear. Here's a mantra Orman suggested to one of her clients: “I love our life. I love the decisions we've made. I feel at peace with what we have. I feel safe, secure, and powerful.”
You can't begin to embrace a healthy approach to managing your money without taking the time to assess where you are right now financially. Being afraid of what you'll find is no excuse for putting this off. Denial won't help at all, and more often than not, what you'll discover is not as scary as the fear of the unknown. Telling you how to do this is beyond the scope of this post, but you can find helpful quizzes and assessment guides online. I've listed a few below. If you haven't taken stock of your financial situation recently, do it soon.
What does money have to do with living a Heartspoken Life?
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. ~ Matthew 6:21
This well-known quote from The Holy Bible answers that question. We are stewards of all the gifts God has given us, and that includes our money. How we manage it and use it are direct reflections of where our heart is. That truth reverberates throughout many faith and philosophical traditions.
So I leave you with this question:
Does the way you manage and spend your money reflect your highest aspirations for living a Heartspoken Life—a life of faith, connection, generosity, kindness, and love? We will all undoubtedly fall short of that lofty goal, but until we take our last breath, we can strive to move ever closer to it.
What is one small step you can take today to ensure that your finances are in alignment with the cherished values of your Heartspoken Life?
Berger, Rob. “7 Simple Steps to Evaluate Your Finances.” Forbes.com.
Kiplinger Personal Finance Quiz. Kiplinger.com
Orman, Suze. “The One Step That Leads To A Richer Life.” Oprah.com
Tyson, Eric. Personal Finance for Dummies. To be released November 6, 2018.
The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible is the version most commonly preferred by biblical scholars.
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