Too many of us have an unhealthy relationship with money, and that misalignment with our heart and soul can have serious consequences.
This blog post is the second in a four-part series based on the book The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist. It’s an incredible book. Here are links to all the parts of this e-course:
Money is like an iron ring. We put through our nose. It is now leading us around wherever it wants. We just forgot that we are the ones who designed it. ~ Mark Kinney
Early in 2012, I decided to get right with money. Money and I have a longstanding dysfunctional relationship, mostly based on my own fears and misperceptions. When I lie awake worrying at 3am, money becomes an obsession: how to make more, how to pay off debt, how to hang onto more of it.
If my worries simply encompassed dollar amounts, I might be able to fall back to sleep by 3:15am. However, once the worry takes hold, my mind quickly races to value judgments, and shame rushes in. The sleep-stealing rhetoric goes something like this: “I’m a 40 year old woman lying awake at 3am worrying (again) about money. When will this end? What if I never feel financially secure?
What is wrong with me?
What is wrong is that I, like many people, mistakenly believe that the number of dollars in my bank account has anything to do with my true value as a human being. Once upon a time, we clever humans created money to make trade a more efficient process. Instead of having to carry around bear skins or live chickens in order to get the goods and services we needed, we invented these convenient, foldable paper currencies and easy-carry coins. We invented money.
And yet we act as though money created us.
Here’s my personal paradox:
I carry in my mind and heart an undefined and ambiguous sense of how much money a person of my age and professional standing should have. I have no set dollar amount in mind: I simply know that the amount I have is never as much as I think it should be. I judge myself as failing to reach a goal that has never been firmly established.
Gee, I wonder why money feels like such a struggle?
Here’s the other half of the paradox: I have never (and I mean never) missed a bill payment of any kind. I have never gone without food, housing, or basic necessities. My car is paid for. I have student loan debt, but it is very manageable. I started saving for retirement at age 26. I have a little in non-retirement savings, a little consumer debt, and a mortgage payment on a rental property I own. Overall, I have proven myself a competent provider and wise manager of money. My portfolio, objectively speaking, is pretty darn rosy.
And yet, 3am finds me with startling regularity staring at the ceiling and wondering if I’ll ever have enough money. Worrying about when and how it will finally run out.
In her book The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist identifies three toxic myths about money that stem from our cultural beliefs about scarcity. The first is the fear that keeps us awake at night, worrying and worrying about having enough.
Myth #1: There’s not enough
For a country as wealthy as ours, we Americans spend most of our lives firmly believing that we will never have enough: enough money, enough time, enough fun, enough love. Think about it. Think about the conversations we have throughout the day. We talk about how busy we are, how stressed, how broke, how unhappy in love. These conversational patterns have become so ingrained we fail to consciously notice them, even as they’re happening.
For many of us, this is how we bond: commiserating on how much we lack in our lives. We huddle together over coffee and discuss the economy, how stressed we feel, how our partners fail us. And in our scarcity mindset, we create for ourselves an internal world of stress and strife, where we can never fully relax into the sweet relief of gratitude and trust.
In our scarcity mindset, we also evolve a keen sense of competition. When we believe that resources are fundamentally scarce and thus to be hoarded and stored away, we become less generous, less happy for others when good fortune finds them. We feel jealous of friends who make more money than us, secretly judging them. We feel envy for the friend happily in love. We begin to pick apart the components of our own lives and find them deficient. And then we silently begin judging ourselves for our failure.
The truth is, there is enough
According to author Lynne Twist, who has worked for decades to end hunger in the world, there is literally enough food for everyone on earth. Yet so much food goes to waste and so many people die of starvation every single day. There is enough for all of us to have our share: enough food, enough money, enough love, enough work. If we steward our resources responsibly, we find that what we have is sufficient to our needs.
So what can we do to break out of scarcity thinking?
First, practice gratitude
Look around and appreciate what you have right now, just as it is. Recognize the intangibles of life that have no monetary value: sunshine, breathing, hugs, children, pets, warm breezes, creative talents, conversations, kindness.
Second, become mindful of your thinking and your speaking
I have removed the phrase “I’m so broke” from my vocabulary. Because I’m not. Financially, I always have enough. And as a human being, I am not broken, I am whole. When I catch myself worrying about money, I replace the worry with new thoughts, constructive and realistic ones such as, “I know I can handle what comes along” and “I always have enough”.
Third, practice generosity
As I heal my relationship with money, I seek ways to allow it to flow into and out of my life with ease rather than succumbing to the scarcity mentality temptation to hoard it. Each month, after I pay my bills, I determine an amount I would be comfortable giving away. Then I add 50% to that amount (just to push myself a little bit) and I find an organization to donate to. It may be $5 or $100 dollars, depending on the month. I find this final step in my monthly budgeting and bookkeeping brings me enormous satisfaction. It’s one of the happiest moments of my day.
So now it’s your turn
I encourage you to break out a pen and paper and journal about your own relationship with money and how our cultural scarcity mentality plays out in your life. How has this kind of thinking kept you trapped? And what practices can you put into place to break into a new way of thinking about and being with money?
Leave a comment or privately use the contact form to let us know how it’s going!
PS It’s probably important to remind you that I am NOT a financial expert, financial planner, or certified financial person of any kind. I’m just a gal who earns money and spends it and wants to do better with her resources. That is all. So please consult a financial expert about questions regarding investing, saving, or paying off debt.
Teacher, writer, documentarian
Cyndi is the primary coordinator of a veterans’ oral history project in conjunction with the New Winston Museum of Winston-Salem, NC, Hospice and Palliative Care, Wake Forest University, and area retirement communities. From these interviews, she has created a podcast called “Soldiers Heart.”
[*Elizabeth’s Affiliate Disclosure: When you make a purchase using my Amazon affiliate links, you will pay the same price as if you’d gone directly to Amazon, but I will receive a small affiliate fee that helps defray the cost of this blog. Thank you for using my links to make your Amazon purchases.]