I am a real money geek and love all things money, including, sadly, spending it a little too much. If, however, you saw the way I used to treat it you would never have guessed. As soon as it hit my bank account I would do my best to remove it from my life with a splurge here and there. I never paid attention to what it was up to by looking at my bank account or credit card statements. In fact I made a conscious effort to avoid doing that as I dreaded what I would discover, and worst of all I never made it feel useful by letting it do what it loves to do, get to work and grow. I would say I had a very unhealthy money relationship which led to a very unhappy and stressed out me.
When I hit my personal upper limit of stress and dissatisfaction with how my life was going and started doing some work on my mindset I came across meditation and mindfulness. Research has shown that practising mindfulness has significant benefits for our mental health and general well being. And I can attest to that because as my overall mindset got redirected on a more empowering path, I started wondering if the successes I was having in that area of my life would be transferable into the area of my personal finances.
I tried applying the mindfulness principles to my money relationship. The outcome was better than I could ever have imagined. I literally felt like I had offloaded a 100 ton weight of stress, guilt and constant worry!
I firstly took a close look at my mindset around money and in particular spending. I came across the work of Dr Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist, and all of a sudden the disempowering, financial health sabotaging behaviour made sense.
Dr Klontz’s key message is that our money problems aren’t the result of us being lazy, crazy, or stupid. He states “You have a set of money scripts, which are beliefs around money, that have been passed down to you from your parents, from your grandparents, sometimes from your great, great, great grandparents. And your financial situation right now is a direct result of these beliefs that you’ve been carrying around in your head since childhood.”
He goes on to suggest doing some deep mental soul searching to get some insight into your money scripts by asking yourself some thought provoking questions: what three things did your mother teach you about money? What three things did your father teach you about money? What’s your most painful money experience? Your most joyful money experience? What are your biggest financial fears?
Armed with your new found insight into your money scripts start practising mindfulness around your money actions. It is literally mind blowing how clear the habits are that your money script has created. My script followed a well trod path; as soon as money came into my life, my mind would start playing the “you work hard, you deserve it” script coupled with the “I need x,y,z to be happy, to be accepted, loved, worthy etc”. This script would play until the money was gone and then the “ Money is so scarce and hard to come by” and “ I will be happy when I have more money” scripts kicked in.
Secondly I bit the proverbial bullet and started taking a look at my personal finances. I started by tracking my money flows. I analysed a years worth of credit card and bank statements and summarised my expenditures into identifiable categories. My categories included living costs, transport, entertainment, vacation, exercise, clothing, insurances, general expenditures and the “I have no idea why I bought this or subscribe to this category”. I took a close look at these categories to determine which were necessities, which made me genuinely and deeply happy and which served absolutely no purpose at all. You guessed it, my “no purpose” category took a huge chunk of my money which was really depressing and led to a lot of self blame. It is important to note that a big part of the money mindfulness exercise is acceptance and forgiveness of past money lessons. All the actions you have taken to this point are your money learning experiences. Your parents didn’t get angry, impatient and frustrated with you when you were learning to walk and your financial journey up to this point is equally those shaky steps to money maturity. Accept this.
As I became clearer on what expenditure was important in my life I started practising mindfulness around my spending decisions. This was a hugely empowering activity as I felt in control of my money for the first time. I wasn’t being led by what seemed to be something else pulling my puppet strings.
Lastly I got very clear on what my goals are. This involved a lot more than visualisation. I literally brought them across the metaphorical bridge from the unmanifested visions in my head to a physical representation that I constantly refer to. This has kept me focused when my money scripts come knocking, kept me enthusiastic when my progression forward seems slow and positive that I will reach my goals because I now know where I am going.
In conclusion, when we practise mindfulness we become more observant, non reactive and non-judgemental in our actions. We create the space in our minds for contemplation, analysis and rational reaction. Our brain develops new neural pathways creating more empowering, supportive habits, the key to building wealth.
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