We’ve all heard that money is a tool to help us get what we want, but… what do you want? Do you want to “treat yo-self” because you’re only just tolerating the job you’re required to do? Do you shop online WAY too much because it’s easier to do that than it is to take a hard look at your relationship? Does chronic illness cause you to feel like there is no point to delayed gratification?
I get it. I do. But I also know that when you shine a light on these behaviors, most people want to fix them. And I also know that the dynamic at play with your money is likely also the same dynamic playing out in other areas of your life. Have you heard the phrase, “How you do one thing is how you do everything”? You often see this personified in people who either approach everything positively — or see the negative in everything. For example, a person who has a positive, optimistic outlook on life not only sees the glass as “half full,” she’s also likely to see her home chores as being about blessing herself and her family with a clean, beautiful home, see work tasks as good practice for her future dream job, and see mistakes and failures as lessons toward becoming the person she wants to be.
On the other hand, a chronic pessimist is likely to dread Monday mornings, put off chores because “it will just get dirty again,” and see mistakes as evidence of her own personal failings. Either way, the outlook is a choice. It may be a deeply ingrained habit or set of habits that was taught to you as a child, but it’s still a choice. And you can always make a different choice.Your outlook is a choice. It may be a deeply ingrained habit or set of habits that was taught to you as a child, but it’s still a choice. And you can always make a different choice. Click To Tweet
How I used to use money
This certainly held true for me. Since I grew up in a codependent household, I always carried the weight of the world on my shoulders and felt responsible for making everything “perfect” for everyone around me. Money simply became another tool to help make that happen. I never questioned my motivations or whether or not it was the “right” thing to do with my money. And sure, I was taught to be organized, pay your taxes, never carry debt and to save for retirement… but those are very ambiguous objectives in the face of present-day, very real concerns—or at least, the things I perceived as problems, such as:
- Buying a house hoping it would bring my loved one and I closer
- Covering for happy hour drinks for my trainees multiple times per week
- Signing over my commissions to a colleague who was having a particularly hard month
- Paying for a friend’s divorce attorney
- Traveling around the country on my own dime to shadow a (crappy) mentor
- Giving away thousands of dollars to friends who “needed” my help
This doesn’t even include random purchases; this is just the stuff I can point directly back to that demonstrates a significant investment or output. One might think that these were isolated incidents and hey, if you have the money, why not? But here’s the thing: if I looked closely at my history—even before I was making good money—I have ALWAYS made the mistake of giving more than I got back, even without money. And my willingness to put other people before myself was simply amplified with more money. People thought I was being generous, and so did I. But it was a pattern of trying to get something from other people that I wasn’t giving to myself.
Despite being “smart” and well educated about money, I was making REALLY poor money decisions… because the decisions weren’t about money at all. I was approaching money the same way I approached everything in my life, as a tool to fix everyone else around me. I thought that I had to wait for them to be healed before I could get what I needed. It was only after I went through a fairly traumatic health scare that I realized none of these people were there for me when I needed them. I realized I was “investing” in others, when I should have been investing in myself. It was once I acknowledged and recognized these thoughts that I also realized I had the power to make different choices.
What choice are you making?
If you find you have trouble with money in any sense, I encourage you to look outside your checkbook and bank account at the rest of your life. How are you using money to play out your overall energy dynamic?
- If you find yourself constantly racking up credit card debt, ask yourself why you’re buying those things: Are you trying to keep up with the Joneses? Put on a persona of perfection? Appear a certain way to other people?
- If you shop as therapy, ask yourself what you’re avoiding? If shopping makes you happy, what makes you sad?
- If you’re unable to spend money — even for things you truly need — ask yourself where you’re miserly in other areas of your life? Do you hang onto things out of a fear of lack? Are you afraid of relying on others? Are you ashamed of living a “lavish” lifestyle?
Now once you understand the dynamic around money, you need to go back and think of examples throughout your life that reflect this SAME dynamic – with or without money. Identifying the energy that’s affecting your money decisions is the hard part — but once you do that, you’ll find that even just being aware of it opens up the possibility that you can make another choice. Spending money to make yourself happy is fleeting… you’re going to eventually need to confront what makes you sad. It’s time to figure out how to make yourself happier, all of the time, without using money to “fix” your mood. And as you begin to make these better choices around money, you may find it much easier to make better choices in the rest of your life. Because how you do one thing, is how you do everything.
P.S. Check out my free library of money and mindset resources here to get you started.