How Do I View Money
How we feel or think about money is a great exercise for introspection. Depending on where we find ourselves, the thought of money can create feelings of stress. Our experiences, and our interpretations and perceptions of those experiences can also generate different emotions. For some, it can create feelings of anger, insecurity or resentment. Sometimes those feelings can lead to stereotyping all business, or those who are wealthy as greedy and selfish. For others, money creates feelings of fear – such as the fear of not having enough for retirement.
Even wealthy individuals can allow feelings of fear to dominate their thoughts, such as the fear of losing their wealth. Regardless of the emotions money can create, there’s no doubt that negative or corrosive thinking about the concept of money are the driving force that leads to criminal behavior; or for that matter behavior that is legal, but unethical, such as misleading business transactions. Money has also been known to be the cause of serious depression and suicide.
Recently – because of yard work – I started to think about the concept of money. During the summer months I hire a small business owner to cut my grass. I usually pay in cash, but on one occasion I didn’t have any money on me so I had to write a check. As I wrote the check, I had an epiphany. Nothing out of the ordinary per se, yet the thought that struck my mind broadened my horizon in a way that helped me see a rather ordinary situation in a more meaningful way.
My mind was caught up with the whole idea of how the two of us were exchanging goods. He provided me with his time so that I could use mine to focus on other priorities. In return I gave him an item (money) that he could use for his personal needs and wants. While the transaction of paying for lawn services is as mundane as it gets, I found myself reflecting on the state of mind I found myself in as I wrote up and provided payment.
Normally when I pay bills, gratitude is the farthest thing from my mind. In fact, I usually find myself begrudging the fact that money is leaving my account. This time however, I felt very different about the whole thing. I was able to see my payment as an investment – a willingness to provide an agreed upon currency in exchange for freeing up my time; time I could now use with my wife and children on the weekend.
The entire situation made me think about the paradigm I have around money. Clearly in the past I’ve associated some level of personal peace or happiness based on the amount of money in my bank account. I can’t find any other way to explain why historically I haven’t paid my bills with a sense of gratitude. The mind, the associations we make and our ability to strengthen those associations is extremely powerful. There’s no doubt that neurologically the idea and concept of money creates thousands of very strong circuitries in our brain – primarily because it’s something we exchange continuously for every service we accept in our life. That’s not even mentioning the daily needs that are associated with money such as buying and cooking food, providing ourselves or family with shelter, driving to work, using water, purchasing clothes and entertainment. All of these experiences and situations are all mapped out in our brain, with money being the common denominator. If we haven’t defined the concept of money appropriately in our minds, it can create serious emotional and behavioral problems in our life – whether or not we have a lot or little of it.
A lack of understanding of how the mind and our thoughts impacts our ability to see and act clearly, contributes to negative thoughts about money. These thoughts can include one such as:
If only I made more money
There isn’t enough money
There aren’t any opportunities out there
The economy isn’t working in my favor
Money is evil
Those who have money only think about themselves
The list can grow much larger than that, but the point is these kinds of thoughts create neurochemicals that produce negative emotions. Repeating these thoughts leads to them being recorded in our subconscious mind, making them the operating system that runs the way we think. These neurocircuitries also impact other neural connections that have nothing to do with money. We may for instance, look down upon our parents or siblings if they don’t make as much money as we do. If we believe people with money are greedy, and all of a sudden our neighbor is doing well, we may start over analyzing everything they do in an effort to pin them down as selfish. Fear can also be built in if we begin hearing about changes at work – even if it has nothing to do with us. In the end our own brain can sabotage our progress and attempts in trying to change for the better.
A good exercise can include introspectively asking one’s self about the thoughts we’ve been repeating in our minds about money. What stories have I been telling myself regarding money? How have those stories impacted the way I view myself and others around me? When have those stories impacted my way of thinking and subsequent behavior?