Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish,
but it will not replace you as the driver.
Money worries head the chart as the most common causes of stress among Americans. But, how much of our financial stress could be eliminated by shifting the way we perceive money?
When I present a program entitled “Choices,” its theme focuses, first, on how to identify self-sabotaging fears. Secondly, how to manage our thinking and reduce the hold fear can have on us and, lastly, how to apply our imagination to reduce negative stress. The subject of money always arises, so I do a demonstration that, inevitably, knocks people’s socks off and wakes up their thinking.
After listening to a handful of individuals express their stress about money, I take a $100 bill out of my wallet and pass it around for inspection, so everyone knows it’s authentic. Then, I tear it into small pieces, douse it with lighter fluid and burn it up. There is dead silence.
I ask, “So what do you think about what I just did? Better yet, how does watching me burn a $100 bill make you feel?”
Responses pour forth. Everyone has a judgement and some are not so kind. One person may shout: “That is the stupidest thing I have ever seen?” Another, “How could you do that?” Still someone else, “Why didn’t you just give it to me? I could have used it.” Opinions keep rolling in: “Hey, why should I care. It’s not my money.” “That was a selfish act and it makes me angry.” “$100 isn’t’ really that much money.” “You could have donated it to charity instead of wasting it.” “I simply don’t understand why you would do something like that.” “I could have bought a few drinks with that.” And, on it goes.
After attendees calm down, I explain: “You just achieved powerful insight into your belief about money and what it means to you. The reality is that the bill was just a piece of paper. You projected your values and beliefs on that paper.”
I continue: “If you think about what you just said, felt and thought, you will gain incredible insight as to how you deal with money and how your belief system either contributes or moves you away or towards prosperity. Before you leave today, your relationship with money will shift and you will learn that money can be one of your best friends.”
Perception, emotions such as shame, fear, anger and money are irrevocably tied together. The fact is that false beliefs and fear can warp our perception and sway us to financially self-destruct. Being blind to our negative beliefs about money can, among other things, prompt us to: spend more than we have, neglect taking care of what we do have, and be blind to financial opportunities.
Author/radio host/financial expert, Dave Ramsey wrote, “You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you.”
I’d add: “You must gain control over your perceptions about money or the lack of money will forever control you.”
You gain control and reduce stress by honestly examining your present circumstances and beliefs. Fear of poverty—along with fear of rejection, change, success, failure and commitment—are major fears in life.
Deep within our subconscious, we are wired to respond to fear by either moving away from what makes us afraid or towards what makes us feel good, EVEN if what makes us feel good is avoidance and destructive.
The basic issue is that when we feel fear and helplessness, we create stress. Bottom line: fear makes us stupid, and we make stupid choices.
Given our fiscal climate, money anxiety disorder has hit epidemic proportions. As a consequence, we feel helpless and frozen, or we take actions that are not in our best interest. Stress is taking a toll on our health, creativity and productivity.
In many cases, money angst is triggered by false perception and affects how we imagine our future. So—first—we must calm the conscious, thinking, critical part of our mind.
Here are a few suggestions to regain mental balance and take positive action. The guaranteed success of these tips is based on one fact about the mind: The subconscious, the non-thinking part of our brain, CANNOT TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A REAL OR AN IMAGINED EXPERIENCE.
So, let’s clean up your imagination and get it going in the right direction.
- First, write down every debt you have, every monthly bill for which you are responsible and all savings and material positions that are worth money. This reality check gets you out of “denial.” What doesn’t get acknowledged doesn’t get changed, period or, as Mark Twain said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”
- Next, list in a column EVERY worry you have about your present situation and what you imagine will happen in the future. When the list is completed, go back and eliminate everything over which, at this moment, you have no control. Then, circle what you do have control over (i.e. expenses, including entertainment, cleaning, eating out, etc.). Then write one small action step you can take to gain control.
Ask yourself: “What is one thing I can do today that will reduce my stress immediately, using the least amount of money, and give me the most control over my future?”
This is a powerful exercise because it gives immediate perceptual control, reduces the momentary stress and allows us to think much more clearly. And, you break the cycle of the great time-waster: worry.
- Learn a technique that can reduce your fear, lower your stress and give you a positive view of the future. As a clinical hypnotist, I have seen an increase in the number of people turning to hypnosis for stress reduction, especially in the financial arena. And, with great success!
The process involves learning a simple exercise in self-hypnosis which includes a relaxation technique that changes the brain for the better and lowers stress for a number of hours.
Hypnosis includes suggestions that have long-term impact on attitude and self-confidence about your financial future, such as: “This is only a temporary situation.” “You are gaining more control over your finances every day.” “Money comes and goes, but your financial worth does not have anything to do with your personal worth.”
What is important about either self-hypnosis or meditation is that, while it might not make you financially secure, it will most certainly give you positive perceptual control over the choices you make, lower your negative stress and increase the quality of your life.
- Communicate with people you trust and dialogue with your partner about your financial fear.
There is nothing more destructive than feeling you have to face a financial problem alone. It can make you angry. It can make you mean. It often prompts you to lash out with the desire to hurt.
Studies show that Americans who have emotional support, specifically when financially stressed, report lower negative stress levels, a better quality of life and better related outcomes than those who do not have someone they can turn to if needed.
In spite of feeling awkward or ashamed or fearful, when you have open dialogue with your partner or a trusted friend, you will lower your stress, think more clearly and often see options that were invisible before.
- Reach out and help others who are in high stress about money. If you can’t give financially, contribute your time. Be generous. You can even look at generosity as a selfish act because generosity has amazing, immediate benefits. Generous people have less negative stress, develop better relationships, become more satisfied with life and are admired by others. Start being generous today. It doesn’t cost you anything.
Originally published on The Huffington Post