Stress proof your money. How’s that for a theme that coincides with the American, Independence-Day holiday! In the midst of a global recession, money has become more of a stress for more people than ever before. Ironically, money can stress people on both sides of the equation. Too much money can pose as many challenges as too little . Most people say they would prefer the former problem, but I’ve lived and worked with both sets of people over many years and it’s not that obvious to me that the former are any happier than the latter. How much is enough? Read on to get in a stress-free zone about money.
Let me start this Provision with a disclaimer: if you think this Provision is going to tell you how to make more money, where to put your money, how to live on a budget, or how to have no worries about money, then you’ve come to the wrong place. I am not a certified financial planner, cannot boast of a rags-to-riches story, do not adhere to a strict budget myself, and have worried about money at different points and times just like everyone else. I wish there was no money in the world and that everyone worked for the love of it to make life more wonderful both for themselves and for others.
That was the premise of the Star Trek series, a popular science fiction fantasy set in the 24th century when money had ceased to exist. To quote Captain Picard, “A lot has changed in three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of ‘things’. We have eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions.” That’s stress proofing our money through technology. Elsewhere, Picard notes, “The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of Humanity.” That’s stress proofing our money through self-actualization and connection.
Between now and the 24th century, however, it would appear that money will still come in pretty handy. Although this Provision will not say anything other than the obvious when it comes to money management (it’s a bit like weight management: balance the inputs and the outputs with throughputs of benevolence), I do have four perspectives that can help with stress proofing: stop obsessing about money, live with a sense of gratitude, get things under control, and distinguish between needs and wants. Each will be considered in turn.
Obsession. Let’s start with obsessing about money. For years, during boom times, people were obsessing about how to get more money. Names like Robert Kiyosaki, David Bach, Mark Victor Hansen, and Michael Masterson promised to tell us the secrets of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, “The Automatic Millionaire”, “The One Minute Millionaire”, and “Automatic Wealth”. There were some good ideas in those books, but they made their authors rich not because of their ideas but because of our obsession with money. We wanted to know how to move up, and to move up quickly if possible, so that we could feel secure and enjoy the good life.
Now, during a recession, people are obsessing about how to stop losing money. Those same names, and some new ones, are now telling us how to “Fight For Our Money”, “Guard Our Money in Turbulent Times”, “Live Happier and Healthier for Less”, “Rebuild Our Finances”, “Overcome Money Disorders”, and “Invest Our Money Now”. Again, these authors and books have great ideas, but they are selling like hotcakes because of our obsession with money. People report hovering over their bank balances, retirement portfolios, and accounting software like hawks. Financial feeds and tweets have become ubiquitous.
It may be human nature to watch the things that give us security like a hawk, but I am convinced that our obsession with money contributes to our stress. There’s a difference between being responsible and being possessed. Recent studies in neurobiology make clear the impact of too much electronic stimulation. We end up with what’s being called, “techno-brain burnout”, symptoms of which include hyperactivity, inattention, depression, and anxiety. If your brain receives non-stop financial updates from multiple electronic sources, not to mention the old paper news, then chances are good that your stress is at an all-time high. Unplug and give it a break. Designate at least one day a week for no electronic stimulation. Give yourself some down time.
Gratitude. Here’s another one that goes by the board in hard times: gratitude. We experience a loss and end up getting stuck in denial, anger, bargaining, or depression. Instead of mourning the loss and moving on, with a spirit of acceptance and understanding, we continue to push back either as though we were entitled to that particular thing or as though that thing was required to make us happy and whole.
Well, guess what: we are entitled to nothing and nothing is required to make us happy and whole. Life is a gift. In good times and bad times, we not only can find things to be grateful for, we must be grateful if we hope to stress proof our money. Finding succor in things that cost less money or in things that cost no money, like the beauty of a sunrise or the caring of a friend, has been documented to help set people on a more positive path.
You have perhaps heard of positive psychology, where gratitude plays such an important role. Experiments have been conducted with people who keep gratitude journals, write gratitude letter, make gratitude visits, or otherwise cultivate gratitude in visible and specific ways. They all help. The more gratitude people express, the less stress we experience.
Control. People love to get rich quick. Something there is about winning the lottery or marrying into wealth. People also love to get rich slowly. That is, after all, the American dream. Climb the ladder. Horatio Alger. Invest your money and watch it double every seven years. Or quicker, if you’re good.
Now there’s nothing wrong with wealth in and of itself (although it’s been said that, “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.”) but I am more concerned about the exercise of control than the accumulation of wealth. Take Michael Jackson. The man was one of the most successful recording artists in history, but the man was in constant financial distress. He was hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and he came close to losing his sprawling estate until an investment company bought the $24 million loan on the property. So, too, with Ed McMahon. He was Johnny Carson’s sidekick but he died broke.
How did that happen? McMahon put it this way: “Well, if you spend more money than you make, you know what happens. And it can happen.” Michelle Singletary, columnist for the Washington Post, put it more simply: “How do you go broke on $200 million? You spend $201 million.”
Getting control of the equation, in terms of what’s coming in and what’s going out, is an essential part of stress proofing your money. However you do it, do it. Upsize your income and downsize your expenses until you are in a sustainable position. Think outside the box. Work with family and friends to figure out how to make it work. Move if you have to. Find alternative living arrangements. For the first 15 years of our adults lives, my wife and I made very little money. Family helped us to get through. But so did sharing apartments with friends to help reduce expenses. It may not have been the American dream, but it worked • providing us with both financial and emotional support.
Enough. I’ve written a lot about this in the past. The biggest stress when it comes to money is having no sense of enough. When we live with a bottomless pit (on the expense side) or a topless peak (on the income side) there’s nothing but stress. We wake up every day in the throes of more and less. We never have a satisfied mind because we are either comparing ourselves to an imaginary internal frame or to an impossible external frame.
Don’t do that! Avoid the trap of “Affluenza” • “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more”. Recognize the problems of being part of what Thomas Friedman calls an “Americum” • “any group of 350 million people with a per capita income above $15,000 and a growing penchant for consumerism”. Thomas Friedman argues that there were 2.5 Americums in the 1950s (America, Western Europe, and Japan). Today, we are approaching 9 (America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Central Europe, Russia, Japan, India, China and South America) • with 2 more just around the corner (India and China).
No wonder the planet is groaning under the weight of so many people. The problem is not the people, the problem is our insatiable appetite for more. I don’t pretend to be immune to all consumerism, but I do consciously avoid “the dogged pursuit of more”. I was content when I lived on less and I could go there again. It’s not about more; it’s about enough to be content. And when we are content, our stress about money goes way down.
These four dimensions of stress proofing our lives are interrelated. If, for example, we have a strong and clear sense of enough, then it’s easier to be grateful about what we have and who is in our life. If, for example, we have things under control, then it’s easier to not be obsessed about money. We can hold things a little more lightly, with a “set it and forget it” frame. However we get there, finding ways to reduce our stress about money can do a lot to help our overall sense of well being. Want to learn how? I encourage you give us a call or contact us for coaching.
Coaching Inquiries: What is your stress level about money? How obsessed are you about making money, or making more money? What’s your idea of enough? What helps you to balance your outputs with your inputs? How can you express more gratitude for life? Who could you celebrate with right now?
To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..
I really enjoyed reading your Laser Provision on Stress Proof Your Wellness. It reminded me of what the premise of the Pritikin Diet and Lifestyle teaches, which I try to live by. It seems lately no one refers to them.
I see that you refer here again to your ‘smoothie• recipe. Do you have this handy online? I was wanting to start again and couldn’t find the recipe you gave me and couldn’t find it easily on LifeTrek. Thank you. (Ed. Note: All our recipes can be found at www.lifetrekcoaching.com/recipes.)
Your recipe noted that the probiotics from PureCaps.com could only be purchased through a distributor. Do you have another recommendation for buying probiotics online. I don’t want the fuss of finding a distributor. Thank you for the recipe. (Ed. Note: Any acidophilus will do. You can buy capsules and open them up or find a powder at www.VitaminShoppe.com).
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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