What Stands Between YOU And The MONEY You Want?

What stands between you and your financial success? In my experience, big life changes happen when you are willing to identify these two things:

1) What do you want money to do for you? Try this: Imagine that your fairy godmother sprinkles magic dust upon you while you sleep tonight. Her magic removes all obstacles from your path and makes everything possible for you. When you wake tomorrow morning, what will you do? Where will you be? Who will be with you? How will you spend your day? How will you spend your money? Describe your ideal day — from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep at night. Include your five senses — what do you see, hear, smell, taste, touch?

2) What is holding you back from having your ideal day; your ideal life. Is it money? If so, what is keeping you from having enough? This is very important to pinpoint because you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Following is a sampling of the things I hear from my coaching clients and readers. I’ve placed the often heard statements into a readers’ poll. I plan to address the most common obstacles in the future, so please help me by selecting as many options as ring true for you and your situation. (Note: Email and RSS feed subscribers, you’ll need to click through to this blog post to use the embedded poll.) Please add any obstacles, habits, excuses or emotions that I missed into the comments section. Feel free to elaborate about your reactions to this exercise as well. I think this could be a very interesting conversation — thanks for participating!

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Want To Be Rich And Happy? You NEED To Know This…

I’m going to share something with you today that you really need to understand – on a gut level – before you can be rich and happy. Are you ready? Here it is:

Even if you learn ALL there is to know about money (how to make it, save it, invest it), if your relationships with others OR YOURSELF are dysfunctional, you will NEVER reach your full abundance potential.

Years ago, I used to bitch, moan and complain with certain people because it seemed to bring us closer together. Misery likes company, so I sometimes feigned misery so these people would like me. I didn’t want to make anyone feel jealous or envious either, so I talked myself down. It seemed so PC (politically correct).

I learned the hard way that this didn’t do anyone any favors. I curbed this behavior… and I grew wealthy and happy.

I hear from these certain individuals now only when something difficult is occurring in my life. When I’m all smiles and gratitude, I rarely hear a peep from them.

Similarly, a reader suggested that I make some people feel depressed by expressing my satisfaction, gratitude and happiness. He/she said that I should express more humility instead.

Perhaps my blog’s traffic would increase if I discussed the mess my past bookkeeper made of our financial records (and the subsequent late report penalties), the slow down of our construction business during the Great Recession, the exhaustion I feel after two back-to-back colds, or the disturbing mystery behind a missing in-law. We all know that bad news sells. The media is full of tragedy, fear and despair because it works to increase circulation and readership.

But I don’t want to write about bad things, even if it would drive my blog’s traffic to new heights. Sure, bad news sells, but I don’t want to invite that kind of attention. If I focused on hardships, I’d feel like a car wreck on the side of the highway – the type that drivers can’t help but slow down to gawk at (even though we know we’ll get grossed out). I’d be attracting negative thoughts into my mind and people that choose to focus on negativity into my life. No, thanks!

I write to express myself and to share the steps I take to live a fuller, richer, happier life. By doing so, I actively practice my intentions and keep aligned on what is important to me. It brings a higher caliber of relationships into my life, and it gives me the strength to deal with the occasional curve ball thrown my way.

Here are some of the valuable lessons I’ve learned through the University of Hard Knocks:

We become the company we keep. Like attracts like. Be negative and you’ll attract negativity; be positive and you will attract positive relationships into your life.

Limit your exposure to toxic people. We all have them – friends, family or co-workers – that seem hell-bent on bringing us down to their level.  Immunize yourself from their poison by maintaining healthy personal boundaries. Don’t be a martyr, learn to say no. When someone near you behaves badly, don’t engage with them — walk away if you must. Be a positive role model instead. Perhaps you’ll inspire them (when they are personally ready) by modeling a different, healthier attitude.

Envy and jealousy will get you exactly what you don’t want. Acknowledge these feelings, then release them and let go. Compare yourself not to others, but only to your best self.

Don’t be pressured into humility. Definitions of humble include:

  • cause to feel shame; hurt the pride of
  • low or inferior in station or quality
  • marked by meekness or modesty

These definitions don’t fit with a healthy, positive self-esteem, do they?

Choose to use different language. The language you use directs your actions and therefore the path your life takes.

  • Avoid three dirty little words: try, can’t, and but.
  • When someone asks, “how are you?” don’t whine back, “I stepped in dog puke getting out of bed this morning, then I burned my toast, and now I gotta suffer through a dentist appointment…”. Instead, respond with something that is joyfully perfect in your world like, “I just had thee best grilled cheese sandwich for lunch!”

Limit your exposure to mass media. Pull the plug on bad news. Be selective – record uplifting, humorous and educational programs and keep the boob-tube turned off otherwise. I don’t know who was murdered, what poor child was abducted and from where, and who blew up how many people today, and you know what? I don’t want to know!

Focus on the bright side of life. I promise – there is always a bright side! What you think about is what you will get. Practice this skill by keeping a gratitude journal.

Stop looking in the rear view mirror. Live your life from this day forward.

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Life is a Dance

You know what you want. If anything was possible, you know what you would do.

What is holding you back?

More times than not, I realize that barriers are self-imposed and that obstacles are meant to be navigated around. Then one of two things happen:

  1. I push ahead, jump over the obstacles, and do what it is that I really want to do — because the dance feels awesome; getting ever closer to the finish line feels awesome.
  2. I recognize that I don’t want to do it bad enough. Sometimes I impose barriers because I want an excuse for not doing it — because the dance to the finish line doesn’t energize or excite me.

And sometimes I start the dance feeling all happy, light-headed and giddy and then over time, I get bored with the repetitive steps and I want to quit before the song is over. Does this make me a quitter? Shouldn’t I push on through the boring, repetitive steps and see it to the end? Or is this an indication that I am ready to tackle a new dance or create a new twist to a beloved old favorite?

I’ve shared this internal dialog with me, myself and I on many occasions. It is always a process: I take a breather, write in my journal, make pro and con lists, weigh my options, ask friends and family for feedback, daydream. Some of the people in my life don’t understand my process — they say I think too much. But it works for me. Once I remain still for awhile and listen carefully, a catchy new tune floats my way. I tap my feet and sway to the beat, and I move.

I am my life’s choreographer.

What about you: What stops you from doing what you want to do? Do you feel obligated to finish what you’ve started? Are you a planner or a leaper? Do you enjoy the journey? How do you feel when you reach your finish line?

(Email subscribers, you’ll need to click on the post title to view the relevant video embedded on my blog page.)

Talent And Desire Are NOT Enough: What We Must Learn To Achieve Our Goals

The traditional view of achievement assumes that results come from a combination of talent and desire. Therefore, when you fail, it must be because you are not talented enough or that you don’t want it bad enough. However, failure also occurs when talent and desire are abundantly present — but optimism is missing!

Why is optimism an important ingredient for success? What makes some people view the glass as half full while others see it half empty? How are depression and pessimism related? Are optimists born or made? Can we unlearn pessimism? What can parents do to help their children grow optimistically?

My family, at least three generations deep, suffers from a genetic predisposition towards clinical, chronic depression. It would be fair to say that I didn’t always have the happiest of role models when I was growing up. I’ve never been diagnosed with depression (other than PMS-related symptoms). Why did I escape depression while many of my family members did not?

A therapist, who my entire family visited when I was a teenager, suggested that I had learned to cope by taking on the role of “hero child” in our dysfunctional family. The hero child is the one who fantasizes that if she accomplishes enough, then the whole family will be OK. The hero child is overly conscientious, over achieving, and constantly seeks approval. As the hero child of my family, it was my “job” to help everyone see the light and function well. I became our family’s cheerleader of optimism.

Then as a young adult, my experiences as an animal trainer and behaviorist taught me some useful cognitive skills. (Apparently rats, cats, dogs and humans tend to learn in similar ways!) I discovered how to avoid learned helplessness (giving up because you feel unable to change things) and how to reinforce my sense of personal control. In turn, personal control leads to optimism; and optimism can protect against depression, better your physical and mental well-being, and increase your level of achievement.

I’m reading a fascinating book: Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman, Ph.D. Using evidence gleaned from scientific research done with dogs and people, Seligman demonstrates how optimism enhances the quality of life, explains how to break an “I give up” habit, and offers advice for parents who want to help their child(ren) become empowered by optimism.

What is a pessimist? Pessimists tend to:

  • believe bad events are enduring (will last a long time)
  • believe misfortunes are their own fault
  • undermine everything they do
  • get physically sick more often
  • get depressed more often
  • give up more easily

Optimists, who are dealt the same hard knocks, tend to:

  • believe defeat is just a temporary setback
  • believe defeat is confined to this one case
  • believe defeat is not their fault: circumstances, bad luck or other people brought it about
  • perceive bad situations as a challenge and try harder
  • do better in school and college
  • do better at work
  • do better in sports
  • exceed the predictions of aptitude tests
  • be more apt to be elected into public office
  • enjoy unusually good health
  • age well
  • live longer

How can I help my child learn optimism?

My daughter’s life didn’t start out well: she was abandoned at birth by a mother who could not/would not raise her; placed in a neglectful foster care situation for nine months; then uprooted from her native country to live in a place where very few look like her. In addition to these early traumatic events, maybe her birthmother suffered from depression during her pregnancy (aware that she’d have to give up her baby), which could have affected her developing fetus. When we adopted our daughter, she was emotionally withdrawn and shutdown.

What affects a child’s level of optimism? According to Martin Seligman, Ph.D., director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Learned Optimism, there is evidence for three kinds of influences:

  1. How parents analyze and explain everyday occurrences: If my child hears me explain things optimistically, she will too. Optimism is learned. It is important that parents serve as positive role models.
  2. The form of criticisms a child hears when she fails: If they are permanent (“You always make such a big mess”) and pervasive (“You are a slob”), her view of herself will turn toward pessimism. If the criticisms she hears have a temporary and specific message (“Your room tends to be messy after you have friends over to play“), she will be hopeful, empowered and optimistic.
  3. The reality of her early losses and traumas: If her losses and trauma are permanent and pervasive, the seeds of hopelessness will be deeply planted. If they remit, she will develop the theory that bad events can be changed and conquered.

I am incredibly proud of my daughter’s strong spirit. She inspires me to see the glass as half full every day. Together, we practice optimism… and we blossom.

Considering the far-reaching and long-lasting effects that optimism has in all of our lives, I wholeheartedly recommend reading Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. It’s a national bestseller for good reason.

Outwardly Simple and Inwardly Rich

It’s been my experience that frugality can run the continuum from miserly to magnificent.

When I was a child, I never went a day without a nutritious meal or a warm bed. Still, I recall times when I perceived my family as poor. In the school cafeteria, I furtively slipped my free lunch ticket to the cashier — with hopes that my friends wouldn’t notice that my family received government-provided financial assistance. When my father returned to college to earn his graduate degree, my siblings and I shared one crowded bedroom in a tiny apartment. I was teased unmercifully whenever my peers noticed the strips of fabric my mom sewed onto the bottom of my out-grown “high-water” pants to make them long enough to cover my ankles once again.

The most painful part of our family’s frugality, though, was when I overheard my parents argue about money.

At other times, I was aware that my parents purposely chose our frugal lifestyle — they voluntarily chose to live simply. Those were the best of times. “High-water” pants or not, our family was free from the handcuffs of Stuff. We used things up, repurposed them, and improvised. My parents were good role models for me in this regard.

As a young adult, I operated from a mindset of scarcity. I feared running out — or not having enough — of what I needed. After a year of struggling to support myself financially through college, I dropped out. I took another job: pouring coffee during the graveyard shift at a donut shop. Many of my customers were homeless. They nursed one cup of coffee – all night long – to earn a warm spot inside.

One night, it dawned on me that I was one paycheck from becoming homeless, too.

I dealt with my anxiety by hoarding what little money I made. I shared rent for a one-bedroom apartment with three other young women and dined on free appetizers offered at local bars during Happy Hour. At that point in my life, frugality – emotionally speaking – was a defensive action.

“A miser is a person who is reluctant to spend money, sometimes to the point of forgoing even basic comforts. The term derives from the Latin miser, meaning “poor” or “wretched,” comparable to the modern word “miserable”.”


Over time, my fearful and hoarding behavior resulted in a medical insurance policy and an emergency fund. I had stashed enough to see me through a missed paycheck or two. But did I have enough? Would my future always include beater cars, cramped apartments and grocery coupons? Was I destined to earn minimum wage, doing a job I hated, forever?

“Frugality (also known as thrift or thriftiness) is the practice of acquiring goods and services at minimum cost, achieved via economical restraints or creative measures. Frugality can be related to the idea of being conservative or conserving money.”


Frugality continued to feed my savings account and in turn, my savings account afforded new opportunity. Consequently, I was able to become an unpaid apprentice to learn a new skill. After studying animal behavior and learning how to train dogs, I quickly landed a higher paying job. And I loved my work. As my skills, enthusiasm and reputation grew, I started my own dog-training business. Despite my increased income, I continued to live frugally. However, I made a point to shift my mental attitude of lack to one of abundance. The purpose of my frugal behavior shifted from reactive to proactive.

“To be healthy, wealthy, happy and successful in any and all areas of your life you need to be aware that you need to think healthy, wealthy, happy and successful thoughts twenty four hours a day and cancel all negative, destructive, fearful and unhappy thoughts. These two types of thought cannot coexist if you want to share in the abundance that surrounds us all.”
—Sidney Madwed

Today, rather than being driven by fear, I embrace the abundance in my life. I have enough. Rather than flashy opulence and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses behavior, my husband and I joyfully choose a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity. Duane Elgin, author of the classic book Voluntary Simplicity, defines simple living as:

“Living in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich.”

From fearful and miserly to voluntary and magnificent, frugality has had a profound impact on my life.

Simple living (or voluntary simplicity) is “a lifestyle in which individuals consciously choose to minimize the ‘more-is-better’ pursuit of wealth and consumption. Adherents choose simple living for a variety of reasons, including spirituality, health, increase in ‘quality time’ for family and friends, stress reduction, conservation, social justice or anti-consumerism, while others choose to live more simply for reasons of personal taste or personal economy.”


May we all enjoy a magnificent and inwardly rich life!

Parenting With Purpose: This I Believe…

Happy Mother’s Day!

While eagerly waiting for our adoption referral from China, we gave much thought to parenting. How would we raise our daughter to be strong and independent; sensitive and thoughtful; curious and happy?

Obviously, I don’t believe money is the biggest determination of a meaningful and joyful life. Success and happiness come from within, and more importantly, they take practice. How might we help her learn that life’s obstacles are not concrete barriers?

I wrote the following piece over four years ago; before we brought our daughter home. Like a business plan, it helps steer my actions in ways that I feel will result in success – for me as a parent, and for my daughter as a healthy, happy and contributing member of society. I think of it as my parental mission statement.

Our daughter turned four last week. I am pleased to report that she is blossoming into an affectionate, assertive, confident, and insightful little gal.  She makes this momma very, very proud.

Parenting With Purpose: This I Believe…

It isn’t about expecting or demanding obedience and conformity. It is about encouraging discipline, personal autonomy and individuality.

It isn’t about respecting authority. It is about respecting one another.

It isn’t about rules. It is about principles.

It isn’t about being quiet, not crying, and stuffing feelings. It’s about recognizing and appreciating the full range of human experience.

It isn’t about making my child do what’s good for her. It is about working with my child to help her learn to make the best choices.

It isn’t about teaching her how to live life to the fullest. It is about living life to the fullest while learning happens naturally.

It isn’t about blindly following directions. It is about following dreams, interests, and passions mapped out by child and parents together in a loving relationship built on mutual respect.

It isn’t about giving my child everything she wants, risking a false sense of entitlement. It is about helping her get what she wants through her own efforts.

It isn’t about spanking. It is about teaching her that aggression is never an appropriate way to resolve conflicts.

It isn’t about parents being martyrs. It is about parents modeling healthy personal boundaries.

It isn’t about “because I said so”. It is about open communication and the art of compromise.

And finally,
It is all about love.