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!
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.
I love this time of year when the calendar provides a fresh clean slate. Snow falls softly outside my window, the house is quiet, and I am in a reflective mood. I take a look backward at the previous year and evaluate how I spent my time, focus and energy. Then I “archive” it. After putting the past year to bed, I imagine forward into the new year and make note of sparkling new intentions and plans.
You may have noted that I haven’t mentioned the word “resolutions”. For me, that word feels too absolute, confining and final. I like flexibility. I relish the freedom to change my mind about things, and I do change my mind, often. This said, I do like brainstorming, analyzing my options, and setting a course. Without a roadmap, I feel wishy-washy and ineffective. But I need the freedom to detour because I know that if I DON’T WANT to do something, I will procrastinate endlessly, it won’t get done, and I’ll feel crappy about it. On the flip side, when I DO want to do something, I jump in with both feet and get ‘er done. I’ve learned to set my course with intention, then go with the flow.
Here are some questions I like to address this time of year:
What were the highlights of 2009? Create a collage to celebrate and remember. These are the memories you want to carry forward into the new year. Use them as momentum for more.
Lowlights? If this list feels like a dark cloud or is full of disappointments, ceremoniously burn the list after it’s done. You are encouraged to start the new year without this baggage!
Did I accomplish what I intended? If no, why not? Be wary of excuses that hide the truth. For me, excuses usually mean I changed my mind, or didn’t want to do it bad enough. Sometimes it’s because I feared I wouldn’t do it good enough.
What would make me happier? Be concrete and start small: “I want to save money” isn’t nearly as effective as “I will set up an automatic bank transfer from my checking to savings account, every payday, for $100.”
What established habits do I want to keep? Stop?
What do I want to do each and every day for the next 30 days? This time period allows me the opportunity to establish a new habit without feeling confined by it. If I still value this new habit after 30 days, I renew my commitment.
What items do I want to cross off my task list this year?
What would my ideal day look like? Imagine anything is possible. Address every moment: from waking through bedtime, the environment, your relationships, the activities, your emotions.
What news do I want to share in next year’s holiday letter? This is where I address the specific accomplishments I hope to achieve by year’s end. Be specific, and write the letter in present tense, as if it were already true.
Readers, do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Why or why not?
Note: One of my new “each and every day for the next 30 days I will…” commitments is to write for my blog or book every day for at least 20 minutes. Please help me with this endeavor by letting me know (via the comments section or private email) what you’d like me to address. I welcome specific questions.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
There is a common misconception that most people are either right-brained (creative, intuitive) OR left-brained (logical, analytical). But this isn’t true. We are born with two brain hemispheres. It’s just that our society tends to place a higher value on left-brain skills such as language, logic and math. Unfortunately, this left-brained focus can squash our creative, right-brained attributes and limit our success in life.
Experiments show that most children are highly creative (a right brain function) before entering school. But only ten percent of these same children rank highly creative by age seven. By the time we are adults, high creativity remains in only two percent of the population.
What a shame.
We require BOTH brain functions to optimally succeed. It’s not an either/or thing. Take Albert Einstein for example: most would assume that Einstein was genius because of his left-brained reasoning. However, an examination of his notebooks finds that he credited his greatest scientific insights not to left-brained logic, but to his right-brained creative daydreaming instead.
How can we innovate enough new products or services and create enough new startups to achieve economic expansion if our society, our schools, continue to curb our imagination and punish our daydreaming? Creativity is the fuel that the left-brain needs to power the necessary actions. The right brain gives us the “why” and the left brain gives us the “how.”
Those who cease to daydream can’t see opportunities even when they’re right in front of their nose. You’ve heard me say this before and I’ll repeat it again: Big changes start with a thought, not an action.
Take a look at the following list of brain functions. Can you see how success is limited when only 50% of our brain gets regular exercise?
Left brain functions:
Right brain functions:
Sees the parts, specifics, details
Sees the big picture – relationships among the parts
Present and Past
Present and Future
Numbers, Written language
Do you dislike your job? Are you feeling stuck in a rut and powerless to do anything about it? Perhaps you know what you want to do but your big but problem gets in your way. Is your logical left side telling you “this will never work”? If so, remember that analysis and judgment (left brain functions) can get in the way of creativity, insight and imagination. That’s why when you brainstorm, it’s crucial that you suspend judgment while generating ideas.
I urge you to join me and re-ignite your imagination. Here are a few ways to give your oft-neglected right hemisphere a little love:
Take a few minutes and do this fun, enlightening and magical exercise: Find Your Zingers
I was eight years old when my girlfriends and I strutted proudly around our living room singing into our hairbrush faux-microphones:
“Oh yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman”
In 1972, Helen Reddy co-wrote the song I Am Woman, which became a worldwide #1 hit, feminist anthem and cultural icon of the times. Here’s a YouTube of the song:
(Note: RSS and email subscribers – you’ll need to click to my blog to view it)
37 years later, I am woman. What does this song mean to me today? What impact has being a woman had on my life? What kind of woman do I strive to be?
“I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore”
When I have something important to say, I don’t sit quietly with my hands folded demurely on my lap. I am not afraid to speak out or to advocate for those who can’t. Sometimes I spread my message in a big way, like blogging or appearing on national television.
I used to think I had to roar. But do you know what happened? People covered their ears and tuned me out. So I learned to purr instead. Incessant, impossible to ignore purring when necessary – but I’ve learned to deliver my message in a pleasant way, so that others want to listen.
“And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again”
I’ve been sad, squashed and small. I’ve been a victim and I’ve hit rock bottom. I grew up in a dysfunctional family, I had an abusive boyfriend, I’ve been poor and hungry.
As a newlywed, my in-laws chastised me for “wearing the pants” in our new marriage. They said my husband was the star and I should play the supporting role. They bought me a sewing machine, cookbooks and an iron. They tried to put me in my place.
I strive to reflect, learn and grow from each life experience. I keep an open mind. I choose not to stay stuck. I understand that the only person I can change is me.
“Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can do anything”
Because I reflect, learn and grow, I am wiser with each passing moment. I’ve learned from conflict and difficult experiences. I change what I can and peacefully accept what I cannot.
Because “I can do anything” (and despite the rough start with my chauvinistic in-laws), I’ve been happily married to the same man, my best friend, for over 21 years. We are not the same; we are equals and we compliment one another’s strengths.
Because I’ve felt loneliness, I cherish my friends.
Because I’ve been penniless and hungry, I’ve learned how to make enough money and I savor nourishing food.
Because I missed spending quality time with my workaholic father when I was a child, I chose to be financially free before I became a parent.
Because I am wise and strong and a nurturing woman, I share my life and my unconditional love with our beautiful daughter — who was abandoned at birth simply because she is a girl.
“I am strong (strong)”
Yes, I am unabashedly strong. And I embrace my feminine qualities: I am soft, gentle, loving, nurturing and beautiful. Strength and femininity are compatible. Strength doesn’t need to be heavy-handed; in fact, gentle strength is far more effective. Purr.
“I am invincible (invincible)”
By definition, I refuse to be overcome or subdued. But I’m not Super Woman, either, nor do I strive to be.
Women today are expected to possess super-human powers: Get Jill and Johnny dressed while cooking a hot breakfast between loads of laundry while conducting an important business conference call before heading to the airport for an out-of-state conference. Don’t forget to drop the dog off at the groomer’s on the way. And wear lingerie under your business suit so you can enjoy sexy intimacy with your husband when you get home tonight – after helping the kids with their homework and putting them to bed, of course. Oops, did you forget to pick up the dog?
I recognize my limits. I can’t do everything and I’m not skilled at every task. When I was a teenager, my siblings and I pitched in our allowance to pay for a house cleaner so we could have our weekends free to do as we wanted. Today, I do my own laundry and my husband does his. And despite my “way” with money, I have a bookkeeper that makes sure my bills are paid on time.
“You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul”
When I respect myself, others can’t walk all over me. I believe in what I believe, because I believe in me.
“I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long, long way to go”
I am not done. Every experience, every relationship, every thought is an opportunity for personal growth. And I am willing to share my journey with others. I won’t allow you to step on my toes and I promise not to step on yours. I will look you straight in the eye, toe to toe, and share my truth with a warm smile. I am open, nurturing and loving. I love me, I love you, I love life.
“Until I make my brother understand”
Women and men are different in several obvious ways. But regardless of our gender-specific hormonal soup and X/Y chromosomes, I believe that we are more alike than we are different.
I am willing to open myself up to the world. I dream of universal acceptance, peace and understanding, beyond all stereotypes. I am your sister. Purr.
“Oh, I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong”
Note: This post was my response to Steve Pavlina’s provocative invitation to write “How to Be a Woman” and originally appeared on my hacked and defunct blogspot blog in 2008. This submission was selected by Erin (Pavlina’s wife) as one of her top picks.