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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Putting 2009 To Bed and Making New Plans

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.

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.

Self control. Willpower. I Need Me Some of That!

Every day, usually when I’m in the shower, my brain whirls with blog topics. I dry off, get dressed, dash towards my computer to type the post that burns to get out of my mind and onto paper.

Tweeeet! Oh, a Mention on TweetDeck? Check it out. “Thanks for the RT”, I quickly type back. Hmm, wait, what’s this tweet, the one that says click here for the very best article on the science of happiness? Maybe it’ll be a perfect reference for the post I’m writing today. I devour the article, knowing that I’m headed down the wrong path.

Two minutes later, I return to stare at my blank page. I enter the title and post category.

“Mom, I need you!” my daughter whines.

“Where’s your dad? I’m working right now, honey.” Ouch, momma guilt pangs. I remind myself, it’s okay, Dad has it covered. He can play “just pretend I’m the momma and you are the baby” games with Juniorette just as good as I can.

I return to my page. Crap. What was that brilliant idea? The one I just had to share with the world? Oh yeah, something about how creating automatic money systems helps….

Ring, ring, ring.

I peek at the caller ID. It’s my sister. I’m not answering. I can call her back when I’m done.

“Jen, your sis is on the phone,” my husband announces as he brings the secondary phone unit to me in my in-home office. He’s already connected the call.

“Hey sis, what’s up? Can it wait for about an hour? I’m writing.”

I take three deep breaths, mutter to myself, and return my rolling eyeballs back to the page. Where was I? I’ve forgotten. While mulling over what I forgot, I do a quick check of my email. Ten minutes later, I return to stare at my blank page. I peck out a couple of awkward paragraphs. This doesn’t sound nearly as brilliant as it did in my head, when I was lather-rinse-repeating in the shower. I can’t post this crap!

I call it a morning. Tomorrow, I’ll have another idea. Tomorrow, I’ll try to sneak out of the shower and into my office unnoticed. In the meantime, I try to forget my lack of self-control by distracting myself. I spend the next hour mindlessly surfing the web.

What happened to my willpower? I was incredibly motivated to write when I started, but I couldn’t power through the task. Why couldn’t I stick to it? I think I found my answer:

Studies indicate that self-control comes in limited quantities that must be replenished.

There are three main theories about how self-control operates, according to Baumeister. One theory suggests that self-control depends on an energy or strength like “willpower,” while a second theory considers self-control as a skill to be learned. Yet another theory views self-control as a thought process, where individuals process their different behavioral options and choose a course of action after analyzing their situation.

To test these theories, Baumeister and colleagues designed a series of studies to determine whether self-control could be depleted, which would indicate that it was more like willpower than a skill or thought process.

For one experiment, individuals were asked to stifle or exaggerate their emotions while watching a disturbing video. Afterward, their physical stamina was tested with a handgrip device. In another study, hungry participants were tempted with chocolate and freshly baked cookies before working on difficult geometric puzzles. In all cases, participants who exercised self-control were less able to complete the second task.

“Resisting temptation consumed an important resource, which was then less available to help the person persist in the face of failure,” Baumeister explains.

He suggests that sleep may be one way that individuals can replenish self-control.

“Most forms of self-regulation failure escalate over the course of the day, becoming more likely and more frequent the longer the person has been deprived of sleep,” according to Baumeister, who notes that positive emotional experience may also help replace expended self-control energy.

Roy Baumeister, Ph.D.

It’s 4:30PM as I write this post. The phones are unplugged. My web browser is closed. The house is completely still. Daddy and Juniorette are playing at the park together.

And I just woke from a blessed nap.

755 words so far and I’m having a blast! The words are flowing and I haven’t used the delete key or checked on my email. I am focused, powering through this post.

What do I hope you take away from my experience?

That success comes easier when you eliminate temptations and reduce the need for willpower!

Do you want to stop buying things you don’t need? Then stay out of the mall.

Do you want to build your savings or retirement account? Then keep the money out of your hands. Schedule an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account every payday.

Do you want to eat a healthier diet or lose weight? Then bag up your processed food and drop it off at your local food bank. When you grocery shop, avoid the boxed-food aisles. Don’t carry junk food through your door and put it into your pantry.

Do you have an important task to complete? Then tackle it first thing in the morning when you are rested and before you’ve used up your limited daily supply of self-control. Or take a nap like I did and start afresh.

I hear my family at the door and I am done. I will now celebrate this small victory! And I hit the Publish button…

3 Essential Components to Financial Success

In my last post, I suggested that financial success takes more than learning the how to of creating wealth. I challenged that our mindset often gets in the way of reaching our financial goals. I asked you to weigh in with your personal experiences. Thank you for your comments and emails – they will help me as I design the structure and content of my book.

As promised, I am following up by sharing several very specific factors that I attribute to my own personal finance success. In my opinion, there are three basic components that I think helped me to achieve my financial goals:

  1. Being
  2. Believing
  3. Doing


Honest Take inventory of your finances. List your assets and all of your debts. Track your spending. Quit sweeping what you don’t want to acknowledge under the rug because until you face it head on, your finances are unlikely to change.

Compassionate Be as kind to yourself as you are to those you love most dearly. Stop the blame games and guilt trips. Your net worth will grow faster when you stop wasting time with negative energy.

Courageous Change takes courage. Despite what we’re often told, we learn more from our successes than we do our failures. (I will share some very interesting research on this soon!) Break down your big financial goals into small steps. Build upon each small success — momentum is everything!

Committed Are you committed to getting out of debt? Reaching financial independence? Do a gut check. You have to want it bad enough to do everything it takes to make it happen. There is no “try” in commitment. Do or don’t do — which will it be?

Focused Keep your eye on the prize while you enjoy life’s little pleasures along the way. Keep a journal or organize a support group to help you keep on track.

Consistent Practice makes perfect so consistently practice!

Resourceful Think outside of your box. Learn to let all judgements go when you brainstorm and solutions will expose themselves.

Likable Emotional intelligence and social skills lead to better outcomes. Likable people are more likely to be promoted, to sell more to their customers, to better manage and lead groups. Be likable and you’ll find others are more willing to help you reach your goals

Patient Unless you inherit a fortune or win the lottery, you won’t get rich overnight. Be okay with this. If you keep doing what you need to be doing, your money life will get better and better. Eventually it will take astounding leaps and bounds. This is the magic of compound growth.

Healthy If you don’t take care of your body, someday it won’t take care of you. Don’t be rich and dead. ‘Nuff said!


Believe that your financial independence and security is more important than the house you live in, the car you drive, or the clothing you wear. Live life your way. Don’t go the way of the Joneses’.

Believe in, appreciate, and honor your interests and abilities. Do so and you will be driven by a passionate energy. This passion makes the journey as rewarding as the destination.

Believe that you deserve success and happiness. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.  Visualize the success you seek.

Believe in your ability to learn. Use both sides of your brain and exercise your creativity. Allow your curiosity to lead you as a lifelong learner.

Believe in yourself. Believe in you, even when others don’t.

Believe in solutions, not excuses. If you want it bad enough, you can find a way to make it happen. Focus on the things you can do, not on the things you can’t. Seek solutions to your problems and you will find them.


Create and implement a financial plan, compare your progress to this plan, and modify your plan as needed. There will be obstacles. Go around them. Keep your eye on the map, but remain flexible so you can take detours when needed.

Control your income by being the boss of you. Choosing your occupation is important. The majority of millionaires are entrepreneurs for a reason. Working for oneself means no limits on income.

Live below your means. Duh, right? But you need to DO it. Swap short-term, short-lived gratification for long-term benefits and a financial security.

Harness the power of compounding. Save a portion of income and allow ample time for compounding to perform it’s magic. Time is one of our most valuable assets so start right now. Yes, I mean today!

Take financial risks given the right return. Make well-considered investments and allocate your money in ways that are conducive to building sustainable wealth.

Push yourself past your comfort zone. Do you want a better job? Better pay? Your family to cooperate with the family budget? Have you asked for what you want? If not, what are you waiting for? Get in the habit of stretching your comfort zone. Start by asking for what you want.

Ask questions and keep an open mind so you can continue to grow. Read, find a mentor, arrange for an unpaid apprenticeship, seek advice from those who you see as successful. There is much to learn from the experience of others.

Don’t give up. We all fall off the wagon now and again. The key is to get right back on track. @FrugalDad tweeted this morning: “I love the first day of the month. It’s like having a giant Etch-A-Sketch. Shake your budget around & wipe the slate clean!”

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