The time has come to make friends with the problems in your life.
Ok. Maybe not real friends, but sorta kinda friends.
The type of friends that you can wrap into a can’t-break-out-of-it kind of embrace until they share the wealth of wisdom they have stored up just for you.
Remember that much of your valuable education occurred when you were in the midst of a difficulty, not when everything has been going just peachy-keeney fine:
Fall off your bike enough when you are a beginner, and you quickly figure out how to stay upright and healthy as opposed to flat on the pavement groaning in pain.
Hit your thumb with a hammer one too many times, and you will find a way to pound nails without flattening your fingers.
Bounce enough checks in your account so that you spend the equivalent of a car payment on overdraft charges, and you will create a system that allows you to spend your money with joy and intention, rather than seeing your funds evaporate like a mud puddle on a sunny day.
So what this means is that you want to take these issues and embrace them fully and completely.
Because as long as you are running away or trying to hide from them, they will continue to get the best of you.
Get them in a big bear hug of an embrace, wrestle them to the table, grab a coffee, and let the questions and the learning begin.
Every problem is an opportunity to learn.
Granted, it can be very hard to see the silver lining behind those black clouds of despair, but I encourage you to mentally step back, and examine the issue from afar and from a variety of perspectives. You can even pretend it’s someone else who is in deep trouble, and that they have asked you for help. This behavior can remove much of the emotion, and consequently enables you to see the whole picture more clearly. Having a difficult child makes you dig deep for solutions, and hopefully changes you into a more resourceful, patient parent. Having an Achilles heel with your money presents the same opportunity: how can this grow you into a better money manager?
Focus on a problem and shake it until the truth falls out.
I said embrace your difficulties. I didn’t say fall in love with them.
Let’s say that you’ve just about had it with budgeting because you blow it to smithereens every week. Rather than labeling your efforts with a sweeping generalization-I’m just a loser, I just can’t, or It doesn’t matter what I do-take a hard look at the numbers. Where is it you are falling off the wagon, and is gravity really to blame? Probably not. . .
Remember that Dave Ramsey of Financial Peace fame says that money management is 80% behavior, so we want to discover what is driving our actions so that we can make changes at the core. Let’s say that the biggest issue is overspending on clothing. The first question I would ask is: How do I keep ending up at the checkout with these purchases? Then list every reason you can possibly dig up to the reasoning behind your spending, and then dig even deeper as you continue to ask Why, or What do I gain from this?
I need to dress up for work. Possible response: Why? Is there a way to dress appropriately with what I already own?
I like to be fashionable. Possible response: Why? Is there a way to be fashionable with what I already own?
I’ve put on weight and need new clothes. (This is really painful, and I get it. Been there, done that. No additional sympathy or carte blanche to spend, spend, spend in spite of that . . . ) Possible response: Why am I gaining weight?
As you concentrate on what is at the root of this problem, you will find the TRUTH.
Many times, we use money to compensate for something that we feel is missing in our lives, such as recognition, excitement, or belonging. Your answers may not be pretty and may be embarrassing to face as well, but once you discover them, you can move forward.
Use that truth to create a new path.
Now that your problem has given up its secrets, you need to decide what to do differently.You don’t want to dam up the energy behind the behavior, as it will eventually break through and drown you again. Instead re-route your energy. Imagine redirecting a stream by digging a new path. Slowly but surely, the water will eventually follow that new route, and the old will dry up from lack of use.
To put that in practical terms, rather than trying to resist going into the stores, open a new door to a fresh outlet for your energy. You could join a club or volunteer for a group that provides a sense of purpose and fills your emotional needs, matches your skills, abilities and interests, and maybe also will bring you along in your life and career goals, in addition to bearing fruit in your financial life.
Many times adding clarity to your financial goals is a big help as well. You can imagine a path leading directly to your goal, and anytime that you are tempted to stray from your plan, ask if that will take closer to or farther from what you have noted is really is important.
That’s it. Real simple. Just let go of the inner bully, and then embrace yourself in the same kind of big and loving bear hug as your problems.
Remember: You can continue to run from your wild beasty problems and blame them for your lack of progress, or you can tame them and use their strengths to help move you toward your goals.
It’s your call.
Image credit-Bruno Granzotto Cabral
Today’s challenge: What problems have you wrestled into submission? What did you learn and how did that move you forward? We’d love to have you share in the comments so that we can help each other and cheer each other on.