I know when I started working on my money life, I wasn’t sure how to go about being healthy with money. The terms were mysterious to me, and I thought the feelings of fear and shame would eat me alive.
Sports are really important in my life. For my tennis game, I can’t just show up and expect to win without having spent any time on my game outside of matches. There are certain things I do to prepare for the glow of being able to win. I practice, hydrate, eat well, get coaching, hit on a backboard, and discuss strategy with people who have good tennis games. I use this template of what works well, and apply it to how I handle my money life, as well. My money doesn’t get in good order and in alignment with my goals without my spending time and energy on it.
Without attention on your numbers, this never-ending stream of financial data is moving through the cloud with your name on it, and you don’t actually know the upshot of it. You can be very honest and connect with others, but without attending to your actual numbers, you’re taking best guesses and operating on a set of general hunches that everything’s probably okay in your accounts.
So how does one pay attention to their numbers? Tracking regularly. Having a numeric plan (aka budget) and then matching your spending, saving and earning reality to it, in the numbers.
Without deep self-honesty, you can crunch the numbers all day long, and you can connect with others around it in various ways, but how do you know whether your numbers are matching up with living your best life? How do you know where you are on the spectrum of sucky life to best life, according to your own values?
You can be doing all the “right” things that Money magazine says to do, but if you’re not taking the time to dig in and find out what’s true for you TODAY, then in some ways this life opportunity is passing you by.
This is also true for updating my deep self-honesty. Part of the “deep” aspect is that the self-honesty be current. If you’ve been chasing something out of inertia, it can feel good to have a path or an outcome to head towards. But when did you last take stock to re-examine if it’s really the best fit for you, given what you know now?
I see this coming between couples all too often. They may have a sense of each others’ values, and then continue to act accordingly until more information arrives. If one or both people are not checking in with themselves regularly, all of a sudden it can seem like the other person is something to fight, out of alignment with what feels right to you today. (When in reality, they may just be acting from an outdated paradigm.)
OK, so how do you experience deep self-honesty? Some practices that help me are journaling, finding someone I can trust to talk with regularly about this stuff (who isn’t personally affected by my financial choices), if I’ve set financial goals and am consistently not meeting them, I review whether I actually do want those things.
Without connection, we tend to get too isolated and stuck in one or more of the difficult emotions (fear, anger, scarcity, low self-worth). Without connection, we can also be more susceptible to denial and rationalization. I’ve also noticed that sometimes, peoples’ expectations can be way high or way low compared to average realistic human behavior. Someone may beat themselves up for not saving “enough” money, and feel too ashamed to talk about it. It’s incredibly healing to have that conversation with a trusted person. Reality checks are priceless, whether I like them or not!
Those healing conversations are actually where the 3 elements of the formula can all get their beautiful airtime together. When I know my numbers, the conversation has the chance to become less vague and get more traction. When I’ve taken the time for deep self-honesty, I can ask relevant questions and have plenty to offer the conversation. I can even drive the conversation, if the other person wants to practice the formula but doesn’t have as much experience with it yet. Then the connection happens when I decide to be vulnerable enough to venture into this territory with another human.
I help clients learn and practice the following behaviors. Practice is the key word. We’re not going for all-or-nothing…we’re going for, do the best you can, and when you step off the path just do your best to step back on.
These are items that I think apply to everyone.
Then, the fun of personalizing your system is part of what I love working on with people. Some people need support to loosen up and discard some of the fear that has them be perhaps too conservative with their financial choices. Still others are very good at spending money, and might benefit from tips and strategies to practice not spending when they usually would. So often couples benefit from having a neutral third party to navigate ongoing disagreements about money. Finding agreement on a spending plan that everyone can live with is truly wonderful.
What I remind people (myself included), is that there is no WRONG choice. Also, I can change my system if and when I need to, when I get more information or my preferences change over time. We have a variety of right options that will lead us to different pots of gold at the end of whichever rainbow.