Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Scary Things for the Sake of Progress

I remember when I was a little girl, my mother enrolled me in swimming lessons at the local pool.  Within approximately the first 2-3 minutes, I got splashed in the face and had water up to my nose.  Immediately, I started screaming; got out of the pool, and refused to go back in.  Well, so much for that!  I hope they gave my mom a refund! I continued to be absolutely terrified of the swimming pool for a number of years after that.  The funny thing is that it just kept coming up.  Somehow, the situation was destined to repeat itself until I was forced to deal with it.  You see, the mind was doing everything in its power to protect me.  It was certain that putting my head underwater meant drowning and drowning meant dying.  The mind was sure it was protecting me from dying.  It was also preventing me from making progress so long as I avoided everything that involved the swimming pool.  The funny thing is that when I was just a few years older, I really wanted to jump off the diving board.  I was so excited by the idea of it.  By then I could at least tread water and swim a little, so I knew that I wouldn't drown.  So, I climbed up the ladder.  I slowly made my way down to the end and peered down at the water below. I want to tell you that I was super brave and jumped, but the truth is that crippling fear took over me.  I turned right back around and went down that ladder at double speed.  I swear I played this out a hundred times.  Finally one day, I was standing at the end of that diving board, looking down... again, I want to tell you how brave I was, but I wasn't.  I was just tired of allowing the fear to win.  So, I jumped.

We often want things in life that we're truly excited about; things that will take our lives in a new direction or somehow enhance our life experience.  We spend a lot of our emotional and mental energy thinking about it, but when we find ourselves at the end of the diving board, we suddenly freeze up.  Why do we do that? Are our limiting beliefs rearing their ugly little heads?  Are our minds more concerned about a future moment that hasn't even occurred rather than a present moment in which we are perfectly fine?  All of the above?

This topic has been on my mind for several reasons; one being that I noticed it happening to me.  I am going into business for myself doing a couple of different things.  One of which is tax preparation, as I have training in that area.  This is something I've thought about for almost a decade, but life circumstances made it feel like it was never quite the right time.  Over the course of the past year, that started to change.  I had taken a part-time job preparing taxes for a corporation, which lead me to feel as though I would really prefer to do this on my own where I could be in control of my own hours, environment, etc.  Everything was just flowing for me to do this on my own.  There was a certain ease about it.  Looking for ease is the key to knowing you are flowing and on track with something you are trying to bring into your experience.  

I really hadn't told many people about this because we weren't really at tax season yet.  Suddenly it was January and it hit me "I have to tell people that I'm actually in business!" That's a funny thing about starting a business: You have to tell people you're starting it.  Funny, right?  That's where I suddenly clammed up!  I was scared to actually tell people! There was that fear thing again...

Now, I had two options: abort the mission or work through the fear.  If I want to venture into the realm of the self-employed, I'll have to work through the fear.  Otherwise, it's destined to come back up again.  If I were to abort the mission, my tax business wouldn't really open.  In theory that would be fine, but I really am an entrepreneurial type.  I'm going to want to start something of my own, and that'll still include telling people about it.  So, that fear would come up again.  This is one of the primary lessons in the Law of Resistance, as resistance, in essence, is fear.  If you ignore a fear that arises, you will encounter one of a similar nature over and over until you are forced to deal with it.  So, when these moments arise, how can we best deal with the fear that presents itself?


The first step involves courage and honesty.  We must ask ourselves "Why am I afraid?"  Then comes the difficult part.  We must sit in stillness and wait for the response.  When I did this, I was flooded with responses.  "What if I'm not received well?  What if no one wants what I have to offer?  What if I don't know an answer to something?" What commonalities are there among the responses?  I noticed that these things all boiled down to insecurity in two arenas: acceptance and perfectionism.  

It seems reasonable to question myself further in both areas.  Are these things really likely to happen?  In the area of acceptance, what are the odds that I announce this business and people treat me poorly or tell me that it's a terrible thing to do?  How likely is it that literally no one wants or needs what I have to offer?  Honestly, they're both extremely unlikely.  As far as my perfectionism goes, is it possible for me to not know the answer to something?  Sure.  Do I have to literally know the answer to everything off the top of my head?  Absolutely not!  I don't know anyone in my industry that literally has every answer memorized.  It just doesn't happen.  There are too many things to know, and constant changes.  What they are all good at is being able to find the answers to things, and you know what?  I'm really good at that too!  I am great at researching things that pop up.  In questioning myself, it seems that I've debunked my own insecurities.  What could use further investigation is whether or not these insecurities are based on limiting beliefs?

Evaluating Limiting Beliefs:

Sometimes evaluating liming beliefs involves a little time and thoughtful meditation for me.  When I consider the areas of acceptance and perfectionism, I've noticed some things come up. First, I have an awareness that many parts of my life aren't exactly mainstream.  I am often either doing something a little different from the norm or doing something normal in a way that's a little different.  This often leads me to think that "I'm a bit too alternative."  I think this relates to acceptance quite a bit, as people sometimes shy away from things that are different.   Is being different a problem?  Some of the most brilliant people in the history of the world were certainly a little different, and because of many of them, we enjoy the most mesmerizing art and innovative technologies that wouldn't exist if people were too afraid to do their own thing.  The truth is that I like the fact that I am a little different and that  I sometimes go about things a little differently.  

Do I have beliefs surrounding perfectionism?  I have a real tendency to want to know everything or feel perfectly prepared before I embark on something new.  I'm sure this is why I like to study so much.  I want to know all there is to know about something.  Now, the funny thing about this is that I'm also a teacher.  As a teacher, I'm firmly aware that sometimes you just have to try something and let experience teach you that you still need to learn.  We'll never have all the answers, and occasionally we might not know what to do about something.  That's when we're honest and do further research or seek help.  This is also where my perfectionism is a huge asset in my life; I am a really accurate person, and that shows in my work.  So, while it seems that I have a limiting belief that suggests that I have to know everything or be prepared for everything before I can take action, I understand that this simply isn't true.  Sometimes, you just have to start and trust yourself. 

Knowing Your Why: 

Sometimes we all have to do scary things for the sake of progress, and it's also important that we evaluate our why.  Why do we want to make progress?  What is the goal?  Is it important enough to see through?  Sometimes, the answer might actually be "No" and that's okay.  That only indicates that there isn't much of a why behind the action.

When I evaluate my why, I ask myself why I want to work for myself.  I value being able to control my schedule, location, growth, income all to a certain degree.  Why in this particular area?  I have a knack for understanding how things in this area work. I like helping people.  The work feels a little like solving a puzzle or riddle, which I enjoy.  What's the bigger why?  I want to control my destiny where it involves my time, location, and compensation. I want to achieve greater balance in my life where the various areas of work, play, relationships, growth, and health are concerned and know that working for myself will allow me to do so.  I want to work in a manner that allows me to grow relationships with people over time, and that I can help them to achieve their best lives.  These reasons why are so much greater than the fear that presented itself.  

The second reason this topic has been on my mind involves several different people in my life.  Oddly enough there are a number of people that I've spoken to recently that are working through some very difficult things under a variety of financial topics: property sales, retirement planning needs, tax issues.  It would be so easy for each of these individuals to bury their heads in the sand, claim "it's too hard," and continue on as before.  But literally, none of them are making that choice.  They are all courageously forging forward, machete in hand, and hacking their way through scary things.  And you know what?  They're all going to come out on the other side of this in much better situations than they were before.  I'm so proud of them.

So, what is the scary thing you're currently facing?  Are you afraid to open the bills that seem to endlessly keep coming in the mail?  Are you afraid to open the online banking app to find out how much is really in your checking account?  Are you afraid to deal with retirement accounts or investing in general?  Have you always wanted to start your own business, but fear is holding you back?  Fear is one of the primary things that hold us back in the realm of personal finance.  We're terrified of making a wrong move or sounding unintelligent.  We're afraid of being judged or even facing our own self-judgment as we face a mountain of uncertainty.  Things are destined to change in our lives whether we take action or not.  I personally would prefer to face the scary things for the sake of progress rather than allow indecision to drive my destiny.  

What did I do?  I decided it was time to make my plans to start my own business known.  I kept it simple.  Rome wasn't built in a day.  I opened up one of my social media platforms and wrote a post telling the world that I was in business. The nerves were still there as I pressed the button to make the posts go live.  Know what happened?  About forty people congratulated me and half a dozen reached out because they might need my services.  None of the things my mind was yelling at me about even came remotely close to happening, just like I didn't actually drown when I jumped off the diving board.  Now that's what I call progress.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Purpose of Money: Part 2

I received a package in the mail the other day.  I love receiving packages.  They're always filled with love from the person that created the assortment inside, and there's a distinctive sense of wonder and curiosity that gets fulfilled when you finally get it open and feast your eyes on the content inside.  This recent package was from my step-mother.  There were several gifts inside, all of which was extremely thoughtful.  She's a very thoughtful woman.  One item, in particular, captured my attention.  It was a board game called "Ticket to Ride."  Apparently, my sister had picked it out knowing I'd love it.  Immediately, I knew why.

Our father passed away many years ago.  She was just a child at the time, and I was fully an adult.  I was in my late twenties actually.  Despite living several states away, I was determined to be a part of my siblings' lives (I also have two brothers from my step-mother). This is easy to say, but significantly harder to do.  I was working in the banking industry earning less than $30k/year.  While I realize that most familial relationships aren't about money, having some could certainly make the logistical parts of maintaining them much easier.  This portion of my family is in the Midwest, and at the time, I lived on the West Coast.  Vising a small town in the Midwest can be expensive due to a limited number of airlines flying into the smaller airports.  On an already tight budget, this can feel like a huge limitation.  Well, I don't deal kindly with limitations.  Don't get me wrong; I have limiting beliefs like anyone else does, but I have a tremendous will and belief in my ability to do anything I put my mind to doing.  This is how the Universal Law of Belief works.  You can have whatsoever you with so long as you can give up the belief that you can't have it.

It all started with an idea.  A couple of years after our father passed, I had an inspiration.  I wanted to take my siblings on a trip.  Now, pretty much anyone in the world of personal finance would have told me to do something else with my money: pay my debt off, save my emergency fund, increase my retirement contributions.  To a certain degree, those things would have been the "right thing" to do, but in my heart, the "right thing" looked very different.  It looked like me being with my family.  I spoke to my step-mother first.  She was willing to allow my partner and me to travel with the two older children.  My youngest sibling was still too little to be without his mother, which I had also thought.  So, I started to save.  I believe I was saving $150 per paycheck, and at the time that felt like a huge dollar amount.  I mean, honestly, it was a very hefty percentage of my take-home pay.  But I just did it.  It was the very first transaction I did every, single payday.  Subsequently, that habit of paying myself first has remained with me over the years and lead to huge amounts of financial success in a vast number of subcategories.  But, I digress.  I was able to save enough money to purchase train passes for the four of us on Amtrak, complete with travel journals for the kids. The passes would allow us to hop on and off the train for a certain amount of segments within a certain duration of time.  So, my partner and I took the train to their town, picked them up, and headed toward Seattle. On the Empire Builder, which was the name of the route we were on, we would find places on the observation car, where you could take in the most beautiful views.  We had a cooler packed and some games.  We'd look out the windows, play games, and document what we experienced.  We stayed in Seattle for a few days, visited family, and a few touristy destinations. Then we hopped on the train again.  This time we traveled to where my full sister lives with my mother.  When my step-mother found out that we were going to see my other sister, she hopped on the train with the little one and took it to that location.  My mother and sister picked the whole lot of us up from the train station, and it's quite a lot to imagine. It takes two very remarkable women to make the sort of choice that would bring us all together like that.  I like to think my father would have liked that... The most remarkable moment was a simple one.  We were all at my mother's house, barbecuing in the back yard when my step-brother came over.  I realized in an instant that it was the only time I had ever been with all of my siblings at the same time.  Most people take for granted that they can do that, but it's something that I had never experienced.  It's a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I suppose that I should say that this is a financial post about the power of paying yourself first or a Law of Attraction post that highlights the Universal Law of Belief...But the truth is that I think this is really a post about the purpose of money.  I didn't do what the financial experts would have directed me to do, not at all.  I voted for my priorities with my dollar and it literally lead me to one of the greatest experiences of my life.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

On the Positive Side

We just closed out 2020, which many have semi-jokingly compared to a dumpster fire, and who can blame them?  We turn on the news and hear stories about increasing death tolls, positivity rates, people that can't hug their grandparents, election turmoil, looming eviction crisis, and the list goes on. It's hard not to be impacted by the flurry of negative information being pumped into our minds through our televisions, smartphones, computers, and even conversations with other people.  How can this not grate on the collective psyche?  Moreover, how does this not filter down to the individual on a micro-level?  These large doses of macro-level negative information could easily program our minds to look for more negative information.  The easiest place to turn is within our own life situations.

Where our attention goes, our energy flows.

I watch a bit of news in the morning because I like to know what's happening in the world; it helps me to be better informed in a variety of aspects of my life.  I want to be an informed consumer, voter, educator, writer, friend, and overall human being.  Now, the truth is that I only need to watch a little bit of the news in order to be satisfied that I've achieved this state.  Very quickly the news starts to loop, and the same stories get recycled.  At this point, I have a choice:  I can either remain on this train or get off.  I choose to exit.  I might change the channel to something that feels uplifting or inspirational, or maybe I'll indulge myself in an episode of Murder She Wrote or the Golden Girls (Hey, you have your pleasure, I'll have mine, right?).  I might exit the train to go meditate, walk, or read.  It all depends on my mood and need in the moment.  Regardless of which choice I make in that given moment, I recognize and honor the existence of the status quo, and then I reach for something that feels better.

This key mindset shift could serve to benefit us in many aspects of our lives, particularly where our finances are concerned.  As I scroll through social media, I see countless tales of individuals that are having some really negative experiences in their work-life.  I remember reading an Eckhart Tolle passage, where he describes the idea that at times, we don't need to change what we're doing, but rather how we are doing it.  This really resonates with me because it speaks to the power of positivity.  I understand that there are many work experiences that range in negative feelings anywhere from unsatisfied to toxic, and that might not change overnight. But what I ask is this:  Is it necessary to give it that much of our mental and emotional energy?  Clearly, we pride ourselves on performing our job functions to the best of our ability because we are people with integrity and pride.  But do we need to get tangled up in a mental and emotional, negative downward spiral?  Mentally and emotionally, can we turn toward something that feels really good to start a transition toward something more empowering?

Not so long ago, I started an experimental side-gig.  I knew that I had knowledge and expertise in this area, and was really excited to use it (making a little extra money was a bonus).  I very quickly started to emotionally spiral downwards, as I felt underpaid, and under-supported by a manager that was rarely there.  I was also irritated by what felt to me like a lack of organization within the company.  I almost immediately noticed the negative feelings coming into my experience. I had committed to this side-gig for a set duration of time.  So, it was important to me that I see it through.  I could have let myself stew in my own misery, but misery breeds more misery.  Why would I want to sit there for the duration feeling miserable?  So, I spent the next few months, focusing my energy on the couple of coworkers that I really enjoyed, how much fun it was to learn more about the subject matter, and the delicious fresh-baked bagels on the corner.  These were my wins; these were the things that made me feel good within that situation.  I tried to avoid focusing on the less-than-desirable parts and engaging in negative conversations.  That last one is difficult, isn't it?  I know it's a matter of semantics, but our words are powerful, and those negative conversations can really make their way into our mental and emotional lives.  Now, I want to cycle back to the idea that sometimes we don't need to change what we're doing, but rather how we're doing it.  I knew that I had a lot of promise in this particular area and that I was going to see my original commitment through; however, this company wasn't a great match for me.  Focusing my thoughts a bit more on more enjoyable avenues of utilizing my skillset felt really good.  Suddenly, my world felt like it was open to a myriad of possibilities.  That feels so much better than sinking in the quicksand of misery.  What ultimately came out of it was me starting my own business.  I'm absolutely excited about my new business.  I never felt that excited about working for the other organization.  That's a mental and emotional win!  Financially speaking, the long term growth potential is astronomically higher, though that may or may not be realized in the first year.  With the company, annual increases are limited; with my business, they're limitless.

Several years ago now, had a private student loan.  It was a manageable payment but at a variable interest rate.  Dangerous, right?  When the interest rate is variable, there's no way to guarantee it won't eventually make your payment skyrocket.  I've never been a fan of that kind of uncertainty.  So, after all of my credit cards were paid off, I turned to it next.  It was by far the largest, single debt I had tackled at that point in my life, and it was easy to allow my emotions to get entangled in the magnitude of the task at hand.  Many people that favor the "debt snowball" strategy (where you pay the smallest balance first, then the next smallest, and so on) cite the psychological momentum as the primary reason for the practice.  This strategy isn't the one that has the largest impact mathematically, but the "quick win" associated with satisfying one of the accounts in full makes people see immediate progress and feel really good.  That keeps momentum going in the right direction.  Now the truth is that I'm not necessarily on "team debt snowball" because I've personally combined strategies and had success.  What I do want to reinforce is the mindset shift.  When we shift our thinking away from the magnitude of debt and all of the negative emotions that go with it, we will absolutely start to build our own momentum.  When I was tackling this private student loan, I prided myself in the fact that I always did a really good job keeping up with my payments and making them on time.  I would also round my payments up to the nearest $5 or $10 mark.  I was really proud that I consistently did that.  I celebrated the small wins and positive habits.  Those small wins are what help build positive momentum in reaching goals.    When I started throwing larger sums of money at the loan to pay it off quickly, instead of lamenting about the balance that remained, I reframed it.  "I have paid this $1000 for the last time.  I am done with this $1000 forever.  How amazing is that?!"  And you know what?  It's true!  Every $1000 that is paid down on the principal of a loan is a thousand dollars that is gone forever!  Doesn't that feel amazing?!  We can reach goals and feel good in the process.

When you ask people what they really want in life, you get a lot of really fascinating responses. The funny thing is that they pretty much always boil down to "I want to be happy."  You see, I'm not sure that happiness is a destination.  Happiness is the journey.  So, perhaps one of our biggest goals going forward should involved training our minds to look at the glass and see it half full of something worth celebrating.  As I work on this in my own life, I notice that it keeps coming more easily all the time, and I'm happy. So, what is it in your life that has you constantly circling back to the negative place? Consider whether or not you can change the how if you either can't or don't care to change the what. Look for small wins or little moments that make you feel good.  Choose your words carefully.  Is there a way you might feed your mind hope?  Is there something that feels good that deserves more of your attention than the thing that doesn't feel so good?  Remember, it's okay to reach our goals and feel good in the process.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

4 Steps to Analyze and Release Resistance

Over the course of the past year, there have been some things coming together for me.  I am working on expanding my business, and really pleased about the direction it's going.  Just as teenagers have growing pains, we too experience discomfort as a result of our expansion.  This discomfort often comes in the form of resistance.  

Resistance:  Any thoughts, feelings, or beliefs that are inconsistent with or contrary to that which is desired. The state of resisting something that has a relationship to an overall goal or desired outcome. (In all practically, if you consider what it means to resist something, you get the picture.)

Resistance is a topic that is familiar in the Law of Attraction space but receives limited attention in the realm of personal finance.  This is unfortunate because resistance is a mental and emotional barrier that provides valuable insight as to what we really want.  The more people I work with, and the more work I do on myself, the more I realize that resistance is simply a part of my own expansion so long as I take care to analyze and release it.  

First, isolate the area of life in which you're experiencing resistance. There may be multiple areas but start with just one.  In my case, I'll begin with my work.  Since we spend so much of our time at work, and it is oftentimes the primary source of our financial lives, we'd like our work experience to be as wonderful as possible.  So if resistance pops up there, it's worth addressing.

1.  What is it you resist doing/thinking about/facing?

This is where you simply list the things you seem to resist doing.  Don't judge them, just get them down.  

Recently, a colleague recommended that I consider the implementation of a particular technological tool.  This particular piece of technology could streamline a few things for me, and make certain aspects of doing my workflow more easily.  I went to the website suggested by my colleague and immediately felt anxious.  My mind became flooded and I was completely overwhelmed.

As it turns out, I tend to resist executing certain kinds of technological tasks.  If someone else is able to implement the technological tool, I'm all for it.  But, I tend to resists being the one that needs to execute it.

2.  Why do you resist doing this?

Again, we're not judging ourselves, but we are taking the opportunity to have a little conversation with our inner self about its reasoning.  

With regards to my technology resistance, I've noticed that over the years I've always felt a little behind where such things are concerned.  It seems that people just a few years younger than me had access to technology in their schoolyears constantly.  That wasn't my situation.  We used very little technology when I was in high school, but just a few years after I graduated that seemed to change, and high school students' education became very technology-centered.  I literally didn't learn how to use the internet until college.  Now, I've learned a lot over the years, and I would say I'm pretty well competent at the most important things.  My relationship with technology doesn't in any way prevent me from being able to do my job. That being said, I completely shy away from things that appear to be "too advanced."

3.  What is this highlighting?

Often times when we're experiencing resistance, it's highlighting perceived barriers that shed light on that which we do want by way of that which we don't want.  

In my life, this is highlighting that I really want things to feel simple.  I want things to flow.  

3b.  Is there a Limiting Belief in play?

Sometimes, when we begin to consider what is being highlighted by the resistance, it will bring us to a limiting belief.  While that's not always the case, it certainly was with me and my technology "issue."  In fact, I have been literally saying (and reinforcing) my own limiting belief for YEARS.  Here it is:  "I'm not a very technological person."

There's a lot of work that I do around limiting beliefs and have written about it before.  I know there's plenty I can do to dispel this one because, in all actuality, I'm not entirely sure it's even true!  There are countless technological things I've done thus far in life, and I'm sure there will be countless more!  I have written down this limiting belief and am doing to do some work around it.  But for this moment, I want to stick with the items that's caused me the resistance in this situation.  So, that leads me to my last resistance analysis question.

4.  What can I do about it?

In an ideal world, this step leads you to some inspired action.  This is where you brainstorm some options that make sense for your particular scenario.

I could choose to ignore everything that appears to be above my technological skill level.  Quite frankly, if I didn't even touch this technological tool recommended by my colleague, my life would be fine.  It's really not essential at all.  But that option doesn't totally feel right.  

I could choose to approach it with curiosity.  I've actually been doing that.  I've gone back to this website several times and done some reading about this technological tool, and the truth is that it's not really making me feel anxious and overwhelmed anymore.  I'm not quite ready to go full-on in using it yet, but I'm choosing to be curious about it: What is it?  How does it work?  Could it actually be fun in some way?

I could also lean on my other two team members as I learn how to use it.  They are both more comfortable with certain types of technology than I am.  Maybe they could help me investigate it.  Quite frankly, maybe one of them will think it's simple and want to take it on entirely.  That would be fine too.

In my situation, what feels right is to continue some gentle poking around and investigating with this little technological item that's causing me resistance.  But in other cases, resistance might literally be highlighting something you absolutely don't want in life, and that's okay too!  The point is to stop and take stock by analyzing your resistance.  No matter what I choose to do, I am ready to simply let it go.