Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Get Out of Your Way

Spring is in the air, a time of great change.  Perhaps this year even more so than others.  The height of the pandemic may have represented the longest winter many of us have experienced in the seasons of our lives.  As that winter winds down, the flowers, like people, come out and bend their heads toward the sun.  Bright and beautiful, they're ready to stand together again... and yet we can't forget what we learned during our months of solitude.  In those reflective moments, we began to come into our own expansion in ways we couldn't recognize at the time.  The moments of greatest clarity gave way to the realization that we had been surrounding ourselves with noise that we've since become eager to rid ourselves of, and now we're here having called out long ago to the universe to deliver that which we truly want. 

It's amazing what happens when you place your request into the universe and then get out of the way.  It seems that "getting out of the way" is oftentimes our biggest obstacle.  The mind, being convinced that it's saving us from something, likes to ruminate on perceived limitations in order to keep us from change.  Change in the mind's eye is risk, a clearly sworn enemy. But what's funny is that we wouldn't be calling out to the universe to deliver something to us if we weren't seeking a change.  Without change, we become stagnant, which is in direct opposition to joy.  So, change is inevitable if we are ever to get what we want.  Yet we find ourselves in a state of great resistance when it comes to change.    

I've spent more than a year now working from home and working on myself.  I've been reading, meditating, clearing out the noise, placing my requests for the life I desire.  Then I did something amazing: I got out of the way.  What does getting out of the way look like?  First off, it looks like unwavering belief.  The life I have decided to create for myself is one I have complete faith in obtaining.  The Universal Law of Commitment reiterates this point by stating that the key is in having no indecisiveness whatsoever.  When we commit to something that aligns with our overall purpose, the right things, people, circumstances just begin to flow for us.  

This brings us to the second key element in getting out of the way: Calming the mind. When the things we want out of life begin to flow, it often resembles a garden hose with two settings: off and full blast.  When the things we want come at us full blast, the mind oftentimes goes into full-on panic mode.  Fear will descend upon you like wildfire, as the mind tries to keep you safe from perceived risk.  While we all want to be well-thought-out decision-makers, allowing unnecessary fear to run amok builds a wall of separation between us and that which we desire.   One key maneuver is to practice stopping the thought.  Like pressing stop on an old cassette player.  This strategy takes practice, but its simplicity is virtually magical.  When we allow the mind to ruminate on thoughts that are unwanted and contrary to that which we are trying to attract, we begin to create momentum in the wrong direction.  Stopping the thought before it has the opportunity to gain traction is critical.  Beyond stopping the thought, it's important to create an arsenal of strategies to utilize in order to return the mind to a more neutral or even positive emotional state.  If left unattended, the mind will choose to return to fear and help you rebuild the wall in which keeps you separate from that which you desire.

Remember: Your pain is caused by your resistance to what is.  You ask the universe to deliver something you want.  The universe sends it.  The mind gets scared because "Yikes!  Change is scary!" and throws up a whole load of resistance, which in turn makes you unhappy.  The whole while, your request is being delivered; it's standing at your door, knocking, but you won't answer.

Now, I've gone on explaining this philosophically for some time.  Let's look at some real-world examples.  I have a friend; she's really good at getting the universe to send her the things she wants.  Answering the door when the universe sends the package?  That's another story.  She's a work in progress where fear and resistance are concerned.  She likes her job, but it's a 7; not a 10.  But she's really comfortable there.  She adores her co-workers and boss. She's also pretty good at what she does.  She can do it on autopilot.  Long term, she has plans that are entirely different from her current job, and in fact, her current job doesn't really fit in with that overall life desire.  But it's fine for the time being.  Meanwhile, there's another job that's begun literally aligning for her with very little effort on her part actually.  It's not 100% of her long-term goal, but it gets her much closer and she has a vision for how it could flow really well into her long-term plan.  It has the potential to be a solid 9.  Cue Resistance!  What happens next is really something: fear.  Her mind starts to ruminate and feed the thoughts that begin to build a wall between her and moving to a job that has the potential to be a 9.  "How could you disappoint your boss like that?  You can do your job on autopilot!  Your co-workers are so nice.  Do you really want to deal with all that change right now?  You'll probably have to work harder."  The mind believes that she is safe exactly where she is, and that change is risky.  So, it's doing everything in its power to keep her from doing something risky.  

Another example might easily be made of me and my current real estate purchase.  I was calling out for what I wanted, and the universe has been sending it.  As described in my recent post Scarcity Mindset vs. Legitimate Concern, my mind was feeding me a fully-stocked buffet of fear disguised as legitimate concern in order to prevent me from taking action.  

Both examples contain situations where abundance is trying to flow to the person that requested it.  You placed the order.  The package was sent.  All you have to do is open the door....and get out of your way!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Scarcity Mindset vs. Legitimate Concern

As someone that scratched, clawed and efforted their way into the middle class, I became a champion expert at a number of things, one of which was the art of "No."  Along the path of building financial security, I like many others had to make choices about what I valued more at any given moment.  The choices were often between saving and spending whether on a physical possession or a life experience.  I can't and won't lie to you and suggest that I always chose saving.  Sometimes, I chose the experience but tried to do it in a financially mindful way.  But many times, I chose to save.  This choice served me well and allowed me to climb to a place of security I had never known before, but it must also be recognized that the mind can glom onto the instinct to save and struggle to let go even when the life circumstance has changed.  They present as limiting beliefs, sneaking up on you when you least expect it.  It's truly critical that we begin to question our thoughts and evaluate whether or not the mind is being fair in its evaluation of the risk it thinks it's protecting us from or whether it's simply handing out an unnecessary limitation.

Those of us utilizing Law of Attraction and its principles in our lives are often calling for things to flow into our experience, but not necessarily being open enough to the manner in which those things might arrive.  One of my clients (who has given permission for this little anecdote to be used) is working with me not only in the design of her financial life but also in the quality of her life experience as well.  In her vision for her life, she sees a bit more travel than in recent years.  She would like to be able to travel at least twice annually, one trip that involves family and one that does not.  She recently achieved the milestone of prepaying for a trip to see her family when something remarkable happened.  A co-worker, with a really interesting music-industry side gig offered her free tickets to a show sometime in July.  It's a musician she enjoys and was really excited about the prospect of going to this concert.  Cue Scarcity Mindset!  After mentioning it, her reaction was somewhat dismissive of it because it would involve a flight and hotel for a couple of nights.  She was suddenly struck by a severe case of "I can't afford it!"  What happened next, is really mind-boggling.  I asked the most riveting question you can imagine (note the dripping sarcasm) "Did you price it out?"  Admittedly she hadn't.  

This is where data is our friend.  Sometimes our minds are literally protecting us from making financial mistakes, but other times they are simply repeating old patterns and blocking us from the flow of something we want into our life experience.  We need to do a little digging to discover which is in play.  My client did a quick two-minute search and discovered that the airline tickets were significantly less expensive than she had anticipated, as were hotel rates.  She could easily cash flow this experience over the course of the next couple of months.

I've been attacked by a very similar case of scarcity mindset recently too.  Fortunately, I noticed it right away.  My partner and I are in the real estate market, and combing through tons of listings, seeing places, etc.  There are certain things that I really want in my next home that really do border on "need," but some of these things come with a higher price tag, which causes a big reaction in the mind.  I'm noticing a certain resistance to looking at anything listed above my "ideal price."  On one hand, the mind is obviously trying to protect me from getting in over my head.  However, anyone that's been involved in real estate transactions knows that list prices and sales prices are not the same things.  How can I call to the universe to meet my needs and automatically shut down anything it has to offer in order to meet them?  This is where an eye to the future we're building becomes key, in both the dream-becomes-reality aspect and the number-crunching financial one.

The reality that I am creating for myself involves having a bit of outdoor space and a space to do my work.  I could deny myself these things, but the truth is that the direction things are going in my life, they're quickly becoming more needs than wants.   In order to honor these needs, it's important to remain open to allowing a space that meets them to flow into our experience.  Moreover, it's important to realistically evaluate our financial picture as well.  I mean this in two ways: don't get in "over your head," and recognize which parts of your financial picture are there for the long term versus temporary ones.  There are questions like "will this make us house poor?" that need to be answered, and in doing so there are follow-up questions.  Remember, data is our friend!  Will our household income go up or down?  Can we anticipate by how much?  Are there debts that will be eliminated over the next few years that will remove certain bills from our lives?  How will these new payments fit into our 50/30/20 Budget right now, and with the future projected income changes?  Doing our homework should help determine whether this is a legitimate concern or simply scarcity mindset in play!

Scarcity mindset doesn't simply disappear.  It repeats itself over and over again forcing us to deal with it.  Sometimes, it even comes veiled as legitimate concern; or the other way around. Sometimes legitimate concern can be dismissed as scarcity mindset.  This is where facts are our friends, and keeping our eye on the future we are creating for ourselves can help us maintain our sense of security as we create the life we're longing to live. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Financial Fear and Resistance

Once upon a time, the average American graduated from high school, maybe attended college (maybe not), and found a job at a nice company where he or she would work for 30+ years at which point they'd be thrown a nice party, be gifted with a beautiful company watch, retire, collect the company pension, and take up a hobby like gardening or golf.  As you can imagine all of those parties, watches, and pension checks became quite the expense for the corporation; an expense they'd rather do without.  So, corporate America sent their finest lobbyists to DC to protect corporate profits under the guise of "helping the American people save more for retirement," thus the Revenue act of 1978 was born, and IRS code 401k.  In theory, the 401k was intended to be a supplemental retirement investment vehicle that the American worker would utilize to save up additional funds for retirement.  It wasn't originally designed to be the only retirement vehicle utilized by workers.  Unfortunately, as years went by more and more corporations retired their traditional pension plans, placing retirement planning almost exclusively in the hands of the individual worker.  It's a terrifying prospect for a nation of people that aren't required to take a personal finance course in high school.  But that's where we're at, and fear isn't a terribly useful emotion as it often has us manifesting in the direction of that which we do not want.  Unfortunately, fear is often a tool that's used against us, and I think it's important for us to recognize that for what it is.

I have a client that has endured a lot in her life (and has given me permission to share a small slice of her story).  She lost everything at the age of 40 and has had to rebuild from there.  Thereafter, as she was repairing the ruins of her financial life, she came to a meeting with a financial advisor that was associated with the administration of her 401k plan.  She was eager for the meeting, seeing it as another opportunity to begin rebuilding.  At that point, there wasn't a lot in the account.  She was contributing a small amount, in addition to the funds contributed by her company through their profit-sharing program.  She was prepared to be told that she needed to increase her contributions, but what she wasn't prepared for was the fear-mongering beat down that she received from a person that was supposed to be there to educate and help her.  She tried to tell him that she had other assets from a recent inheritance, but he wouldn't listen to her and continued to use fear as a tool against her.  Had he listened to her he could have taught her how to use her 401k plan to supplement the assets she had recently acquired and secure her retirement.  Unfortunately, that's not what happened, and she left that meeting in such a state of terror and shame, that it launched her into a state of absolute paralysis where she remained for several years. 

This woman was in a place in her life of rebirth and renewal.  Everything she was doing in life was in the spirit of creating the life she wanted to live, and the financial advisor could have easily been a part of that, but rather than help her to see and understand what she could do right now that would help her in the designing of a financially secure life, he spent their session hammering at her about lack and scarcity, focusing on the balance that was not in the account. Coupling this with the trauma she had just recently escaped, she was very simply overcome with fear.

There's a funny thing about fear.  It rates pretty low on the emotional scale because of the powerlessness that's often involved.  Even a temporary bout of anger is more empowering.  Had she been able to transform the fear into anger at that moment she should have said to herself "Screw you, retirement guy!" and waltzed out of that office with an "I'll show him" attitude and moved on with her life.  

A wise person once told me that your fear is caused by your resistance to what is....and she was right.  It took me years to fully comprehend it, but I do now.  Resistance is very literally fear.  When we experience fear, it is because we are literally resisting our here and now by focusing our attention on a past we cannot change or a future we cannot control.  As the Universal Law of Resistance offers, we know that this fear will play out over and over again until we are forced to deal with it.  But what does dealing with it look like?  In some respects, dealing with our fear is the act of ultimate surrender.  We must surrender to the now.  Can you simply observe your life, your money, and recognize that in this moment you are okay?  Once we can achieve this state of neutrality, perhaps we can take it one step further up the emotional scale by practicing gratitude.  Can you find things to genuinely appreciate about your job, your income, your ability to pay your bills, your savings, your ability to persevere?  Exiting the powerlessness of fear and transitioning into an acceptance and even appreciation of that which already have can lead us into a place of inspired action as resistance has become in the rearview mirror.

While fear and resistance were the overarching themes of this story from my perspective, I feel compelled to offer this:  Pay attention to financial professionals that try to use fear as a strategy when working with you.  Unless you are a person that is somehow motivated by fear, this is not likely to yield you a positive result.  Financial professionals should help you to understand processes so that you can make good decisions.  If it turns out that you are underfunded somewhere, the focus should still be on helping you not terrifying you.  

As for the woman in my story...  She's currently rewriting the narrative of fear that was reinforced by this so-called advisor.  She has since left the fear behind through working with financial coaches, advisors, and realtors that choose to uplift and educate.  From a financial standpoint, she's doing great!  In fact, she just realized that she's pretty much at her CoastFI number and her retirement will be absolutely fine!


Thursday, May 6, 2021

Markers of Scarcity Mindset

One of the most simple and yet difficult things to understand about abundance, and Law of Attraction in general, is that thoughts attract things.  It strikes me like a bit of a domino effect.  Our thoughts impact our emotions.  Our emotions impact our behaviors.  Our behaviors impact that which flows into and out of our experience.  When people want to change their lives, follow their bliss, live in abundance they often decide to start by changing their behaviors.  While this might help get things flowing in the right direction, the results are often temporary because the behavioral changes are unsustainable.  Since behaviors are near the end of a chain that begins with thoughts, thoughts become a critical component to creating the kind of abundance we seek.  

Eckhart Tolle offers a bit of magic where thought is concerned.  He often suggests that we be the ultimate observer, watching our thoughts as well as our feelings.  The secret sauce is to watch without judgment.  When doing so, you might be surprised at what you observe creeping through the door:  Scarcity Mindset.

How to Identify Scarcity Mindset

Sometimes your behaviors will indicate scarcity mindset.  Recently, I met a woman that was an avid journaler.  Journaling was a daily practice in her life; one that brought her great joy and served as a foundation for her practices involving gratitude, abundance, and spiritual evolution.  She had purchased herself a couple of new journals that were really quite grand in appearance.  She loved the way they looked and felt.  Yet there they sat.  Empty.  She continued her daily journaling practice by writing in her composition notebook as she always had.  Through discussion, we peeled back the layers of the onion only to discover that she somehow felt that she shouldn't waste such beautiful pages on her day-to-day life.  The belief that her daily thoughts and experiences will not be good enough, deep enough, eventful enough to warrant using the beautiful instrument is a marker of scarcity mindset.  We want to change our lives, follow our bliss, and live in abundance, and yet we cling to the belief that deep thoughts and beautiful experiences are in limited supply?  Moreover, we insist that our day-to-day experience is somehow subpar and not worthy of beauty?  How can we attract beauty if we avoid it?  How can we attract abundance if we avoid it?  

As children, many of us were told that our "good clothes" were reserved for Sundays and special occasions.  We were taught to favor our scrubby clothes because it was "okay to ruin them."  I must admit that I have spent years working to reverse the messaging of that learned behavior.  How many times have you walked to your closet and avoided your favorite sweater, selecting one that you didn't really care for?  Selected the least favorite t-shirt from the drawer?  Again, this is a marker of scarcity mindset. Perhaps this is why the process of clearing and decluttering is found in so many abundance practices.  If we clear away that which we do not love, we create an environment for ourselves that only really contains that which we do love.  If we aren't defaulting to the old habits of using items that are somehow of lesser quality or desirability than the ones we really want, there are fewer traps set to lure us into scarcity mindset yet again.  Is it truly better to have possession of your favorite sweater forever because you never actually wear it?  What happens if you wear it and it eventually wears out?  Would you ever truly regret the numerous times you put it on and felt terrific?  We want to follow our bliss and live in abundance and yet we avoid wearing sweaters that make us look and feel amazing?

Sometimes your words will indicate scarcity mindset.  Do you use phrases like "I'm broke" to describe the present moment?  This is problematic on a number of levels.  First, that's all relative, and you probably really aren't.  Moreover, the implication is that there is something wrong with you or the state of your experience.  Again, that's probably not true.  Also, using the phrase "I'm broke" doesn't exactly inspire positive emotions.  When using the phrase "I'm broke," what do you really mean?  Is it a nonconfrontational way of not making plans with someone?  Perhaps it's really that you value saving money more than the other option in question.  It's entirely more empowering to decline an invitation in some other way.  If it's a lunch invitation, "I usually pack my lunch if you'd care to join me tomorrow" feels significantly better than "I'm broke."  Perhaps sprinkle in a little gratitude practice along the way "Thanks, but I seriously made an amazing salad."  Other phrases such as "I can't afford it" or I don't have enough ____" are oftentimes markers of scarcity mindset.  Really, the list almost endless.

So, what can you do?

The first step is to catch the thought.  We must notice ourselves repeating these thoughts before we can make any changes.  Next, once you realize the tape keeps playing that same sound clip, stop the tape.  Stop that thought dead in its tracks.  Then try to replace it with a thought that feels better (and is probably closer to the truth).  If scarcity mindset is presenting itself through the manner in which you interact with your possessions, perhaps it's worth running an experiment.  How would you feel if you wore your favorite sweater rather than the one that's a bit beaten-up?  Use the nice journal on a random Tuesday.  Eat on the China one day just because you love it.  Remember, you're not wasting things if you're using them and they make you feel really good.  If you want to take things a bit further, you might even consider ways to declutter your space or certain categories of your possessions.  Perhaps removing things you don't love will help you to realize that you deserve to surround yourself with things you do love and that you deserve to use them.  

If you've had success overcoming scarcity mindset, I'd love to hear some of your strategies below!