Oh, for crying out loud, I’ll just say it, first: I want money. I like money. I like having more money than less money and I like buying “stuff” with that money and still having more money left over.
I cannot be alone in noticing that there are those who freely admit to liking their money, and those who, when asked such a question, will smile demurely while everything else about their body language suggests white-knuckled restraint, and say with measured tones, “Well, money is nice, but there’s more to life than money.”
First Big Statement: Of course there’s more to life than money.
Here’s the thing: The person who “plays it cool” around money is not necessarily living a bigger or bolder life than the “I love myself some money” person.
The person who tries to “play it cool” around money might be living in a Story about money–that it is bad, that it is wrong to have too much of it. The amount of money that person has is really irrelevant–
–because the suffering that they won’t get away from in that Story will follow them, no matter how much money they ever make. Money is bad money is bad money is bad will go with them wherever they go, like a nagging headache.
If someone makes $200 a year, but they don’t have that “money is bad” Story dragging around with them, or some other Story (such as “I’m worthless because I make so little”) they are living the far richer life.
Power Over Your Money Story
Stories separate us. Stories become our fuel for judgment, and our fuel for limiting our lives.
For instance: what is “too much money,” anyway? This is another Story; a complete mental construction of right and wrong that is based on…nothing. Absolutely nothing, except some idea that I made up that it means…something.
More confessions:I have a Story that people who have and spend money like Paris Hilton are “bad” people. I notice that this is a judgment and causes me to separate from another human being. I notice that I don’t really know her, and that having Stories about her really only limits my own money flow–because if I carry a Story that people who have more money are “bad,” then I’m not likely to be comfortable making more money, myself, for fear of being one of the “bad” ones.
I notice that it’s not my business how she spends her money, but it sure as hell is my business how much compassion, acceptance, and love I have for another human being.
Doubtless, there are people who will read that and want to send me an email saying, “Kate, I’m so with you on the Paris thing. I can’t stand that bitch; the way she spends money makes me sick.”
I’d like to ask you not to send me that email. I’d like to ask both of us to consider why we allow a Story about someone else’s spending habits to “make us sick.” I’d like to ask everyone to consider whether or not our attitudes about money are >making our lives sick.
We have power over these Stories–we choose them, and we get to choose to take on a different one.
Doing Your Thang
I am not suggesting that where we see money being mis-used, we just say, “Hey, it’s cool, do your thang.” We can notice when multi-million dollar corporations pay nothing in taxes and speak up to say that that is neither right nor fair in a society that has chosen to structure itself in such a way that everyone is supposed to contribute something.
It’s important that when BP causes a massive oil spill, people speak up when they try to write off the cleanup costs as a tax-deductible business expense.
If a poor person steals, we say something. If a rich person steals, we say something. We say it not because of Stories about money but because it’s not morally right to take something that is not ours.
But Paris Hilton, buying purses that cost thousands of dollars, or whatever the hell she does with those millions? None of my business (or yours).
Second Big Statement: How we approach money is related to how we approach life.
Imagine if I’d started this piece by saying, “I want joy. I like joy. I like having more joy than less and I like being joyful and still having more joy left over.”
You’d (hopefully) say: “Kate, you rock!”
So why not say that with money?
If I approach money with an attitude of restraint based on fear, or making myself bad for wanting it, or with insatiable need, then this is a golden opportunity to notice where I’m holding those attitudes somewhere else in my life, and it’s just getting projected onto some flimsy pieces of green pulp.
Get Out of Denial
Money is just one channel to offer us gateways to things that we want in our lives. Let’s stop denying that! In the quest to make sure everyone knows that “money isn’t everything,” we’ve gone to the opposite end of the spectrum and tried to make it…nothing.
Denying that money is a vehicle in life is the equivalent of denying that we have sexual feelings–that sometimes, even when we have the most amazing partner on the planet, we can still look over at some hot person and think, “Mmm, yummy.”
It’s not wrong to want certain things in our lives, whether those things are literal “things,” or experiences, or teachers who can guide us, or books, or to give to others, or…
The simple wanting of those good things is not some sign that you’re inherently flawed and need to get your desires “under control,” nor does it mean that you’re living an empty and meaningless existence, or that your partner isn’t The One.
We’re not bad or wrong for wanting more joy. We’re not bad or wrong for wanting more money–and we’re definitely not bad or wrong for wanting as much sex in our lives as possible (hell, I know I’m not!).
Need More Need More Need More
Back to the “money isn’t everything” part. When we bring in Stories, that’s when things get up-ended, again.
Let’s review: It’s not bad or wrong to want more joy, or more money, or more sex.
Now notice: What does “wanting more” mean for you? Is it “wanting more of a good thing” or is it “wanting more because there’s never enough”?
It’s probably not going to feel good to carry a Story that no amount of joy is ever enough (so I need more! I need more! I need more!) or that no amount of money is ever enough (so I need more! I need more! I need more!) or that no amount of partnership is ever enough (so I need that partner to fulfill all my needs! That partner couldn’t, so I need that partner over there! That partner couldn’t, so I need that partner over there!)
See what I mean? Joy is great, money is great, the sex (and emotional intimacy) is great.
However–Insatiable, unfulfilled, never-enough, perpetual and perennial wanting?
It has elements to it that can feel passionate (craving and desire can have an element of deliciousness to them), but every spiritual master you’ve ever met who says that this endless pursuit is hollow and empty is dead-on.
The trick is knowing the line–and it is tricky. The line is different for all of us, and only I can know when I’m thinking that the guy or gal across the room is a hottie because I’m appreciating the hotness, or because I’m feeling unfulfilled in my own relationship and in need of a “grass is greener” distraction.
We’re cautioned not to use money or sex to get to the joy, and we’re cautioned so strongly because it is so, so fucking easy to mix them up.
Wow! In Three Easy Steps…
“Notice. Choose. Act.” —Challenge Day
I will offer you the tried-and-true, no-fail, 100%-guaranteed method for working with money. Are you ready?
There are only three steps: Notice. Choose. Act.
Notice your money stuff. You’ll probably spend a lot of time, here. Notice and notice and notice.
Choose. Choose new patterns. Choose new money Stories.
Act. Follow up your decisions with action.
The steps are decidedly un-sexy (hint: most of the “real work” in life is not sexy, in part because it usually involves crying, snot, and lots of tissues).
Keep practicing, even if it’s not sexy or glamorous. This is courageous work.
Want to live with true richness? Uncover your money Stories, and powerfully choose from there.