Changing the way we think about money
Updated: Jan 28
Financial security is important in making us feel happy and healthy, but we often make the mistake of thinking wealth is the answer to all of life’s problems.
I strongly believe that money is not the key to happiness and that having great wealth is not the answer to all of life’s problems. I do, however, need to declare that financial security is very important to me.
Recently, I was forced to take a step back and reconsider the way I thought about money – I wasn’t controlling my finances, they were controlling me. As with all mental shifts, reframing your mindset around money involves making a choice, taking action and practising that change until it becomes a more positive habit.
I now work hard to have a positive relationship with money so that it doesn’t dictate every minute, every decision and every experience for my family.
Here are a few ways that worked for me in improving my thinking around wealth and happiness – some might work for you too.
Honestly evaluate your financial situation
Take the time to evaluate your financial situation – not just for yourself, but for your partner and your family. It’s important to get external assistance in doing this, so refer to a book (like The Barefoot Investor), an online tool or request some professional advice. Understanding what your priorities are – like how much money you have, how much you spend and what are your wants versus real needs – is important to clarify with yourself and with your partner.
Once you have a clearer picture of how you can spend your money more purposefully, you have the chance to create a plan for what you really want to achieve. Some people get really afraid when they hear the word ‘plan’, but plans can be flexible and, most importantly, they have to work for you. A good plan will give you focus while also allowing you to step back; when you have a little structure and few guidelines to work with, money won’t need to dominate your thinking every minute of the day.
Set a goal
Setting a goal is essential in shifting the way you think about your disposable income. Whether it's setting a goal to save, to reduce spending or to more effectively use your financial resources, once you set a specific goal it’s easier to map out how you’ll achieve it.
There’s a couple of benefits to this approach. First of all, having a goal actually makes you feel like you’re in control and gives you a greater sense of perspective. Conversely, inadequate planning can lead to stress, with budget being one of the top stressors for Australians.
In setting your goal, the next thing you should do, is spend time clarifying why you want to achieve it. Ask yourself, "Why do I want this holiday/new car/to buy a house in the suburbs?" Is it that you want to travel to a bucket list destination and learn more about a culture? Is it that a new car will be a symbol of your hard work and effort? Is buying a house a way of providing security for your family in a suburb where you want to live?
Placing the importance on the ‘why’ instead of the monetary value actually makes the process of achieving your goal more meaningful and increases your motivation and drive to accomplish it.
Don’t use money to mask problems
There’s a reason why online shopping skyrockets after 8pm. At that time, our impulse control is usually at its lowest and we might be looking for a ‘treat’. Online shopping gives us a rush of positive emotions and happiness we might be craving after a long day at work.
Do you always need those new shoes or that extra dress? If I'm close to buying something in the evening, I force myself to shut the laptop and go to sleep. If I wake up the next day still wanting to buy it, then I'll continue the checkout process. This ensures I’m rested and therefore more rational. Honestly, more often than not, I can't even remember what I put in my online basket.
Impulse spending is very detrimental in the long term. We need to be careful that we don’t disregard our plan or budget just for short term instant gratification – especially if it might be masking bigger problems that need to be addressed.
Examine how money affects the way you socialise
When it comes to disposable income, we rarely take the time to reflect on what our priorities actually are. Quite often, through socialising and trying to ‘keep up’, we end up putting ourselves in financial situations that can bring us more pressure than we need – think going to restaurants that are more expensive than you have budgeted for, or simply shouting too many drinks.
It seems obvious, but it doesn’t always feel obvious in the moment: we don’t have to have the things that other people have, and we don’t always have to be the one shouting the group. You need to be honest about what's important to you and what you can and can't do financially. That's an important part of being honourable to yourself.
It might not always work for you but consider sharing your fresh approach to finances with those close to you. By letting others know your goals, they will likely become an important part of your support structure and ensure socialising is complementary to what you’re trying to achieve. I found the more I talked about creating a healthier relationship with money, the more people around me echoed the same need and shared new ideas.
Happiness can come for free
Happiness isn't a fixed emotion, it comes and goes. It certainly doesn't solely come from the positions that we hold or how much money we have in the bank. Practising gratitude, taking a walk in the park, giving a compliment and listening to a podcast are all free things you can do to create more positive emotions in your day.
In fact, taking control of your finances is a good way to feel more calm and in control of your life while increasing your self efficacy. You’ll feel proud that you’re progressing through your plan and that you’ve used some self-discipline to achieve a goal important to you. The sense of momentum this creates will generate a powerful sense of happiness and personal accomplishment that lasts for a much longer period of time.
Ultimately, life is about enjoying the journey as much as the destination. When we fixate on thinking happiness comes from money, then we neglect other experiences that bring so much colour to our lives. I’ve learnt that being vulnerable as well as courageous, sharing and caring, learning and growing, and getting up after I’ve been knocked down, are the things that have made my life truly rich – not all the little things I’ve bought along the way.
5 positive emotions and how to foster opportunities for them in your life:
Going for a walk, listening to music, taking a bath
Reading, learning something new, hearing someone’s story
Hearing a positive story, new ideas to an old problem, volunteering your time
Recognition for an effort, working through a difficult situation, being asked for advice
Sharing a smile, receiving a compliment, eating a treat
Originally published on www.onelife.aiavitality.com.au on June 5, 2018.
Alisa Camplin is an Olympic Gold Medalist, in-demand Keynote Speaker, Corporate Ambassador, and Human Performance Consultant who delivers results-driven Resilience and Human Performance Training and Development Programs. Connect with Alisa.