Being broke comes from two sources: not knowing how to get ahold of more money, and having negative ideas about where money comes from. Most of us are quite capable of doing things that can turn into money, if only we knew what they were. When we do imagine ourselves doing these things, we freeze. We're overcome with negative thoughts. It's the same as body image. We associate bad character traits with physical vigor in the same way that we do with wealth. More money? That's just going to mess everything up! We see what is really a neutral tool as a force of evil. These negative associations, I think, are why we act like we're allergic to money.
I used to "know" that athletic people were dumb, vain, arrogant, and mean. Gradually, I started to realize that I kept seeing pictures of wealthy celebrity athletes visiting children's hospitals, something that I have only done twice. These busy, famous people were visiting kids they didn't even know! Something was wrong with my mental image. Just because I had had some bad encounters with rude jocks in school did not mean that every person who goes to the gym has a cruel streak. I opened my mind. Now I know gym rats who: work with the homeless, run a preschool, coach at-risk kids, meditate, rehabilitate dogs, and other non-bullying activities. Being physically fit is not a character trait. It's not a complete package that works the same way in all people. Being wealthy is the same. It can be whatever you want it to be.
Greed, our strongest negative association with wealth, comes from scarcity mindset. It's only possible to be greedy when you fear that there isn't enough to go around or that you can never get everything that you want. Greed requires fear of competition. If I don't take it, someone else will, and then I'll get nothing and I'll be a loser. If someone else has something, it's something that I don't have for myself, and I want it ALL. Greed is only one manifestation of scarcity mindset, though. Social comparison is another. When I judge others who have something I don't have, I'm allowing myself to be distracted. I am forgetting to be grateful for my own life and I am, at least for a moment, no longer fully aware of what I have. Worse, I am forgetting what I have the power to DO. Another facet of scarcity mindset is the depressing feeling of poverty, which involves aspects of humiliation, social rejection, helplessness, and shame.
True wealth is abundant. For instance, the house that we rent has three citrus trees. They produce bushels of fruit for about half the year. All our neighbors also have at least one citrus tree apiece. We give away sacks of this fruit while still eating our fill, and sometimes it's all we can do to collect it all before it spoils. Even the two flocks of wild parrots that live here can't eat it all. Want some grapefruits? How about lemons? Tangerines? Oranges? The humble zucchini is another example. The trouble is that when we have easy access to abundance, we quit valuing it. Sometimes we even have contempt for it. Our gaze is irresistibly drawn to whatever someone else has that we don't.
I like comparing myself to the Emperor Charlemagne, who died 1200 years ago. I have all kinds of great stuff that he would give up a kingdom to have. Ice, for one. Central heating and air conditioning. A cabinet full of salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and even saffron. Refrigeration. Modern sanitation and vaccination. Basically anything that ends with '-ation.' My pillow. He might have had a crown, but I can buy a plane ticket (over my phone, with a credit card) and fly through the air! We take for granted all kinds of things that Charlemagne and his contemporaries wouldn't even understand, like space travel and the internet. Even our poorest people have basic literacy, when poor Charlemagne struggled just to write his own name.
Abundance means we understand that we create money by adding value to the world. Not that we don't already do that just by existing, of course! When we create things that never existed before, and allow people a chance to buy them, we can enrich the lives of others. When we offer services that can make other people's lives better, and give them a chance to hire us, we make the world a better place. Take J.K. Rowling, for example. You know she was on the dole while writing the world of Harry Potter into existence, right? So she wrote a bunch of books and was able to provide for her child. Then what happened? Millions of fans were able to enjoy the books and the movies. Thousands of people got jobs working on those books and movies. Bookstores had lines around the block waiting for new books to come out, and started having launch parties at midnight. Posters, t-shirts, Halloween costumes... See that it is possible to become wealthy by bringing delight into the world. Also note that the estimable Madame Rowling is an active philanthropist. Creating wealth does not have to take anything away from anyone else, and it doesn't have to turn you into a bad person.
Money changes things, just like every change changes things. There's no point denying it. The trouble is that we fear what we can't predict. We want to control all the risk out of our lives. The best way we know of to attempt to eliminate risk is to do nothing, not realizing that change will come for us regardless. There is no status quo. The best we can manage is a few similar years, if we hang on tight, but one way or another, change comes. Money can be a great insulator. Money allows us to adjust to change with less stress, as it can solve most problems more quickly than any other method.
When we think about money, it can be interesting to observe what sorts of thoughts bubble up. We can ask ourselves, is this really true? Where did I get this idea? Why do I think this? For instance, why do I associate money with ice sculptures? Then we can imagine doing it our own way, having the money without the negative association. Can I be rich and not throw my phone at my assistant? Can I be rich and not wind up in rehab? Well, sure! As with muscle, though, massive wealth doesn't tend to show up by accident. We get there incrementally, little by little. We can still control the rate. Most of us could double or triple our incomes and still not come anywhere near extreme wealth. Our negative associations with money don't have to come true the moment we earn more. We'll be okay. We have permission and it's allowed.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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