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07.21.2015 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

How to Embrace the Joy of Money

What you believe about money matters. It matters because what you think dictates what you do.

When it comes to money, we either believe we have enough to live, work, and play. Or, we believe that we have to race for more and more.

For some, money is a god. For others, money is a tool, a resource, something to be appreciated, valued, enjoyed, and shared.

The Choice of Scarcity or Abundance

Scarcity thinking looks like this: We fear money, crave it, chase after it, hoard it, or believe we don’t deserve it. When we have this type of relationship with money, we’re unlikely to grow it, give it away, or enjoy it.

It’s the “love” of money that gets us into trouble and catapults us into scarcity and greed. When money identifies who I am or dictates what I do, things can quickly spiral out-of-control. The people I’ve met who live from scarcity spend a great amount of energy trying to finagle other people’s money into their pocket.

Abundant thinking looks quite different: Money, in and of itself, is viewed as neutral. People who live from abundant perspectives will often say that money is a tool, something we use in exchange for goods and services. Often, these people don’t have the same level of emotions about money as those who chase money.

The difference between scarcity and abundance is peace of mind.

The point is this. We can choose how we experience money—no matter how much or little we have. We can embrace the joy of money—not because money itself can bring us joy, but because money allows us to bring joy to others.

Change Your Relationship with Money

My early research suggests that our beliefs about money stem from early childhood experiences. It’s the stuff we’ve heard from your parents.

For example, one of my mom’s favorite sayings was “that’s for rich people.” We weren’t rich, so the message was clear. We didn’t deserve anything. You can imagine how difficult it was for me to reconcile those thinking patterns with my own success. Guilt was too often my emotion of choice.

Here are a few questions to help you embrace the joy of money:

1. Do I tend to think from scarcity or abundance with respect to money?

Once you take notice of which camp you fall into, you can begin taking on other perspectives. The shift won’t occur over night, but every step toward abundant thinking will move you closer to joy.

Determine 2-3 behaviors in each camp and ask yourself what actions you need to take to step into abundance.

I, for example, stop allowing my mom to make me feel guilty every time I made more money.

2. Is money a driver or one measure of accomplishment in my life?

There’s nothing wrong with a desire to earn lots of money. But, if money is the driver, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself burned out and empty because there will never be enough.

When you view money as but one measure of how you meet your career and financial goals, it becomes an instrument that is no longer tied to the emotion of shame, failure, or guilt. It’s simply a neutral, a ruler, if you will. When we take the emotion out of money, we experience freedom.

3. Do I see money as an opportunity to bless others?

If the answer is “no,” you’re probably earning from a sense of survival or the obsessive need for more and more toys. The experience of generosity is a completely different perspective on the use of money. It’s difficult to be generous when we’re chasing money. There’s always an excuse not to give because we fear there will never be enough resources for our own needs.

Learning how to operate from a generous spirit actually frees us from this fear. It’s the old story of “give and you shall receive.” Generosity BREAKS the paralysis of scarcity and allows us to creatively seek new opportunities for money so that we can join in a cycle of giving.

I’ve written quite a bit about the difference between scarcity and abundance with respect to money. There really are no easy answers. But, if you begin by taking a deep hard look at the early childhood stories you learned about money and compare those stories to the way you handle and experience it now, I can assure you that you’ll find a correlation.

And, remember, with the first moment of awareness comes the opportunity for change.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. July 21, 2015