Money. How does the word make you feel?
Obviously, life is easier when we have enough of it than when we don’t. But in the end, it’s just bits of paper and metal that we exchange for goods, or for people’s time and skill.
So why is it such an emotionally loaded subject for most of us?
Dig down, and we all have hidden beliefs about money. We might not express them out loud. We might not even know we have them.
But they’re there, buried in our sub-conscious, affecting the way we behave around money without us even knowing.
A few common beliefs about money.
- Money is the root of all evil.
- To get rich, you need to be ruthless. (Or unethical. Or just plain nasty.)
- You can’t buy happiness.
- I’m not worth what I’m charging.
- People can’t afford to pay a higher rate.
- If I ask for more money, I’ll lose all of my clients.
- People like me never do well financially.
- I’m not good with money.
- Investments are difficult.
- I need this pizza/coffee/handbag/car/house. And I won’t be happy till I get it.
- If I accumulate too much money, I’ll betray my roots.
- If I earn more, I’ll outshine my siblings/schoolfriends, and that’s wrong.
- There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
- There’s always a price to pay for success.
- I’m already in debt, so what’s another £200 on top?
If you recognise any of these, grab a journal and put some time aside to really examine each belief. And decide how well it is serving you.
Try working through these questions.
- When did you first decide that?
- Did you ever not believe it?
- Do you know anyone who doesn’t think that is the truth?
- What’s the consequence of you believing that?
- What could you believe instead?
- What might happen if you did believe that instead?
Testing your upper limits.
In his book The Big Leap, Gaye Hendricks discusses what he calls the Upper Limit Problem. It’s when we reach the edge of our comfort zone with love, success or abundance.
It’s scary, uncomfortable. So we sabotage ourselves, to get back to a level that feels safer, more familiar.
We start an argument with our partner, over nothing. We sabotage a business success or start making unnecessary mistakes at work. Or we simply spend all of the money we’ve just gained.
If any of the scenarios below seem at all familiar, you’ve got an upper limit problem. And it’s probably caused by your beliefs about money.
You get a bonus at work
Enough to pay off your credit card debts, with even a little left over. But instead, you embark on a spending spree. Three months later, you’re even more in debt, and you look at the things you thought were so essential to your happiness when you went on your shopping binge, and wonder why you even wanted them.
You get a pay rise, or your business is doing well.
So you move to a bigger apartment, or buy a better car, or upgrade in some other way. Once you factor in the extra payments you’re making on this, you’re exactly where you were before – or you’re worse off.
You inherit a sum of money.
Or get a windfall of some sort. It’s not a life-changing amount, but a decent sum. You’re between jobs, but you decide to give yourself some time before looking for another position, or starting up the business you dreamed of. You spend the next year playing computer games, living on takeaways, and doing very little. Soon you’re a year older, no wiser, and the inheritance is all gone.
You’re in the final interview for a new job
It will up your income considerably. You know it’s gone well, and that the promotion is pretty much yours. And then you open your mouth and say something unbelievably stupid.
You get a great new client
They pay much more than your other clients. They appreciate your work and value it. Yet.. you continually miss their deadlines, or prioritise other work.
Learning to let yourself grow.
The cure? Just learn to recognise your upper limit problem when it comes, and sit with it for a while.
Where do you feel the discomfort, in your body? Focus on it. Get curious about it. Look for any hidden beliefs behind it.
You could choose to see it as growing pains, a sign that you are expanding. That can often be uncomfortable, at first. We have to get used to taking up a bit more space in the world, accepting that we deserve it and are worth it.
Now tune into any pleasant sensations you might have, elsewhere in your body. Really feel that, too. And see if it has a message for you, too.
Perhaps it’s time to contribute more of your income to good causes. Or to prioritise time with your loved ones over more work, more money. Or perhaps you just to celebrate how well you’ve done, and let yourself enjoy the abundance you’ve created.
We all have limiting beliefs that hold us back
I thought I’d dealt with most of my own money issues, but I recently uncovered a new belief, so deeply buried I hadn’t ever questioned it: to earn good money, you have to work really, really hard.
I’d been carrying this limiting belief for most of my working life, and it has often caused me to make jobs far more difficult than they needed to be.
I’m letting go of that belief now.
Working through the questions above, I realised that my parents – and indeed most of the people I knew, growing up – worked very hard, in jobs they often disliked.
I formed this belief about money after seeing my dad come home from work tired and dirty. Or my mum struggle to juggle two children and a job that was often overwhelming.
I think part of me has always felt it was unfair that I got paid for doing something I loved – writing. Which is also something that neither of my parents considered real work. I felt guilty, making money as a journalist.
The truth is, I love writing.
Even the difficult and frustrating bits, when I can’t see the shape it is taking, or wrangle the words to say what I’m trying to express.
I love reporting and interviewing. I meet interesting people who are doing interesting things, and I’m allowed to ask them lots of questions about it. Then share what I’ve learned with my readers.
I love coaching even more.
I get paid to chat with interesting, creative people, hear their stories, and to sometimes help them create new stories that serve them better.
I’ve put many hours into training, reading, researching and of course coaching to get good at it. But actually, very little of that ever felt hard. It’s fun, and I’ve enjoyed almost every minute of it.
When I think about it, I have lots of creative friends who feel the same about their work. And as a journalist, I have interviewed lots of people who earn fortunes doing work they genuinely seem to love.
There was plenty of evidence to contradict my belief
But believing, deep down, that you need to work hard for your money explains why I often complicate jobs that should be simple. Why I over-research short features, writing enough to fill a book when all that is required was 3000 words. Then labouring late into the night to trim it down to something more manageable.
Looking back, I see that I have often expanded jobs that feel easy for me so that they fit every minute of the time available, working weekends and evenings because some part of me really believed it had to be that way.
In the past, I’ve also struggled to charge a fair price for my work: a common problem for freelancers and the self-employed.
So what if I choose to believe something different about money?
What if I decide that earning money can be effortless, and fun? Perhaps I’d free myself to write more easily, with less drama.
Certainly I’d say no to the difficult book project I was recently offered, and pursue an easier idea. I’d stop moaning about how busy I am, and actually admit that I enjoy the work. Even as I write that here, I feel lighter and happier.
So what are your deepest beliefs about money? And how will you change them?