Forgive the absent posts. I was off visiting family in Alaska, the country's most gorgeous and expensive state. Thankfully, the view was free and there isn't a more amazing vista to be had! But, back to our regularly scheduled program...
I work with folks who should themselves too much. Perhaps you know these types? Heck, maybe you should yourself! It usually sounds a little something like this, "I shouldn't eat that...I shouldn't buy that...I shouldn't be so ungrateful..." In the financial realm, people often chatter about how they shouldn't buy things or even want. I say, hogwash. Tell that should to take a long hike off a short, steep cliff.
It's perfectly fine to want things (yes, even if you're poor or in deep financial distress). Wanting doesn't mean you don't appreciate what you have. What I encourage people to do is focus on the feeling. Does their want inspire dread, shame or depression? Does it make them feel as if they are lacking? Or does it signal hope of what is to come? The vision and excitement of a better life?
If you constantly tell yourself that you shouldn't want something, you'll only inspire unpleasant feelings. What good comes of misery? If you want to own a home, yet every time you think of that desire, you're left feeling like a broke failure, how can you positively pursue home ownership? If you feel like you can't buy anything EVAH, how long do you think you'll be able to sustain a savings program that will help you achieve your dreams?
What if you were to change your perspective and drop the shoulds from your vocabulary? How would it feel to respect all the things you want, both material and not, while holding the belief that those things will come to you? And how would you feel if those things look different than what you expect?
Here's an exercise I like to use:
1. Write down all those lovely things you want in life. Yes, the house. Yes, the fabulous partner. Yes, the world's most divine dress. Write it all down.
2. Next to each item, explain why you want it. Then explain again. And again. Let's take that house for instance. Why do you want it? Because you want your own place. Ok, great. Why do you want your own place? Because you want to build equity and have a place to live when you retire. Fabulous. Why do you want to build equity and have a place to live when you retire? Um, to have security. Duh.
So, what you really want is a sense of security. And at this point in your life, security has taken the shape of a house. You may even find that some of what you want has a shaky or silly foundation and has no real place on your list.
3. After you've dug deep enough to find the foundation of your desire, create a new list. You may find that as time marches on, the foundation of your desires build new structures. Last year, you wanted a house. This year, you may want a larger nest egg--both for the sake of security. The point is what you want doesn't necessarily have to be the house. Security can take on many forms (but it's perfectly ok if the shape stays the same!).
4. Keep both lists in a place where you can see them daily. Reinforce that goodness!
5. Get all hippie about it. Spend some time visualizing your desires coming to fruition. Imagine soup boiling on the stove in your home. Hear the sound of that fabulous partner talking to you from the next room. Sense the joy of having your desire for security, love, (whatever) made tangible.
6. Take concrete action to make the goodness happen. I am not a big believer in the model of ACHIEVE! ACHIEVE! ACHIEVE! But action creates motivation and forward movement. Simple acts count as well. Want a bigger savings? Track spending, develop a budget, slowly shave one percent off your spending per month and place the savings in a House Down Payment Account. Want to feel loved and appreciated? Take a long bath and play your favorite music. Do something, anything, that moves you closer to the foundation of your desires. God will do the rest (for the Atheists out there, just ignore that last line).
Shoulds tend to diminish us. Shaming ourselves for wanting perpetuates the false belief that desire is inherently wrong. But if we can change our perception and understand that our wants have deeper roots and those roots nourish our lives, creating new possibilities, we can experience joy instead of a sense of lack.
Speaking of getting all hippie about it, let's not forget what my favorite hippie (a psychologist, no less!) once said, "Your desires are holy." What is sacred is not shameful, and what is holy will surely come to pass.