Prosperity means different thing to different people. To me it means more than just money – it means total abundance in all areas of my life; my work, family, relationships and lifestyle. Money is merely a commodity that allows me to enjoy these things more.
A great number of motivational books seem to be written for people who want to get rich and that’s fine, but not everyone wants to be rich. Many want to be able to achieve their goals and live a life free of money worries. Whatever your goal, it is achievable because there is no such thing as luck. We create our world by the choices we make. Some of us are more fortunate in circumstances of birth and education, but ultimately what we make of our lives and our finances is up to us.
Money problems affect people from all socio-economic groups. Among my clients are wealthy widows, for whom money represents security and who are so fearful of making the wrong decision that they don’t make any at all. There are outwardly successful career women who overspend on credit cards, often to compensate for a lack in other areas of their lives. Others simply do not earn enough to live. At one time I was one of the latter group and it was only when I began to work on discovering my deep-seated preconceptions about money that I experienced lasting success in overcoming my financial difficulties.
What makes you feel prosperous?
There are no hopeless cases and there is no virtue in poverty. Anyone can prosper by taking charge of their thoughts and asking for help if necessary. You can start by deciding what makes you feel prosperous.
One of my clients, Frances, found that her financial situation improved when she decided to include luxury items in her basic budget.
When Frances first came to see me, she thought she was a hopeless case. Like many people with money problems she was on the defensive. “Coming here today is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s like admitting I’m a failure and there’s probably nothing you can do anyway.”
Frances is a librarian, divorced, and earning a good income. She has a problem with credit cards. Her debts included a personal loan, loans from two family members and seven credit card accounts. The monthly repayments were crippling her, and she was being hounded by creditors.
At first we worked purely on a practical level. We arranged a consolidation loan to clear all debts and then organised a budget so she could cover all expenses.
In the following months I saw Frances periodically. Sometimes she made progress; sometimes she slipped back into her old ways. We experimented with different methods of budgeting until we found one that worked. At one time, after running up her credit cards again, Frances decided to withdraw the last bit of money that she had invested with a finance company. At that time she was particularly stressed, as this meant she would have no money to fall back on. The money was invested for a long term, and although Frances was withdrawing early, the man from the finance company went out of his way to help her, without having any personal knowledge of her situation. He personally delivered the cheque to her home within a day. At the same time I decided not to charge my normal fee. She said, “It really makes a difference, I feel there are people who really care and I’m not alone.”
During one visit I asked Frances what made her feel prosperous? She answered almost immediately, “Always having flowers in the house and good wine”. Her next budget included these things as essential items. Most of Frances’ money went on paying bills. Consequently she rarely had any money in her wallet and often had to turn down invitations from her friends. I suggested that she should always carry $50 to help her develop a prosperity consciousness. Whenever she used this money she should replace it immediately.
Six months later on Christmas Eve, I received a call from her. It was to relay the good news that she had been given a promotion and with it came a $10,000 a year pay increase. Her spending was under control. She said, “I just wanted to let you know how wonderful things are. I now know what it is like to feel prosperous. The flowers and the wine, plus money in my wallet, made an enormous difference, I no longer feel deprived. There is always money to pay the bills when they come in and for the first time in years, there is money in my savings account if I need it. The most important discovery for me though is that there are people who care.”
When money gets tight the majority of people either cut down on spending or rebel by spending money they don’t really have. There is a balance between the two. The last thing you want to do is reinforce a poverty consciousness by acting poor. Expectancy plays an important part, so act rich – dress up, set the table nicely, pick flowers for the house. If there is enough money available, have a manicure or visit the hairdresser. If you are acting prosperously you cannot talk to everyone about how tough things are. It is much better to say nothing. This is not play-acting or burying your head in the sand, it is focusing your attention on what you want.
A natural tendency is to get caught in the trap of treating symptoms of financial problems. Symptoms could be debts, or never having any money left over for you, or could be constantly living beyond your means. One friend of mine has a tendency to overspend on credit cards. Once she’s in too deep, she moans about her situation. Then she obtains a consolidation loan, or her father bails her out, and she does the same thing again. Overspending in her situation is a symptom of a deeper problem.
Many people think nothing of consulting a doctor to identify the cause if they are sick, and the same goes for financial problems: it is perfectly natural to ask for help. Help can come from a financial adviser or a life coach, from a book or from attending a course. Because money is one of those subjects that people don’t talk about readily it can be difficult to broach the subject or to ask for help.
Another client gave herself endless anxiety because she was afraid to seek help. My first contact with Myra was on the phone and I noticed how abrupt she was. She was also very tense at our first meeting. For the past twenty years Myra had not lodged a tax return and she lived in fear of being discovered. Finally overcome by guilt, she confessed, ‘I cannot stand it any longer. I realise I may lose my home and even go to jail. Every time I drive past a women’s prison I think I’ll be in there one day’. When I explained that the worst that could happen was that she would receive a fine, she really didn’t believe me.
Another of her problems was that she had barely enough money to live on, although she earned a good salary. She had not been brave enough to fill in a tax rebate form that would have automatically reduced her tax, as she did not want to alert the taxation department to her situation.
It only took minutes to assess that Myra had paid too much tax and was due for a substantial refund. We could only find records dating back seven years, and the Taxation Department was happy to accept those. The end result was a tax refund of $25,000 and no fine.
It is hard to believe now that this client is the same person. Whereas before she was lucky to have twenty cents in her wallet, she now always carries a reasonable sum of money. She has a new car, new clothes and a new attitude. Opportunities have arisen for her and it is very possible that she will soon be a wealthy woman.
Make money your slave
As it is virtually impossible to ignore money, make money your slave. Once you master money it no longer controls you and will lose its importance. It is only when there is not enough, or you fear losing what you have, that you have to cling to it, worry about it, talk about it, and constantly look for solutions. This is misdirected energy which only creates more problems.
Money has a host of myths associated with it: you have to work hard to make money; money only comes through work; there is not enough for everyone else; if you have more than your share then someone will do without; you can’t make money being honest; artists, or certain professions have to struggle; it’s different for some people; money changes people; rich people are snobs; or, you only get one chance.
If you limit yourself by accepting any of these beliefs then your life will not change. Good fortune may fall into your lap but you will lose it somehow. Desire is the most important ingredient and if you want something badly enough you can achieve it. Prosperity is not just about making lots of money, it is being happy with whatever state you choose.
A mistake that some of my friends and I made when we first started practising positive thinking was to believe that if we spent and thought positively, the money would come. Sometimes it did, but mostly it did not. You cannot ‘fake it till you make it’ by living beyond your means and running up debts. This is not acting prosperously, nor does it change the real cause of your problem. By all means act prosperously and pamper yourself, but start living within your means now.
Make your own list of items that make you feel prosperous, they don’t have to cost money, and be open as to different ways you can attain your goals. Experiment and look for a better way to manage what you already have. Remember, if you keep on doing things in the same old way you will continue to get the same results.
The above is an extract from Anne Hartley’s book Love Your Money, Love Your Life. Anne trains life and money coaches. For more information: http://www.hartlifecoaching.com.au/certificate-in-money-coaching-2/