Now that you’ve defined success for yourself, it’s time to begin your new, balanced financial life. Now you have to make sure you have a good foundation on which to build the new, happier and balanced you.
Think of these core components like the ingredients lists on a box of Oreo cookies. If you don’t include them all, they wouldn’t taste as good. The ingredients that comprise the new you are the 10 attributes of internal prosperity which, when put together, make a whole, healthy person. Think of them as the Lego blocks of life. If you put Legos end to end, they can’t stop a spitball, but if you place them in interlocking alternating rows on top of each other, you could practically knock someone out with them. What does internal prosperity look like? In this chapter, I’m handing you the picture of a person who has attained it, but I’m giving it to you one piece at a time.
See if any of these attributes of prosperity already exist within you. Evaluate your unique self and situation, and see which ones you need to develop. You may need to work on them all. That’s OK. You may choose your own path to attaining them or you can use ideas I offer here that fit your style and your life.
The pursuit of internal prosperity is a noble one. No amount of money in the world will fill that void which exists within you. One of the toughest prisons to break out of is the one we create for ourselves. It has multiple rings of defense against escapes. First, you have to give a damn, so you have to sneak past apathy and loneliness. Next, you have to jimmy the door and sneak down the hall of victimhood. Finally, you have to climb the high fence of low self-esteem and run for cover from the slings and arrows of your inner critic. Right now, with your money, all you are doing is trying to bribe the crooked guard named Denial, and we all know that won’t work. He’ll just keep bleeding you dry. Con artists know a sucker when they see one.
So is it hopeless to try to get out of the prison? No. Just like there are lots of ways to leave the big house, life gives you many opportunities to achieve internal prosperity; it’s up to you to find the way.
The power of internal prosperity is enormous. It acts almost like a shield against negative energy. I’m sure you’ve felt the draining power of negative life energy. At one point or another we’ve all been emitters. And we’ve all taken it in.
Negative energy is that feeling you get around someone else who is just not “right.” Maybe they are angry, upset or frustrated. There are a thousand reasons why people get this way. I’ve been like this at times. It’s frustrating when you get off-center. You are using valuable life energy and it is not producing any forward motion. It doesn’t create a positive effect in your life and, specifically, negative energy makes it nearly impossible to be kind to yourself or others.
A person who is internally prosperous is kind. Kindness may be the hardest attribute of internal prosperity to develop and display day after day. There are times when you are just pissed off at the world, at yourself or at some other irritating thing. When you are upset you will emit negative energy and repel wealth headed your way. In fact, it will stop, turn around and go somewhere else. You will have such tunnel vision that you will not be able to see the opportunities for wealth when they come near.
If you’ve never been kind to someone else and expected nothing in return, try it. Just do it. Once every day, at least. Kindness is free to give and receive. To be kind you don’t need to spend any money. Kindness can be as simple as giving up your seat on a crowded subway, holding the door for someone or letting someone go first in line at the store.
The nice thing about freely expressing kindness is that as you give you are repaid a little in your pocket and a little in your life’s savings account. The more you are kind to others, the better you will feel about yourself. The hardest part about being kind to others is when they are rude, nasty or mean back to you. You feel like you’ve been taken advantage of and before you know it, you stop being kind. You’ve got to resist that feeling and fight back with more kindness.
There is a difference between being kind and being abused. If you constantly do things for others expecting something good to happen in return, you will be disappointed with life. It can make you angry and bitter. You don’t have to be a doormat to be a kind and good person.
While you are being kind to others, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. You deserve good things in your life, too. If you find that you are not being very nice to yourself, stop and be a little selfish. It’s OK at times. If you feel you are unable to stop your inner critic, you will need to focus on ways to improve your self-esteem.
Here are eight easy acts of kindness you can begin performing right away:
Just say thank you and enjoy the fact that someone thought enough of you to offer a bit of comfort and happiness.
You know someone has achieved internal prosperity if they are grateful for the life they have. So, if someone else does something kind for you, be grateful. The only thing you are entitled to in life is…let’s see…nothing. That’s right. Everything more than nothing is a blessing in your life. Be thankful and grateful for whatever kindness or good fortune comes your way. A key attractor for money is gratitude. Those who are ungrateful often get the garbage that life dumps.
A gracious attitude is easy to accomplish. If you start from a position of understanding that any moment could be your last, you can easily find things for which to be grateful.
I’ll grant you, it’s hard at times. If you find it hard to find anything to be grateful for, use the emergency gratitude checklist.
(If you can answer “yes” to any of the following, you have something for which to be grateful.)
Am I alive?
Teresa, my wonderful and kind mother-in-law, died after a long period of terrible pain. Every joint and bone ached from being stuck in bed. The moment she was told she had pancreatic cancer, her spirit died. She stopped laughing, smiling or being happy at all. The end was rapid and horrible; then she died and left a huge void. While it looks like there is nothing to be grateful for, there is.
Teresa suffered so much but had much to be grateful for; she just forgot it in her anger over her situation. She could not see through her anger and remember the blessing of many years of joy, love and comfort from a caring family. They were by her side when she died and they took great care of her through her life and in her final days. For most of her life she laughed and was a friend to all. She was the kindest person I ever knew.
She died, and that feels awful. But she lived and for that I’m grateful.
Try this simple exercise. Look around wherever you are right now and see how many things for which you can be grateful.
Let me show you how this works in real life. As I sit and write this, I’m in my home office, the temperature is very comfortable, I have a cold glass of water, I’m sitting in a comfortable chair, the light is just right and the ideas are flowing. I’m grateful for all of the things that are right. Are some things not as perfect as I’d like them? Sure. But why not be grateful for those things that are good and fix the things that are not? You have a responsibility to yourself to be happy. Start small. Be grateful whenever you can.
People who are internally prosperous always take responsibility for their actions, in the financial arena and everywhere else in their personal and professional lives. Since we are talking about being responsible, let’s get right to it. If any trait were lacking among people today I’d say it is responsibility. People spend far too much time trying to find out who is to blame for every negative thing, however small, they perceive in their lives.
When it comes to money they are almost always trying to blame their situation on their creditors or on too much or not enough access to money. When it comes to life, your denial of responsibility will fracture the foundation of your internal prosperity. I’m not saying you have to accept responsibility for things you had no part of, but when it comes to money, let’s get real.
If you can’t pay your bills, for whatever reason, it’s your responsibility. When you took out that credit card or borrowed the money no one said, “Don’t bother paying us back if you buy a house that’s too expensive for you to afford.” If you can’t pay your bills, stand up, develop a plan, take responsibility. Be grateful for whatever solutions come your way. If you have to take some lumps because you can’t meet your rightful obligation, take the lumps and move on.
Before you can move forward in your life you must accept responsibility for those things for which you are responsible. You have to accept responsibility for finding internal prosperity, managing your available funds and not letting money needlessly slip through your fingers.
Before you can be a winner in the game of life you have to participate. If you choose to play the game, accept responsibility for your actions. Stand up, be counted, make an effort and make a difference.
I’d like to find the person who wrote, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” What if I don’t want to make lemonade? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the lemons, but if I don’t want lemonade, maybe I can trade them with someone else for something else I do want. I don’t have to accept what life gives me. I can be responsible for my own life and attempt to seek out alternative opportunities.
Being responsible means that you have to accept responsibility for your actions and the path you choose to follow. If you can’t get doors to open for you, then accept responsibility and attempt to find a way to open them. You might not be successful, but you’ll never know until you try.
Here is a common situation in which you can accept responsibility. Let’s say that the promotion and big raise you really wanted goes to someone else. Rather than being upset and bitter, be grateful you still have a job and accept responsibility for making the situation better. Take responsibility for the things you can change. Maybe the other person got the promotion unfairly. So what? It doesn’t matter.
Here are eight things you can accept responsibility for right now that will give you a better chance of getting a promotion and/or raise in the future.
Maybe it was something you didn’t know about.
There are many things in life for which we are not responsible. As it says in many of the agreements and contracts that we sign, these are called “Acts of God.” That doesn’t mean God had anything to do with it, it just means what happened was beyond anyone’s control.
At the very least, I want you to start being responsible for building your internal prosperity. Nobody is going to care about your ultimate satisfaction in life but you.
Let’s say one day you come home and there is a collection notice in your mailbox. If you sent the payment late, don’t complain about the notice. Instead, accept responsibility for sending the payment late. Accept the fact that the letter you are holding in your hand now is simply the result of your not taking responsibility for paying the bill on time.
Once you do that, you can accept responsibility for doing things differently next time to avoid a similar situation.
In the case of the late payment that you made, one of the reasons the payment was late was you had not developed a keen sense of awareness.
To be mindful is to be aware of what we are doing and what we are thinking — of our intentions and how we see them through in our actions. To really know when we are happy and appreciate the things we have, we must be aware of things that are not going well. To be aware of the bad times and then benefit from them, you have to live in the immediate moment — the now.
When the late notice arrived, you got upset, ranted and raved for an hour or so and it ruined your whole night. If you had been aware early on, you would have sensed that the bill was getting late instead of being surprised. You would have been aware that since the payment was late, you might receive some communication about it. Be aware.
Mindfulness is important to help you identify those things around or within you that are blocking the way to internal prosperity and satisfaction.
Use mindfulness to set the alarm that will ring in your head before you make a huge purchase. Be aware that you might be making this huge purchase for reasons other than needing it. Ask yourself these four pre-purchase questions.
Copy these questions down on an index card and slip it in your wallet or purse. Pull the card out when you need it.
Use these new moments of awareness to investigate your beliefs and to be introspective. When you go to make that big purchase and ask yourself the four prepurchase questions, really talk to yourself. Then, make note of the answers that surprised you.
Who are you? The hardest person for us to answer to is ourselves. Introspection is an asset in striving for internal prosperity because we need the ability to examine our beliefs and uncover the motivations behind what we do with money, credit and debt.
When you asked yourself the pre-purchase questions, did some of the answers surprise you? Maybe your inner voice said that one of the reasons you were making the purchase was because it was a status product for you. It was a physical item that you could use to show others how important you are. Maybe it was a house in a certain neighborhood or a specific type of car or dress. Maybe if you purchased it and others saw it, it would make you feel more included. You can save a lot of wasted money by being honest with yourself. You might surprise yourself and find that your answers tell you that you are buying something because it gives you joy and there are no hidden messages. That’s when buying stuff is the most fun, when it’s just for your own (or your family’s own) good.
As you contemplate your thoughts and feelings you may find something you don’t know how to resolve. If you have a good friend with whom you are comfortable sharing your secrets, talk to them.
You can write your thoughts in a journal and let your stream of consciousness flow to the pages and see if you gain more insight. Or you can always seek the advice and assistance from a professional. Whatever path you choose, do anything but live your life in a vacuum.
The thought of being introspective to many is a new concept. Many people never examine their beliefs, motivations and behavior. They tumble through life and always wonder why they never have as much money as they would like. I would estimate the average person spends less than a week, in an entire lifetime, being introspective. If you listen to yourself a little each day, you might not like what you hear at first, but you can change the things you don’t like. Reward yourself for the things you do like. Nobody is going to pat you on the back for your victories. They can’t hear your inner voice and see your progress. Be kind to yourself.
Let’s say you are out shopping with friends at the mall. If you find it hard to be introspective in the middle of a busy mall, here are some ideas that will help. Excuse yourself for a few moments and either find someplace to go (“I have to go to the restroom. I’ll be right back.”), or take a lap around the mall. (“I’ll be right back. I have to go look for something I think I lost.”) You don’t need to tell them you’re looking for your internal honesty. As you walk, kick in that soft, focused gaze and talk to yourself. Ask yourself the pre-purchase questions.
If you have the pre-purchase question card in your wallet, pocket or purse, the card will help prompt you with the questions.
Here are some real answers to the pre-purchase questions:
As you walk back toward your friends you should have answered all four questions and the answers should have drawn you to decide if you should really buy the item or not.
If you no longer want to make the purchase, gracefully move the group on to something else. Trust me, they’ll be easily distracted by the next fabulous item.
It’s OK to buy the things you want as long as the reason is not to impress others or present a dishonest facade.
Here are some good answers to the pre-purchase questions.
As you spend a quiet moment being introspective, you might discover that whatever it is that you are buying fills a need in your life and you can afford it. Buying things that improve your life and that you can afford is healthy and fine.
Once you examine your motives for desiring something, over time, you will develop confidence in yourself and your decisions. You’ll learn which purchases are for utility and comfort and which are just for show.
If you practice and come to embody the first five attributes of internal prosperity, confidence will come. Confidence is the state of knowing who you are, why you do things, that the things you do are considerate of yourself and others and, finally, the things you do are always executed in the spirit of gratitude.
Confidence can be the most elusive building block of internal prosperity. There are many things that happen in our lives each day that easily erode our confidence. Our minds can race ahead and create imagined situations or events that can shake our confidence if we let it. If we are not careful, we rob ourselves of deposits in our
“You’ll never succeed.”
“You’ll never be happy.”
“Nobody likes you.”
“You are stupid.”
“You are ugly.”
“You are miserable.”
Our inner critic has a full-time job and guaranteed lifetime employment. It is true: The person who holds us back is our enemy, and sometimes our enemy is us.
As long as your head is full of frequent, pre-programmed negative messages, there is no room for new opportunities in life.
Maybe while you are reading this book you have a flash of inner honesty. Maybe you’ll silently admit to yourself that you have been picking up the tab at lunch because it makes you feel more important and successful. The thought of not picking up the tab makes you uncomfortable. You are afraid that if you don’t pick up the tab your friends will think you are not as successful as you want them to think. Aren’t some of your money issues caused by your spending money to portray a false self-image?
Do you have the courage to act differently next time the check comes? Will it be uncomfortable? Probably, but as long as you accept that possibility, you can prepare for it.
You’ve programmed your friends to react a certain way when you are there. They now expect you to pick up the tab. Changing your ways and their idea of normal is going totake courage and the belief that you can accomplish these programming changes.
In this case, you need to have the self-esteem to know that you are a valuable person.
You deserve to have people want to be around you for who you are rather than for access to your money. The worst-case scenario in this situation is that you may discover that some of those hangers-on were not really your friends, they just wanted a free lunch.
Some people who struggle with severe self-esteem issues say their inner critic is talking to them almost 100 percent of the time. You can imagine how hard it is to consider new possibilities and opportunities when your inner critic is constantly reinforcing your inability to achieve anything. Unless you can reduce the volume of your inner critic’s voice, you can’t let prosperity in. Developing a stronger self-esteem is one of the foundation building blocks for internal prosperity. All of the opportunities for you to achieve external wealth can be lined up at your door, but if don’t feel you are adequate enough to open it, you won’t.
There are many helpful books, tapes, classes and therapy sessions that can help you overcome self-esteem issues. Rather than continue to be your worst enemy, pursue other possibilities, find solutions and take decisive action.
Once you develop a healthier respect for yourself, you will have the ability to share your love and kindness with others. What fun is external wealth if we hate who we are inside?
One gentleman I know has worked in the same job for years and years. He feels hated by his co-workers, picked on by his boss, is in therapy, on medication, has a lousy relationship with his family. He is constantly telling himself what a failure he is. His inner critic is a huge bully. Worse than any you can imagine. He gets internally beaten up every quarter hour, awake or asleep.
But wait, there’s more. His finances are a wreck. He is underpaid for what he does and he refuses to change a thing. Yet, he is constantly complaining that his life is horrible.
I’ve made every effort to help him find a new job so he can increase his income. He can’t even take the first step and get me his resume. This man is destined to remain in his own hell on earth because he can’t break free. Sadly, his perception is that he is a victim in every situation. He believes he is powerless to take control. He feels he is not worthy of a better life. I’m still trying.
By focusing on building your internal prosperity, you will build your confidence. As your confidence builds, you will begin to appear less nervous and more self-assured to others. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to impress others without spending a lot of money.
The creation and presence of confidence gives you the inner support you need to be comfortable with yourself and to accept the answers that come to you from your inner voice. You are what you are. Even if you are currently less than you want to be, you should be proud of yourself for reading this book. Be confident that you will begin to implement what you learn to improve your life.
Sometimes your confidence can be shaken because you don’t know the rules. Let’s say you go out to eat with new friends. As you sit down, all the place settings are kind of close together and you forget which bread plate is yours. Is it the one on the right or the left?
If you want to be confident about which one is yours whenever you go out, here is a simple trick. Put your hands in your lap and make an OK gesture with both hands simultaneously. Notice how the left hand looks like a lowercase “b” (for bread) and the right hand looks like a lowercase “d” (for drink). Notice how you instantly feel confident about which plate is yours. Don’t you feel just a bit less stressed?
You have to have confidence to be able to take advice from your conscience about money. You need confidence to believe in your decisions. In life there will be a long line of people waiting to tell you when you do things wrong. One study of parents and children found that in an average day, parents told their children 432 negative things and only 16 positive things. And we wonder why we don’t have more confidence.
Along with heightened confidence comes the danger of too much confidence. Too much confidence can blind us to the facts. When we are blinded by excessive confidence, we make mistakes. When we make those mistakes and feel embarrassed or frustrated, we should remember to be humble.
You know people with humility. They are the people we trust with our secrets. The people we call when we are in trouble. The truly humble are also the truly powerful; they are at peace with themselves and derive great strength from being confident that they
belong in the world and have a purpose in it.
Every one of us will live and die. We are human. Being constantly aware of this humanity helps us develop humility. Humility is like the counterweight to confidence.
When they are perfectly balanced they help your soul to swing like a pendulum. It might rock from left to right but it is always balanced.
You need humility to understand that you are only human, and no matter how hard you try, you will make mistakes. Let’s say you come into a sudden large sum of money.
Be grateful for your windfall but also be humble. Just as you received it, life can take it away. It is a gift, a happenstance.
Humility is also the ability to understand that you are never superior to any other living being. Oh sure, you might moan and complain about things here and there, but deep down in your soul, be humble — aware that you are a fortunate, special person and whatever good fortune you have is a blessing.
As I sit writing this I have my favorite headphones on — I use the same pair in our radio studio and they are a blessing — I really appreciate them. The padded ears keep out almost all outside sound and create a musical universe inside my head, which is incredible. The Baroque music is caressing my brain and I am humbled that someone so talented could write music so beautiful. Imagine the incredible talent that must take, in addition to years of dedication and study. I am awed by it.
Imagine being the president of the United States, the leader of the free world. You’d probably feel pretty cocky wouldn’t you? Almost everything you want is at your beck and call and you have the power to wipe almost any country off the face of the world. You’ve got the power! No matter how full of yourself you might get, can you imagine being at an official state dinner and vomiting on your host? That’s what happened to the elder President Bush at a dinner with the Prime Minister of Japan. Then the television news played the clip over and over for millions of people to see! Life has a funny way of letting you know where you stand.
Spiritual people acknowledge the existence of the transcendent, a power that is good and more powerful than they are. It’s hard to talk about spirituality without using the word “God.” The moment the “God” word comes up it can create all sorts of baggage that prevents us from even having a conversation. My comments about spirituality have little to do with organized religion. For that matter, they have little to do with your ideas surrounding what “God” is.
Let’s cast aside your previous notions about what the word God may represent for you. Let’s see if we can take it down to the very base level of spirituality and agree that there is a possibility that a higher power can exist — call it whatever you want.
Before you can build your own strength, you need to recognize that you can turn to a power outside yourself for help and assistance. Your strength will arise from your recognition of your weaknesses and limitations.
My biggest life hurdles have given me a peace and knowledge I would never have otherwise experienced and I’m grateful for that. I already told you about my bankruptcy experience and the pain that I went through. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. If I hadn’t lived through that and other bad times, I certainly wouldn’t have gained valuable insight that has helped so many other people. I don’t blame a higher power for allowing me to feel that pain and I don’t allow that trauma to become a weakness. Ironically, what others may perceive as my greatest financial failure is truly the root of my greatest strength.
I will make mistakes in life, but I rely upon my higher power to help me use those experiences to become stronger. I know now that valuable information can come out of bad experiences. While this valuable information might not be apparent at the time, when you look back you have to accept responsibility for your part, listen carefully for the lesson and have faith.
To achieve inner prosperity and peace within ourselves we do not have to have a belief in an organized religion, but we do need to at least accept the possibility of a higher power.
While you might have been raised in an organized religion, for many it has created a complicated spiritual environment. In order to develop a healthy level of spirituality, be open and flexible. Allow others to determine for themselves what their higher power means to them. Let them deal with the rules, beliefs and rituals they have created for demonstrating their faith.
To be a spiritual person, you do not need to pass the plate, make a pot luck dish, get on your knees, fight your way out of the parking lot on a crowded Sunday morning, shave your head, beat your chest or confess a thing to another person. You do not need to label your higher power to believe. There are about 210 recognized, distinct organized churches, belief systems and denominations in the United States. Each group has similar, different or opposed beliefs. It gets very complicated and exclusionary.
For the most part, people make believing in a higher power far too complicated.
To achieve internal prosperity, you just need to believe that a higher power can exist and that the higher power is more powerful than any woman or man. We have no power over our birth and, for many, no power over our death. Your presence on earth is not an accident. You are a blessing, a special treat. Try to incorporate this idea into your spiritual life. You don’t deserve bad fortune any more than good fortune.
Take prayer, for example. People think they’re entitled to make demands of their higher power instead of asking for guidance and listening with an open heart. Many people’s prayers are nothing more than a shopping list of things they want to have. For some, praying is nothing more than a one-way wish. Stop talking at your higher power.
Take a moment to consider another way to pray, because prayer can be beneficial. Instead of praying at your higher power, have a conversation. Talk to your higher power whenever you want. You don’t need to face a certain direction, watch the sun, be in a certain building or wear certain clothes. You can talk to your higher power whenever you want and wherever you are. You can be in line at the deli or watching a sunset on a cruise ship with a warm tropical breeze. When you have a conversation with your higher power, share news about yourself, ask for help, ask for guidance and, most of all, be grateful for those things which have provided you comfort or made your life special today.
If you find yourself struggling to break the use of money to replace the emptiness in your life, ask your higher power for help in opening yourself up to new ways of living.
Keep a watchful eye and an open ear for solutions. How do you listen? Learn to be a good listener. How to become one? Ask questions of yourself and then give yourself the time and space to hear the answer.
If you find that you are uncomfortable living within your income, ask your higher power for guidance. If you are having trouble working through any of the 10 building blocks of internal prosperity, ask your higher power for help. If you are abusing money to change the way you feel, ask for direction when you feel yourself getting the buzz.
You will be amazed how often a solution will appear. It might not be right away but, for the most part, answers to your questions will be apparent if you are watching and listening for them.
Can you get help from other people to help you solve problems or uncover beliefs when you believe in a higher power? Of course you can. Prayer or belief alone does not replace your need to seek practical or emotional assistance. For many years, alcoholics have sought comfort and assistance from Alcoholics Anonymous. Some of the founding principles that have helped hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of members get better include a spiritual component.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Decided to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God to be.
Admitted to our higher power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Resolved to have a higher power remove all these defects of character.
Humbly ask a higher power to remove our shortcomings.
Sought, through prayer and meditation, to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Does a higher power exist? Do miraculous things happen? Let me share with you an event that changed my life.
After I graduated from high school in 1977, my friend Larry and I spent the following summer traveling around the Eastern United States in my 1969 light blue VW bus with mirrored windows. It had “Scuba Steve” painted on the back. All right, I was a scuba diver. What the heck was I thinking?
It was a great vehicle to have as long as you were going downhill and a crosswind wasn’t blowing. If you’ve ever owned one of these, you know what I’m talking about.
It’s the only vehicle that I’ve ever had that would change lanes by itself if a truck passed me or I was crossing a bridge in a stiff breeze. It had the engine of a food processor and if the fan belt broke, I could use a rubber band as a replacement. One time, the accelerator cable broke and I drove home using a string tied to the carburetor. It was strung from the engine in the back, over the roof, through the sunroof I’d cut slightly off center, and hung down next to me. If I pulled the string, I’d accelerate.
I learned to be very patient driving it. The engine could barely keep the thing moving up hills. I think my fellow motorists thought it was really nice to be behind me on long, uphill, two-lane, can’t-pass country roads. It must have been great for them because by the time we finally crawled our way to the top, I’d pull over and they all would raise one finger at me as they raced past. I’m sure they were telling me, “Hey buddy. You’re number one.”
One day Larry and I were cruising through Tennessee. Just logging a lot of middle-ofnowhere, nothing around, country highway miles. We were passing through the hills and couldn’t get any radio reception. We had been together for so many days that conversation really wasn’t necessary. We just sat and stared straight ahead and drove in silence.
As we came down a mountain with trees on either side of the highway, we rounded a steady right corner to see about a half-mile straight section of highway followed by a steady left curve to come and more big hills. About six cars were in front of us and about the same number behind us, coming down the mountain. We were in a loose pack.
As we rounded the curve, I could see there were no cars headed in the opposite direction toward us. Our pack was really the only group of cars we had seen in a while. A Ford Pinto with what appeared to be four adults in it, was pulling off to the right hand shoulder. Just as the Ford came to a complete stop, a large car ran straight into the back of it traveling at full speed. The Pinto exploded, the car that hit it exploded, the cars in front of me collided and some exploded. Fire and cars engulfed the highway in front of me. There was no time available for me to react. I was already on top of the thick walls of flame that had shot across the highway from side to side. I glanced in the rear view mirror and the cars behind me were skidding and colliding. I was in the middle of a train wreck and I was going to die because I knew that if I hit my brakes, the cars behind me would hit me and I’d wind up in the burning wreckage. All of a sudden a window opened in the wall of fire, large enough for me to pass through. I was the only vehicle to make it through. Nobody else made it. I successfully negotiated the immediate left curve, raced to the next exit and called for help.
Why were we the only vehicle to pass through the sheets of flame? Was it the cushion of air from in front of my vehicle that parted the fire? Was it a higher power that allowed me to be the only vehicle through the death and destruction? It was pretty damn miraculous, that’s all I know.
The forecast says a flood is on the way, but a man refuses to leave his home. The water rises to the top of the first floor of his house. He goes to the second floor. A rescue boat comes to the second floor window and the rescuer says, “Get in. Let me save you.”
“No”, the man says. “I believe in God and God will save me. Go on.”
The water rises to the top of the second floor and the man climbs to the attic. A rescue boat comes and the rescuer says “Get in. Let me save you.”
“No,” the man says. “I believe in God and God will save me. Go on.”
The water rises to the top of the roof and the man is perched on the very top of the roof. A rescue boat comes and the rescuer says, “Get in. Let me save you.”
“No,” the man says. “I believe in God and God will save me. Go on.”
The water covers the house completely and the man is swept downstream and drowns.
He arrives in heaven and asks, “God, why did you abandon me? I believed in you.”
God says, “What are you talking about? I sent you three boats.”
While we are on the subject of spirituality, let me ask you this, don’t you think your higher power would want you to have money if you had internal prosperity and could handle it? After all, external wealth with inner prosperity is a healthy balance. Your higher power wants you to be prosperous, wealthy, happy and loved. Do you?
If you cultivate flexibility in yourself, you will be able to meet challenges without breaking. A common metaphor in Eastern thought comes to mind, here: A strong wind can blow over the massive but rigid oak, but because it bends with the wind, the willow stands after the storm.
To be prosperous you need to develop your ability to be flexible — open, inquisitive and accepting of different points of view and possibilities. When you are stuck in a deep rut, the only thing you can see are the walls of your rut. There is a whole new world outside your hole. You just can’t see it.
Consider new possibilities and you open yourself up to new solutions. If you can’t be open enough to think outside your box, you will never break free.
Take a piece of paper and write PROBLEM at the top. Write out a very detailed and clear explanation of the problem that you are trying to overcome. You will refer back to it as you go.
Next, place that first page in front of you so you can constantly go back and read it over and over as you develop solutions. Take a new piece of paper and write “SOLUTIONS — PRACTICAL” at the top. Write a description of a possible solution.
Number them as you go. Between each solution, reread the problem statement. Write another possible solution and then reread the problem statement. Repeat this as many times as you can until you can no longer think of solutions. By rereading the problem statement each time, it will help you spot areas of the problem you have forgotten about and it will clearly focus you on what the actual problem is.
Take a new piece of paper and write “BELIEFS” at the top. Read the problem statement and write out your beliefs about that situation and statement. Number them as you go. At the end of each belief write “Why?” and answer the question. Why do you have that belief? If you find that your beliefs are primarily shaped by others, you’ve really got to question those statements. Are you trapped in something a parent told you, or maybe a teacher or a friend? Just because they said it was so, does not make it so.
They’ve just closed your doors to openness by giving you boundaries you now allow yourself to be trapped within.
Next, when you run out of practical solutions, get a new piece of paper and write “SOLUTIONS – FANTASY” at the top. Repeat the same procedure as before, read the problem and write down a solution. Start dreaming and start writing down fantastic solutions. It doesn’t matter how practical they might be. By writing these down, it will open you up to new possibilities you may not have previously considered.
Finally, take the last sheet of paper and write “SOLUTIONS TO INVESTIGATE” at the top. Go back and reread the problem, beliefs, practical solutions and your fantasy solutions. See if you can’t find a solution by combining those parts of fantasy solutions that can be achieved with practical solutions with which you may be more comfortable.
Consider those beliefs that you’ve carried with you but have never questioned before. By demystifying some of your beliefs new solutions are possible. Is there one solution that you wrote that might work? I bet there are a bunch.
Here is an example.
I am the designated bill payer. My husband won’t do it. When I get home at night I’m tired. When I’m at home taking care of the kids or doing stuff around the house it leaves me little time and energy to focus on paying the bills. I need to find a better way to pay the bills before they are late.
Solutions – Practical:
Solutions – Fantasy
Solutions to Investigate
If not everyone is good at paying the bills and there just isn’t enough time in the day, why don’t I hire someone to pay my bills for me. The bills can be sent to them, they pay them and give me a household allowance. What a stress reliever that would be.
Overheard at dinner:
Mom: “What kind of Jell-O do you want? I have cherry and grape.”
Child: “I want orange.”
Openness also means the ability to select from options available to us and not hold out for something that is not a possibility at this time. Sadly, you might miss out on a tremendous life opportunity just because what you are being offered does not match your expectation. Be open to new possibilities. Be responsible for thinking if there is a way they can work for you. They might not, but at least consider them.
Here is an example of a situation I see all the time. A couple says they need some additional income. If they don’t find the money they will fall behind on their bills, might lose the house, car, or wind up in collections. The conversation usually goes like this.
“Have you considered the possibility of increasing your income at your current job?”
“There is no hope.”
“Have you thought about making yourself more valuable to your employer so that when the next raise comes around, you’ll have a better chance?”
“They won’t do it.”
“Have you explored the possibility of a part-time job to supplement your income?”
“I don’t have the time.”
“Have you considered looking for a new job which will pay you more?”
“I saw a job that would pay me more, but it meant I would have to relocate and I’m not moving.”
Can you picture what the outcome is like in this situation? Can you see how that when we shut ourselves off from possibilities we close the door on the opportunity to achieve our goals and lead a rich and rewarding life?
I realize that anything beyond our perception of normalcy is sometimes uncomfortable. Sometimes we really do want orange but our options are only cherry and grape. If you can’t accept cherry or grape for now and work toward orange later, you’ll have nothing.
Being open means you are willing to tear down your walls a bit. If you don’t tear them down and let others in, you can’t get out.
When it comes to your money, be open to new ways of dealing with situations other than trying to buy love and affection. Consider things you have not tried before. Try meditation, exercise, proper diet, spirituality, outside assistance, etc. While some of these ideas may be new and uncomfortable, some may also be the path to the happiness you seek. Your fear of trying is keeping the door closed.
For many of the people I have helped over the years, the fact that they are dishonest with themselves has prevented them from achieving happiness. The simple inability to see their situation for what it is holds them back from reality. The inability to listen to some honest messages coming from inside and outside of themselves holds them back from opportunities to be happy.
If you feel entitled to have more money, be honest about your willingness to make changes and sacrifices to achieve that goal.
For example, I was thinking about pursuing another master’s degree, this one in substance abuse counseling. While I would really like to complete the program, it’s expensive and I cannot honestly say to myself that I would be able to make a multi-year commitment to devote the time necessary to completing the degree.
Rather than launch into something that will be very expensive and not finish it, I’ve decided to pass. However, that does not mean I can’t learn more about it. There are many books I can read, seminars I can attend and people I can talk to about the subject and learn a lot on my own.
Sometimes I see people jump into expensive endeavors without thinking it through. They drop out of jobs and go back to school, move across country or start their own businesses, all of which costs them loads of money they don’t necessarily have. All because they could not be honest with themselves.
If you feel as if life has cheated you, be honest with yourself about why, and take steps to fix that situation.
If you feel you need to spend money on others or they won’t love you, be honest with yourself. If they only love you for your money, do they really love you? Are you getting a good return on that investment in false friends and false realities?
If you feel you need to make huge changes in your life before you can be happy, be honest with yourself and see if, rather than running toward a new opportunity, you aren’t running from your present life.
Be honest with yourself about what it is you really want to achieve. Ask yourself, will money alone make me happy?
Chapter 7 – The Attributes of Internal Prosperity in Action
Chapter 1 – I Got Hit in the Head With a Baseball and I Saw it Coming
Chapter 2 – What Your Money is Trying to Tell You
Chapter 3 – Take a Lap on the Gerbil Wheel of Debt
Chapter 4 – Why Money Doesn’t Make You Happy
Chapter 5 – If You Had a Million Rats, Would You be Successful?
Chapter 6 – The 10 Attributes of Internal Prosperity
Chapter 7 – The Attributes of Internal Prosperity in Action
Chapter 8 – Your Money is Your Friend
Conclusion – Listen to Your Heart