01/25/2011 04:59 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Understanding Yourself and Your Finances

Are you one of the millions of Americans seeking to make the best use of your money? What if that means debunking the old beliefs that have become the guiding principles in how you manage your finances? Do you feel like you may know how to make a living, but not know how to make a life?

You're not alone. We are in the middle of a serious epidemic in the U.S. -- an epidemic I call "lost sense of self." This epidemic has invaded our culture and has altered our sense of collective consciousness. We live in a culture that has placed inordinate value on outward symbols of our wealth, which dictate our sense of self. We are taught to look outside ourselves for things to make us feel fulfilled and self-satisfied.

We have lost an authentic connection to ourselves and to others, culminating in the loss of a compass pointing to the good life -- a life that nurtures us and our loved ones, rich in values and morals and not necessarily focused on mere materialism. Old myths that kept us hopeful and optimistic no longer work; we need a new vision for our time. If we don't feel we can be dependent upon a trusted paternalistic model (our government, our elected politicians, teachers, employers or financial advisors) to guide us and keep us secure, we'll have to empower ourselves to find the best course -- with a flexible and open mind willing to learn what works best along the way. We have to throw out old beliefs that no longer fit, be willing to take an honest look at what we've done thus far and who we have become. We can take an inventory and make the best use of the money and other assets we already have. If we learn how to place value on the most critical elements in our lives, we'll learn more about who we are.

Here are some guiding principles for gaining a greater sense of self-awareness, self-motivation and self-confidence in mastering your money for a fulfilling life:

  1. Make yourself count with determination. Don't short-change yourself, take the easy way out or remain detached. Step up and get involved in shaping your life and taking control of what you can. Many people got themselves in trouble because they didn't do their homework in acquiring properties and relied on others to control their destinies.
  2. Start to document what you do well so you continually reinforce the traits that are true assets. You can become your greatest financial asset in learning how to value yourself and acting with greater confidence that you can make a difference in your own positive outlook.
  3. Take control of your financial destiny. Being involved, informed and open to new information and new ways of thinking is a great first step to feeling confident and mastering your money management. It's not money, but how we use money, that is the key to security and fulfillment. Be dedicated to learning and doing -- take small steps consistently. You will become more confident with practice. Even if you have enough money, take steps to become aware of what you want from your money and how you want it to serve you.
  4. Understand what money myths run you and your money. If you have ever said, "I know I am smart about most things -- why am I not as smart about my money as I could be?" then develop a plan for gaining and using those smarts. What do you need and how will you use your newly acquired smarts to make sure money is working well for you and helps you make a life you want to live?
  5. Make a commitment to living your best financial life. As you make choices, be aware of yourself and your values. Learn what needs are most important and what will please you most over the long-term. If you are aware of your values and follow that direction, you will stay the course with greater conviction.
  6. Change often makes us feel uncomfortable, guilty, insecure and, most significantly, fearful and anxious. Change is a great challenge, so give yourself a break if you make a few mistakes or give into old habits. Take a mental note of what happened, double your efforts to succeed and move on with the new program. This may mean avoiding distractions and managing short-term will power decisions that will distract you and pull you off course from this new-found sense of what you want and what you value.

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