I'll show you mine, if you show me yours.
Would you be willing to display your current financial spreadsheets -- to put it all out on the table? And I'm not talking about a tête-à-tête with your accountant as you sit anxiously preparing your year-end taxes -- I mean for all to see. Do you suddenly feel fidgety and uncomfortable? Does the mere thought of it make you cringe as sweat beads gather upon your forehead pondering WHY would I want to do that? Do I have to?
Firstly, relax and take a deep breath -- I don't actually want to see anything, nor am I suggesting that you bring a printout of your latest finances to the next cocktail party (as a matter of fact, please don't). Instead, I would ask you to use this provocation to explore why the suggestion of such an exercise has you all flustered. You might be surprised.
Our finances hold secrets and reveal a story about us. I'm less concerned about the bottom line figures and more focused upon the transactions and the roadmap they outline. In many ways we live one reality and quite often present another to the world. Some of us cry poverty, some of us boast wealth, but maybe neither of these are accurate -- we may simply be stuck in a bad theory repeating old ingrained behaviors.
Have you ever contemplated your spiritual relationship to money? Did you realize the two could co-exist, or have you harbored the notion somewhere deep in the crevices of your psyche that money is dirty? Like it or not, you have a long lineage with your theories regarding money that stretch all the way back to your childhood. Are you ready to reach back? What do you remember about money and your childhood? Did you overhear your parents talking about it? Did you feel safe? As a child (and perhaps for much of my adulthood) I believed that money could make my troubles fade away. It certainly can provide a temporary sense of power and relief (think retail therapy - the great intoxicator). Just as the lack thereof can strip you of your mojo, leaving you terrified and immobilized. We know the clichés -- money doesn't buy happiness, money makes the world go around, I am not defined by my money, etc. Which one resonates with you?
I'm here to tell you that you can redesign your relationship to your money in the same way you can change your relationship to anything else in your life. There's no denying the power we place upon money in our society. Even the mere notion that we should not discuss it carries its own weight and message. Half the reason I spent my entire life sorting through my own money theories is because no one really ever talked to me about it and I never asked.
I have been working with other people's money for nearly two decades and have helped clients navigate through myriad financial issues, guiding people from the brink of bankruptcy back to thriving careers. I have seen it all and rarely get rattled anymore. Yet there is no fairy dust being sprinkled around. It is about partnership and accountability; uncovering your role in how you landed here in the first place and claiming responsibility. We may not always like to hear that, but there is rarely a situation one finds themselves in with respect to finances (or anything else for that matter) that they did not play a part in. You are the steward of this ship and get to decide where it is all going next. No one else can change the trajectory without you.
As a business manager, I have a bird's eye view into much beyond profit and loss statements with my clients. How we handle our money is very telling. For me it is like reading tea leaves. I can identify much about the individuals whom I work with and their personal lives from the very onset. Financial sheets provide insight into our personal lives, habits, belief system, and most notably, our relationship to self. If you take stock of that idea, you might look at your money through a new lens. I've learned that we are capable of re-writing the book on fiscal irresponsibility. And even if you are perfectly vigilant and "responsible" with your finances, this dynamic can be very revealing about all the relationships in your life. Are you ready to take a look at your own map?
Try these $ questions on for size:
-Do you measure your self-worth in part by your net worth? Do you compare your bank account to others?
-Are you sloppy with your finances?
-Do you shove your mail to the side and ignore it hoping bills will magically get paid? Better yet, that someone else will clean it all up?
-Do you walk away from your obligations and the commitments that you have made to creditors? Do you expend effort justifying it?
Or, perhaps you are on the flip side of the equation.
-Are you afraid to spend money? Afraid to let it go?
-Do you pay it forward, share with someone in need? Or do you operate in a fear-based there-isn't-enough-to-go-around modality?
Money is meant to flow in and out, not remain stagnant. But without sounding morose, tomorrow may never come -- so if today were your last day, would you feel complete in holding on so tightly and saving for a rainy day or spending with reckless abandon? There is a balance to be found.
I have had the benefit of working with many creative people, who loved to tell me things like, "I'm just not good with money" or "I just don't want to deal with finances, my brain doesn't work that way" or "I can't be bothered with that end of things."
WHOA... screeching brakes please. That's like saying I don't need my left leg. A healthy body functions as a whole. The same theory applies with a business, even if you are the business. It doesn't mean that you have to literally balance your checkbook at month's end, but you want to have a clear relationship to your finances and how they are being handled, fabulous bookkeeper or not.
Money does a funny thing to us all and can be a powerful force flowing through our lives. As a matter of fact, it is often so mighty that we relinquish our power to it and suddenly, it becomes the dominant guiding factor.
Let's face it, we feel pumped up when our bank accounts are fat and happy, and conversely flattened and defeated when unable to cover monthly bills and obligations. Curiously, if we know these things about ourselves, why do we dance this tango with our finances?
So back to my original question -- would you, could you, should you reveal your financial statements? And more importantly how does the prospect of that feel for you? The bigger question is asking yourself, what am I hiding?
I have had some very dramatic situations in my own personal life with respect to just that. After I was finished feeling sorry for myself and blaming my situation on others, I began to reveal what steps I had taken that contributed to it all landing where it did. That is when I reclaimed my own personal financial power and set off to begin the cleanup.
Through my own spiritual practice and personal work, I have seized the opportunity to trace my theories and their roots back throughout my life to my childhood. Now I see the connections. It's not all perfect, but when I head towards a familiar old place, I flash a floodlight on my behavior and call it out immediately. Oh, I'm doing that again.
Facing off with your finances can initially feel like a root canal -- you postpone the inevitable until the very last moment. But as they say, you can run, but you can't hide. Revealing financial sheets may mean coming clean about the current state of affairs and then some, but there's no way around it. You've got to push through it. I don't want to see your tax returns, your paystubs, your portfolio statements or your wallet, what I do want is for you to get tight.
Let's be clear, it's not a one-time thing -- it may not happen overnight, but practice makes perfect.
If you feel burdened by lack, are you willing to look at the big picture without shame, have a showdown with debt and design an exit strategy? Conversely, if you feel fearful of never having enough, could you be be willing to let go of the purse strings and spend a little more without being terrorized?
Whether I agree to show you mine or you show me yours is irrelevant unless we do the real work - making the personal connections to our relationship to money. Those are the real keys to the safety deposit box and the hidden treasure within.