THE BLOG

How To Be Happy When You're Broke

09/26/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How do you enjoy your life when you're constantly worried about money?

Can you learn to live in the moment when your moments are constantly being interrupted by the nice folks at Visa reminding you that "minimum payment" doesn't mean the minimum you feel like sending? It means that you better cough up the exact dollar figure they have printed inside that little box on your statement, or the next time you use your card, the mean miniature electronic man inside the gas pump will grab it and eat it.

I could go on and on about gas prices, food prices, layoffs, cutbacks and all the other reasons why people are struggling. Trust me, my husband and I own our business and we've had plenty of sleepless nights and fights about the checkbook ourselves.

But at a certain point, you can't spend all your time worrying about money.

A minister friend of mine told me that she always disliked that story about the man who felt sorry for himself because he had no shoes, until he met a man who had no feet, because, as she said, "Meeting a man with no feet certainly puts the problem into perspective, but it doesn't change the fact that you still don't have any shoes."

I think that's where many of us are right now. We know that on the scale of human suffering, our personal financial woes rank pretty low.

There are millions around the world who are living with famine, disease and the ever-present knowledge that angry men with guns may storm their hut at any moment. And there are plenty of people in this country who are sick, hungry and homeless.

But if you're having to cash out your 401(k) to make your mortgage payments, or max out your credit cards to buy food, although you may be one of the lucky ones from a planetary perspective, you're still going through a tough time.

So how do you keep financial problems from seeping into every other aspect of your life? And how do you get yourself fully present for the parts of your life that are joyful without constantly worrying about the parts that aren't?

Experts say that if you want to quit thinking about something, the best way to do so is to start thinking about something else.

So here's what works for me. I try to take as much action as I can during my waking hours. But when I find myself worrying about my bankbook or my business during a time when I can't do anything about it, I try to remember:

This is the only time in my life that my kids will ever be this age. This is only time that I will ever have a 5th-grader who wants me to come have lunch with her or a 10th-grader who needs to be picked up from orchestra practice. This is the only time that I will ever have to enjoy my husband while he's the age he is right now. And this is the only chance I'll ever get to spend time with my parents while they're still 65 and 72.

My life may get better; my life may get worse; but I will never have the chance to live this part of my life, ever, ever again.

And I'll be doggone if I'm going to let worrying about money ruin it for me.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, author, syndicated columnist and seminar leader. (www.ForgetPerfect.com) She specializes in helping individuals and organizations turn angst and dysfunction into happiness and success (no group hugs or Prozac required)
Her books include Forget Perfect and Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear.