The Power within our Values is Mighty

Victor Frankl a renown Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist and world-famous author of Mans’ Search for Meaning, discovered the following: “Unless life points to something beyond itself, survival is pointless and meaningless. It is not even possible. This is the very lesson I learned in three years spent in Auschwitz and Dachau, and in the meantime, it has been confirmed by psychiatrists in prisoner-of-war-camps; Only those who were oriented toward the future, toward a goal in the future, toward a meaning to fulfill in the future, were likely to survive.” This powerful statement, which I condense to “Purpose”, is a fantastic guide to what works in life.

And what is purpose? For many it is their reason for doing things while for others, they view it as their mission in life.

And what does a reason or mission refer to? Each points back and forward to our values, those core identifiers that we use as our compass in life. Our values let us know when we are congruent with life. Sometimes we may betray, discard, or avoid our values and let our moment-to-moment self-guide us by reactions and desires. And we know when we are “off” as our emotions contradict or overpower our values. Feeling “off balance” is feeling out of alignment with our values.

Our values, once we identify and reveal them, can become the wind to our sail, the music to our soul, the taste that satisfies our hunger because we are now living the life of intention. That is power.

Your Purpose is your Rock

What is purpose? Purpose is a demonstration of your commitment to life. Whoa, that’s a potent sentence.

Purpose is so important that without it, we tend to drift, we withdraw, we question inappropriately, we interfere, we seek to control or to be dominated.

Purpose keeps you on your path.

Is uncovering or finding your purpose easy? It wasn’t for me, although I knew, early, that I had something to do or fulfill. I found myself dreaming, creating, observing, asking what this was all about. I sought activities where I could grow, could measure progress, and could experience success. But in my heart, I knew even all this wasn’t quite right.

I left home with a conscientious intent to find what were best practices, best conducts, best behaviors for family members to emulate, in families that struggled for a real connection, not one focused on the money. I didn’t know what I was doing but I was pulled in a direction that would eventually be revealed to me, in simple profundity.

Elements to purpose include responsibility, steadfastness, and loyalty. And these qualities require trust that the qualities will benefit you. These qualities require an openness to accept what is truly best and discard the res. These qualities require the humility that allows you to discern the appropriate from the inappropriate and act with the appropriate.  

The world is loud and ironically, there is that quiet voice inside which, when we listen to it, can guide us to express our purpose. That voice isn’t like the loud voice which is constantly talking to us or turned over to its substitutes, the videos we mindlessly watch. That voice is powerful, adamant, intentional, personal, and wise. It discerns and separates the mighty from the harmful, the supportive from the hurtful. It speaks to you. Do you listen? Do you follow its guidance?

Purpose is powerful. Purpose is the rock for you to stand on and trust in its aim, its objective and its power for you.

Shared Money Calls for Harmonious Agreements

Money is about the partnership of the implicit and the explicit, implied and the clearly stated.

Money has connotations with it (implicit) that usually point to the thing (explicit). And we expect everyone to immediately know and partner with both our implicit and explicit behaviors although their own experiences with money are most likely to be different than ours.

Money is both tangible and metaphorical.

Money is a metaphor used to transact tangible purchases. We buy a thing not for the thing, but for what we perceive it can “give” us. The satisfaction is in the experience of fulfilling the expectation, be it small, insignificant, or big and meaningful.

When we combine our finances with someone else, we don’t usually think about our different money behaviors. We need to as this gap is where problems with money not only arise but cause tremendous relationship issues.

Share your financial expectations with your partner. Ask them theirs. Be sure to listen to their expectations as their perspective is as real to them as yours is to you. See where the overlap is. See where the similarities are. Engage in a conversation that creates the space and the intention of finding agreement.

For example, let’s say you want to support the local restaurants while your partner wants to cook at home to save money.  Frame your conversation with questions like: What is important about doing this (whatever this is) to you and have them ask the same question to you. In your responses will be a nugget to base your agreed upon agreements. I may not want to eat out because I want to build our savings account. Great. Now how can we do that and support our local business community at the same time? 

Ask more questions to determine what money means to you. This will guide you to agreeable resolutions, ones that partner the tangible with the metaphorical, the implicit with the explicit attributes to money. 

Palms with a tree growing from pile of coins supported by kid’s hands / hands giving a tree growing on coins to child’s hands / csr green business / business ethics

This Year, Money and I …

What is it about money that can foster relationship changing arguments, that can create relationship chasms in families and can wreak havoc in our own behaviors with money?

I will be exploring these questions in 2021, in the months I focus on money stewardship (January, April, July, October).

Often, as adults, we deal with money in ways we experienced it as kids. We take those experiences, repackage them inside, and then create our money stories.

Start by asking yourself and your partner these questions:

  • What is the best thing about money to you?
  • What is the worst thing about money to you?
  • What did you learn about money when you were little?

 These start conversations we have we have with our clients, as they look at their own stories around money.

Often, unresolved money stories can undermine a relationship. When your money beliefs are not in alignment with your partner’s, money conversations can become tense, or even worse, avoided.  

You can transform money tension to money harmony when you take the time to understand not only the source of your money behaviors but also listen to the source and reasoning behind your partner’s money behaviors and habits. It can lead to understanding which, in turn, can lead to finding mutually compatible ways to deal with partnered money.

Money can be just another conversation. Strive to make it so in your conversations about money with yourself, your partner, and your family this year.  Take on a mantra of: “money and I will be friends this year and not part company as easily or as often as last year.”

May the Earth Regain its Joie de Vivre in 2021

It feels like the earth lost its joie de vivre this year. When the joy of living is suddenly jerked from under us, unintended consequences manifest. Remember the Olympics? How devastating it must have been for those elite athletes to walk away from their dream. What about hospital workers who suddenly had to be on call for the avalanche of COVID-19 patients? How difficult it must have been for them to cope with life.   What about those with young children suddenly being taught at home, or those who could not celebrate important events or could not be with a loved one with COVID-19.  How difficult it must have been for them

This was an unexpected year. It forced us to pivot so we could survive, thrive, grieve, and reassess in ways we did not consider or prepare for.

As I close this strange year, I look with hope to all we can bring to foster strength and unity in 2021. What we make of life is built on choices we make. With that sentiment, I honor the choices you have made this year, choices built on courage, on love, on clarity, and on understanding and on wisdom. These made you stronger and more purposed, more compassionate and clearer of your role.

I honor you, who have taken on the challenge of fostering and nurturing purpose, connection, and stewardship. I honor both your struggle and your transformation. I honor you for what you have overcome and for what you have committed yourself to take on.

I look forward to 2021 with the values we have all focused in on this year. May the joie de vivre return to make 2021 a year of certainty in building strongholds of purpose with our lives, connection to our family, and to stewardship of our money. May you take the time to celebrate your successes and achievements of 2020 as you also show gratitude to the echoes of those loved ones you have lost and the gifts they gave you.

Dire Consequences or Lasting Trust: Which Would You Choose

Families often deal with sensitive topics. There can be dire consequences, to be sure, when sensitive matters are indiscreetly brought up.

Because of the anxiety often present in bringing up sensitive topics, some families delay talking about these topics.  They hide behind “waiting for the right time.” Because “the right time” is subjective, there can be a lot of push back like: “I don’t want to talk about it now. We’ll do it later.” Or “I don’t even know why you are discussing this now. That was then. Let’s just move on.”

I am reminded of a conversation I had with the head of a family council to a multi-generational family. He said to me: “I regret that we talked about the wrong things at our family meetings. We talked mostly about how the dividends were being assessed, how the businesses were doing. That was a grievous error, to only talk about these things.” After a “branch” of the family “divorced” the family and required assets to be sold, this gentleman said he learned a big lesson: “We changed everything. We added the one thing we left out, as being trivial. Instead, it is a focus of our gatherings. We talk about what is the most important to us, common values and purpose. And we only learned about doing so from this bitter separation where we learned how important it was to have, develop, and share an agreed upon set of family values that we all foster and respect. That was an expensive and painful lesson to learn. We have changed our family meeting structure as a result. We are rebuilding a sense of trust that we never really had. We mistook silence, politeness, and smiles for trust.”

Family dynamics are a natural part of a family’s culture. Nurturing shared and honored values, creates a basis of trust, while letting issues ride without framework, can lead to dire consequences. They are both available for you to cultivate. Which will you choose?

Practice Makes Magnificent

I recently listened to a TEDx Vancouver talk featuring Lara Boyd, a brain researcher. The big insight, for me, was how plastic the brain is, regardless of age. The brain changes, Ms. Boyd postulates, in three ways: first: chemically by transferring chemical signals via neurons which impacts short term learning and short-term improvement of motor skills. Second, the brain can change the structure of neurons which impacts long-term learning or improvement.  Third, the brain can shift how it uses its networks of activity.

Now shift this to your life. You know how fundamental I think it is to know your values, how freeing it is to have a true mission or purpose, how beneficial it is to set your long and shorter time frame destinations and then how supportive it is to build actions to support the destinations you want, which support and express your mission which strengthen your values. 

The brain is built to assist as we focus our lives. It is we who must practice the behaviors and habits that support the brain in creating our lives of significance and relevance. Our behaviors both impact and are impacted by the brain. It is a symbiotic relationship. Here is where practice makes magnificent.

21st Century Life-Are We Focusing on the Right Things?

It’s so easy to focus on politics or the weather, or a myriad of other things, and avoid these three key areas of our lives. When these 3 areas are left unattended, it can lead to division in families, inability to focus on our lives and create great anxiety around money.  

Our Life-we run around doing things, yet many struggle with defining their purpose. We know we have values, yet many can’t clearly describe what those values mean to them or how to incorporate them into their daily lives.

To find purpose for yourself, examine and commit to your values. They represent the core of who you are. They are the cornerstones of your life’s foundation.

Our Legacy-we leave this earth transferring the things we have but have forgotten to leave behind what matters most to us, the why of our beliefs and principles. for the next generations to build upon.

The next time your family gathers, whether it is in person or online, ask those gathering what matters most to them. Then listen. You will learn something unique about each individual and find that your connection strengthens. It will provide you with a firmer base from which to support each other.   

Our Money –we use it every day yet haven’t really identified its purpose.  Spending is an easy release valve when so often we are anxious about our money.

Set aside a time to talk about what money means to your family. Develop strategies, tactics, actions, support and accountability matrices from which to base financial conversations. Doing so will build a foundation of what matters most to you with money.

Money without Purpose is Materialism

I recently rewatched the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. It is based on a true story of a corrupt Wall Street broker.  In it, Matthew McConaughey’s character, Mark Hanna, as a mentor to the main character, tells his protégée the secret to making money as a broker. Mark reveals that the money is made, not by the investor who has paper winnings and losses, but by the broker who is paid in cash for transactions made.  The broker amasses cash while the investor chases gains moving from investment to investment. 

It sounds like the one who has the cash wins, right? Short term, that may be true, but long term, does that strategy still play out?

It appears that people are wired to readily consume. Whether it’s a need to fulfill an instant gratification need, whether it’s to fulfill a basic need, or whether it is to make up for something missing in one’s life, consumption is made to be as easy as possible. “On Demand” products and services are hugely popular.  These satisfy the have it now impulse.

Are there longer-term consequences to this type of behavior with money? Let’s look at the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment which was first conducted in 1970 and redone several times to understand the outcomes and consequences of instant versus delayed gratification.   The study found that those who delayed gratification were found to be “more competent” years later.

It is the unusual individual who steps away from the instant gratification pattern and does something more with their money such as save or invest. These behaviors, it seems, need to be taught. 

When you deposit your next paycheck, gift, stimulus check or trust distribution, ask yourself this question: “What do I really want my money to do for me, not just now, but in 5 years? Other than spending it, what do I want to save for? How do I want it to grow?” Have this conversation with yourself. If you want to keep more money, then be disciplined by committing to and consistently adding money to the saving and investing financial areas of your life.

A Primer on Avoiding Money Conversations that Harm a Relationship

Often, it is easier to avoid a problem than it is to face it. Avoiding money conversations can mean not bringing up stark differences in money behaviors. These contrast can result in arguments or in reactive disbelief.  They can lead to distrust and harm relationships. Avoiding money conversations can become the norm when keeping the peace is more important than fostering arguments about money…yet again.

In today’s dual income environment, it can be easier to keep finances separate. There is challenge to this when other areas of the couple’s life are looked at as a team.

It may sound counterintuitive but in a TD Bank Survey, it was found that 86% of “Happy” respondents combined at least part of their money.

It is important to include money as a team activity. In addition to individual goals, it is important to have a combined financial goal for saving, investing, donating, and for spending. Consider sharing a bank account, sharing vacation expenses, or sharing q “together” savings goal. Sharing a credit card can keep a couple involved in their financial life respectfully, as long as parameters are defined, agreed to, and accounted for with that card’s use.   

Couples often express the thought that budgeting is unnecessary. It invades personal space. Yet, tension often arises around the “other person’s” spending on gits to others or holiday extravaganzas and many other areas of finances. According to a 2016 study by Ameriprise, 31% couples argue about money at least monthly. Still, others avoid the topic altogether, wreaking havoc to a family’s financial stewardship.

Learning to talk about money has great benefits. Learn to use questions like “What does money mean to you?” “How can I support you in this goal we have?” and “How can accountability be used in a way to benefit the goal?”  These work better than hurling blame or making personal attacks on the other person’s behavior   

You can bridge gaps of misunderstanding when you share your feelings about money, listen to your partner’s feelings about money, and brainstorm possibilities to bridging gaps between your two money styles.

Learn to talk about money while respecting money and your partner. It will pay huge dividends.