A Project to Consider During this Unsettling Time

During this time in the “unknown” when we don’t know when things will settle, when we will return to normal or if we will, whether the COVID-19 will infect us and if so, to what degree, here is an idea to activate.  

The family story is an important story to keep, to treasure, and to pass down. Imagine your children learning more about your parents. Imagine your children’s children not only learning more about you, but also learning more about their great grandparents, the ones they may never meet.

The story is about the questions you ask. Often people will ask questions that solicit quick and easy answers like where someone lived, where they went to school, where they grew up and where they worked. These are all well and good, but they don’t, on their own, make for a compelling story, one that future generations can use to understand their heritage, to give them more confidence about their own history.

Asking questions that open your parents up to talking about the challenges they encountered and how they dealt with those challenges bring shape to an elder’s life. Asking questions about what is truly important to an elder will open the windows to the impact they have made.

Storytelling is important. If you want to learn more about capturing your family’s story, contact me at bhaj@focusandsustain.com, as I am now offering, although it is not yet on my website, a storyteller’s kit to capture that family story to share with your family for generations.

During this time in the “unknown” when we don’t know when things will settle, when we will return to normal or if we will, whether the COVID-19 will infect us and if so, to what degree, her is an idea to activate.  

The family story is an important story to keep, to treasure, and to pass down. Imagine your children learning more about your parents. Imagine your children’s children not only learning more about you, but also learning more about their great grandparents, the ones they may never meet.

The story is about the questions you ask. Often people will ask questions that solicit quick and easy answers like where someone lived, where they went to school, where they grew up and where they worked. These are all well and good, but they don’t, on their own, make for a compelling story, one that future generations can use to understand their heritage, to give them more confidence about their own history.

Asking questions that open your parents up to talking about the challenges they encountered and how they dealt with those challenges bring shape to an elder’s life. Asking questions about what is truly important to an elder will open the windows to the impact they have made.

May you and your family’s health stay well.

The family story is an important story to keep, to treasure, and to pass down. Imagine your children learning more about your parents. Imagine your children’s children not only learning more about you, but also learning more about their great grandparents, the ones they may never meet.

The story is about the questions you ask. Often people will ask questions that solicit quick and easy answers like where someone lived, where they went to school, where they grew up and where they worked. These are all well and good, but they don’t, on their own, make for a compelling story, one that future generations can use to understand their heritage, to give them more confidence about their own history.

Asking questions that open your parents up to talking about the challenges they encountered and how they dealt with those challenges bring shape to an elder’s life. Asking questions about what is truly important to an elder will open the windows to the impact they have made.

Storytelling is important. If you want to learn more about capturing your family’s story, contact me at bhaj@focusandsustain.com, as I am now offering, although it is not yet on my website, a storyteller’s kit to capture that family story to share with your family for generations.

May you and your family’s health stay well.

The Family Story Can Develop Strength, Confidence, and Empathy

We love good stories. We love to hear good ones from friends, enjoy watching riveting ones on the screen, we like to read them in books. Stories bring us into a world bigger than ourselves, rich with possibility and full of emotions that tug at our heart strings.

Then why don’t we have our own family stories? Oh, I know, those ones are boring, right?! Not right!

Family stories can be amazing guides for our lives when told with the power of intriguing events, heart wrenching emotions, and difficult challenges that were overcome. We think our own family stories are pedantic and bland and they are when looked at as endless details of this and that. But that’s not the family story to capture. Family stories that captivate and that serve as compasses are the ones that capture the strong family narrative of compelling “whys” and useful “hows.”

Sara Duke, a practicing psychologist who worked with learning disabilities, found that “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.” Now there’s an insight! Her husband, Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University who was involved in a 1990s study exploring myths and rituals in families, examined this conclusion with his colleague, Robyn Fivush. They tested the hypothesis in their “Do You Know” test which measured Sara’s results against psychological tests Marshall and Robyn had their children take. They found that “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.” Wow!

A key word for me, in the quote, is “more”. I find the “more” to include, in family stories, that which compelled the past family members to make decisions they made, their motivations, their beliefs, and what it took to meet challenges they faced. I want their story to be rich with their values and motivating principles, rather than lifeless with the details of what they did, where they lived and who they were surrounded by. Adding the “more” creates a rich platform for present and future generations to develop their strength, confidence and empathy, all strong traits of worthy individuals.

To Keep Trust Thriving, Talk about Trust

Trust, what a loaded word. It carries such weight yet can be broken or withdrawn so quickly. And sometimes, when broken, it cannot be restored.

Trust is a word that I have written about before. Because it is such an important principle, I am looking at it again.

Today, googling trust’s etymology, I see the word strength is added to the word’s origination. Wow, that’s a clue. Strength. For me strength carries an element of integrity to it. When I think of integrity, I am reminded of a taut rope. It has a lot of integrity as it cannot be broken…not easily.

Trust is something felt and perceived so qualities and behaviors that enrich feelings of connection, accountability, reliability, strength, and safety are included in a feeling of trust.

But a disagreement on trust can arise when my definitions of the aforementioned words are different than yours. My sense of reliability may be different than yours and that difference can break trust when I do not meet your definition of what trust means to you. Perhaps, for you, reliability is measured in time: you trust someone who shows up on time, whereas for me, reliability may be built on an attitude of making things comfortable whereas time is not on my radar of what constitutes trust. But your trust of me can fade when I am “late” because, for you, a sense of time is embedded in your framework of trust.

While trust can be so personal while, at the same time, be universal in its application, it is important to ask those with whom you have relationships where trust is an important element, what trust means to them. Doing this can give you the framework of what trust means to them, how it is expressed, and how they see it in others. When you talk about trust, you can build the qualities and behaviors that are necessary to keep trust a pillar in your relationship and you can support each other in keeping trust active and believable.

Trust is important to talk about to keep it thriving.

Wisdom Informs Knowledge

I’ve been thinking about wisdom, knowledge and fact. I wanted to understand and differentiate between the three, for the purpose of clearer contextual engagement.  My thinking has led me to the following about these three concepts.

Wisdom is not knowledge and knowledge is not always fact. And facts are not always fixed, static or absolute.

Okay, so if that is what they are not, what are they? My understanding informs me that wisdom is clear and correct insight, like a revelation Wisdom, in action, applies that which is most suitable, most just, most appropriate at the right times. It is the ability to measure, discard, keep and reveal appropriately. 

Knowledge is derived from the process of experience, learning, and understanding. Knowledge is bestowed upon those who study and who test who distinguish and discern. Knowledge, in action, separates the meaningful, relevant, and important.

Fact is visible as an event, a thing done, an occurrence, achievement or thing evidenced. Facts, in action, are used in data compilation, data research and in providing evidence when appropriate.

Okay, now that we have that taken care of what motivates me to even bring this up? I find, in conversation, it is important to distinguish between the three, so opinions and points of view can be more easily understood. For example, when it is raining outside, I can point to the observation of the action. That is a fact. That the phenomenon is rain is based on knowledge.  Wisdom applies in knowing the purpose of the rain, what it is best suited for and whether or not to act on the knowledge of “rain” and how I share this information and whether I share it.

Wisdom is a behavior I encourage my clients to explore. To do so requires one to reflect, to discern, to examine life from a purposeful and value centric way as wisdom encompasses our values and is feeds purpose. Although wisdom can be confused with knowledge, evidenced by the phrase “I know” so easily spoken, wisdom is not knowledge. Wisdom involves illuminative insight.

That’s what I’ve been thinking.

The One Big Tip to Use for Healthy Money Communication

Money and relationships can be difficult to negotiate. One person thinks they are the saver while the other is an unnecessary spender. One likes talking about money while the other avoids the subject, repeatedly.  Because money styles can create disharmony in a couple, here is a huge tip to alleviate tension in money relationships.

Money conversations may be easier to avoid than to have but avoiding money conversations are a detriment to strong relationships. Instead of avoiding money conversations, bring up a topic where you can learn about your partner’s financial upbringing. Ask a question like: What was money like growing up for you? How was money talked about when you were little?  What did you do with money when you were little?  And just listen, without inserting a judgmental or comparative comment. It is essential to understand each other’s attitudes and behaviors around money before trying to affect these attitudes. Nobody wants to feel shame or guilt around a habit they want to break but can’t. They want compassion, encouragement, and empowering support. They want to feel capable not unable.

Money is a very personal area in our lives, so learning to talk about money and how you can put frameworks around money in your relationship, is key. When considering frameworks to build around your financial life, ask each other questions like: What does budgeting mean to you? How have you successfully used it in your life? Where has budgeting been an issue for you? How can we create limits that work for each of us and support what it is we want to accomplish financially?

Money is a topic that can become a strong partner to relationships. Transform judgments, accusations, and disappointing attitudes to questions of inquiry, encouragement, empowerment and support.

How Sustainable is Debt, Really?!

Debt has become ubiquitous but is it sustainable?

Just one year ago, the Feds reported that consumer debt had increased by another trillion dollars since 2013. $1.6 trillion in school loans, $1.4 trillion in auto loans and $1 trillion in credit card debt.

Young adults pay for education as if it were a home with no promise of jobs at the end of the college experience. Car financing has become so easy with leases instead of ownership, and credit cards are almost a prerequisite to doing business with some companies.

It was only two generations ago that baby boomers were introduced to the “magic’ of credit cards. Before then, it was cash or a benevolent extension of credit between a known retailer and customer. Today, credit cards finance lifestyles, rather than fit into a financial plan or strategy for financial control.

Accumulating debt can be easy while getting out can be very difficult. Some find they must declare bankruptcy to right their financial behaviors. Some gain help from debt reduction programs.

I think it is important to keep your financial picture in front of you, so you are aware of your spending habits versus your earnings. Watch over your spending monthly with quarterly and yearly actual monitoring of your spending against its budget.

As money is not all about spending, it is important and beneficial to add a component of savings and investing to your financial behaviors. Having savings will give you a sense of freedom and responsibility as you watch money accumulate in your own account for emergencies. Investing gives you a sense of getting ahead and feeling of confidence.

A Mighty Thank You

When I think of you who have been affected by my blogs

I see shimmering stars light my path

When I think of you who have focused on stewardship

I am touched by a commitment to best practices

You, in your dedication to a richer and more meaningful life

Make me smile from ear to ear with joy

I applaud your commitment to lives and legacies that matter

May your commitment to 2020 give you the capacity to see far!

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged, Is That It?

Judge not lest ye be judged, right? Well, not exactly, but I’ll explain more in a minute.

Twice, recently, I had people cancel appointments with me. I understand that can happen. I have done it occasionally myself. The question I have about it is the firmness in making that appointment to begin with.

It is very important for me to keep my word, as this speaks to a value I hold in high regard. My words carry meaning and intention. This carries through to making appointments. I make them and commit to them. Occasionally, this can create a problem when other possibilities come up that, in my mind, I would rather schedule than that other appointment I already made. But I do not casually reschedule. If I really want to reschedule. I will ask the person with whom I made the initial commitment if we can reschedule. If they cannot or do not want to, I will honor the agreement we made. It was made first.  I do not always see that reciprocated.

Now, back to judge not lest ye be judged. Well that is not always the entire sentence. There are periods, semi colons or commas in various translations of this phrase. The full (or next) sentence reads: Judge not lest ye be judged; for what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measure to you again.” Think about that! I can play by that rule.

So yes, I am affected by rescheduling me. It speaks to me of integrity and commitment. I judge by that.

Are you like the Egg Farmer or the Chicken Farmer with your Money?

There once were two chicken farmers. Each had a different perspective on the value of their product.

The first farmer valued his eggs. These eggs not only fed his family, they were also a hit in the markets where they were sold. He enjoyed the income his eggs produced He knew this was his security. He counted the eggs every day, minimized the breakage and got them to market quickly. He did not pay great attention to the chickens as he saw them merely as means to an end. He focused on the eggs. If a chicken didn’t produce the targeted number of eggs he had for that chicken, he replaced it with another chicken. His product was the egg.   

The second farmer raised chickens. Her chickens had diverse values to this farmer. They represented growth as the chickens themselves could multiply, providing her a permanent renewal source of fertilizer, food, and little chicks that grew to be chickens. They could be sold or added to the flock. These chickens also represented a source of nutrition to her family and the public, when their egg laying days were over. The chickens also produced eggs, another source of nutrition and income to this farmer. These chickens were well cared for and protected from predators and viruses.  The cost of the care was worth the diversity of income and sustainable growth to this farmer.

With money, some people are like the first farmer. They tend to look at money as having one use: income. like the egg farmer. Other people are like the second farmer. They view their money with a diverse perspective, encompassing growth and income.

Which farmer are you most like?

Which farmer would you like to be?

If you want to transform your money perspective, the Money Focus program is a program you may find useful in transforming your money anxieties to money mastery.  It takes you from where you are with your money behaviors and habits to where you gain control and mastery over your use of your money.

The egg or chicken farmer, which are you? Which do you want to be?

3 Smart Ideas to Manage your Money for Two Incomes

It’s one thing to gain mastery over your own money behaviors and habits but what about when you are in a relationship and the other person’s history, stories and standards with money may be very different than yours. Then what?

In my decades long work with people in helping them gain mastery over their money, I have seen many scenarios undermine couples’ trust with each other over money. Usually it’s a lack of an agreed upon system for money that undermines relationships with money and derails communication between them about their finances.

It’s common for couples to use one person’s income for the basic needs and living expenses while the other’s income is used for the extras like vacation, entertainment, home improvements and upgrades.  But what happens when one person loses a job or has a long term illness, or is on commission and earnings drop?

This system, like many system, may work, when things run “as planned.” But it is smart to think of a contingency plan.

Three alternatives that I like people to consider are:

1      Allocate percentages of both incomes to basic needs, discretionary spending, retirement/investing, donations, and savings. This way, the one with the variable income, knows their contributions are always part of the family “budget” and overspending is reduced when windfalls come in.

2      Determine a yearly budget for savings, investing, donating, basic needs and discretionary spending. Then allocate who and how each will be responsible for that area. Be clear about expectations and possibilities that could impact commitments made by each of you. Develop a system on how to deal with these possibilities that work for both of you.

3      Put all your money in the same account, then allocate to your categories according to agreements you have previously made. Be sure you allocate money to your own spending account about which you do not have to justify to the other person.

No matter which of these systems, another you adopt when there are two incomes, be sure to check in with each other monthly, to see how you each feel about the system you have agreed to use and tweak your agreements as appropriate. Remember to talk to each other respectfully and with the intention of finding a solution when one is needed, rather than attacking each other. It’s smart to manage your money.