There are two precursors to financial bondage. The first tied to too much wealth and the second born of too little. Both are coupled to the lie of materialism and need to accumulate more. If we have the financial means, consuming more has the potential to leave us burdened by the increasing complexities of legal, financial, relational, and physical demands. If we are using unsustainable means to accumulate, either leveraged debt or long work hours, we will be held captive in a thorny grip and have similar legal, financial, relational, and physical complications. Both of these extremes will weaken our sense of true worth, diminish our hope for the future and remove our sensitivity to the needs of others.
How can we break the financial chains that hold us captive to discontent, greed, waste, envy, deprivation, bitterness and the like? There has been a tremendous amount of research that points to gratitude. Not the obligatory, cursory note that we wrote to a relative for the birthday check, but a heart-felt realization and expression of thankfulness. It is a chosen attitude that is independent of one's circumstances.
According to Robert Emmons, Ph.D. in his book 'Thanks' it is more than a feeling. True gratitude has three components. First, a willingness to recognize that we are the beneficiary of someone's kindness. Secondly, that the giver has intentionally provided a gift, and that personal cost was incurred in some way. Finally, the gift received has value in the eyes of the beneficiary. True gratitude imbues humility. We need to recognize that others have had an impact on who we are, and what we have accomplished. So, how does this help us break out, or stay out of financial bondage?
Scientific data shows that gratefulness is a foundational component in resiliency to trauma and tragedy. If you are being faced with financial challenges that seem insurmountable, the daily practice of gratefulness journaling can help you move through the tough times. We have heard it said "it was a blessing disguised as a curse". None of us want to sign up for a course in adversity, but research has shown that our trials and tribulations can result in many facets of positive change. Financially speaking, we need to shift from where we perceive we are lacking and focus on the abundance that surrounds us. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote "In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich." With a change in mindset and taking a disciplined approach to learning new financial skills and handling the challenges at hand - we can and will overcome rough waters and emerge with new insight and aptitudes.
When we focus on being grateful, we will also feel more content. With gratitude, we start to recognize that being consumers is not the ultimate game, but that we are recipients of gifts. When we acknowledge that is not about us, and that others have played a part in our journey of success, we will hold our possessions with open hands and look at them differently. When we are satisfied with what we have, we are less likely to feel we "need" more. We find happiness in the enjoyment of what we have. The vicious circle of materialism is broken. When this cycle is broken, we can start to give thanks which will include giving our time, giving things, giving our aptitudes, giving grace and a new beneficial cycle begins.
While we can see that choosing an attitude of gratitude is good, it does not mean it is easy! Albert Einstein recognized the need to "exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and I am still receiving". We need to consciously battle the perceptions of victimization, entitlement, and self-sufficiency. The question to ask ourselves is: Are we willing to go to battle to free ourselves from financial bondage? Are we armed with the weapons to emerge victorious? With world economies in chaos, and lives literally at stake, the time is now, the place is here, the armament is available. Are you ready to sign up, step up and be truly, intentionally grateful?
Danielle Howard is a Certified Financial Planner ™ practitioner and Financial Life Planner®. Her office is located at 23300 Two Rivers Road in Basalt. Visit her at www.howardfinancialresources.com or call 927-3909. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advisory services offered through Lighthouse Financial LLC, a registered investment advisor. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research Inc., a broker/dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Cambridge and HFR are not affiliated.