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49. Your Relationship With Money

We work for many different reasons, but there is one that we all have in common. Money. Even people who say their hobby is their job still expect to be paid for it. That's because, unless we have another source of income, we need to earn a living. This week's tip is about money and how we relate to it. It is an adapted extract from my book, Finding Square Holes. 'I've been poor and miserable, and I've been rich and miserable. Rich and miserable is better.' Burt Reynolds Money is a source of conflicting emotions for most of us. There is something a little dirty about money. In Europe we live in a culture where if you have it, it's not nice to flaunt it. Be casual about it. Be subtle about it. Preferably inherit it. Making too much money is, we feel, a bit vulgar. Hence the expression 'Nouveau riche'. Yet we have national lotteries and football pools and betting shops and bingo, and all manner of activities aimed at getting people to risk what little they have for a chance of having a lot more. And they do it in their millions, every day, all over the world. For we all know that money is great. We love having it. We love what we can do with it, the freedom it buys us, the lack of worry, the luxuries, the gifts, the holidays, the houses. Let's give ourselves a break and admit, just quietly, but with glee, between ourselves and the page, that we love it. We would like more of it. If someone arrived with a large cheque from the estate of some distant relative, we would accept it, wouldn't we? We might consider carefully if we wanted to change our lives, we might wonder what problems it might pose, and what good causes we could support with it, but on the whole we'd take it wouldn't we? The question then arises as to relative value. How much do we value money as compared to other things in our lives? The answer to that varies considerably from person to person and depends, of course, on circumstances. If you're hungry and without shelter, money is a necessity, simply for survival. For many, money is about security and independence. It buys us not only the necessities and comforts of life, but peace of mind. Our entire lifestyle depends on how much money we earn. Our house, our food, our car, our mobile phone, our holidays, our leisure. The trouble is, it's difficult to enjoy a lifestyle if you don't know if you're going to have it tomorrow, or next month, or next year. Some people manage uncertainty in their lives better than others, but there is little doubt that for most people, a real threat of unemployment, or serious loss of money for some other reason, causes enormous anxiety and stress. An entire industry both depends on this anxiety, and feeds it. We pay into pension schemes for financial security in our old age, insurance schemes to insure our cars, our houses, our health, our possessions, our children's education, our fitness to work. We even insure our insurances, for heaven's sake! Suffice to say that financial security is important to most of us. Tied up with security is the ability that money gives us to look after our dependents, and to provide the standard of living we would like them to have. It allows us to fulfil what we see as our duties in life, and to fulfil our duty is an important source of self-esteem. Also good for our self-esteem, is the status and the confidence that money gives us. Why else would people spend so much of their hard-earned income on the outwards signs of success? Why would they spend more than they need to in order to buy a particular brand? Why would they be prepared to go into serious debt in order to buy something they could easily do without? And the sad irony is that the less money you have, the more important it becomes to demonstrate to the world that you can afford to buy these things. 'Many people spend money they haven't got, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like' Laurence Boldt Author of Zen and the Art of Making a Living I was on an NLP course many years ago and one morning we were all given an envelope. In that envelope was a cheque for �10,000,000. 'Now walk around the room as if you had that money in your bank account,' we were told. As feelings go, I can tell you, it was GOOD! Try it for yourself. This morning I saw someone at the other end of the spectrum - an old man who sleeps rough in our community. He was pushing the sum total of his possessions along in a supermarket trolley. There was an autumnal chill in the air and I wondered how he felt about the approach of colder weather. He always seems quite cheerful and I wondered, too, whether there were some benefits of having no job, no bank account, no dependents, no responsibilities, no mortgage, no bills. Try this 1. How would you describe your current financial/material situation? More than enough, enough, or less than enough? 2. How would you describe your current levels of happiness/contentment? Very happy, moderately happy, less than happy? 3. What is the relationship between your happiness and your financial situation? Look back over your life - are you happier when you are more affluent, or do you pay for your financial security with a bit of happiness? 4. Would you be willing to trade in some money for more happiness, or some happiness for more money? 'In the days when we had nothing, we had fun' Harvey Andrews, folk singer Have a worry-free week....