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Tax and our fears about money

Today is Budget Day in the UK, in which our financial fate is traditionally sealed at least for the year ahead. In theory we could be waiting in trepidation to find out what our blessed Chancellor of the Exchequer (the UK Finance Minister) has in store for us, a bit like naughty children waiting in a queue outside the head teacher’s office.

Actually we’ve already been well warned about what is coming up since government now announces well ahead what is being planned. Anything very controversial then gets argued about for at least 6 months. Then there’s a string of “leaks” otherwise known as government testing out an idea and also “authoritative” articles by financial journalists with a ear to some politician close to proceedings. Thus we’ve a pretty good idea what will happen. So, what’s the big deal, particularly when it’s more about cuts and funding deficits rather than any give-away? The latter tend to come near election time, which is now 2015 as they are now fixed dates.

The big deal is probably taxation of the rich, depending on your point of view. Currently people’s incomes over £150,000 are taxed at 50% on that proportion, which has resulted in a big campaign in predictable quarters for its abolition. The Liberal Democrats in the  coalition want some other “wealth tax” to take its place. The Tories would be happy to simply see it go.

However, the context is a generally felt view that it should all be “fair”, whatever that means. Thus we’ve been seeing the press commenting on the ability of the rich to avoid taxation in one form or another, although it isn’t always also said that most do tend to pay a lot of tax as it is. However, you might already, by your own reactions as you read this, start to get a sense of how emotive this subject is, for or against.

We’ve just had a major financial crisis, caused by factors we may debate, and we’re paying for it now, and there’s a sense that the burden should be spread “more” evenly, while others might argue that higher taxation of wealth is counter-productive economically.  We can get quite indignant about it. By the way, similar debates are happening in other countries.

Who gets what of the cake, especially when you are feeling squeezed? What is fair? And in the end, how do I manage financially in the year ahead?

The emotive bit can be about different perceptions of “fairness” and “justice”, especially as regards comparing yourself with others. But it’s worth also reflecting about what can be behind that for many people, in different circumstances. After all, what sorts of issues does money stir up for us? The self-aware person might therefore ask: what’s this telling me about me, my attitude to others who are better or worse off (as I see it) compared to me, and my belief in how we are each treated by others and how we manage our own lives. One might be an opinion, but behind that can be our own stuff about money, justice, how we are treated, and the myriad of other ways in which what happens “out there” has to tell us, potentially, about “in here” too. For example, our feelings about money can stir up all sorts of fears and anxieties, and anger towards others, and we may in particular hold a lot of fear about survival, a good ego subject, wrapped up in our fears about money.

And all this collective “stuff” comes out on Budget Day. So, maybe it’s also a time to be compassionate, not just for our own stuff, but of all those other people who also have their stuff going on, which today will get directed at the hapless Chancellor Of The Exchequer.

This man is an clever, ambitious and wealthy heir to a once-Irish baronetcy apparently! Well, there I go….!

Learning to trust that you will get all that you need

In a recession, or depression as it is technically here in the UK, people can get acutely aware of the lack of money, or worry about things related to money. Thus having an abundance mindset goes out of the window. In fact you might test this for yourself. Do you tend at present to think in terms of abundance or lack? Financially, is your glass half-full or half-empty?

Seeing our lives as abundant goes right against so much cultural conditioning. If you think about it, in the UK most people lived in rural society until the late 19th Century. So, until perhaps about 120 to 130 years ago, most of us were in or around a means of living reliant directly on the production of food. A shortage of food led to hunger and even famine, as Ireland found out as recently as the 1840’s. There was no welfare state until between the late 1920’s and the mid-1940’s, and if you were too fearful of the workhouse, you begged or robbed or you starved. So this heritage leaves a powerful scar on our collective memory.

To think in terms of abundance is to think that all your needs are being met, that the universe is abundant and there is enough for you and for everybody else. It is worth checking inside: take a deep breath, breathe out and relax, and with the next in-breath take your awareness within. Just stay there a moment, being aware of your breathing…and now…honestly…ask yourself…honestly…do you believe there is enough for you?…and see what comes to mind.

To believe that the universe is abundant and that all that you need comes to you is an invaluable trusting. Trust and faith are crucial on the spiritual path. They are an intrinsic part of it. Once you commit to such a path, you will get tested, and this is such a classic way it gets tested, around the abundance/lack polarity. It involves letting go of fear, again and again, and being present in the trust and faith, and the knowing, that all your needs are being met, and there is enough money for you.

But you still have to ask for it. Otherwise the universe won’t know what to provide. Be clear. And then let go, truly let go of all attachment to getting it or not, and get all wanting in the sense of deficit need and fear of lack, out of the way. And keep doing it.

Make it a practice.

Where the desire for more money might not serve us

How much money you have, whether you have enough money, whether you are secure, whether you have “financial freedom” are all questions that buzz around so many people’s minds. “It’s what money can get me,” people say. While many of us might think that money can’t buy happiness, there’s lots of others that think it comes as a result, backed up by a lot of surveys that show that the wealthier tend to be happier. An odd mix of contradictions!

To a yogi, the pursuit of more money is an aspect of desire, an ego characteristic where we are never satisfied with what we have. We are, according to this line of thinking, wanting and wanting and always wanting. It’s like an addictive cycle. We want, then we get and then we want again. The getting doesn’t satisfy, or not for long. It’s seen by yogis as a major trap on the spiritual path, for example where our minds in meditation get caught up in thinking in some way connected with desire. By contrast the sadhu cultivates non-attachment to desire, but instead equipoise, balance, evenness of mind, patience, allowing, and letting go. Desire introduces unevenness of mind, anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, jealousy, and off we go into some pit of unease. To the yogi this is how happiness is lost, in among other things addiction to desire.

Of course there’s more than one side to desire. We could also say that there’s a positive wanting, where you set yourself a goal that you intention to achieve, and here you have something you want to do. You might be positively motivated in this. Also you might want to earn money to put food on the table in the sense that it is a need, a fundamental to living. Maslow is well-known for his “hierarchy” of needs, all considered natural to the human being. We could debate these but at least it gives one perspective on the value of needs.

“Need” and “want” overlap, as you will see if you consult the dictionary definitions, and it depends on which meaning of each you are using. So at one end a need might imply a requirement or a necessity, while at the other end a want could be a wish. Take your pick!

Whichever word you are using, it can be useful to enquire into what you mean when you are pursuing a need, want or desire. Because the other side to desire is the wanting that suggests a deficit need, the sense that one is really driven by a lack or a fear of a lack, or by some compulsion or addiction to wanting, or some ego attachment in which the sense of identity is wrapped up with wanting. So the need or want for money might be ego-driven. For example, my sense of who I am is that I have worth if I have enough money, and I might see myself as worthless if I’m so badly off without it that I’m destitute. Interesting that we use “worth” to include both a financial value and also a human value! This is where the pursuit of more money becomes an unhealthy driver than harms us ourselves and/or others around us.

 

In praise of frustration

Frustration with life not being perfect can be a function of desire not being fulfilled.

Desire is about wanting. It’s worth checking it out: how much of life not working for you (or me) at the moment is about not getting what you want?

It can be a treadmill of an ego trip. It can go on and on, highly addictive. It can drive one’s life, become obsessive. No wonder eastern philosophy gives great emphasis to letting go of desire.

A lot of this can be about the sense of unfulfilled needs, of which usually at the top come love and money. Interesting how these turn up. Like having a loving relationship, having your partner love you, having them fulfil your expectations around love, in fact wanting them to fulfil all sorts of expectation. Especially if there’s a strong sense of need attached to it. It can be useful to tune inside and ask yourself, how much do you need someone in your life?

People can get very churned up about someone missing, or not being there for them, or not showing up as they would want. The “want” word again. It’s like there’s some hole inside that needs filling, and someone else is given the job of filling it.

The trouble is, what this attracts is people who don’t want to oblige. We even seem to get into relationships with people whose modus vivendi is around not fulfilling our needs. Deficit-need ego stuff.

We can have the same conversation about money. “I don’t have enough money.” How often do you say that to yourself or others? The seeking after more money can drive people’s lives, that and its concomitants, like the trappings of the perceived comfortable life, acquisition of houses, goods, etc. People often change their careers and start out on the track to personal fulfilment, but find they can’t sufficiently finance it, and so money becomes a major obstacle to fulfilment.

Now, from the personal development perspective such drivers around wanting or needing are highly important clues about your real way forward. They could be flagging up for you that addiction to wanting is itself the problem. Being frustrated in your desire can indicate to you that you probably have something highly useful to learn from it. Like most of the rest of us by the way, I’d suggest.

The frustration can flag up an ineffective strategy you are pursuing for your life fulfilment, or whatever you signed up for at the start of this life. When something isn’t working, there’s a strong suggestion there that a shift is needed.

So, ask yourself, if any of this applies to you, what you could start doing, thinking, feeling, being aware of, around letting go of desire.

But start by getting really aware of where desire shows up in your life. Awareness precedes choice and action.

What do money and wealth mean for you?

So, what was that week in Scotland all about then? Why go on a workshop about wealth? And for that long! Well, it was a nice place, at the Fairmont St Andrews near the town of golfing fame and a top Scottish university where Prince William was educated. It cost a fortune, ironically.

Well, it was more than just that. I got to study the mind-sets of the most successful people in business on the planet, people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and others. I also got think about wealth creation, business and financial management and, as I at times coach senior people in business, it is very helpful to have this knowledge.

But I also got to think about me and explore my own limiting beliefs about money. What was interesting was to notice how powerful and deep-rooted were some old wealth-limiting beliefs, like “money is sinful, the root of all evil”. Did not Christ say to the rich man, Go and give all that you have to the poor and come and follow me? And the rich man was very sad, for he had much wealth. People who made money in my upbringing were a lower order of person. Also, I was taught to be careful with money, to hang on to it, and not spend it rashly. I also had the experience that I was incompetent with money – and therefore business. I vividly remember a Maths teacher at my junior school asking me a mental arithmetic question and I froze, feeling unable to work out the simple answer in the full gaze and incredulity of the class (this is now I know a classic of the Flight/Fight/Freeze response, as the mind by-passes the rational part of the brain in a perceived crisis). So she would say, “Back to the kinderkarten” and get out a box of shells and group them together to make up the calculations I needed to make. Huge shame. Still no answer. And she’d give up. Great example of education; bless you Miss Ray!

It is something I recommend, writing out everything that comes to mind that is negative and fearful and shaming – and anything else – about finance and money and business and wealth. One version of this is to follow a Doomsday path: write out what you would fear might happen if you didn’t have any money. How would you feel about yourself? The answers will contain the limiting beliefs that you might hold, ones that hold you back in the areas of finance and money. None of these beliefs are true. They are just that, beliefs. You can change them and adopt new ones. But it is well to be aware, because under pressure these beliefs surface.

Ask yourself, what does money mean for you? What do you associate with those words? Write those down too. Do you make it wrong to have lots of money? Is there part of you that longs for it and another that says it’s not OK? Or do you doubt your capability in this area? Do you doubt your worth in this area (pun deliberate)? I was very struck over my week in St Andrews how I once equated lack of money with lack of love. Put another way, the flow of abundance is closely related to the flow of love in one’s life. Feel optimistic, positive, creative, expansive, joyous and it is likely that abundance is flowing into some part of your life in some form. They say that a route to growing wealth is to give. It opens up the flow. It is open-hearted. We open our hearts to others. Remember that in the past, in Christian and Jewish countries people gave a tenth of their income to religious activities. In England it was called the Tithe. In fact all round the world people give to good causes.

I find that in the area of money, many people in the personal development field go uncomfortable and say things like being wealthy or aspiring to wealth is somehow not OK, without really exploring what that’s about. I don’t know whether it’s a hang-over from the radicalism of the 60’s or 70’s for some or a reaction to Thatcherism in the 80’s in the UK for others.

But I’m struck how much of us struggle is this area of our lives. And it limits decisions people aspire to in other areas. “It would be great, but I don’t have the money”.

So, have a think. Where do you limit what you aspire in areas of your life that in some way relates to money? And does this serve you?

 

Envisioning plenty – especially when we don’t feel like we’ve got it

Let’s for a moment envision the very best outcome for our lives that we can imagine. Do you have a picture or thought about how you would ideally like your life to be?

Let’s take a moment to think about this. You could even write it down if you want. Just go for it, writing spontaneously. See what comes up:

Think about say 3 year’s time. Where are you? What are you doing? Look around at the scene. What does it look like? How do you feel? What are you thinking? What is going on in your life that’s positive? Who are you with? Describe that person or persons. Is that who you want in your life? What’s it doing for you? Also think about the various things that you have been doing? What’s so good about these things? And what are you about to do? What is it that makes this picture or description of your life now so right, so complete?

What you will have come up with can be very powerful. This is your vision, your objective, what you really want. Keeping that forefront from now on could transform your life. The key would be your ability to totally believe in it, to intend that it will come about. Of course, you might notice a doubting thought creeping in. It might be that it was there from the start, or you may not have really done this exercise but just read the words. One question might be, are you sceptical about visioning? Do you not believe in it? If so, you might just be missing out on one of our most powerful ways of manifesting what we want in our lives.

People do have goals in life. When I’ve explored this in my work with people, they often come up with things like: “Paying off the mortgage”. “Buying a better house”. “Time with the family”. “Being financially independent”. “Achieving a desired career goal”. “Getting off the corporate treadmill”. “A great relationship”. Continuing my theme from the recent postings, how many of these are financial or money-related? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. My question is merely, does it serve you? Is it useful? Are you meeting your deepest needs, your highest aspirations, this way?

I’ve often found that people express their goals in life in money terms. As though their worth is measured in money terms. But, can they take money to the grave? In reality, people are looking for something greater.

When people are surveyed about the importance of financial rewards in their jobs, the evidence is steadily showing that other factors are more important. Employers are finding that throwing money at a person doesn’t fundamentally motivate them enduringly. People seek more from their work. It boils down to the meaning they find in their work, their sense of satisfaction, the pleasure they get from say doing a job well, serving others, making a difference, exercising their competence effectively, seeing a result from their efforts.

Of course you could be earning high bucks, if that is what you want. My question is, is it serving your true needs, your higher aspirations? What are those? My betting will be that that is what is nagging for attention underneath, like a child wanting some special treat. It’s a question of balance, of proportions, of motives, of values.

In a previous posting, I quoted from Lynne Twist, “The Soul of Money”. She stresses in her book that when we focus on what we want at this higher level, when we are being complete with who we aspire to be, who we truly are, when we are aligned with our highest values, money flows in and through us and out again, to support us in being this way, not necessarily to make us rich, but to make things complete, sufficient. Because we are enough.

Not enough money: a thought to let go of

Continuing the theme of money from my last posting, I was saying that our Western civilisation gets hung up around the subject of money and that our view of money says something about how we view ourselves.

For starters, you might ask yourself how many times in the day do you think about money? What is your predominant thought about money? Watch out over the next day and make a note of it. Look at what you come up with. Is it positive or negative?

From a personal growth point of view, it can be very useful to ask ourselves, “Is my attitude to money serving me?” (ie. Is it useful?) For myself, I can own that I have got very attached to “not having enough money”. I have often had the experience that, as a self-employed person, I have found myself attached to the thought that I don’t have enough, and all would be OK if only someone called me to ask me to do some work for them. I remember that sometimes this internal dialogue would go on for ages. And the flow of money would dry up. Yet my wife Akasha will firmly testify that many, many times, as soon as I let go of this thinking, the phone would ring. For ages, I didn’t notice it either, but it was true. And, we’ve also noted that somehow, somewhere, money has always turned up.

So, what was going on here? Firstly, there’s the thought that I don’t have “enough”. In itself, this is so potent with possibilities. As I noted in the last posting, we equate “not enough” money with being not enough. Something is lacking, is missing in us. This belief is for so many people a bottom-line negative belief. “I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy enough. I don’t come up to scratch. There’s something missing in me”. Who says? Well, we do of course, although this was often something we took on board from our early life experiences, such as from a scolding parent or teacher and gets reinforced over time. This belief gets projected on to money. “It isn’t enough”. And interestingly we then make it be all about things like survival.

By the way, this can be just as applicable to someone with plenty of it as to one with a deficit! It’s just to note what the driver is. That’s the point of awareness. And if we believe this about ourselves, we can also decide to change it. That’s the point of choice.

I also noted above that I needed to let go before the money would flow in again. Letting go is an art. It can be applied to all areas of our lives. But a simple way to look at it is to reflect on when you’ve stopped thinking about something and turned to something else, to notice later that you are no longer bothered by the previous matter. It has somehow energetically, emotionally and mentally left you. There’s a feeling of release, almost of relief.

So, have a think about times you’ve been caught up with something to do with money and then somehow it has resolved itself and you’ve been able to let go of it.

Poverty consciousness can pervade all corners of our lives if we let it – and we put this out into the world. Time for a change?

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Wanting money: scarcity or sufficiency?

When it comes to money, do you believe there is enough for you or not enough? Does money easily and effortlessly flow into your life or do you often find it something of a struggle. Our thinking about money, and especially our limiting beliefs, tell us a lot about how we live our lives in general.

I’m reading a book called “The Soul of Money” by Lynne Twist and just lighted on a chapter on scarcity and sufficiency thinking. Much of her work has been with charitable work tackling world hunger. She tells about when she travelled into the interior of Senegal, into the desert to a tribe who were running out of water. After being welcomed with song and dance, she spoke with the men and then separately with the women – they were Muslim – about a solution the women had to the problem, which was to dig down to what their instinct told them was an underground lake. Lynne was asked to get the men to agree, which she did. Subsequently the hole was dug and the water was found. Then the fortunes of the tribe turned around. What, however, struck Lynne most was how clear and focused this tribe was, not in lamenting lack, but in seeking out solutions and in believing that water could be found. She says that these people had a “sufficiency” not a “scarcity” mentality. She concludes, when “we let go of the mind-set of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency…It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough and that we are enough” (bold is mine).

She also tells about a talk she gave to senior women executives at Microsoft in 1998. What she noticed was that these very successful women were in their mid-thirties and had very high salaries, small children and a very good standard of living. Yet they said goodbye to their children, left early for work and started on their PC’s at 8.00am, returning home at 9.00 or 10.00pm, to tuck their children up in bed and say goodnight. Then they’d be back on their PC’s till 1.00am. Periodically they would have guilt flings about getting a life, but that would be quickly replaced by the next business task. As Lynne talked about how much of the rest of the world especially the hungry ones were living, and as she stressed how in the midst of such things people like the Senegalese kept up their spirits and their positivity, the room went palpably quiet. Her points were striking a chord. These women were driven by the desire for more, more money, more possessions, a higher life-style, but they weren’t really enjoying the fruits of it. It hadn’t altered their experience of life and there was an unaddressed hole. Subsequently she heard that for several women, her talk had had life-changing results.

Recent happiness surveys have been showing that as our society in the West gets more prosperous, happiness levels are falling. We may speculate about the various causes. The happiness gurus tell us that happiness is stronger where people have a disposition to positivity and pleasurable experiences, have close supportive relationships and have a sense of meaning to their lives. Material prosperity has little to do with it, once basic conditions are satisfied. Yet, we live in a society and in a mental framework of more, bigger, better – the function of desire – something that is inherently unfulfilling. Once I’ve got this, I want more: the desire is only temporarily satisfied. I remember running a workshop once in a factory where the operatives, at a point where we were discussing values, said in a loud chorus, “we want more!” According to motivation theory, if you have “away from” motivation, where you are motivated to avert something seen as undesirable, you will work till it is satisfied and then you ease up subconsciously till the problem returns. Then the cycle begins again.

Where it gets even more interesting is where our beliefs about money spill over into life itself. What does this say about what we think about our own personal worth and value?

So, as for yourself, what is your relationship with money? Are you motivated by “lack”? Do you believe that things are basically scarce – or are they enough? Do you think in terms of things being “not enough” or are they plentiful? And how much of your life is taken up with this?

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