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Financial Therapy 101: Money Scripts (part 2)

Posted by on April 27, 2010 in Financial Therapy, Skills Building | 0 comments

Step 1: Identify your Money Scripts

Money Scripts are the automatic thoughts we have in regards to money.

Here’s another exercise to help you “stir the pot” and continue to gather evidence as to what your relationship with money is like. (Remember: “Money” refers to all types of financial / material means.)

Exercise 3: Sentence Completion (Remember not to filter or judge; just write down what comes to mind.)

Wealthy people …

The poor are poor because…

Parents owe their children …

Financially, I deserve to …

I believe that giving …

One should never spend money for …

One should always spend money for …

Debt is …

The difference between the rich and the poor is …

Things would have been alright if I had never …

The relationship between God and money is …

The difference between love and money is …

The dumbest thing someone can do with money is …

Because I … I will never …

When I was little, I was told that money …

The wisest thing someone can do with money is …

Financial freedom is …

You can count on money to …

Never trust money to …

Being rich means …

I will always be able to …

Money should be …

It’s likely that this exercise will bring to mind other Money Scripts. Continue to write these down as they come to you. The more you know about your current relationship with money, the better equipped you’ll be to begin reshaping it into something more desirable.

Next week, we’ll begin walking through a process of examining the Scripts you’ve identified. Stay tuned!

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Financial Therapy 101: Money Scripts

Posted by on April 17, 2010 in Financial Therapy, Skills Building | 1 comment

We cannot change a reality we deny exists, so if you want to enhance your relationship with money, you must first know what it presently is. In this and the next post, I’ll introduce you to simple exercises you can use to “stir the pot” and begin to gather evidence as to what your relationship with money is like. (Remember: “Money” refers to all types of financial / material means.)

Step 1: Identify your Money Scripts

Money Scripts are the automatic thoughts we have in regards to money.

Exercise 1: Brainstorming

Take out a blank sheet of paper. Read through the following list – one item at a time – and consider how each relates to money. Write down whatever pops into your mind.

Don’t filter! Don’t judge! Don’t rationalize!

The key to brainstorming is to let the thoughts flow freely and easily. There will be time later to consider what you have written down.

Give yourself 15-30 seconds with each word, then move on to the next. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer – simply write down what first comes to mind.

Wealth

Happiness

Success

Debt

Family

Obligations

Work

Taxes

Saving

Pain

Values

Trust

Luck

Spending

Children

Bankruptcy

Harmony

Conflict

Regret

Shopping

Rights

Poverty

Inheritance

Giving

Fantasy

Honesty

God

If there are other words you’d like to brainstorm, go for it! Add them to your list. This exercise will help you practice noticing your thoughts.

Exercise 2: Real-time Tracking

Over the next week, keep an ongoing log of your thoughts regarding money. While you’re in a store, paying bills, considering your work, parenting children, chatting with friends, day dreaming … what are your Money Scripts? Write these down.

Remember, this isn’t a matter of “good” or “bad” – it is what it is. Each script is evidence of the experiences that have shaped your relationship with money into what it is today. They are grist for the mill of enhancing your relationship with money.

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Financial Therapy 101

Posted by on April 6, 2010 in Financial Therapy | 2 comments

First, a little background ….

I started out my professional life as a CPA working in the field of wealth management. Through that work, I realized that we each have a relationship with money – and this relationship drives not only our financial choices but also our day-to-day life choices. It is like a mirror to our relationships with other people as well as “things” such as work, health, recreation, financial assets, and material possessions.

All too frequently, I observed that a client’s relationship with money robbed him/ her of their desired relationships with family or friends, of work-life balance, or of peace of mind. I wanted to refer them to someone for assistance, but could not find anyone to whom to refer. Over time, I realized that I was being called to meet this need – to help others enhance their relationships with money so that they could lead more authentic and fulfilling lives. This is the aim of Financial Therapy.

Through Financial Therapy, clients learn about their current relationship with money. Some times they learn how it became what it is, but more importantly, they develop the tools with which to redefine the relationship.

Since financial distress strongly contributes to depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and a host of other problems, developing a healthy relationship with money can enhance all areas of life – physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual. And that is why I am so passionate about Financial Therapy.

Over the next few weeks, I will be introducing you to some of the basic tools utilized in Financial Therapy. I encourage you to embrace these and let them work for you. If you find you cannot do it on your own, please let me know how I can help.

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Sunny With a High of 75

Posted by on March 15, 2010 in Musings | 1 comment

There’s a song by Relient K called High of 75. It’s been a favorite of mine ever since it came out a few years ago. I was reminded of this song today as I stepped outside and felt invigorated by the beautiful blue-sky, spring-like weather day.

I like High of 75 for at least two reasons (in addition to its cheerful beat).

1) is because Spring is my absolute favorite season. For me, you just can’t beat blue skies and warm weather. 65-85 is my favorite temperature range. So this song is about my kind of day.

2) is because it speaks to the importance of hope. The chorus starts out “And now I’m sunny with a high of 75 since You took my heavy heart and made it light.”

Hope is priceless. It keeps us pressing on despite present circumstances.

There was a study of hope that involved rats. In the first part, a rat was placed in a tank of water, and the researchers measured how long he would paddle (i.e., how long before he gave up. And yes, the little guy was plucked out at that point.) In the second part, the procedure was the same except that the paddling rat could now witness one of his rat buddies getting rescued from the water in which he was paddling.

The researchers found that the rats in the second scenario paddled for a significantly longer period of time. Why, you ask? Because seeing his buddy rat getting rescued gave the little guy hope that the situation wasn’t doomed – that if he persisted, he, too, could be rescued.

Hope is priceless.

So I ask, who are your wet rats??? Who helps encourage you? Who feeds your hope?

No man is an island. We are wired for community.

If you’re in a stuck place, I encourage you to reach out for help. Reconnect with friends. Let them know what’s really going on. Put down the “Everything’s fine” mask.

If you need professional help, get it. But don’t let that substitute for the development of authentic friendships.

I once heard a pastor say that friendships are like bridges – different ones can sustain different levels of weight. It’s great to have “5-ton friendships,” but we need “10-ton” and “20-ton” friendships, too, as life can get heavy at times.

You could get hurt. It’s true. But it’s worth the risk. Who knows, you could connect with another wet rat, who could help feed your hope.

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For the Love of a Sauna

Posted by on March 2, 2010 in Skills Building | 0 comments

I’ll share with you a little known fact – most of my blog entries are written in a sauna.  Yep! My husband says I’m “baking like a potato,” and I love it. It’s one of my “happy places.”

One reason is because I know it’s good for me. My tolerance for the heat has built up over time, so I no longer watch the timer. I simply relax while my body uses one of its natural mechanisms (sweating) to get rid of toxins.

(For some tips on how to get rid of mental “toxins,” see the previous blog series “Taking Out the Mental Trash.”)

Another reason I love a sauna is because it’s one of the few times during the week when I’m totally by myself in a serene environment.  As someone inclined toward introversion, I need this time to recharge. The dim, relatively quiet environment offers few distractions.

Over time, my mind has learned that this is what I do. A good workout clears my mind and slows my thoughts. Then I hop into the sauna to “bake like a potato” and write. It’s a time I look forward to.

What about you? What are your happy places? Where do you go  – on a regular basis – to recharge?

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Taking Out the Mental Trash – Part 3

Posted by on February 20, 2010 in Skills Building | 0 comments

Last week I introduced you to a series of thinking errors (i.e., distorted ways of thinking). I invited you to familiarize yourself with these patterns and to begin monitoring your thoughts to see which ones you engage in the most.

This week, I’ll walk you through a process of exploring stressful thoughts to see if they are true, accurate, complete ….. There is value in working the process on paper, so please write down your responses.

The first step of the process is often the most challenging. To start, you need to identify a specific thought. Not a description of a situation. Not who said what. But instead, what exactly was going through your mind. If a court reporter could see what was going on between your ears, what would they note down. Don’t worry, this can get easier with practice.

1. Give an example of a distressing thought you had during the past few days.

2. Review the list of thinking error types and identify the errors in your thoughts.

3. Is this thought true? What is the evidence that this thought is true?

4. To what extent is this thought true (e.g., some times, occasionally, often)? Look out for words like always and never.

5. Check for emotionally charged words, such as labels (e.g., stupid, jerk, devastating, horrible). Maintain perspective.

6. Realistically consider the worst case scenario – briefly. If the thought is true, how will you survive, cope, and overcome the situation?

7. Talk to yourself compassionately. Note the positive.

8. Based on your work above, create a substitute thought that is accurate, realistic, and maintains perspective.

Let’s go through an example together …

1. Give an example of a distressing thought you had during the past few days.

(Situation: Ed, the superbly wonderful program administrator I had worked with for years, announced his resignation.)

My reaction – Automatic / first thoughts: I don’t want to work here without him. This stinks. No one will ever be as good as him. I don’t want to work with anyone else. (And the mental temper-tantrum went on…)

2. Review the list of thinking error types and identify the errors in your thoughts.

The following thinking errors were contained in these thoughts:

All or nothing thinking: No one else could ever be good enough.

Filtering: I was not letting myself consider that something good could come from the situation – for him or for me.

Jumping to conclusions: I assumed since no other manager had even done such a good job that no one else ever would again. I also assumed that I could / would not adjust well to another manager.

Catastrophizing: My skillful friend would no longer be my manager. We were losing a real treasure. It was all downhill from there.

Emotional reasoning: I was sad and surprised. This greatly shaped my initial reaction (thoughts).

Should: While not explicit in the thoughts listed above, at a deeper level, my thoughts likely contained should – such as “He should stay.” or “I should leave, too.”

Labeling: I said “this stinks” as if that one word could sum up the entire situation.

Personalization: My initial reaction was all about me. It did not consider anyone else.

Blaming: Again, while not explicit in the thoughts above, there could have been another thought that blamed my friend / manager for the sadness I felt.

3. Is this thought true? What is the evidence that this thought is true?

No. I could not assume to know what it would be like to work with a different manager or how that manager’s performance would be.

4. To what extent is this thought true (e.g., some times, occasionally, often)? Look out for words like always and never.

No one … ever …

5. Check for emotionally charged words, such as labels (e.g., stupid, jerk, devastating, horrible). Maintain perspective.

stinks

6. Realistically consider the worst case scenario – briefly. If the thought is true, how will you survive, cope, and overcome the situation?

I can survive and learn to work with a different manager. The world has not ended.

7. Talk to yourself compassionately. Note the positive.

I am blessed to have had the opportunity to work with this manager, and I am very happy that he will be doing more of the type of work he most enjoys.

8. Based on your work above, create a substitute thought that is accurate, realistic, and maintains perspective.

After I got past the initial shock and got to thinking more clearly – this is what I thought:

I am sad to hear this news. I was not expecting it. It has been an enormous blessing to work with Ed, and I will miss him. While the next manager may not be as much of a delight, I will make the best of it. I work with a great group of people, and we will get through this together.  I am excited that Ed will be doing the work he most enjoys. He is so gifted in that area. I will miss him but wish him the very best and will look forward to staying in touch.

Over time, as you practice this process, you can learn to do this in real-time. That’s when the greatest benefits come in. And, as you repeatedly practice actively managing your thoughts, the nature of your thoughts will likely change, so that your automatic thoughts contain fewer distortions or errors.

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Taking out the Mental Trash – part 2

Posted by on February 13, 2010 in Skills Building | 0 comments

In my last blog entry, I invited you on a journey of taking out the “mental trash” – messages that clog our minds, burden our hearts, quash our spirits, and interfere with our ability to lead an authentic life. I suggested you start keeping  a log of these distressing thoughts. This week I’m introducing you to a system for identifying errors (i.e., distorted ways of thinking) in those thoughts.

Below are some of the most common categories of thinking errors . Don’t be alarmed when you realize “I do all of these!” We all do. As  you read through the list, think of your own examples – and see which are your most frequent offenders.

All or nothing thinking: You think of things in terms of black or white terms.

It’s my way or the highway.

You’re a success or a failure.

Blaming: You attribute your feelings and/or situation to someone or something else.

It’s your fault I’m angry.

I can’t have a good time if you aren’t with me.

They didn’t give me a choice.

Catastrophizing or minimizing: You grossly overestimate or underestimate the impact of a situation.

I really thought that he was the one; I guess I’ll die an old maid.

I didn’t hurt anyone on my way home; I told you I can hold my liquor.

Emotional reasoning: You allow your feelings to determine your thoughts.

I pushed her buttons because I felt like arguing.

I’m too (emotionally) tired to care anymore.

If I’m having  a bad day, I’ll see to it that everyone’s having a bad day.

Filtering: You focus on certain aspects, to the exclusion of others.

A performance review praises your leadership skills and is critical of your documentation. You disregard the commendations and dwell on the criticism.

Jumping to conclusions: You assume the worst.

A friend does not call you on your birthday. You conclude she must be mad at you.

Labeling: You call yourself and/or others such things as “lazy,” “ignorant,” or “stupid.”

I can’t believe I said that; how could I be so stupid?!

He is a jerk.

Overgeneralization: Because something seems negative, you assume things will always go wrong.

A friend betrays your trust and you conclude that no one can be trusted.

Personalization: You take personally something that may have little or nothing to do with you.

You hear co-workers snickering and assume they are laughing at you.

Should: You declare that what is should not be.

That should not have happened.

You should have known what I meant.

I should be able to do this.

Familiarize yourself with the thinking error types and begin training yourself to realize when you are engaging in distorted ways of thinking. In the next post, I’ll walk you through a process of changing your thoughts.

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Taking Out the “Mental Trash” – It’s Better Than a New Knee

Posted by on January 24, 2010 in Financial Therapy, Musings | 0 comments

See if you can top this … My Dad got a new knee for Christmas.

The old one had been bothering him for years. For several years, over-the-counter meds and strengthening exercises helped and enabled him to delay surgery. Then he tried injections of a lubricant gel that is derived from chicken combs. And this, too, provided some relief and delay. But eventually, he could no longer postpone the inevitable. It was time for a knee upgrade – to “Knee 2.0.” Knee 2.0 is a stainless steel replacement that will, after rehabilitation, allow him to walk in comfort for decades to come.

I saw my Dad a few weeks ago, just after the 28 post-operative staples were removed. He was walking with the assistance of one crutch, yet there was a gleam in his eye that said the pain of the process was worth it, and he eagerly anticipates the renewed sense of freedom he will have thanks to the knee pain being vanquished.

This tangible truth is mirrored in the intangible world. Sometimes we carry thought patterns with us long after they have exceeded their useful life.

Once upon a time, they may have worked for us. They may have even helped us survive. But in our present circumstances, they are no longer necessary or desirable.

Let me start with a simplistic example. “Don’t talk to strangers.” Did you hear that one as a child? Indeed, at certain points in life, such directives may have kept us safe. But as an adult, do you still let that shape your daily interactions? Probably not. So why is it that other messages seem to stick, even though they’re just as out-dated?

How about this one – “You will never amount to anything.”

Even as we transition into adulthood, gain more influence over our world and our choices, some messages stay ingrained in us. So much so, that we never stop to question if they are true, accurate, or applicable. They can be like white-noise – stealthfully shaping our day-to-day decisions without even registering at a conscious level.

Sometimes we can get by for a time – despite their presence. But how much freer might we live if we were able to discard these worn-out lies for something more suiting – something true and life-giving?

Just like my Dad’s knee surgery, this is a process, and it may involve pain. But in the end, you can be set free.

The first step is to become aware of your inner dialogue. For some, these thoughts are like Old Faithful. When we get tired, stressed, angry, or lonely, we know what’s going to pop up. Others aren’t as obvious. So become an investigator. When you feel dis-ease whirling around inside of you – take a seat and observe your thoughts. Listen for old worn out messages and write them down.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll walk you through the process of challenging distorted, worn-out, painful thoughts and lies. I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

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Financial Empowerment Retreat for Women

Posted by on January 16, 2010 in Financial Planning, Financial Therapy | 0 comments

Happy New Year!

We all know that 2009 was a financially challenging year. As with all challenges, some good has resulted from the trial. I’ve noticed that more people are now motivated to get a handle on their personal finances, to make wiser decisions, and to choose options that are in line with their values and priorities.

Paul Lemon, CPA/PFS, CFP(R) and I are teaming up to offer an amazingly priced Financial Empowerment Retreat for Women in Durango, Colorado Feb. 4 – 7. ($395, which includes accommodations and meals!) It’s our way of helping folks learn how to better manage their lives by managing their finances. We kept the cost low so that those who want to attend can afford to attend.

We’ll cover the practical how-to’s of personal finance and explore and enhance our relationships with money – so that we not only know what to do, but are also equipped to be able to do it.

Please go to http://tinyurl.com/empowermentretreat to learn more and pass this along to others who could benefit from this exciting opportunity.

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Activate Your Christmas Muscle

Posted by on December 12, 2009 in Musings, Readings | 0 comments

Last night, while I was brushing my teeth, a few thoughts that had been spinning around independently in my head bumped into each other, and I had a point of clarity. Let me elaborate …

Thought 1: I’ve recently been reading The Secret Language of Money and Your Money & Your Brain. Each book references research, which found the anticipation of a reward can be more satisfying than receipt of the reward itself. The reason is because once the reward is attained, the chemical process of anticipation is extinguished.

Thought 2: Since my husband, Robbie, has been out of work since February, and I’ve been building up a new private practice while preparing to launch a second company next year, this year’s Christmas budget has been paired back. So that we can continue to give to others, we decided to pass on exchanging gifts ourselves. Robbie asked for reassurance that I would not be disappointed. I assured him that I would not be disappointed but admitted that I may miss having a surprise to enjoy. Inwardly, I was saddened by the thought that I could possibly be disappointed at not receiving something material (which I could definitely live without) to mark the celebration of the day mankind received the one gift it cannot live without – a Savior.

Thought 3: Yesterday I met with a personal trainer to mix up a lower body resistance training regimen, which had become boring. For grins and giggles, he took me through a new core workout first, and then we went through a lower body routine. It included only two new exercises, but these would target a wider range of muscles. During the first new exercise, I was a bit wobbly, so Forrest pulled me aside for an exercise that would activate a specific glute muscle. Sure enough, after that, my form was better. It was amazing.

So last night as I was brushing my teeth, I was experiencing a precursor to the pain I knew I’d feel today, from targeting muscles my previous routine had let rest. As I pondered what insight this lesson in the physical realm could shed on the intangible spiritual realm of life, the above three thoughts collided.

If I want my experience of Christmas to reflect the joy of the gift of Jesus and the joy of giving to others – without being diminished by the distraction of materialism – I need to keep my “Christmas muscle” activated.

How can I (we!) do that? To start, I can let my daily quiet time keep directing me back to the true meaning of Christmas. I can stop adding busyness to my schedule, so that there’s more time to relax, reflect, and enjoy. I can beef up my attitude of gratitude through active reflection on the blessings constantly poured down upon me, and by telling and showing others that they are a blessing to me. I can continue to seek ways to simplify my daily life so that its maintenance is less of a distraction. I can sit and gaze at the Christmas tree, cuddle up to Robbie, and enjoy the soothing purr of kitties on our laps. I can finish setting up our nativity collection – beautiful, visual reminders, of the true gift of Christmas, which never fades or fails – Jesus Christ.

Indeed, each time I sit or stand today, I know that something is different. The simple changes made to my exercise routine have already begun to create a new experience among my muscles.  And I’m encouraged that with a little intentional tweaking – to continually activate my Christmas muscle – this year and this Christmas will continue to be one of the best yet.

What will you do to activate your Christmas muscle?

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