I realized several years ago what people typically want from their economically life is security and abundance.
Not the I have lots of stuff kind of abundance, although many confuse this with true abundance. No, I refer to living each day with a sense of security and thanksgiving, full of good deeds, food, family, friends, and community.
I learned from anthropologists researching my book Invest Like You Give a Damn, that our scarcity “gene” invariably trumps our desire for abundance. Scarcity is not really a gene, of course. It’s a 150,000-year-old human fear of not getting enough to eat. This was a legitimate anxiety for most of humanity until as recently as 70 years ago. Sadly, it remains a reality for many billions around the world today.
Abundance – It’s a State of Mind
My anthropologist friends also reminded me abundance is a state of mind and not a destination. How many times have you heard, even said, “I will feel economically secure if I can just get that promotion, new job, or some such thing? Or how many times have you thought, “Gee why does that billionaire want a tax break, what could they want with more money?”
After some study, and discussions with the folks I interviewed for Invest Like You Give a Damn, (and not just a little navel gazing), I discovered three characters are primarily responsible for a preference to scarcity over abundance: Ego, DNA, and Logic, which combine to make your Economic Being.
I say discovered because, like many of our life confusions, the key to my own sense of economic abundance, or rather angst, swirled about in the turmoil in my unconsciousness.
The path to understanding my own Economic Being began some fifteen years ago, when I had had about enough of a perceived sense of financial insecurity that plagued my soul and haunted my every Starbucks coffee. For the sake of my health, and that of my family who suffered disproportionally from my irrational reactions to money, I had to change. The day I freaked out about buying my five-year-old boy a bag of chips was the day I decided money fears and worries had to go.
My first approach was to pull out my hard-assed hockey guy — I started ignoring financial worries, mentally strong-arming them into a corner. This worked about as well as you can imagine. I continued to make, spend, and invest, but I hardly managed my money worries. Fortunately, my partner Tonia had all things financial well in hand.
Later, when our family was going through a bit of financial turbulence, I lost it again when my kids, being kids, slabbed the peanut butter and jam on their toast like the stuff came from a bottomless well instead of seven-dollar jars that would have to be replaced. This made me realize that burying my fears was a poor strategy. Instead of denying my thoughts and feelings, I decided to think about why money made me uncomfortable, unhappy even, and how I could have a healthier attitude toward it, and wealth.
After some time, I found that the many of the feelings I had were inherited. I started calling this my Economic DNA. You know, how your mom and dad, even your grandparents, spent, saved, or invested money and how that rubs off on to you.
I started to think about my grandmother. Nanny lived a long life, through two World Wars, the Depression, a long retirement on a small, fixed income, and too many years without a Super Bowl for the Giants. She never spared to treat or spoil us, but she definitively knew how to spread the jam on thin.
Waste not, want not: a penny saved is a penny earned. The financial wisdom of our elders doesn’t go unnoticed. We soak it up as naturally as we absorb their organizational habits, political preferences, and sports teams.
Other feelings, I discovered, came directly from my state of personal development — where I had progressed in my physiological and spiritual life journey. Mid-life crisis sports cars or three-thousand-dollar handbags are emblematic of this. I started to call this my Economic Ego.
Still other feelings came from more practical sources and worries, like how to pay all our bills, save for our kids’ futures AND think of one day having a happy retirement. The way I went about managing all this stuff, I labelled my Economic Logic.
You might think Economic Logic would be the easiest of the three to understand and deal with. But this is the most troublesome bit of our Economic Being. Sure, it’s helpful to have sound Economic Logic, and we all feel good making a practical economic decision. But Economic Logic is boring. It’s dull. It also always seems to be getting in the way of things we like to do. Economic Logic often makes us feel roped into a discipline of budgets, of spending wisely. Who really likes that?
From a healthy life perspective, Economic Logic is inadequate as a foundational principle, even if it is something financial planners will coax us into believing. Logic is hardly the thing that moves us. Logic, or what passes as logic, often gets in the way of understanding what we want as consumers and investors. Worse, because few of us are all that logical about money anyway, Economic Logic often makes us feel unhappy, and we deny it as a matter of course.
Fortunately, because of my career as a financial professional and in the economics arts of sustainability, I had some tools to investigate these companions: my Economic DNA, Ego, and Logic. What I learned was that my financial fears were not fully founded upon any rational reasons, and any benefit I derived from them was far outweighed by the worry they caused and the affects they had on my relationships, my health, and, ironically, my material wealth.
When you are engaged in your financial “thinkery,” reflect on these three fellows, DNA, Ego, and Logic. Knowing them better may help bring more abundance in your life. The more you feel abundance, the more it will direct your money towards a sustainable world– be it in your portfolio, through your donations, at the farmers market, or in the mall.
I believe a sustainable world is possible, and a big part of that is believing we can live in abundance with much less than we suspect.
Accepting abundance is only the first step towards achieving it. Unlike some, however, I do not stop there. Creating abundance takes work, you can’t just ask for it or believe in it. Organizing your finances and investments is a critical and unavoidable part of creating sustainable abundance in your life.