If I look hard enough, everything is connected in some way to my dream of mastering my personal finances.
That’s a good thing, because it means I’m paying attention to my dream, rather than ignoring it. It’s like that thing where if you decide you must own a red 1968 Mustang, suddenly you see them everywhere. You are not manifesting your Mustang, necessarily – you’re just looking for it, and so you see it.
This week I read two books, both by the mysteriously named The Arbinger Institute: Leadership and Self-Deception, and The Anatomy of Peace. I read them in order to learn how to help a client foster better team communication. But of course I saw in them something that connected to my dream.
A core concept in these books is that ideally, we should be spending most of our time helping things go right, and not very much time at all fixing things that went wrong. That pyramid up top is an illustration of the way it should be.
Wouldn’t it be great if, in all of life, our time allocation looked like that?
Think of it. No firefighting. Less stress. More cooperation among friends and allies. Blaming would be a thing of the past. Kumbaya!
I suspect that whatever we find easiest in life could be described by this ideal pyramid.
For example, one thing that’s easy for me is cooking. I definitely spend the great majority of my cooking time helping things go right. I always take 20 minutes to preheat my cast iron dutch oven before putting in my homemade sourdough bread to bake.
That’s what helps my loaves of bread come out of the oven just right – golden and fragrant with a lovely custardy crumb every time. (My stomach just growled. How about yours?)
Only rarely do I find myself in the kitchen fixing stuff that went wrong. It’s been quite awhile since I had to scrub my best copper pot with kosher salt to get the burn marks off it after leaving the artichokes on for too long without adding water.
What IS that weird smell? Is somebody cooking something? Oh. It’s me. Duh.
On the other hand, I’ll bet whatever we find most difficult in life is probably the place where the parts of the pyramid trade places.
I admit I spend an awful lot of time fixing things that went wrong with my personal finances.
Twenty minutes on hold and twenty minutes of pleading to get the bank to reverse that gosh-darned overdraft fee so I’m not paying $29.99 for a pack of gum.
An hour and a half begging the COBRA plan administrator to overlook the math error that made my check $7 short . . . the check I mailed on the last possible day to continue coverage.
Another full day looking for health coverage that would accept my son’s pre-existing condition, since the COBRA supervisor, and her supervisor’s supervisor, don’t really care that I can’t add, and that I was really really busy and just didn’t get that check in the mail any earlier.
Stuff like that.
By comparison, the amount of time I spend helping things go right with my personal finances is downright minuscule.
I am evolving to a strange theory about why it should be true that wherever in life we are most uncomfortable, we resort to fixing what went wrong instead of helping things go right . . . the opposite of what we do with the easy stuff.
I think it’s because there’s a peculiar kind of comfort in what went wrong. It already went wrong, so we know for sure what happened. There aren’t any surprises. It’s in the past, and therefore definable and knowable. I can deal with what I already know, even if it’s bad.
Helping things go right, on the other hand, is in the future. It hasn’t happened yet, so it’s not so comfortable. There’s some risk there; some sense of “yeah, but….” or “what if?”
In the world of personal finance, I am already uncomfortable enough. I don’t really want any more discomfort. So I go with what I know, which is what already happened. Let me fix THAT, instead of thinking about how to make the future go right.
Man, my brain can do some twisted logic loop-de-loops, can’t she? But think about it.
If you’ve got some part of your life that isn’t very easy for you (and really, who doesn’t have that?), do you find yourself fixing what went wrong way more than helping future things go right?
What would happen if I just changed my thinking? What if I could find something – even something really small – that I could help go right in my personal finances?
I think that would be a dream come true.
Leave a comment. Help me – please! – find some small ways to help things go right with money.