Breaking Down Broke
Returning to your Values to Shift your Financial Perspective
PART ONE: THE MINDSET
Most of us have at some point in time felt “broke”. Often, we use it as an excuse not to do something we want to do. Sometimes, we let that excuse hold us back when it really doesn’t have to. “I can’t, I’m broke” has become a more and more commonly used phrase and it can speak to a variety of levels of financial stress and discomfort.
In order to move past it and shift the energy around this perceived state, we need to do a little exploration and understand what we really mean, what’s true, and what’s not. The more we understand something, the easier it becomes to make a change. There are few things we forget that, when remembered, can help us to move forward and shed the stuff that isn’t working.
1. OUR EXPERIENCE IS VALID
It’s important to remember that, like most experiences, being “broke” is a matter of perspective. Our feelings are our own and no one else’s, and it’s just as possible for someone recently cut off from their trust fund to feel broke as it is for someone sleeping on the street. While their situations may be different, the people themselves are equal. One person’s individual experience has just as much meaning – and validity – as another’s.
If you’re not quite on board yet, consider the feeling of pain. Bring to mind the worst pain you’ve ever felt. To you, that pain is as bad as it gets. To someone else, that same level of pain might be a minor annoyance in comparison with their own experience. Does that mean your pain means less than theirs? Does that mean they’re stronger or better or more powerful than you are? No. Pain is pain, and your worst is no more and no less than anyone else’s.
2. OUR EXPERIENCE IS TEMPORARY
In order to break down this feeling further, we need to understand that all states of being are ephemeral. No sensation lasts forever. We are constantly in flux, cavorting in an ever changing exchange of time, energy, cause and effect. Both joy and sadness come not from some inner well of feeling to be called on at will, but from a our own individual perception. When we are hot, we welcome cool. When we are cold, we welcome heat. In this way, no sensation is good or bad. It is our reaction to the sensation that determines its value.
These reactions come largely from long genetic histories programmed into us on a neurological and cellular level. While mostly unconscious and frequently useful, they can also get in the way of our own evolution. Fortunately for us, we are blessed with consciousness and the ability to respond rather than react. While reaction is a programmed action in accordance with past programming, response is a conscious action that considers both our present reality and past experiential wisdom. Because our experiences are never the same twice, it is unreasonable for us to use the same solutions over and over again instead of considering a better and more applicable option in the now.
3. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET
There is no difference between what is happening to you and how you perceive it. Let that sink in. Has anyone ever surprised you so much that you jumped? In that moment, your body and mind reacted to a perceived threat. That threat was as real to you as the floor under your feet until your perspective shifted with time and increased awareness of the situation. Our realities are created by what we perceive. This can be seen as a terrifying limitation or as a source of incredible power. What we see is truly what we get. We are growing, learning beings. And in order to learn new ways, we need to unlearn old ones.
4. MONEY ISN’T HAPPINESS
There’s a Native American story in which a grandfather teaches his grandson about the battle within all beings – the balance between grace and ignorance, good and evil, love and fear. He tells his grandson that this is a battle between two wolves. Both are of equal power and strength.
“Which wolf wins?” asks the grandson.
And the grandfather replies “The one you feed.”
So…let’s get down to the practical part. How do we change our perception of money to be more in alignment with our values? How do we change our perception of our financial state in order to feed the wolf that bring us grace, good and love?
First, we have to acknowledge that money has no inherent value. It is a practical human invention that facilitates trade and assigns generally accepted value to things and experiences. But money in itself is just metal and paper. It doesn’t directly create happiness, love, power, despair, war or peace. It’s how we spend it that gives it meaning. And the meaning we give it is entirely in our own hands.
Sometimes, the ways in which we spend our money are in alignment with our values. For example, when we spend it on nutritious foods, rent and healthcare. However, we also tend to spend our money on things that are out of alignment with our values. These less intelligent choices are often driven by fear. Fear of not fitting in, fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear for our very survival. These fears have been building within our genetic code for centuries, and modern advertising amplifies and manipulates these fears in the same way a lioness stalks her meal on the plains. She searches for and identifies weakness. She lurks in the shadows. And then she pounces on an unsuspecting prey. We have become that prey because we have lost awareness of the ways in which our fears dictate our actions. But we can reclaim that awareness. We can see the lioness in the shadows as the fear in our own unconscious mind. And we can learn to outsmart her. Next week, tune in for five ways to apply this new awareness and actively work towards financial freedom and stability starting from your thoughts and moving into action.
PART TWO: THE PRACTICE
RETURN TO YOUR VALUES
Set your phone timer or clock for two minutes. Write down the 5-10 things you value MOST in life. This list doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s not set in stone…this is just a little exploration. You can be as broad as “community” or “safety” and as specific as “my child” or “respect in my career”.
Now, grab a new piece of paper and set your timer again. This time. Write down 5-10 things you spend the most money on as soon as you’ve got some cash in your hands. Don’t think about it too hard and be honest!
Now take a look at your lists. What matches up? What doesn’t? For example, if you put “family” on your values list, ask yourself which things on your spending list contribute to that value.
IMPORTANT: THIS IS NOT A TIME FOR JUDGEMENT. Just witness your choices in action. Notice connections and observe anomalies. Where is your spending out of alignment with your values? Where is it IN alignment?
Just by observing, you’ve drawn your conscious awareness to actions that originate in unconscious patterning. You’ve shown a light on the shadows and you’ve opened a doorway to change. As you move through the next week or so, witness your spending actions and keep your values at the forefront of your mind. If you have time, record the moments you’re proud of and the moments you feel guilty or ashamed. Describe and explore the feelings of being financially both in and out of alignment with what you really want from your life.
ASK FOR HELP
Shame is the child of fear. We all know it. We have all felt it. And in that, we can find unity. Because we have all felt shame, we can easily empathize. But for some reason, we hesitate. We are afraid that we are alone. We are afraid that we will be shunned. We are afraid that our shame is somehow worse than anyone else’s. We are afraid to be vulnerable. But shame is just like pain. One person’s is just as real and just as valid as the next. Once we acknowledge this, we are able to open up to the generosity that comes with true empathy and understanding. Shame disappears when we find empathy. Shame dissolves when open up enough we see ourselves in each other.
Shame is often what keeps us from asking for help. But helping each other is what we are made for. Consider the feeling you get when you are able to help someone in need. It is one of the most powerful and deeply satisfying feelings in the world. Asking for help and receiving it are both acts of generosity. It’s a two way street and you’re bound to find yourself on both sides. Whatever side you’re on, you’ve got something to give.
When someone helps you, give back. Its as simple and easy as that. And it doesn’t cost a cent.
Come back to what you value most. It’s very likely that your ‘benefactor’ values similar things. Joy, safety, connection, comfort, respect. It doesn’t cost you anything to wash the dishes when you stay over at a friend’s. It’s free to share knowledge with someone less educated or experienced or teach someone something they don’t yet know. It’s a rare gift just to truly listen to someone who needs to be heard. Search for the ways you can give back that go beyond currency. They are far more valuable and will be infinitely more cherished. This is not about assigning a financial value to acts of kindness, but about honoring the value of everything we have to give, no matter the currency.
PRACTICE NO MATTER WHAT
One of the hardest things about this practice of awareness, perspective and abundance is the commitment to keeping it up, especially with the very real stress financial hardship can create in your life. One moment, you feel extraordinarily open to possibility, unafraid and ready to take on the world. The next, you’re feeling hopeless, fearful and uncertain. It’s normal. It’s human. And it’s the reason why it’s a practice.
It’s helpful to identify key times of the day, week or month to check in with yourself. Remind yourself of everything you’ve learned, the patterns you’ve discovered, and the new patterns you’re creating. It won’t always work. Sometimes, you’ll be down. Sometimes, you won’t be able to remember. But the point is that no matter how many times that happens, you keep coming back. You keep trying. You keep practicing. Even when it feels like bull shit. Even when it feels impossible.
IT'S OKAY TO BE HUMAN
We hold ourselves to impressively (and ridiculously) high standards. We aspire to be happy all of the time, funny, beautiful, companionable, sane. But we are human, and that means that while we can be all of those things, we also have the capacity for the opposite. Allow this incredibly broad spectrum of experience to empower you rather than deflate you. Embrace your humanity. Find appreciation for the genetic programming that has protected and defended you through the feeling of fear, just as you find gratitude for your immeasurable capacity for love.
Here’s the crucial key. Breaking down being “broke” is the same process as breaking down ANY other feeling or experience. Your power lies in understanding that you choose what you feel, and how those feelings turn into actions. Your power lies in recognizing that you are at the helm of your life, and only you can shift your trajectory. Your power lies in the realization that all of us share the same weaknesses and the same strengths, that all of us fear and that all of us love, and in that we are never, ever alone.
About the Author:
Inanna Jessup is a writer, designer, yoga teacher and perpetual traveler. After many years managing yoga studios and leading retreats, she decided to quit her leadership position and explore the world and nurture her more creative role of writer and creative.