Category Archives: motivation

Do Budgets Drive You Batty?

The typical answer to that question is an emphatic YES, THEY DO!  Many times in a presentation I have  asked: “How many of you have created a budget?” — most of the hands in the room go up.  Then I ask: “After you created the budget , how many of you actually ever looked at it again?” — almost all of the hands in the room go down!  My guess is that, as one of my ‘followers’, creating and using budgets isn’t your favorite method of managing your money?  Okay, maybe I understated that: You probably think of a budget as a form of torture, right?  You are not alone!

Before I get into exploring that, just in case you are worried that I’m going to end this blog suggesting that you use or create a traditional budget, have no fear!   What I’m actually going to do is explain why budgets don’t work for you, and suggest some other options.

Budgets can and do work… for analytical types.  You know them, they are those “logic first” people, the ones who create spread sheets and data bases for fun.  They are great people.  They are historians.  They like looking at all the data and coming to conclusions.  Good for them.  If you are one of them, you probably already have and enjoy using a budget.

If you aren’t one of those analytical types, all it means is that you are not happy crunching numbers.  You might be more ‘feeling’ oriented, more emotionally based.  Or you might be more ‘in the moment’ than interested in history and trends.  If that’s the case one of the biggest problems with a budget for you is that it’s after the fact.  What I mean is that you don’t have control in the moment.  You do what you do, spend what you spend.  Then you come home and as you load your spending into the budget spreadsheet you have either succeeded or failed.  By then you don’t really remember what your thoughts or emotions were when you were making the purchase, so you feel a bit lost.  Around this point is where most people feel shame, judgement, or even some bit of failure.

And there’s the rub, the thing that makes us batty.  It feels like something happened to you that you just couldn’t control because you are looking at the event before or after, instead of when it’s actually happening.  That’s why it feels so upsetting.  You are judging your action outside of the time when the actual choice was made.  At best you have a memory of what it felt like, not a clear vision of the choice.

If you are more of a big picture, emotional and/or an in the moment person, analysis after the fact won’t actually help you change your behavior.  It may make you feel bad about it, but it doesn’t give you any insights.

What will help you make better money choices is to find a way to be conscious of what you are spending—and why you are spending it—right in the moment that it is happening!  Make a list of things that often motivate your choices in the moment.  Things like:

  • Being tired, hungry
  • Feeling lonely, angry
  • Wanting something new, an emotional lift, some fun
  • Anxious to just get it done, settling for less than what you wanted

There are myriad possibilities, and you know what your go-to ones are.  Write them on a  card or note them on your phone. While you are standing in line to pay for your items, check if any of your purchases hit one of those spots?  and then make a choice to either buy it or not.  Understand what you are up to, make choices that truly work for you both in the moment and the long run.

A system like this, or my GOSH Model (which you can find on other blogs of mine) WILL help you be more conscious of your spending.  That’s what this whole budgeting thing is truly about — being conscious, aware, and purposeful in your spending.

Focus on having your spending and how you use your money reflect what you really care about. Your money will reflect your choices.


Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to explore just how you can let go of a budget and still have sound money practices give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Talking vs Action

There’s this fascinating thing that most of us do: we try to talk change into happening.  We depend more on what people say than on what they do!  It gets us in trouble!  Also, I think it gets us in internal trouble too.  We keep trying to fix or change things with words, instead of—and in place of—actions.  Somehow we think if we just keep asking and talking about how we need or want things to be different, they will be different.  Based on results, I’m not sure about that.  In fact, I’m more and more convinced that it’s both frustrating and ineffective.

Actually I have found, over time, that the old adage “actions speak louder than words” is well worth heeding!  Talking is a good thing in many ways.  It truly helps us understand what is going on, and it supports our coming up with strategies and ideas.  However, it doesn’t actually change things without corresponding action.

Let’s get real here.  You know that you have told yourself over and over that something needed to change… and that it didn’t actually change until you behaved differently, right?

In addition much of this ‘talking’ thing is based in our hope that others will change if we just talk to them.  If we just somehow explain how much they have hurt us, surely they will change!  It’s a thing that in Coachland is often called “the dream underneath the complaint”.  Surely the person you are talking to will see your pain, understand how important this is to you, and change?  Kinda not.  In all likelihood they are actually waiting for you to to change.

Yadda, yadda, yadda, on it goes, over and over.

There is a way out, though, radical as it may sound!  It’s about you behaving differently, instead of talking more.  It’s really kind of fascinating.  It’s a system thing.  As you change how you respond, and how you act, eventually the system changes too.  What that means is that if you behave differently, people will treat you differently—eventually!  Initially they will try to bring you back to the old dance.  It is, after all, an ingrained habit.  If, however, you persist in new ways of ‘being’ in the situation, others will either change with you or disengage entirely.

Meanwhile, you’ll be actually expressing who you are, and what you want, through your actions instead of having the same conversations over and over.

This reminds me of a friend I had long ago in South Carolina.  She had this adorable yet mischievous little girl.  The little girl had done something wrong, and her Mom told her that they were going to have to go in the other room and talk about it.  The little girl’s pleading response was “Oh, no Mommy!  Not the talk!  Anything but the talk!”  There’s more wisdom in the little girl’s response than is immediately apparent.  “The talk” doesn’t change anything, it doesn’t give her new actions to try.

Personally I’ve been trying out this place of “being and doing” what I want to have happen, instead of talking about it in several places.  I’m finding it does require patience and fortitude—and that it is quite effective.

As we approach a new year, we often set intentions or resolutions.  How does this idea of less talking and more doing factor into what you want to change or improve?


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some help in this dance of shifting from talking to doing, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Stymied Resolutions

Okay, here we are in the “Post Holiday blues”, and the New Year of 2017 is just around the corner. Time for resolutions… or not. There’s a couple of reasons I think our resolutions often fail to work, so let’s take a look.

My guess is that many of you are familiar with the “Law of Attraction” new age formula that comes from Hindu or even earlier thought. It says Intention + Attention = Manifestation. Let me clarify that a bit:

Intention: aim, plan, dream, goal, objective, purpose

Attention: action, application, deeds, movement, response, industry

Manifestation: results, outcome

So how we feel about something combined with what we do about it creates a result. Seems clear, doesn’t it? Well, I want to tweak it a bit, based on math. I think the action should be multiplication not addition. In math multiplication by zero equals zero, and I think that’s what happens here. Great dream, no action creates nothing. No dream, lots of action also creates nothing.

Here’s the deal. The reason this is called the Law of Attraction is that it doesn’t care whether you believe in it or not, it still applies. Like gravity, gravity doesn’t care whether I understand or believe in it, does it?

So why is this a big deal? Well because we often come at those New Year’s Resolutions without being clear on where we are in the Dream x Action = Results equation. For most of us, we are better at scurrying around doing the actions, than actually stopping and really getting clear on what we want—Oh, and why we want it.

That “why we want it” part is important—it actually leads to the real desire. Why do you want more money? Or more free time? Or more shoes? Is it really about those things? My guess is that they are just symbols for what it’s really about. Ask yourself what would be different if you had more time, money or shoes? Go deeper. Get clearer about what you really want. By having that Intention part clear you’ll be in a much better position to achieve success.

It’s really all about how we think about it, isn’t it? If I say: “Don’t think of a purple elephant,” the first thing that pops into your head is the image of a purple elephant, yes? Frame things in what you want, not what you don’t want.

One more thing to mention, and it’s probably the most important thing. It’s about negative emotions. That persistent inner critic voice in your head. The one that says “You have to make and keep resolutions because you messed up last year!” A resolution based on self-recrimination is not motivational. Guilt does not help us achieve our goals, we achieve them in spite of guilt not because of it.

Wanting to do better and improve is one thing. Beating yourself up for not having succeeded is very different, and not effective.

The trick to making your resolutions successful is getting clear on your dream and creating actions that support and align with that dream! The process itself is illuminating. Give it a try!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Want some help untangling what’s behind your intentions? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Being Greedy

Are you afraid of being greedy?  Are you worried that there is a part of you that might want to take all the dolls?  Eat all the cake?  Cheat others out of their share?

greedMany clients have expressed that fear to me.  Here’s what I know to be true: If you are worried about being greedy, then you aren’t really capable of it.  The worry itself points to your awareness of the greed.  I think that people who are truly greedy don’t actually think of it as greed.  They think of it as their reward, what they have earned, what they have a right to.

Sure as young children we all may have been chastised about being greedy or selfish.  It was part of how we learned to share.  Sharing is a way of supporting the group as a whole, and not being selfish.  All well and good.

Greedy is defined as:  “Wanting or taking all that one can get, with NO THOUGHT of others needs.”  So by definition if you are worried about being greedy, and worried about taking from others, you don’t actually have greed.

Think of the greed warning as yet another tactic of that voice in your head.  You know the one, the inner critic that is always on you about being good enough?  Its job is to keep you worried and fretting so you are distracted from being effective.  If you weren’t worried about being greedy what would you do differently?  And what might that bring?  What new thoughts and experiences might letting go of that fear and fret give you?

Who knows? One possibility is that by not worrying about being greedy you might actually amass more that you could then choose to share.  Hmmm…


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Want to explore this idea about the fear of greed keeping you distracted? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website:

In Spite Of, Not Because Of!

One of the great falsehoods most of us live with is believing that worrying, fretting, obsessing, and other such behaviors really help us be more effective.  I think the truth is that it’s not because of those tendencies, it’s actually in spite of them that we succeed.  Money is one the places that we all do this!

Fretting cropIt’s a learned behavior.  Our parents worried, their parents fretted, everybody spent time wringing their hands.  Okay, maybe there was that crazy uncle that spent money “like it was water.”  He never worried.  He just spent and spent.  I’m not talking about that.  I’m not talking about that.

What I’m talking about is the nattering, the checking the numbers four times, the waking up in the night worrying.  What’s that all about?

It’s really a function of our clever human brains making patterns.  We do an amazing job of pattern making.  We sort things into piles and categories in our head.  We link them together.  We make up conditional statements it like “if A, then B.”  It all comes from the wonderful pattern making than frankly gives us more ‘thought space’ for new things.   We don’t have to look at each new thing and figure it out from scratch.  We find something in our brain database that is similar and sort the new thing into that category.  Very clever, very useful… except when it’s not.

Worrying, fretting, nattering, running numbers over and over… those patterns aren’t helpful.  They are there because that’s what we’ve done.  We’ve worried, spun, and fretted and things turned out okay, so in our brains we have conflated the two together.  “If I worry and obsess money will work out”, is the pattern and thus the conclusion—but what if that’s wrong?  What if the fretting actually is distracting?  What if instead of truly helping it slows you  down?

That’s what I think is more often the truth.  That we succeed not because of all that tail chasing but in spite of it!

I’m not saying don’t look at your money.  I’m not saying don’t spend time with it.  I am saying don’t obsess over it.  What is the reason you check your bank balance several times a day?  Is there really a business reason for that, or is it this fret/obsess thing?

Like most things it’s about balance and moderation.  Spend some time with your money, absolutely.  Plan, look at the big picture, by all means have a cash flow spreadsheet and use it—all really good things to do.  However, when you do them over and over and over they become a distraction that increases rather than reduces stress.

See if you can’t stop in the middle of your stress fest and ask yourself: “Is this helpful? Does this actually make me more effective?” If not, how about doing something else that might get you focused on improving relationships with your clients, getting new business, doing your work in a better way, etc.

How about turning the Fret-O-Meter way down so you have more brain space for being effective?


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Want some help to stop nattering about money and start being more effecitive with it? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Houses and Hidden Dreams

There is this big confusion with owners, buyers, and agents in the Real Estate profession.  They operate as if the purchase of a house was really about the house – and it’s just not.  “What?” you say!  “Shell, has gone over the edge for sure!”  Allow me to explain.

Houses asecret-bathroomre big giant metaphors, always have been.  They are symbols of love, security, accomplishment, family; a myriad of things.  We imbue them with power and purpose beyond the walls and structure.  Yet, when we are asked about the house we want, we talk about the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, the school district, and of course, the cost.

We think that’s what’s important.  Our Real Estate person thinks that’s what’s important, and of course it is important.  But it’s not the real issue, is it?

I’ve been doing a bunch of presentations lately for Real Estate folks on how to talk about money.  Everything from how we all learned about money, to knowing what to say, and what not to say.  Often we end up in a discussion about a common phenomenon.  It goes like this. The client has a list of things they want in a house, and the agent shows them a home that meets many of the things on the list.  The client somehow doesn’t like that house.  Then the agent shows them another house that meets far fewer things on the list, and bingo, that’s the perfect house!

This is an example of the “house wasn’t about the house” thing.  Instead of being about the ‘facts’ that have been presented, it’s really about the ‘feelings’ that the house stimulates.  It’s not a left brained thing.  It’s a right brain one.  It’s all about a vision and emotion, it’s not about words, numbers or logic.  This is true even for those folks who operate more from a logical left-brain perspective.  It’s about the hidden dream.

Somewhere deep inside the client has a dream for their life.  A vision of how they want things to be.  Certainly the house may end up containing many of the things on the list, and can you see how it’s really not about the list?  It’s about that hidden dream.

If you are the sales person involved in this, it’s crucial for you to identify the dream.  Go beyond the questions about the appliances and garage size and ask how they envision life to be in the house.  What activities will they be doing?  Who else will be there?  Get them engaged in that conversation.

When you have dotted all the i’s and crossed the t’s and they are still saying ‘no’ it is very likely to be that you haven’t really uncovered the dream.  What’s true is that they may not even know or have named the dream they are hoping the house will fulfill.  It’s hidden even from them. They just sense that something is missing.  Help them uncover that dream so you can both look for it more purposefully and the likelihood of success will improve dramatically!

And a note to those of you who aren’t in Real Estate, this is true for many other purchases in life.  There is frequently a dream lurking behind all those practical questions – find out what that is and see how much easier things become!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Need a bit more finesse around finding that hidden dream?  Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Talk to Your Kids About Money

kid talk 1What’s the best gift you can give your kids this year?  Start talking with them about money.  Start actually asking them what they think.  You’ll probably be amazed.  Start giving them practice at noticing and handling it.  For many kids the first time they are actually faced with handling money is when they go off to college and are greeted with someone wanting to give them a credit card.  Talk about diving into the deep end of the pool!  I had some visitors from Poland a couple of years ago.  They said that in Poland young people can’t get a credit card until they have successfully managed a checking account.  Novel idea, eh?

We could all do that though, couldn’t we?  We could start our kids out early talking about money and handling money in ways that are appropriate for their age.  Frankly, one of the reasons I ended up so engaged with money was the way my dad started me out.  I guess I was maybe eight or so when I started getting an allowance.  I had to keep a ledger.  Nothing fancy, it had two columns which I titled “Income” and “Outgo”.  In order to get the next week’s allowance the ledger had to balance.  I had to do the math.  The brilliant thing my dad did was that he had no judgment or opinion about what I spent the money for.  I could buy candy, toys, clothes or save it.  It didn’t matter.  His point was that I knew what I was doing with it and it balanced.  That part of money remains easy for me to this day.  I’m aware of where it’s going and what it’s costing.

If you don’t talk about money the message you reinforce is that it’s both taboo and somehow scary.  That idea gets ingrained so that most people never talk about money unless forced to.  If you think about it, that’s pretty odd.  We actually spend more time dealing with money than we do having sex and yet we’ll talk about sex more than money.  Most parents even talk to their kids more about sex than they do money.  Personally, I advocate that we talk about both topics!

It is important to both talk to your kids about money and keep whatever “training” you are trying to implement age appropriate.  You have to judge how the information is landing. If it’s too confusing or too sophisticated for where they are, it just won’t work.  Find out what they think about money, including where they are on track and where they aren’t.  Banish the taboo about talking about it.

I know it takes courage.  It may even prove humbling.  You might choose to explain that you are trying to do this differently than your parents did with you.  You might try and help your kids do it differently.  Change the idea that money is this weird, creepy thing that you deal with but never talk about.

Oh and one more thing: Even as you talk to your kids about money and change the taboo they may still have some money issues to work out later in life and wouldn’t it be great if talking about it wasn’t one of the issues?  Wouldn’t it be great if they already had some skills with money to help them?

Want some more support helping your kids understand money? Give me a call at 503-258-1630


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Design Your Own Class, With Chocolate

Most people haven’t had any training about how to manage their money.  That is mostly because it is such an amazingly taboo topic that no one wants to talk about it.

But what if you want to learn more about how to deal with money?  And what if the idea of
taking a class that has the word “Finances” in the title makes youdesign run for the hills?  Well here’s a radical idea: design your own class, one that includes chocolate…lots of chocolate!

In a novel I was recently reading (“Home Safe” by Elizabeth Berg), the heroine found herself in a money knot.  Her husband, who always handled the money, has died.  She doesn’t like the idea of hiring someone else to handle her money.  And here’s what she’s thinking: “Her plan now is to take a class, just as soon as the right one comes along.  ‘Managing Your Personal Finances’ does not appeal. ‘Soothing Advice Plus Chocolate for Women Who Would Prefer Doing Almost Anything Else to Managing Their Finances’ does.

I absolutely know she’s not the only one that feels that way.  Many, many people do. Somehow, the vast majority of people who run ‘Finance’ classes are not the ‘soothing, chocolate supplying’ type.  They are the brass tacks, crunch numbers folk.

And most of us don’t need classes about Finances, we need classes about money.  It’s the day to day money things.  Saving, budgeting, and spending: using and handling your money effectively.  That’s what matters, and that’s where we need the help.

So why not design a ‘class’ for yourself that does that.  Before you’ve decided I’ve just lost my mind, indulge me a little.  If you were going to design a class, any class, what are the steps you would take?  Perhaps something like:

          What do I want to know? For example I want to know about Credit Cards.  Great! Now this can leads to what you might call the class.  The title for the class might be ‘Credit Cards, Friend or Foe?’ or ‘Credit Carding For Me’.

          Now make a list of all the things you want to know how to do around credit cards.  And please make sure to include some items on your list about how you ‘feel’ about credit cards, and what your ‘beliefs’ are about credit cards.  All this money stuff, be it credit cards, saving, budgeting, whatever, has components of emotion and beliefs in it.  If you think it’s just about following procedures than you’ll be lost.  If that was all it took, well then we’d all be doing it, right?  Notice the woman from the book wants soothing AND chocolate.  She didn’t just want instructions, and neither do you.

          Okay, so now that you have a list of questions and topics, how do you actually create the class?  I’m going to suggest two options: by yourself, and with others.

By Yourself:  research existing classes, books, on-line resources, etc, using the items on your list.  Call people who are doing classes and ask them if they cover what’s on your list.  Call finance pros and ask them the same things.

With Others:  form a group, meetup, etc with the goals of creating a forum for the topics in your list. The group will be a wealth of untapped information and energy.  People can research and bring back knowledge.

Either way, once you are truly clear about what you want to know how to do, it will be much easier to find it.  And you can always supply chocolate.  Make that a priority,  that there is always something that makes it silly, soothing, easy and fun.



Dance Of The Monsters Under The Bed

For many people, their money stuff feels like those old monsters under the bed.  Remember those?

We were just sure there was something scary under there, and way too afraid to look.  Often we would ask one of our parents to check and see, and even then we still weren’t really sure that they had been banished from under the bed.monsters

The monsters under the bed and the bogeymen in the closets of old represented the unknown.  Something scary in the dark that danced around in our heads.  And that’s what our money fears do, isn’t it?  They dance and spin in our heads.  The very last thing we want to do is to actually look at them.

And the truth is, their only power is gained by our fear of looking at them.

Once people finally look under the bed, they find only dust bunnies.  Once you actually look at your money, you find history.  You find choices you have made.  And even more important, everyone I have ever known that has actually looked has found that it wasn’t nearly as bad as they feared it would be.

I’ve got a new client that seems to be struggling with that.  He’s been dancing up to working with me for months.  He made the commitment but is now dancing away.  He hasn’t completed the initial homework of answering questions about money, and he keeps stalling and moving the date to start.  What I make up is that he’s scared of what he’ll find.  Who knows what he makes up is under the bed.

Can you see how it is likely that it’s his little kid part that is keeping him from actually looking at his money?  He’s stuck spinning around in the fear.

Unfortunately, I can’t help him until he actually chooses to shine the flashlight under the bed.

I see him imagining all sorts of scary demons charging around, dancing and leaping.  As a matter of fact, it reminds me of a piece of music composed and performed by a friend of mine, Arthur Breur.  It’s aptly titled “The Dance of the Monsters Under the Bed”.  Give it a listen:  See if you can envision in this piece whatever is holding you back.  Is it the money gremlins?  Or is it perhaps the voice that says you aren’t good enough?   Maybe it’s a fear that someone will truly find out that you are not as adept as you pretend to be?

Whatever monsters are dancing under your bed, they are hoping you don’t actually shine a light down there and look.  You see, once they are in the light they become small, and inconsequential.

Trust yourself to be able to look at what’s scary and make other more effective choices.  Once you take that first step of looking, the other steps will fall right in line.



Possible, Or Not?

Every day, we all have conversations with ourselves about what is possible and what isn’t.  There are lots of things that are impossible.  We can’t live without something to breathe.  We can’t fly without some sort of assistance outside ourselves.  Those are just a couple of impossibleexamples of the impossible.  Yet as we continue to think about this the waters get murkier.

So here’s a question:  “When everyone thought the world was flat, was it?”  Seems pretty simple to say “no”, the world is round, and was round.  I think a better answer is “It might has well have been flat, based on how people treated things.”  Circumnavigating the world seemed impossible.  Most people believed that it was.  Seems pretty silly to us now since we can see earth from space, and people circumnavigate it every day.  We orbit it because it’s is a ball, and not a circle.

Before the 1950’s it was impossible to run a mile in 4 minutes or less.  Currently Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj holds the record of 3:43.13, which has stood since 1999.  Now it seems like anything lower than 3:40 isn’t possible.  Of course, until it is.

What do you think is impossible in your life?  Is it impossible for you to do better with your money?  To make more? Save more? Be different?  Surely all of those things are more possible than running a fast mile, discovering penicillin, or breaking the sound barrier (October 14, 1947).

I’m going to contend that a bunch of what keeps our personal lives from changing is our belief that something just isn’t possible.  We habituate ourselves to the idea, and as pattern making humans, find ways to reinforce and perpetuate those beliefs.

Several years ago I had an experience that really made me look at what was possible, and what wasn’t.  It changed my thinking.

I was participating in a drug trial to lower the age for the “shingles” vaccine.  Seemed like a good thing to do.  One of my grandmother’s had shingles and it was awful.  I thought it would be a good thing to do to participate in the study, and it was (I got the good stuff, not the placebo J).

Here’s the fascinating impossible yet actual thing that happened:  I needed to have blood drawn before receiving the vaccine and several weeks after.  Both times I had the same phlebotomist.  She was one-armed.  She did have an elbow joint and a “stub” on that joint that she could move.

I don’t know what the story was.  Whether it happened after she was already a phlebotomist or before.  It wasn’t any of my business.  I was frankly pleased that I was able to squelch my urge to offer to help her.  She was efficient and effective without my help, which, on my tiny slippery veins is most often not the case.

What I do know is that for her, being a one-armed phlebotomist was more than possible.  And that’s the point.  Whether she was one-armed and decided to become a phlebotomist, or she was a phlebotomist and became one-armed, she made the decision that the two situations together were attainable and she was going to do it.

Most of us would not consider that a possibility.  It would be too hard to learn, too hard to get someone to hire us, just plain too hard.  And yet she did it. She probably had other choices, as we all do, but something stirred her to do the impossible.

Somehow, if we lose something like a hand we sit up and take notice.  And yet not being in a good place with our money may be just as challenging in the long run.  Was this courage on her part, or necessity or both?  My phlebotomist did not let the word “impossible” stand in her way. So what would stir you to courage or necessity or both?