Category Archives: emotions

It’s the Little Things

There are lots of big scary things happening in the world right now.  Frankly, that’s not new.  What is new is that the same frightening things are happening to people all over the world at the same time.  As much as the idea that we are “all in this pandemic together” may be comforting, it’s true that at the same time we are all in this alone.

We have things in common and on the other hand, we have things that specifically challenge each of us.  Each day, we must find our way through not only the circumstances but the emotions they bring up.

For me personally, it seems to be the little things that both push me “over my edge” and bring me joy.  That’s probably not a new occurrence. Now that the day to day hustle has slowed down to a crawl I’m much more observant of myself and my reactions.

I have been working a bunch on pivoting in the face of the adverse things! I did a blog just a couple of weeks ago about pivoting when something doesn’t work   (Lot’s of Pivoting)   It’s a way I have learned to move past the obstacle or problem.  Things that break, don’t work, aren’t what’s expected…you know, everyday stuff we’ve come to depend on that seems more complex than it used to be!  Little things!

Just when I’m exhausted from coping and pivoting and I don’t think I can take it anymore, some wonderful little thing happens!  For example,  I got an email from a client I haven’t worked with in years, telling me that our work around money has really helped her, and has given her the strength to cope with the money issues of this uncertain time. Or when I find a joke on Facebook that really tickles me, or a friend calls to share something funny.

It’s the little things that add up and really matter.

Sometimes the positives just come by themselves.  Sometimes they are like a response to the negative — For example, when finding fresh rhubarb at the store cheers the part of me that is hunting like mad for toilet paper.

The best example I have of the ‘duel-aspect’ thing is my recent internet adventure.  My internet was literally making me crazy!  It would be on for about a minute, off for a minute, on  for 3 minutes…on and on it went.  I kept thinking/hoping it was some temporary glitch.  I finally gave up and called my internet provider.  About half an hour later on the phone with a representative, it was sorta fixed and a guy was scheduled to come sort  it out the next day.  (This in itself was a miracle…I have often had to wait for days for someone to come out…and for me that means no internet and no phone!  Yipes)  Meanwhile, several weeks before the internet decided to get petulant, the Pandora Music app stopped working on my theoretically ‘smart‘ TV.  It worked on my tablet and my computer, but not the TV!  It just froze.  This was a big deal because crazy dancing to music from my youth has become the only viable form of exercise available to me while Covid-19 is with us.  Another cause for pivoting…and not in a good way. The tech was nice, friendly and not only fixed the internet, but I asked if he had any suggestions about the Pandora thing and he fiddles with the TV and gets that working too!  Hot Damn!!!  It’s a little thing, but it sure made my heart sing to be able to rock out and dance myself silly once he left!

There are really several things to ponder in this blog:

  • We are all doing the best we can
  • Perhaps it’s the little things that make a difference for you too?
  • Who knows a broken internet may end up with a fixed Pandora!

Please take some time to find out what brings you back to joy, and what helps you through angst.  It may even turn out to be the little things.

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

Lots of Pivoting

Seems like I have been doing lots of pivoting lately.  I am reacting to the difference between what I expect to happen and what actually shows up.  Yesterday morning was a good example.  I got up early, which is not my best time of the day, and zoomed over to Costco with the idea of being able to breeze right in as a Senior.  Ummm, not happening.  I have never seen a longer line, not at an airport, not even at Disneyland.  I began to try and find the end of the snaking line of humans and then chose to pivot!  I got in my car, went to Freddy’s (a local chain supermarket) and actually found toilet paper, gluten-free bread, and chicken thighs.  The majority of my list was handled and I was actually in a good mood for the victory of having saved myself from an unpleasant wait.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into this pivot idea.  We, as humans, are mostly creatures of habit and these days it feels like even the most basic of activities are disrupted.  We can’t gather together.  We can’t get a massage.  We can’t give or get hugs.  We can’t do a myriad of things we are used to doing in our day and to top it off, the information we receive to stay safe changes constantly.  Mostly we can’t really wrap our heads around the idea that there is a global pandemic happening right now!  It feels like we have all entered an alternate Universe.  Personally I’ve been feeling that way since November of 2016, and yet the last couple of years have only been a warm-up for managing change and expectations beyond my wildest dreams.

Recently, I found myself falling into despair over the human race having failed the experiment of figuring out how to get along and be kind to one another.  Then, it struck me.  We are all in a cauldron of grief and loss!  Which means that DABDA is running wild.  No, my spell check hasn’t failed me, DABDA is the acronym created by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to help understand and unravel grief:

  • Depression, Anger, Bargaining, Denial, Acceptance — Not necessarily in that order,  and often bouncing around all over the place.

I bring this up because once you figure out you are in one, or more of those places, you can then choose to pivot… and do something else.

Can you see how these stages are playing out?  The Denial one is pretty evident with people who aren’t keeping social distance.  It seems to me the idea that younger people wouldn’t be effected was a good way to grab onto some Bargaining.  I myself have been pretty Angry that I can’t exercise the way I did  a few weeks ago— Just so you know I found a great pivot for that one.  For me, it’s, dancing and singing wildly to songs of my teenage days, thanks to Pandora Radio.  I think the mindset of Acceptance is subtle yet consistent, we need to stay home, keep our distance and find new ways to connect.

The big daddy of all of them all is, Depression, and with it comes another acronym, HALT.  This one is where all the components  line up together to create Depression:

  • Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired — When those symptoms pile up, we fall over the edge.  It’s one of the reasons I ‘ate’ my own feelings for at least the first week of this!

Checking in with you all to see if perhaps you too have some DABDA or HALT stuff going on? Observing these symptoms can give you the information and tools you need to pivot, then shift and move on to something different.  The recognition of these feelings can really pave the road for a good transition out of the tangle of emotions.  It will help fortify you for the opportunities to pivot in the weeks still to come.

Take care, stay safe, and be kind to yourself!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

Mind the Horses

When I first learned about Dr. John Gottman’s work around the ‘Four Horsemen’ I was so impressed.  By doing extensive research he had discovered four behaviors that are crucial for us all to both understand and to learn from. He based it on the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ and his message was clear — We need to mind these horses!

Dr. Gottman, after spending countless hours with couples, applies his work surrounding the story of the “Four Horsemen” to the marriage relationship.  My take on the matter is that these principles can be applied to ALL of our relationships, including the one with money —  Yes, you do actually have a relationship with money!  And the horses can give you insight on how that relationship is going.

As long as there have been horses, people have been tasked to mind their horse, meaning to pay attention to what it’s doing.  I think understanding and minding these particular horses is essential to all our relationships and interactions.  Dr. Gottman has given us four of them to be attentive to:

  • Blaming or Criticism: We know this one, right?  It’s all about judgment and more snarky than a complaint.  We may complain about something, but when we add a bit of character assassination, it turns into blaming.
  • Defending:  This one really got my attention when I read what Dr. Gottman said about it.  You see, defending is really veiled blaming.  “The dog ate my homework” shifts the responsibility away from you and to the dog.  It just tends to add more blaming, instead of calming things down.
  • Contempt:  This one is more about tone and intent than the actual words.  It includes things like sarcasm, mockery, eye-rolling, and name-calling.  The best example is Dan Aykroyd’s classic opening Point/Counter-Point line on Saturday Night Live with Jane Curtin:  “Jane, you ignorant slut…” Literally anything can be said in a contemptuous manner.
  • Stonewalling: This one is all about distancing and disengaging.  It’s the ultimate cold-shoulder.  It increases the frustration of the person who is talking to you if you don’t respond or even look at the person.  The word really says it.   Originally it was a noun, meaning “an act of obstruction.”

It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that these ‘horses’ tend to travel in pairs.  Blaming and Defending trot along together, as do Contempt and Stonewalling.  And they both stir up a bunch of dust.  I liken this to the Wild Horse Race at the Rodeo.  If there an issue worth paying attention to in the center of the arena — Like an important topic to be discussed — it will be invisible and ignored, shrouded in all the dust and fury of the horses galloping around.

Okay, so there they are — four horses.  And what do we do about them?  It’s really a three-step process:

  • First, when you find yourself facing a ‘horse’ you repeat this mantra as many times as needed: ‘It’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s NOT about me….’
  • Second, you avoid getting on a ‘horse’.  Stop, don’t ride at all.  Dismount.
  • Third, in order to help the other person dismount their ‘horse’ try this:
    • Instead of joining them on a ‘horse’, try acknowledging the ‘feeling’ underneath the uneasiness by saying something like:  “Wow, I get when that happens it really bothers you.” Notice that you aren’t agreeing, or surrendering, or apologizing — you are acknowledging and affirming that they are in a tough spot.  It just might slow the ‘horse’.

I know, I know, easier said than done.  We all experience ‘riding horses’  in our lives.  They are in our heads and in our relationships.  Dr. Gottamn’s work can show us something deeper about your relationships.  Try this small experiment if you will.  Think of a horrible relationship from your past…we all have at least one of those to ponder.  Got one in mind?  Okay, now which specific ‘horses’ were present in your interactions with each other?  Which ‘horses’ did you ride and which ones did the other person gallop into the arena?  Now let’s ponder a different relationship. One where you and the other person got along really well. A ‘good’ one.  Any ‘horses’ there?  How does that positive interaction compare with the first one?  Finally, just for grins think about how you are with money — any ‘horses’ trotting around there?

Intriguing, isn’t it? You can see why the concept of the ‘horses’ is something I cover early on with my clients!

What’s really going on with these ‘horses’?  What’s underneath all this?  And why do I say it’s “not actually about you” when the other person is on a ‘horse’The answer is the most important thing for you to know about ‘horses’!

We get on a horse to quite literally, get a leg up.  We trot out a horse when we feel diminished — when our sense of self-worth is low or is challenged, especially when we feel powerless.  ‘Horses’ are a distracting way to pull ourselves up by laying the responsibility elsewhere.  We see it constantly.  A prime example today is road rage.  Even children can be seen getting on ‘horses’ to navigate their emotions— but they usually do it more cleanly.  It’s not hard to see when children are on a ‘horse’ because they have hurt feelings.  It’s harder as an adult to be vulnerable and admit that we feel diminished or put down — so instead we mount up and charge in!

Understanding and taming ‘horses’ matters now more than ever.  They are no longer just running around in our personal lives but are stampeding all over!  It’s time to learn to mind our own ‘horses’ with care and diligence.

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

Want some help getting off a ‘horse’, or avoiding each other’s horses’?  Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.

The In-crowd and Money

Remember your teenage years?  It seems to me that Junior High, which is today’s Middle School, was where it really became clear.  There were the cool kids, the in-crowd, and there were the rest of us.  Most of us weren’t in the in-crowd.  That’s part of the value of a clique: exclusivity.  There were different forms of cliques.  Some were for the athletic types, some for the nerds.  Tough kids, surfers, hippies — all had their own groups with specific rules around dress, language, and behavior.  They worked hard to stay in their group and to exclude others.  Without excluding others there isn’t anything to feel special about.

Many of us didn’t meet the criteria.  We weren’t good enough for whatever reason.  We weren’t pretty, or thin enough.  We weren’t smart enough—or were too smart.  We didn’t have the right clothes.  It hurt and made us feel ‘less than’.

This is not new for humans.  We have been doing it forever.  And the solution is in a very old fairy tale:  ‘The Ugly Duckling’ written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1843.  You all know the story, and the point was and remains to be — stop hanging out with ducks!  Go where you are appreciated.

Now there is a particular reason I’m bringing this up.  I’ve noticed over the years that many of my clients get Money tangled up in this ‘do I belong’ conundrum.  It goes something like this:

  • If I was rich I could fit in with the ‘in-crowd’
  • I’m jealous and envious of those who have more than I do
  • It’s not fair that I don’t have more money
  • I messed up because I didn’t save when I was young, or get a degree, or…
  • I feel like I’m always being judged as ‘less than’ others

Somehow we make up that it’s all about money.  Money is the problem.  It caused it.  I don’t have it.  On and on it goes.  And here’s the rub.  Yes, money may be a factor in this tangle, but not in the way people think.  You may be tired of hearing it, and here it is again:  “Money is reflective, not causative!”  You made choices, some good, some not so good.  And sad to say, you may still be stuck in those choices.  Going over them and over them.  Letting them consume you.

This idea of making it all about money is a giant distraction!  It keeps you from living your life now.  It has you trying to fit into places you likely won’t like when you get there.  It’s the Duck/Swan thing again.  I remember once putting an offer down on a house in a particular neighborhood.  I had this weird thought in my head.  It went like this:  “If I lived in this neighborhood I’d have to put on make-up to get the mail!”  I liked the house, the price was fine, yet it didn’t feel right.  I was not going to be with my peeps if I lived there.  Luckily there turned out to be a siding issue that had us not buy the house.

The thing that has you not be in with the ‘cool kids’ is not money—really!  And if you keep thinking it is, and fussing with it around money, you will just keep spinning in circles.

The problem is that the real issue is harder to deal with.  It’s what’s under the money stuff, and it’s likely about your own feelings of ‘worth’.  It takes courage and fortitude to dig in there, but it’s well worth it.

I’ve recently been on my own journey around this tangle about ‘where do I fit’ and realized that I was hanging around with people who were not nice to me, and I was trying hard to get them to like me.  Finally, I figured out that they just weren’t my peeps!  I set some new boundaries and am hanging with swans instead!  And there is a huge weight off my heart and soul.  See, hanging around with other swans is easy.  They laugh at your jokes, they like you, they respect you… you can be yourself.

Please give yourself the gift of hanging with your own particular in-crowd!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

Want some help getting out of this tangle? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.

Stress is Sneaky

It’s not one thing that creates stress… it’s a whole bunch of things that build up.  Little things that pile on until we are over our edge.

Right now, the world is mired in all sorts of concerns.  We all are feeling it.  Climate change—which they just should have called Global Weirding and no one would have debated it!  The mass shooting of innocent people.  The Stock Market in a tizzy.  Too many to mention. It’s way capable of frazzling our nerves!

But of course, there is also whatever your triggers are!  Little things like health, making money, relationships, the car breaking down.  ‘Tis never-ending!

The real problem for us all is that our biology is behind the times.  It hasn’t caught up and probably won’t, based on the speed of change these days.  Our bodies evolved to use ‘stress’ as a way of getting our attention and focus when bad things were about to happen.  Things like a lion or a pack of hyenas running toward us.  One of the evolutionary fixes for coping with danger is the fight-or-flight response, a physiological reaction to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.

To simplify the result let’s just say we go into hyperdrive.  The “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson” alerts kick in and carry us away.  There are all sorts of things going on in our bodies and minds, not the least of which is we lose our peripheral vision, and can’t hear—which explains why when in an argument you often find someone saying: “Don’t you hear me?” Actually, they don’t, and they won’t until they have calmed down which will take between 20 to 60 minutes after they have stopped stressing.

This has been going on for quite a while.  In 1910 Rudyard Kipling  wrote the poem “If”, which started with “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…”  So it’s not new.

The real point is how do we manage the stress?  How do we keep the deep mire of it from sneaking up on us?   There are so many stress factors bombarding us every day that it is prudent to get ahead of it.  Don’t wait!  Create your own pockets of peace now!

There are all sorts of ways to build your capacity for dealing with the vast, never-ending triggers we experience every day.  In my search for balance, it’s the little things that are the most effective for me.  I’m being purposeful in creating what I call “Pockets of Peace”.   Some examples I’ve been trying include:

  • Time swimming—being in the quiet of the water
  • Muting the ‘ads’ on the TV—otherwise thought of as ‘limiting white noise’
  • Reading books that take me away, and are NOT scary
  • Petting the ‘purr machine’—otherwise known as the cat

There are lots and lots of possibilities.  There are only two things to keep in mind:

  1. Have some techniques that work for your own stress reduction in the moment
  2. Have some everyday practices that build calm and peace as a preventative measure

Unfortunately, we can’t actually eliminate stress, what we can do is make choices about how we handle and manage it!  Find the ones that work for you… it’s crucial, especially now!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you need a bit of support finding those pockets of peace give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.

Seeking Balance

Maybe it’s just because I’m a Libra?  You know, born in October, the scales thing.  Maybe it’s deeper than that?  It seems like for me it’s always about seeking balance.  Notice I didn’t say finding balance, I said seeking it.  That’s because it’s illusive and fleeting.

One of the things that fascinates me in working with clients is our very human predilection to have black/white, on/off, good/bad thinking.  We are so driven in that direction that ALL this amazing computer stuff in our lives is based on zero and one.  Seems simple, seems practical.  In the context of actually living it makes for very narrow and restricted possibilities.

One of the ideas I latched on to long ago during my coach training is that you need more than two options.  I like the image of black at one end of the possibilities, white at the other, and all the multitudes of color in between.  Wow!  Bringing in the color really helps us find new solutions, experiences, and balance.

The fuel for this blog comes from an Anais Nin quote: We don’t see things as they are: we see them as we are.”  It’s a stunning thought.  While noting our own view, it really asks us to look beyond our own perspective and see what else is there.

There is a dichotomy at work in this.  It is both always about us, and never about us, simultaneously.

One of my favorite coaches would ask me this very irritating question:  “What two percent of this is yours?”  It was irritating, because it was also on point.  All of us always have ownership in it somewhere.  As much as I’d want to be right about the other person, I had ownership in the exchange.

And to play with the Seeking Balance theme here, it is also often true that the ‘rant’ someone is turning on you isn’t really about you—it’s about some place where they are disappointed, frustrated, tied up.  Your question to yourself in these instances might be something like:  What if this really isn’t about me?  What if it’s about something else?  How does that change my reaction to it?”

People seek coaching because they want something to be different.  They want something to change.  And above all else, change requires self observation.  As Dr. Phil puts it: “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”  Acknowledge the extreme of both edges and the middle.

Getting clear is a crucial first step.  It gives you a way to seek balance.  If you try to skip it you just wander around bumping up against things.  Clarity doesn’t actually mean you have to go over and over and over things.  That’s actually counter productive because it keeps you literally stuck in the muck—you build up your neuropathways around the mess more and more.  The trick here is that by acknowledging what you don’t want you become more conscious and make better choices.

Frankly, part of why this is on my mind is our current political climate.  It’s all on/off, yes/no  —  oppositional.  The idea of seeking—let alone finding balance—has been lost in the fray.  To me the bigger goal is to create a country and culture that allows us to actually have differing views and seek balance and harmony.  That’s up to us, each of us.  And as we do that for ourselves  it ripples out to others.  All any of us can really do is be the change we want, right?

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

Want to chat about this idea of Seeking Balance? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.

Making Room to Move Forward

So long ago that I don’t remember when—or frankly where—I got this idea, I heard about a process to help us get some traction on moving forward from big wadded up messes.  I’ve been suggesting this idea to several clients lately, so I decided it was time for a blog!

We all get stuck in ‘loops’ regarding traumatic issues.  It can seem like we just keep circling, and circling, and then circling yet again.  Going over and over the old stuff.  It’s not just that it’s exhausting — it’s ineffective, and it keeps us from moving forward.

Yes, some things are just really hard to deal with.  They just keep haunting us.  Those things that stand in our way have a story behind them—a tale of what happened, all the circumstances, who said what to whom, what the weather was… it goes on and on.  Additionally, a lot of this kind of situation is really old stuff.  It includes things from childhood, relationships, money, etc.

The solution for how to stop stirring the pot and get moving to some new thoughts and choices lies in neural science.  Here’s the fundamental problem: When you start thinking about the issue, you ‘activate’ the neural pathway that all the details and circumstances are parked in.  As you think of one bit of the problem, all sorts of other things come to mind.  Soon you get totally swamped, just like “when you are up to your ass in alligators, you forget that the purpose was to drain the swamp!

The solution is to put all the alligators… um, circumstances, issues, details, etc… around the issue in a container.  Yes, imagine some kind of container.  It could be a safe with a big heavy door, an old chest with a lock, a file cabinet, whatever you want.  The point is to put all the details somewhere.

The next step is to have a name for the container.  Be thoughtful about this name.  It’s a tool to help you refer to ALL the stuff in the container without having to reopen and look at it.  Don’t pick a name that’s going to cause you to go into all the details again.  Also be careful to not pick a name that’s going to create unnecessary angst in a different direction.  It’s the difference between “the time the car broke down” and “the time the car broke down on the way to grandma’s house” — you really, don’t want to reactivate it your head every time you go to her house!

Now that you have the mess nicely contained—and aren’t looking at the gators—you can do the important thinking to move forward.  You can get strategic, you can make plans, you can come up with new and maybe even different ideas—all without being sucked in by the details and circumstances because they are tucked nicely away in your container.  Later you can always go reopen the container and revisit what happen if you want to.

Meanwhile, You can have a clear head without distraction to focus on moving forward.  Whew!  What a relief that will be.

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to some support in making room to change give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

What If It’s Not Actually About You?

It’s a really interesting question to ponder, because MOST of the time, it really isn’t about us —even when it feels like it is!  We all process every thought and idea through our own filters.  What we notice about others always is a reflection of what we care about or are interested in — our personal opinions, our values.  It’s just how it is.

I know you have had the experience of, for example, getting a new car and all of a sudden you notice all the other cars of the same model on the road with you.  It almost feels like everyone ran out and got the same car because you did, doesn’t it?  Part of this feeling comes from that really valuable, hard-won human survival trait of Pattern Making — we make patterns  like crazy all the time.  It allows us to not clutter our brains by spending a bunch of time analyzing things.

We respond and react to the thing we are used to, focused on, care about.  And we find it bizarre when others don’t notice or care the same way we do!  For example, I do have several friends that not only don’t have pets, but actually don’t care about animals at all.  I can hardly grok that.  I’m likely, in any circumstance, to pay more attention to the critter than their human!

One of the exercises that is often suggested by counselors and coaches is to ask your friends what they think of you.  It’s often a very positive and illuminating thing to do.  After all, our friends like us!  And it’s also illuminating about the friends, because the things they notice about you reflect what they care about.  If they remark on your kindness and caring for others, it’s because that’s important to them.  If they notice your shoes it’s because they are into shoes.

Here’s an ‘on-point’ example:  Back in the 80’s I dated this really wonderful man, Bill.  Bill was a car guy, big time.  He had a gorgeous ‘Vette‘ that he babied and adored.  At some point we noticed this really interesting thing.  It was about the way we gave directions to folks about how to find some particular place.  He gave directions with reference points of Gas Stations and Car Dealerships.  I’m sure that those of you that know me will not be surprised to hear that my directions had to do with Grocery Stores and Restaurants.  We each noticed and ‘honored’ what was important to us, what we loved and valued.

The point is that when someone makes a comment about you, judges you, criticizes you, it is alway much less about you and more about them.  Something in their experience has been triggered.  Something they have strong opinions about… something about them!

And here’s how and why this is useful to know.  If, before any kind of challenging conversation or interaction, you can repeat to yourself, “It’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s not” you will be much more effective and calm in the exchange.  Afterall, it’s actually not about you!  It’s about their projection around you, or what you represent to them, or how they want you to be… but not actually about you.  And that is true even when they say it is about you!  

Huh?  How can that be?  I’m not saying you aren’t responsible for your actions. You are.  But how others respond to them is their stuff not yours.  This is good news/bad news.  It’s less about us than we think.  The real value here is that if you can hold the idea the this “isn’t about me” you can truly be more present, and effective in the conversation.

I believe that a really effective sweet spot is to be “100% committed and unattached, at the same time” because when we get “attached” we get muddled.  And a great way to not get attached is to remember: “It’s not about me!

Easier said than done, but well worth striving for and practicing, yes?  How might your interactions with others be different with you knowingit’s really not about me?

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to play more with this idea give me a call  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com

Money Strata

We all have beliefs about money that we cling to, and when those beliefs get challenged, our reality also gets challenged.  One of the fundamental, and in many ways “unspoken” beliefs about money has to do with the “socio-economic strata” that you and your family belong to.

There are places in the world where which level of society you belong to is crucial.  For example, England still has the House of Lords.  Other places practice less obvious but equally strident categorizing.  I noticed when I lived in the South that the first question I was asked by new acquaintances was what housing development I lived in.  The answer to this question told people what strata to put me in.

We like to think of ourselves as a “democratic” society, and in many ways we are.  But when it comes to neighborhoods—and money—we have many levels.

There is an exceptionally strong internal compass to stay in our lane, and certainly to not rock the boat!

What if the only thing that actually kept us in our class or strata was the belief that a given strata was somehow where we belonged?  Guess what?  That belief is the only thing that really does keep us there, and it’s incredibly powerful.  There are amazing statistics about people who win the lottery being back to the financial status they were in before winning within just a few years.  Mismanagement and lack of financial acumen can be part of that, but I think it’s much more about being pushed into a money “strata” you don’t understand and aren’t sure how to fit into.  These people somehow feel they don’t belong in the new place, so they find ways to sabotage themselves right back to where the came from, to where they think they “belong”.  I remember once being reluctant to buy a house in a particular neighborhood.  The voice inside my head said: “You’d have to get dressed and put on makeup to get the mail!”  Definitely a step above my comfort zone.

Mostly, when we step outside of the norm, what comes with that stepping is a disruption of the old systems.  Part of what holds many families together are common beliefs and practices around money.  Many Depression Era families are proud of their ability to “keep body and soul together”.   Being able to “get through the hard times” is a part of how they see and value their family.  If someone in the family goes off and suddenly “makes good”, what does that say about the ones left behind?  It might just say that they could have chosen differently too!  And wouldn’t that be awkward?  What if everyone had a choice?

In what ways does your “strata” keep you stuck, and what would you choose if you could?  Have you even thought about how your clan and class keep you from pursuing new ideas?  What if you could decide what you wanted, and go after it?

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to explore the challenge of your Money Strata give me a call  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com

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.

Ka’ching

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 www.sensiblecoaching.com.