Category Archives: Untangling Ideas

Playing with Virtual Money

It’s summer!  Time to be a bit more playful.  Personally I’ve been doing more playing and less blogging.  How about  a way for you to ‘play’ with your money this summer that is fun, whimsical, and doesn’t actually spend any of it … because it’s virtual?

It’s my twist of the Prosperity Game, which has been around for years—so long that there are apps and even printed checks you can buy to play the game.  None of that is actually needed to play the game.  All you need is some place to track what’s happening , like a journal.

It’s a game you play with yourself by spending virtual money everyday.  You start with $100 and double it each day ($100, $200, $400, $800, etc).  One of the rules is that you have to spend all the money each day.  Sometimes people want to save up for something, but that’s not necessary.  Since it doubles every day you will be close to spending a million a day in just two weeks ($819,200)  Another rule is that  you have to spend it on yourself.  You can take people with you on trips, or the like, but you must spend the money on yourself.  The point is to explore and clarify your relationship and thoughts about money—not just give it away. While playing the game you will shop, make lists, spend imaginary money on imaginary things.  I suggest you don’t get tied up in the fiddly bits of things like sales tax.  Rounding off is fine.  It’s not about record keeping!  No actual money is used.

It’s a very interesting game.  Over the years, I’ve encouraged many of my clients to play this game.  It does several intriguing things.  One thing it does is pretty effectively show you where your “money ceiling” is.  Your “money ceiling” is the amount of money you just can’t understand—the amount that is beyond your personal limit.  It’s a good thing to know.  If you approach your money ceiling without knowing where it is, it can suddenly open up and sweep you away.

The game also helps you reframe your ideas of:

  • What is expensive
  • What is cheap
  • The value of things
  • What you really want
  • How much stuff you can handle

All very intriguing concepts to play with and understand.

Okay, now that you know the basics of how the game works, let’s look at the part of the game that I’m most intrigued with. Your brain actually thinks it is real money.  Your head doesn’t know the difference between your spending the money virtually or in reality.  I know this by personal experience.

When I played first this game, I lived in a house where the washing machine drained into a deep sink.  It was a very old, very heavy sink with a small drain.  I had a furry spaniel dog, Decaf, who contributed lots of hair to the laundry, and frequently that hair would come out of the washer hose in a way that would plug the sink, and cause it to overflow on to the floor.  Not a fun thing to clean up.

Naturally, early in playing the money game I decided to “pay” some of my virtual money to get that sink fixed.  Yipee!  Problem solved.  About a week later I did some laundry, and the sink overflowed.  There I was, standing in water, with my hands on my hips saying “Damn it!  I paid to get that sink fixed and it’s overflowing!” and then it struck me.  I had paid to get the sink fixed with virtual money!  It wasn’t really fixed.

Other people I know have had similar experiences with this game.  One person offered to loan a friend $25,000 until it occurred to her that it was virtual money she was offering.

I learned a bunch of other things playing the game.  Some of my ideas of what was ‘expensive’ and what was ‘cheap’ shifted.  And then there was the place where I just felt overwhelmed.  The place where I had hit my money ceiling.  A very good thing to know.  I suggest that you play at least one day past that place, because just beyond that point often lurks some really amazing dreams.

The real point is that your thoughts about money are fluid and can change.  That’s good news.  You can change your money thinking.  You can provide some different experiences of money for your brain, even virtual ones, and your brain will accept them as real even when they aren’t.  That’s good news.  It’s also odd news.  It would seem  to be telling us that it’s important that you pay attention to the messages that you send your brain about money, wouldn’t it?

How about playing this money game to explore what’s going on in your head around money, and learn about some new possibilities.  At the very least it’s a bit of a fun summer lark!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

I’d love to hear how the game worked for you. Give me a call at  503-258-1630 or leave a comment.  Happy spending!

What You Say About Money Matters

Remember that now-old, computer adage: Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO)?  It’s even more crucial when we apply it to our thoughts.  Our brains put like thoughts together in neural pathways.  All our thoughts about any particular thing get connected together.

It’s really quite fascinating.  For example it’s kind of like a bunch of cupboards.  When you open the door to the cupboard there are all the goodies in there.  Until you open the door you don’t actually think about what’s in there.  For example, most of us have a cupboard we could call “Friends from childhood” — we don’t open in very often, but when we do we can see a bunch of people in it.  Just think of the name of one kid you knew. Got ’em?  Okay, now as you remember them the cupboard door opens wider and you can see more kids in there.

It’s a pretty cool system, and I think there is no coincidence that in many ways computers are structured in a similar fashion.  Even though we may not have had all the brain science worked out when computers were invented, the style and method of our thinking influenced the design.

Okay, so what on earth does that have to do with money and what you say about it?  The short answer is EVERYTHING!

What you focus on is what you create.  You gather more and more fodder to support your position, and all that fodder makes the ‘cupboard’ bigger and bigger.

What exactly do you say about money? We know that the odds are your parents said things like:

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees
  • You’ll have to work really hard to make any
  • There’s never enough of it

The irony is that because they believed that, they proved it — with one small but important caveat.  See the use of the ‘enough’ word?  Our brain pays no attention to the ‘never’ in that sentence.  What it does do is focus on creating the enough word.  The problem is enough is a ‘scarcity’ word.  Think about it.  One way or another there was always ‘enough’ — just enough.

The quantity of scarcity thoughts in the “money cupboard” in most of our heads is huge.  That neural pathway is jam-packed with examples, reinforcement, fodder.  Conversely, the money thought cupboard around the idea of plenty, or lots, is a tiny little cupboard from perhaps a doll house.

The result being that when it comes to money, just like when it comes to other thoughts and ideas, we reinforce what we have always reinforced.  We are at the very least in the habit of thinking that way.

Changing that thinking, and thus the results you create, is both hard and easy.  It’s as easy as being conscious of what you say and think about money, and changing from an ‘enough/scarcity’ to a ‘plenty/lots’ conversation.   And that is also hard to do, mostly because it’s a very ingrained habit.

My suggestion is to institute a counter-balancing method.  Start by being easy with yourself.  Don’t give yourself a hard time when you use that scarcity word.  And when you use it, and notice it, then immediately replace it with a more abundant word.  At the very least balance it with a counter-balance statement.  For example: “I never make enough money, except when I do!”  It can actually be an amusing thing to do.

The reason that all this is so important is that you can’t actually create the abundance or security you want to get past ‘scarcity’ or ‘enough-ness’ until you can believe it’s possible.  And you cannot be in ‘plenty land’ as long as you keep reinforcing the neural pathway that is a massive cupboard filled with scarcity thinking.

Here’s an example that might help.  Did you take a foreign language in school?  I took French.  Most classes focused on you speaking the foreign language, right? We didn’t try to learn French by speaking English.  That just wouldn’t work.  And I found when I went to France on a trip, the longer I was there, the easier it was for me to understand the language.  I had even started to think in French by the end of the trip.  What was happening is that the French ‘cupboard’ was getting filled. 

It’s the same with your money thinking and beliefs.  You can change it, and it’s a simple and as hard as learning to do anything different.  Remember, when it comes to money, what you say about it does matter!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to some support in changing what you say about money give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Money Self-Talk

Did you happen to see this quote on Facebook?  Being taught to avoid talking about politics and religion has led to a lack of understanding of politics and religion.  What we should have been taught was how to have a civil conversation about a difficult topic.’

You probably won’t be surprised that my brain went right to:  ‘…and when it comes to money, it’s an even more taboo topic!’  Mostly we don’t even talk about that we don’t talk about it, and the aforementioned ‘lack of understanding’ around money is monumental.  I truly do think it’s the MOST taboo topic on the planet.

And the person we talk to the least about money is actually ourself.  Sure we have money conversations in our head.  Most often they are rants about what we are doing wrong — judgements of our short comings.  These aren’t actual conversations where we listen — really listen — to what we are saying about money.  This is unexplored money self-talk.

The important thing here, is that what we say is what we believe.  Our internal dialog rules our brain.  If the primary belief we have is that money is this awful, scary stuff that we can’t actually get a handle on and don’t understand, we will make that the truth and act accordingly.

A large part of my job is to really hear what people are saying, both out loud and in their heads.  I try to clue in on when I hear someone using internal and external language-based judgement, criticism, and just not feeling good about ourselves.  Some of the words that we use around money that tip me off to this are: enough, earned, value, deserve, frugal, broke, wasteful.  Other words that strike even deeper show how we judge what we are doing —  how we  ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘have to’, and ‘got to’.  It’s often pretty subtle stuff.  And I’m pretty much all over my clients, encouraging them to thinking in terms of ‘wanting’ or ‘choosing’ to do things instead of all those other options.

The real reason for that is that coming from that more self-directed positive place is just plain more effective.  All that negative nattering distracts us from the task at hand, and that limits our abilities.

How about you find a way to have a couple of heart-to-heart money conversations with yourself?  I know it sounds a bit ‘out there’ but why not?  Tune in and notice when you say a negative thing about yourself, about you and money, even about your expectations of what is possible in your life.  Why not start by making a simple list of your self-talk phrases and then noting if they are positive, negative, or even neutral.

What’s going on there in your head?  You can absolutely shift it.  You can learn new words and hold new ideas.  You even can learn to ‘correct’ yourself when you say something like, “I’ll never make it!”  You can choose to follow it with “…unless, of course, I do!

There is a bit of sneaky science behind this idea.  It’s all about neural pathways.  The ones that get more use get stronger, the ones with little use diminish.  You get to choose.  What are you reinforcing?  See what you can learn about what you really say about money.  And how, with just a bit of noticing and language focus, you can change your money thinking — really, you can!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

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

Surviving SPAM – A Lot!

I’d really love for this to just be a bad Jeopardy category title — unfortunately it’s not!  It’s more a hard-won cautionary tale.

By now we ALL are up to our butts in daily SPAM, phishing, and other nasty email stuff.  I actually tracked it, and in February I received over 3000 emails that exemplify this.  Yes, my spam filter goodies caught many of them, and I am now I am also adept at using ‘ignore’ and ‘junk’, not just ‘delete.’

Today’s story is a more twisted tale about my receiving lots of unwanted email.  It’s about being inundated with ‘blog comments’ that aren’t comments.  They are sales pitches, weird things, and some were even in cyrillic!  This all started in January, and frankly it was driving me nuts!

I contacted my techno/puter genius and he came up with a solution to solve the problem.  It was all about having people ‘sign in’ to the blog before leaving a comment, thus avoiding the robotic messy spammers.  I would still maintain control on accepting their ‘membership’ in the blog, and approving their posts.  I thought all was good…little did I know!

I didn’t really notice that I hadn’t had any sign-ups or comments until someone emailed me directly with a comment and mentioned that they couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment on the blog.  Our next step was to include some language that we thought would clarify the process.  After that I asked a couple of trusted friends to try it out.  They got mired and stuck in it.  Ouch!

Only then did I remember a very crucial thing — to not make it hard for fans or clients to engage with me!  I’ve had some past experience in having clients irritated with me, when technology beyond my control wasn’t ‘friendly’, and certainly didn’t want to repeat that in any way!

It was about this time that I remembered that I had leapt in to the ‘apparent’ issue without really getting to the core problem first.  We all do that, we are trained to do that.  I remember when I was first exposed to working in a company, that the ‘rule’ was to not bring a problem to your manager without also having a solution for it.  Old habits die hard, and even though I now know better, the pressure of being uber spammed had me ‘regress under stress’, and my puter person had taken that stress at face value.  Oops!

As I got back to the core issue, which was making it easy for real people to leave a comment, the clouds started to part.

There was a fundamental flaw in my initial interpretation of the flood of spamsters fussing on my blog.  I thought it was because of the huge increase in this stuff I was experiencing everywhere.  I was wrong.  Turns out that a handy app/plugin named Akismet was the culprit. I knew I had this and assumed it was something that was free for everybody…after all, I’ve had the website for a while now.  And on WordPress it said that the software was ‘up to date’.  What I finally discovered, with the brilliant insight of my tech person, was that the software was up to date, but the license wasn’t!  Really!  Yipes!  God forbid that should be made clear to those of us that don’t speak fluent programmer-gab!

Makes sense though, everything went whacking in January.  It probably was when the previous license expired or a free trial ended.  And then all hell broke loose.  And near as I can tell no one ever notified me that I had it on a trial, or that the trial period or license had expired.

So now things are all good.  You don’t have to ‘join’ anything to leave a message.  No passwords for commenters.  No confusion for my readers.  I have paid for a year of magic Akismet.  It is catching and marking as SPAM about 20 ‘comments’ a day from the bad guys…yippee!

It cost some money, took way too much time, disrupted some clients, and probably caused some general consternation that I don’t even know about for some people.

Sometimes, I must admit, I do wonder if all this ‘progress’ is really worth it?  And in hindsight, I do appreciate the reminder — or perhaps we should call it “swift kick in the arse”— to dig deeper around what the issue really is before I leap into a solution!

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to kvetch about SPAM 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.

Perfection is a Money Trap

Money is one of those areas where we have all made some mistakes.

  • We have bought things that didn’t work.
  • We have spent too much money on stuff we never used.
  • We have given people presents they didn’t like.
  • We have lost money on the sale of a house
  • We have gotten “taken to the cleaners” in a divorce.
  • We have run up charges and interest on our credit cards.

And yet we are mostly still here, and kicking!

Sure some of these things were and are avoidable.  And yet they also still serve to give our Inner Critic great fodder for berating us!

There are a couple of things I want to clear up about these ‘errors in judgement‘ and ‘mistakes‘ we all make with our money.

First, you got through them !  The problems may have been messy and costly, but you survived them!  It’s one of the things I think our ancestors that went through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl got trapped in.  They somehow missed that they made it through the troubles, and that they didn’t happen again in the same way.  We tend to practice “one trial learning” with many things.  We tend to either try and hide our head in the sand or decide it will always be like it was, and avoid getting anywhere near the part we think is scary.  We stay trapped.

The other thing I’d really like my readers to consider is the value of the messing up.  Huh, you say!  How can there be value in having gone through that terrible time, that mess?

It’s all about learning!  As humans we actually learn by making mistakes, by being imperfect.  You don’t just get on a bike and ride it the first time.  You wobble and pedal and fall off.  The same process happens a bunch in other aspects of our lives, including money.  We screw up, make mistakes, and learn.  If we don’t make mistakes we don’t learn!

But instead of accepting that we make mistakes, sometimes in order to try and avoid “errors”, we try to be — or appear to be — perfect… yipes!  Just how patient are you with yourself?  Do you keep trying to attain something close to perfection to avoid judgement?  And do you notice that most of the judgement come from your inner critic, instead of the people around you?

Many of us have this thing in our heads about trying to be ‘perfect‘.  I truly think it’s one of the traps our Inner Critics use to keep us stuck in a rut.  Somehow we think we are supposed to be perfect without practice, failing, or learning.  Instead I really like the perspective that Maya Angelou put forth:  “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

We do recover, we do persevere, and we do learn.

Money is just one of the assets that we ‘spend’ while we are learning.  Money, Time, and Energy all get spent.   And I’d like to suggest that Money is really just a reflection of the other two: Time and Energy.

Here’s the really interesting question.  How much time, energy, and maybe even money do you spend trying to be perfect, protecting the idea that you are almost perfect, or even hiding that you aren’t perfect?  What if instead of getting trapped by perfection, you actually celebrated your mistakes as ways to learn?  What if it’s really about focusing on the learning, and not beating yourself up about that mistake you made?

It’s really likely that your attempt at perfection is a reaction to some really ‘old stuff’ that actually is no longer present in your life, right?  Like avoiding being judged or lectured.

Seems to me trying to be perfect has us holding on to, and getting stuck in, our errors in judgement, instead of learning from them, perhaps laughing them off, and most certainly moving on… what say you?

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untanlger

If you’d like some support letting go of trying for perfection, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

 

First Things First

When it comes to untangling our myriad of personal money knots, it seems to me there is an essential concept that is missing.  It’s about putting first things first.

Do you have some challenges with money?   Around 97% of us do.  There are bunches and bunches of problems people have with money.  Although there are many, many variations, it mostly it comes down to:

  • Not having as much as we want.
  • Not knowing how to manage it.
  • Spending more that we make.

In other words we realize that something isn’t working for us around money.  And whatever we have decided the missing piece is, we then seek to ‘fix’ it directly.  We try to make more.  We take a class on budgeting.  We set rules around spending.  All that sounds like a great idea… and yet, it doesn’t work, does it?

It’s actually pointing to a much bigger issue, one that I discovered long ago in ‘Corporate Land’.  In my day as a Controller/CFO, the ‘rule’ was to not bring up a problem unless you had a solution.  Sounds good, but there is a big trap in there.

The trap is that you end up ‘fixing’ things that aren’t the actual problem, and thus actually creating more problems.

Huh?  Well in business the fix is usually a form or a procedure, and if it doesn’t address the real underlying issue, it just makes for more bureaucracy and fiddly irritation, right?  I finally learned that the longer process of actually discussing the issue came up with much more effective solutions!

So let’s go visit a hypothetical married couple and see what’s happening in the money tangle of their marriage.  For grins lets say that he keeps a budget to the penny and is watching money all the time, and that she never looks at it and spends it on things that make her feel good.  They fit the criteria we had above — not having enough, not managing it well, and spending too much.  I’m guessing you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that talking about money is less than fun for them? It’s pretty messy and challenging, right?

So what solutions do they try?  My guess is all sorts of things that are based on changing the behavior without actually understanding what caused it in the first place.  They get into a push-me/pull-you power game that doesn’t take into consideration the ‘Why’ under the behavior.

And yes, I’m back to my concept that we all have 5-year-olds running our money:

  • Because it is the most taboo topic on the planet
  • Because no one talks about how to actually deal with it
  • Because we make up ways to manage it that make sense to our little kid brain
  • Because we then leave the little kid part of us in charge so we don’t have to deal with it

And so I come back to ‘First Things First’.  No budget or plan will work until you understand what your little kid part decided about money.  No lecture or personal rant from yourself or your spouse will help until you dig deep and find out what you made up about money.

By what you ‘made up’ I mean conclusions that you came to, most likely as a child, about money.  Let me give you some actual examples of conclusions clients have shared with me:

  • Money ruins families
  • Money was the only way my family showed affection
  • Money was the only criteria for success in my family
  • My family believed money was bad and evil

Are there all sorts of wonderful ways to manage and handle your money more effectively?  Absolutely!  I have, use, and share a bunch of them—and they don’t help at all until you’ve untangled the underlying knot.  Until you’ve addressed the likely ineffective thinking you’ve been operating under for years.

Please give yourself the gift of addressing first things first before you leap into the action steps!  The results will be much more effective, truly!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some help in untangling that really old hidden money knot in your head, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

“Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees”

Money doesn't grown on trees… but it can grow!We’ve all heard that one, haven’t we?  It’s an example of a money belief—an idea that we have about money.  We all have beliefs around money, yet somehow we don’t actually try to untangle them. We shy away from looking at the beliefs.

Instead we tend to try some method of crunching numbers or budgeting.  We put money in envelopes, we watch our spending on our cell phones.  Some even play with my handy dandy “GOSH” model.  (Which by the way is very cool and useful!)

And here’s the truth:  None of that really works until you figure out what your money beliefs are, and if you want to keep them!  Your money behavior is driven by your money beliefs.

You will create and perpetuate your beliefs around money.  You just will!  Frankly we do that with all our beliefs.  We find the information that supports them, and we ignore the information that refutes them.  It’s part of all that lovely pattern making that goes on in our heads.

Of course, with money it’s more complex than with other things because of that whole money being a taboo topic thing!  Since we don’t talk with others  or even ourselves about our money beliefs that just keep influencing our choices over and over.

Which of these have you ever heard, thought or found yourself believing?

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • You’ll have to work really hard and you’ll still never make any money.
  • There is never enough!
  • Rich people aren’t as nice as poor people.
  • Money is the root of all evil.
  • I am not good with money.
  • I can’t do math, so I can’t do money.
  • I feel like I must have been out sick the day they actually explained money.
  • Having debt means I’m a bad person.

Those are just some of the most common ones.  There are no doubt thousands of possible money beliefs that will hinder or hold back your effectiveness with the stuff.

And just to be clear, I’m not talking about how much of it you have, I’m talking about what is your relationship with money?  Do you see it as a tool and ally, or as an enemy?

What do you make up about money?  Really, what do you make up about money?  Make a list!  Now look at each one of those beliefs and ask yourself a couple of questions, like:

  • Is this really true?  Like 100% of the time TRUE?
  • Is this my belief?  Or is it my family’s belief?  Or even, is it my cultures belief?
  • What might be different if I changed this belief?

That’s one of the cool things about beliefs: we can change them.  It takes noticing that you want to change the belief.  Then it takes both patience and maybe even humor to work on changing it.

One of my favorite ways to accomplish the change in beliefs is to throw in another option every time I hear myself either thinking or saying the belief.  It works like this: You follow the belief statement with something like, “…except when it’s not!”  (Examples:  Money’s hard to come by… except when it’s not.  Rich people aren’t as nice as poor people… except when they are!)

So ‘Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees‘ — except it can grow.  It can be different.  And you can do better with it.  It all starts with choosing how you want to think about it.  As humans we are really committed to proving our beliefs.  We see it all the time.  So figure out what your beliefs are, and, if continuing to prove your current beliefs to be true actually makes your life worse, try understanding and re-framing the belief.

Just imagine how much easier all this money stuff would be if you had some positive thoughts about it!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

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

Misplaced Loyalty

Loyalty can be a truly wonderful thing—on both the giving and receiving side—and like most things, being loyal can lead to some negative results.  The misplaced loyalty knot I’d like to talk about is all tangled up with biology and anthropology.

It starts before we are born.  On the biology side it really stems from those big brains we have—or rather how much more growing they need to do after we are born.  We have to be cared for by the parent for a much longer time compared to many other species.  It’s not just about walking and talking, it’s also about the complexity of human society.  We need to learn how to communicate and behave.  All very complex things going on in a brain that isn’t really ‘grown’ until early adulthood—despite our strong teenage opinions!

We have tons of things to learn, and we learn those things from our parents.  To make that learning more effective we are biologically hard-wired to be loyal to the parent.   We take whatever they say or do as the “gospel truth” when we are little.  We HAVE to!  They are our protection from danger, our source of food, and our primary source of knowledge.  We absolutely cannot afford to piss them off—they might abandon us!  And if they did that, we would die.  That is as true for us today as it was when we humans were hunter/gatherers long ago.

That hard-wired loyalty has a bit of a dark side though.  When it comes to money it gets messy.  And around money, all that loyalty creates huge problems for generation after generation.  It’s that thing where we don’t talk about money since it’s so taboo!  We learn about money without any actual training,  by observation only and thus we absorb and create many odd ideas.  Not only are the ideas a bit strange but they are hidden—we aren’t conscious of them.

This misplaced loyalty creates a bunch of strange results:

  • If your parents fought about money you will likely fight with your spouse about money.
  • If your parents fought about money you may very well decide that money is evil and bad, and make sure to have as little of it as possible.
  • Women will often unconsciously make sure they do not make more money than they perceived their fathers did as some kind of loyalty.
  • Perhaps the only way your parents expressed affection was with money, so that’s the currency for you to give or receive affection.

On and on it goes, and we don’t actually consciously recognize we are caught in these old familial traps around money because they somehow just “are”—they are so ingrained in our brains we have never ventured to distinguish and analyze them.

That is exactly what I would invite you to do!  Spend some time thinking about—maybe even journaling—about you and your money.   Do some digging.  See how what you are doing with money relates to how your family handled and talked about it.  You’ll find that you are doing something very similar to what you perceived your parents did, or you are doing the opposite of what they did.  The ‘perceived‘ word is in there because the topic is so taboo you probably don’t know what they actually did with money  You only know how you percieved what you saw and heard around money.

It’s a knot well worth untangling because this misplaced loyalty has been influencing your relationship with money all your life.  If you look more closely at it you can then make a choice to keep it or change it.  That’s the problem with taboo things that never get discussed.  We don’t even recognize we are caught in them, let alone that we have a choice.   Give yourself the choice!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some support understanding how this loyalty piece played out in your family, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Humans as Pattern Makers

We humans are particularly adept pattern makers — it’s one of our most effective survival methods — except when it’s not.

Long ago I was an Anthropology major, and one of the things we learned about ‘us‘ is that we are pattern makers.   We tie things together in patterns or ‘baskets’ in our brains so we can lump similar things together. It’s pretty effective in lots of ways.  It helps us focus on the task at hand and ignore other things that might distract us.  It can serve to keep us safe too.

There are places where this type of learning gets a bit quirky, and others where it can be dangerous.  I’ll go quirky first — you kinda knew I would, right?

For many years I sat on a ball chair, you know, sort of like the inflatable Swiss ball things at the gym.  I like them, they are more comfortable to me, especially when sitting for a long time.  It’s something about always adjusting a wee bit to keep your balance and minimize stiffness. However, this is not actually a plug for the ball chair.  It’s an intriguing look inside my brain, oh and my cat’s brain, too.

For years I had been using a little technique to get my own attention.  If there was something important for me to do the next day, or after lunch, or even after I went to the Ladies, I would place the piece of  paper about that on my chair.  That way I would see it or at least notice it when I sat on it!  Great plan.  I had it as a pattern in my brain.  This worked really well until I got the ball chair.  It was pretty funny how long it took me to figure out that paper was going to slide off the ball.  Hmm… ball was something I sat on so it went into the ‘chair’ pattern place in my head, however: ball is round, chair is flat… You can see the problem.

Apparently primates aren’t the only pattern makers.  At that time, Agate — the kitty — was used to jumping up on my desk via the chair.  It only took one time for her to learn that balls, even ones I sat on, are round, unlike chairs.  Neither of us were pleased about this learning experience. She lost some dignity — which if you have a cat, you know “simply isn’t amusing!” — and I had to replace the ball because her claws let out the air.

For both of us the learning was something like, just because different things have some elements in common, they do not always create the same results.

Now for the dangerous part: where we lump together things about people and experiences but using the faulty logic created by our intrinsic pattern making.  Here is an example of that.  I was dating a guy named Gary in high school, who was a Taurus.  My parents had a friend named Alan who was also a Taurus.  Additionally Alan also smoked weed.  My mother wanted me to stop seeing Gary because obviously Gary would smoke weed because he, like Alan, was a Taurus.  (Kinda not — Gary really was a mid-western “rule follower”… no weed.)

Now I grant you this association was wacky reasoning, and yet we tend to do it all over the place, don’t we? It’s the fundamental problem with many conclusions we come to especially around relationships, both personal and professional.  For another example let’s look at Jeff. Jeff was a young, studly programmer I worked with in a start up.  He had just broken up with his girl friend and was getting some counseling.   We talked about it over lunch and I asked him what conclusions he had come to?  He said that he’d decided to no longer date blonds.  Really?  Can you see how the pattern making part of his brain was narrowing on something that probably wasn’t really the issue?

So think about where in your life you might be applying this useful — but imperfect — pattern making logic.  Can you find of any of your own associations that might not really be logical?  Most of us can find at least one time when we applied a pattern thought  extension to the wrong thing.

I’m not suggesting that you just forge ahead and ignore the signal of familiarity with a pattern.  Instead I’m asking you to dig a bit deeper, and see which patterns to apply where.  And there is a really simple solution for how to check out where you are applying old patterns that don’t fit, or are not applicable.  See how it’s different this time.  Spend a bit of time considering what fits the pattern and what doesn’t.  Notice when you are avoiding a new possibility by being overly cautious.  Also, notice if the hair on the back of your neck stands up and tells you to avoid the situation altogether.  It’s all good information.   Basically, check to make sure that there isn’t a baby in the bathwater you are throwing out!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like to chat more about your own pattern making, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.