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There are generally two camps of people in their relationship to money – those who always worry about it and those who never worry about it.  There are few whose relationship with money lies somewhere between those ends. Why is this?

Our relationship to money is similar to our experience with stress.  We know from research that circumstances do not create the physiological stress we feel; rather, it is our perceptions of the circumstances that leads to stress, not the circumstance itself.  In the same way, money is simply a tool used to obtain that with which we want. Money itself is not inherently worrisome, good or bad.

It is true that having access to money can help us to live in safer neighborhoods, attend better schools, have better health care, eat better, and provide many other common desires. However, we know from research that beyond a certain point (one study quotes the threshold at $84,000 while another quotes it at $105,000/year per household in today’s economic climate). After this threshold is met, whether someone worries about money or not depends less on how much one makes and more about their relationship to money?  There are plenty of billionaires who worry about money.

Some people may notice that they always seem to have about the same amount in their bank account even if their income has increased over the years.  This isn’t just because we tend to live within our means, but also because we create circumstances consistent with our relationship to money. If our relationship to money is one of abundance, then we always seem to have what we need and more.  If it is one of scarcity, then we keep finding ourselves in situations where we’re needing to spend money we “don’t have.”

Our relationship to money depends on how we view our financial self-worth.  If this is so, then how do we change our relationship to money such that, for instance, we can have more?  There are only 3 ways to change financial self-worth:  1) sheer grit, 2) changing thought patterns, and 3) directly addressing the issue.

1) Sheer grit.  Taking repeated actions that brings in more money would lead one to shift one’s thinking from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset, simply because the evidence of the former would no longer be supported.  The problem, however, is that this is quite difficult to accomplish because thoughts lead to action and years of thinking a certain way can be difficult to change.

2) Change thought patterns.  One way of doing this is to consistently and daily ask yourself to think differently.  E.g., instead of thinking, “I don’t have enough money to do the things I want to do,” ask yourself, “What if money were a non-issue?”  “What if I already have enough money and don’t realize it?”  “What if more money was just around the corner?”  This type of thinking trains the mind to think more positively about money instead of being more fearful about the lack of money, which in turn changes one’s relationship to money.

3) Facing it directly.One way to face your relationship to money head on is to ask yourself questions such as, “What if I had more money? What would that do for me?  And, what would that do for me?  And what would that do for me?”  Ask these questions until you get to a core value about what money means to you.  For example, “More money would get me greater opportunity, which would provide greater freedom, which would lead to more choices.  I want to have more choice in my life.”  Once you find your core value then live according to that value and take money out of the equation altogether. In the above example, how could you live your life today as if you had more choices?  Where could you give yourself more choices then you are currently giving yourself.  In this approach, money per se becomes less important and yet, it is likely come more into your life.

One final thought.  An entirely different approach to managing one’s relationship to money is to simply notice thoughts about money as they surface.  Be aware of your thoughts and feelings while refraining from judgment.

-Dr. Jeff Kaplan

Dr. Jeff Kaplan is a business psychologist and executive coach who coaches executives and high potentials to lead with heart. Jeff helps leaders to work more collaboratively with others, recognizing that people are an organization’s greatest asset.[:]