Monthly Archives: March 2013
The book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold over 15 million copies since it was first published in 1989, teaching people all over the world how to live happier, more successful, and more satisfying lives. One of the prevailing themes of this book is that to change your life, you need to change your attitude.
Only you are responsible for you, so you can either complain about the things you don’t like in your life or you can choose to change them. Not surprisingly, this directly relates to the state of your finances. This post is a financial application of the concepts presented in the book.
If you’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck, having your phone regularly cut off, or making excuses to skip dinners with your friends, then you can use these seven habits to take control of your money situation and live a happier and more frugal lifestyle.
Habit One: Be Proactive
The first habit of highly effective people is that they take responsibility for their own lives; if they fail, the only person they have to blame is himself or herself. Regardless of how you were raised or how you were treated at school, you can choose your behavior now. Being proactive means understanding that YOU are in control of your day-to-day interactions, and thereby, the direction your life takes. This is in stark comparison to a reactive person, who is often affected by their environment and will find external sources to blame for their behavior. For example, if the weather is good, they’re in a good mood, if the weather is bad, it affects them and they blame the weather for their bad mood.
Here are 6 action steps to take when you feel financially vulnerable.
What most people forget is that you can’t control the stimulus, you can control your response. One of your most important choices are the words you choose; the language you use is an effective indication of how you see yourself. If you use proactive language, such as “I can” or “I will,” you’re starting with a more positive attitude than someone who uses language like “I can’t” or “I have to” or “If only.”
How to be proactive for effective frugality:
▪ Take the first step. You cannot take control of your finances until you make the commitment to do so; the more you ignore the situation, the worse it will get. Instead, take a long hard look at your finances, your budget, debts, income, and expenses, and try to understand where your money is going and where you can budget better. (To help you out, here are 25 ways to pay off your debt more easily.)
▪ Tell people. Using proactive language to vocalize your hope of being more financially responsible helps you realize your goal and it can also help you avoid the peer pressure that makes budgeting and frugality hard. If you explain to your friends and family that you’re trying to live a more frugal lifestyle, they’ll be less likely to pressure you into one more round of drinks or another dinner out.
▪ Listen. Listen to yourself and to the reasons you give each time you make a purchase outside of your budget or decide not to put spare money into your savings account. Taking the time to stop and listen to the reasons you give yourself for spending more than you earn will give you the opportunity to hear just how shallow many of those reasons are. This can stop you from making purchases that impede your goal of effective frugality.
Habit Two: Begin with the End in Mind
Those who are effective in achieving their goals are able to envisage their desired end result in spite of the obstacles. Highly effective people adhere to this habit based on the principle that all things are created twice; there is first the mental creation, then the physical creation. The physical creation follows the mental creation the same way that a building follows its blueprints.
If you don’t visualize what you want, you are at risk of other people and external circumstances influencing your life because you’re not influencing it yourself. Begin every day and every task with a clear vision of where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. Make that vision a reality with your proactive skills from habit one.
How to visualize effective frugality:
▪ Define your goal. There are many ways to live a frugal lifestyle, and you need to decide how frugal you want to be. Do you want to be debt free, build a savings account of a certain value, or live on one income in a two-income household?
▪ Decide how you’re going to get there. This will again draw on your budget, but you need to be aware of the obstacles that are standing in your way. These may be literal obstacles, such as credit card debts, or they may be obstacles you’ve identified in your behavior. An example of a behavioral obstacle would be spending $10 every day on junk food on your way home from work, because you’re starving. Instead, you could be packing an inexpensive granola bar to keep you going until dinner. Or, do you find that when you go shopping with your sister, she always helps you justify a frivolous purchase, when you could leave your credit card at home?
Make sure your goals are SMART!
Habit Three: Put First Things First
Knowing WHY you’re doing something is an effective motivator in helping you transform a mental creation into an actual physical creation of your goal. Ask yourself what the things are that you find most valuable and worthy to you. When you put these things first, you’ll be organizing and managing your time around your personal priorities to make them a reality.
For many people, it’s hard to say no, but this is exactly the skill you have to learn to keep your goals as your first priority. While we are constantly told we can have it all, in reality, having it all is really about prioritizing what is most important to YOU to have, and then focusing on that.
How to put effective frugality first:
▪ Recognize the effects of your finances. You may not dedicate as much time as you should to managing your finances and practicing frugal principles because you feel there’s always something more important to be doing whether it’s work, taking the kids to soccer practice, or getting ready for dinner with the girls. If your finances aren’t under control and you’re regularly spending more than you earn, then they’re having a negative impact on every other aspect of your life, from your work to your family and friends. You need to recognize that being frugal is your first priority.
▪ Just say no. It’s easy to spend more than your budgeted amount each month when you’re worried about missing out on a dinner with friends, feel as though you have to cater a birthday party for your son and 50 of his closest friends, or don’t want to wear the same suit to a work conference two years in a row. If you recognize that you don’t have to take on everything and that it’s okay to say no, then you’ll find you’re more in control of your spending and your budget.
Habit Four: Think Win-Win
Most of us are taught to base our self-worth on comparisons to others and competition against our peers. We think we can only succeed if someone else has failed. We’re also taught that there’s only so much pie to go around, so if you get a big piece, then someone else is missing out. When you think like this, you’re going to feel like nothing is ever fair. As a result, many of us retaliate and take the pie before someone else can take it from us.
Thinking in a win-win mindset allows you to see mutual benefits from all of your interactions. By doing this, you’ll see that the pie tastes even better when it’s shared. If you can approach conflicts and problems with a win-win attitude, you’ll be able to express your ideas and feelings with courage, while still maintaining consideration for the feelings and ideas of others. When you have an abundance mentality, you’re able to see that there is enough for everyone, and that by balancing your confidence with empathy, you can achieve your goals while helping others achieve theirs.
How to create frugal win-win situations:
▪ Recognize that you don’t always know the full story. As you aim to implement frugal principles and stick to a budget, you may often find yourself thinking “it’s not fair.” It’s not fair that they get to go out to dinner. It’s not fair that they get a new car. It’s not fair that they get to go on vacation, and I don’t. Take the time to realize, however, that you’re only seeing a small part of the finances of your friends and family who seem to “have it all.” And though it’s hard to watch your best friend take a dream European holiday, or your brother buy the car you covet, you’ll get there, too if you manage your finances frugally. And the best part? There will still be plenty of holiday destinations and fast cars when that time rolls around.
▪ Understand the difference between possessions and net worth. While your friends and family may seem to have a fuller lifestyle because their house is bigger or their car is newer, you need to consider that it could just be a facade covering their mountains of debt. True wealth is not measured in possessions, but in assets. When the value of your assets is greater than the amount you owe on mortgages, car loans, and credit card debts, then you have a strong net worth and are truly wealthy. By trying to live a more effectively frugal lifestyle, you’ll be able to achieve true wealth, rather than just a life full of stuff.
When building wealth, remember to look at the big picture, too.
Habit Five: Communication
At its base, communication is the desire to be heard and understood. Most people will listen with the intention to reply to what you’re saying, rather than to understand what you’ve said. To effectively communicate, you need to first understand. If you communicate with the sole intention of being understood, you may ignore what others are saying and miss their meaning entirely. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk; pay attention to what people are trying to tell you.
How listening can help you be effectively frugal:
▪ You are not the only person in your life. Chances are you’re married or in a relationship, have friends or children, or all of the above. As a result, you’re not the only person being affected by your decision to live a more frugal lifestyle. To be effective in your goal of frugality, you need to be able to listen to and understand the goals and behaviors of the other people in your life, too. Consider how effective your frugality would be if you were taking packed lunches to work and avoiding the afternoon coffee run, while your partner was going on shopping sprees during their lunch break. Instead of living a more frugal lifestyle, you’d really be saving on one end and spending on the other.
▪ Understand the goals and needs of others. While it’s important to explain your desire to live more frugally, it’s also important that you understand the goals and needs of those around you. This way, you can find a way to be more frugal without them having to give up all of the things that are most important to them.
You can’t know what those things are unless you listen.
Habit Six: Synergize
Interactions and teamwork are some of the most important ways you can learn new skills and more effective behaviors. Synergizing is the habit of creative cooperation, working as a team to find new solutions to existing problems. Synergy is not something that just happens. It’s a process where you bring all of your personal experience and expertise to the table, enabling more effective results than those you would have been able to achieve individually. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
When you have genuine interactions with people, you’re able to gain new insights and see new approaches to your problems ones you might not have thought of before.
How to synergize for effective frugality:
▪ Look for new ways. In a society that excels at consumerism, you’ve probably already realized that you need to find new ways of doing just about everything to be frugal. It’s easy to buy yourself lunch every day; it’s more frugal to pack it. It’s easy to drive to work; it’s more frugal to take the train. It’s easy to buy a new cocktail dress; it’s more frugal to make one.
▪ Surround yourself with other frugal people. To be successful in your quest for frugality, surround yourself with like-minded people. Find people who are where you want to be by joining online frugal-living forums, striking up a friendship with a fellow coupon-cutter, or starting a sewing club. When you’re around people with the same goals as you, you’ll be able to share ideas and learn from each other.
Habit Seven: Sharpen the Saw
You’re the greatest asset you have on your journey to achieving the lifestyle you want, so you need to look after yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Taking the time to renew yourself in these areas of your life will give you strength to maintain the previous six habits, which are essential for your success.
How to frugally renew yourself:
▪ Physically. By eating better, you’ll feel better. Take it another step further and start your own vegetable patch, which will save you money at the supermarket and be healthier for you. Exercising keeps you fit and healthy, and it doesn’t cost you anything to go for a walk, ride a bike, or skip rope in the backyard. To rest your body, you don’t need to go to a day spa; you can simply relax in the tub at home.
▪ Emotionally. Interacting socially with others allows you to make meaningful connections, and it makes you feel good. This can be achieved by chatting with the woman at the coffee shop or by calling your mom once a week.
▪ Mentally. Exercising and expanding your mind through learning, reading, writing, and teaching can be done frugally. Visit your local library, or volunteer at a school or retirement home to teach others a skill you may be taking for granted.
▪ Spiritually. Spend time close to nature and expand your spiritual self through meditation, music, art, or prayer. Take a quiet moment to center yourself and empty your mind before going to bed. Or, go for a hike and be grateful for the beauty of nature surrounding you.
Frugality doesn’t mean having to give up all the luxuries and things that make you happy. Don’t get burned out by developing habits one through six without taking the time to renew yourself. Frugality is something you want to develop and maintain for the long-term. Follow these seven habits, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a highly frugal person.
Do you consider yourself a highly frugal person? How did you get there?
The Power to Never Feel Powerless Again
In one way or another, we often feel “trapped” by life. If it weren’t true, we wouldn’t spend as much time as we do trying to “escape” our circumstances. Embrace fear as your councilor and weakness as your power.
We’re so involved with imagining and swimming to our own Fantasy Island, we never consider this important question: what if the condition we wish to escape were only an illusion that feels real? How would such a realization change our lives?
Let’s look into these questions, starting with the feeling of being trapped. What do we know about it? For one thing, it is neither gender nor economically selective; everyone, regardless of socio-economic status, has a share of this unwanted state of self.
We also know that none of us would remain feeling trapped if we had the power to change our condition. Which leads us to this finding: We frequently feel powerless.
And when we see no solution to our situation, confusion colors our considerations. Frustration grows. We feel imprisoned behind a wall of fearful expectations.
We need not, and must not, accept a life of such limitation. We can uncover the root of this powerless feeling and release ourselves from it by discovering the nature of the illusion that creates it. We must do three things, first we must be honest with the situation, second we must see things better than they are not worse than they are and then we must take action to make it they way we see it.
For most of us the show gets started like this: “Why did he have to do that?” or “Life isn’t fair!” or “They took this away from me.” But these reasons are not the source of our pressing stress!
First we must see that these moments are events, not powers; they are passing conditions, not prisons. Seeing this, the real question isn’t how to regain our lost power; the real question is “what is it about these events that causes us to feel powerless because of them?”
Here are a few vital facts: the feeling of being powerless has nothing to do with what someone else did or didn’t do or with what you did or didn’t do at any point in your life regardless of your present conditions. A little detective work will prove these statements. People will remain in their current state until the pleasure outweighs the pain. All human’s behaviors revolve around the urge to gain pleasure or avoid pain. To get leverage is to associate massive pain to not changing now and to associate massive pleasure after you have changed it. The key is to get a lot of reasons, better, strong enough reasons to make your change now. Every long lasting change is made in your subconscious mind.
What’s the first thing we see when we hear news that runs counter to what we want? We don’t really “see” anything at all; instead our attention is seized, absorbed by a familiar negative reaction whose only wish is that the unwanted moment just go away.
This resistance acts on our consciousness as a “blinding” and binding force, so all we can “see” is our own negativity over what we wish wasn’t happening! We literally “look” at what we don’t want to be there and what you focus on is what you get.
For example, when expectations get dashed, we don’t see new possibilities unfolding; all we see is the way things should have gone. We don’t see what is with all of its positive possibilities; instead we see only the negative . . . what is not.
We feel powerless because we’ve become the captive of a mind resisting itself, an involuntary prisoner of a mind struggling to escape its own negative images. There is nothing but powerlessness in this resistance because by law whatever we resist… persists!
The only way to liberate ourselves from the confines of this unconscious relationship is to develop a new awareness of what it costs us to remain in its captivity.
We must ask, what kind of “power” is it to resent any moment for unfolding as it does, to wish it didn’t happen? Does it change the moment in any positive way? No, it does not.
Does our pain prove that our position is right? To the contrary: the more we don’t want the moment, the more we lend credibility to that moment as being overpowering. This false perception then strengthens our negative sense of self as someone who is being overpowered by it.
But this next insight foretells freedom: whenever we feel like a powerless captive of some condition, it’s because we grabbed onto a false power to lend us strength. Worry, fear, anger, self-loathing, self-pity. . . all negative states are a waste that consume our lives whenever we embrace their empty promise of empowerment.
By contrast, real power is in knowing we already possess everything we need to succeed in any moment. Let’s examine this important idea.
What good is any conditional power, social or financial if when a challenging moment comes along, we can’t count on that power to be there for us?
We’ve all seen what happens when due to “unscheduled changes” our power source is suddenly unplugged.
We either collapse into powerlessness, or scramble around searching for ways to regain our base of power. Either way, we remain a captive of these reactions.
People become angry when they realize they don’t possess the power they imagined. They justify this imagined loss by blaming others for it, and now their power is in being resentful.
Real power keeps us from becoming the puppet of what is unkind to others and ourselves. Real power lifts us above challenging circumstances; it shelters us from fears that want to drag us down into troubled thoughts about tomorrow. Real power is the quiet and certain understanding that everything that comes to us works for the good of us, no matter what it is.
How do we enter into relationship with such pure power? We begin with a startling insight:
Human beings have mistaken themselves as being powers unto themselves. The truth is, we are the instruments of elemental powers, high and low; recognize our unique place in reality gives us a far greater role to play than any of these primal forces can ever hope to know.
We alone are empowered to choose from all powers, potential or present which of them we will embody and serve by expression.
Although we often find ourselves feeling so there is no such thing as being powerless. Those who resist life who hate or fear unwanted changes become the instrument of a power that effectively renders them powerless to do anything but struggle.
But those who realize that the only power negative states have is to create the illusion of self-command, enter into relationship with another kind of power altogether. And this new awareness, like the power it grants, is failsafe.
We can practice this true, new power anytime we want its strength and safety. We start by remembering that in any moment of heartache, worry, or fear, we need not suffer what comes with resisting our sense of being powerless because ours is the power to choose what we will and will not give our power to. The following examples reveal this new and higher possibility:
Rather than live with the pain of a thousand regrets, we can realize that no number of visits to a painful past can change it. The light of this new awareness empowers us to start over now.
Rather than look to anxious thoughts to help us through some fearful situation, we can see that anxiety serves fear, so how can it free us from it? The light of this new awareness empowers us to let go of both these impostors.
Rather than defend our mistakes by excusing them, we can understand that our refusal to learn the lesson at hand ensures we will meet that lesson again, along with its misery. The light of this new awareness empowers us to accept what life would teach us, and the truth sets us free.
Negative states want to convince us we are powerless in the face of what frustrates us. Once we see that this false perception is actually produced by a dark state that would have us turn to it for the power we need to make things right.
We are learning we can do something radically new: rather than give ourselves over to the habitual reaction of resisting the moment for our fear of it, we remember the truth that sets us free: ours is the power to live from the Power of our choice.
Said slightly differently: we are created with the power to surrender our sense of powerlessness and, in exchange for this sacrifice, realize a life without stress and strife.
Whenever we have a pain or a problem that seems greater than we can deal with, it doesn’t mean we really are without power. These moments are actually “wake-up calls” invitations to remember our relationship with an indwelling Divine order of ourselves that is the same as our True Nature.
This new action on our part, this conscious realignment born of higher self-awareness, is the same as our rescue. Our sense of being powerless is replaced by releasing the misunderstanding over who we really are.
Now the words, “Let go and let God” take on new meaning. We now understand what must be done to let the Divine Light do for us what we can’t: to know true power, we must release all claims upon it.
Free Yourself From Toxic People (You Are Your 5 Closest Friends)
Those with whom we assemble, we soon resemble!
This simple old saying hides a deep Truth that can enlighten and empower every aspect of our lives:
Who we are, our very essence, is continually being transformed by the company we keep.
Better said, when we keep the company of what is positive, happy, healthy, wealthy and wise, our lives become more positive, happy, healthy, wealthy and wise. When we keep the company of what is negative, disempowering and discouraging, our lives can’t help spiraling downward from it’s current state.
This idea might sound a little simplistic at first, but its power soon becomes evident when we put it to use in the quest to realize our highest aspirations. The key lies in understanding that this principle is active on multiple levels at once.
For instance, when referring to “the company we keep,” we of course mean the people we spend time with every day such as family, friends, co-workers, etc.
However, on a deeper and more important level, “company” can also refer to the thoughts and feelings moving within us in any given moment.
Have you ever been home alone in a fine mood, enjoying a meal perhaps, only to find yourself bored or depressed an hour later? That’s a perfect example of the effect of hanging out with the wrong interior friends.
When we are unconscious to the operation of our minds, any indigent thought or feeling that passes through us has the power to strike up a conversation and drag us into its dark circle of influence.
Just as it is possible for us to keep bad interior company that pulls us down, so is it possible to keep positive inner company that works to raise us up in any moment we choose to remember it.
This means that we can choose not to get dragged down when we are alone, it also means that we can choose not to get dragged down when we find ourselves in the presence of negative people as well.
How encouraging! When life places us in a situation where a run-in with someone is inevitable, perhaps at work, with a family member, in a store, etc. We can choose to keep the company of good and true interior friends who can help keep us from falling into negative states.
And therein lies the key: when we remember that keeping the company of negative interior friends is a choice, instead of an obligation, we are free to keep the company of compassion instead of anger, generosity instead of greed, and patience instead anxiety.
Building on this idea, let’s look at four common types of people that can be identified by the four prevailing dark states that inhabit them. By learning to recognize and understand the interior workings of these four types of “toxic people,” we gain important insight into what is dark and limiting inside of us.
In this way, we begin the process of liberation from everything inside of us that stands in the way of knowing the peace, happiness, success, and love that we long for.
1 Past Progressives: These negative spirits live to drag up old painful events and then revel in the anger, resentment, or bitterness that such unhappy memories hold. Stay away from any spirit, in others or in yourself, that wants you to dive into some suffering over what happened in any past event.
2 Emotional Vampires: These malicious spirits pull themselves up by pulling others down. They love to gossip, criticize, judge, and denigrate anyone who ever had the misfortune of spending time with them. The only loyalty these denizens of the unconscious worlds have is to their own pain, which they feed by involving everyone they can in their mud slinging.
3 Subconscious Succubus: There is a group of mired spirits that thrive on low vibrations, and that require a human instrument to play out their endless dark dissonance. Easily recognizable, these misfortunate forces serve up dreadful mental pictures of past and future events for the sake of the unnatural reactions they produce. Ignore these corrupted spirits and they must take their evil speculations elsewhere.
4 Living Dead: These dark spirits perpetuate their hold on the human soul by resisting the beautiful gifts of life. They trick us into commiserating with their complaining, cruelty, and irritation because without our unconscious consent, these chronically conflicted spirits can’t spread their poison.
Just as harmful viruses require a human host to exist and thrive, so do negative states require the unconscious consent of human beings to carry out their dark mission. For what power does a negative thought have other than the power to convince a person to do its bidding? The answer is none!
When we begin to consciously withdraw our consent to associate with toxic people, toxic thoughts and feelings inside of us, we leave them with no place to thrive. Our real inner work is to sweep clean the places in ourselves where such creatures reside which in turn brightens our life and the lives of everyone around us.
Begin today, this very moment, to withdraw any permission you have unknowingly granted these dark spirits to be in your life. Do not judge yourself, or those around you in whom these misdirected forces are active, instead come awake and refuse to spend one more moment of your life lending your precious life force to their dark purposes.
This powerful, positive action will change your life. As you begin to refuse to consort with what is dark, you’ll find that you begin to attract with what is light, bright, and cheerful. Your relationships will deepen, your professional life will take on new vigor and freshness, and the whole of your days will begin to resemble the radiant Life that you have deliberately chosen as your conscious companion.