With 7 hours and 1 minute to spare until my deadline, I finished the rough draft of my first book (Bethany House, 2013). This morning I reflected on the 14 months that it’s taken to get Pocket Your Dollars: 5 Attitude Changes that Will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress, and Keep More of What You Make from initial concept to rough draft. As I did, three money-related lessons surfaced in my mind.
These lessons are reminders about the role of money in our life and how it works for or against us.
Money is not the best motivator
I was under contractual obligation to write this book. There were financial consequences and rewards for me to complete it and, should the book actually sell, to sell it. Last summer, while I procrastinated getting started, I got myself over the hump by thinking about the money. It took seven months, but I did get a first chapter written.
Time wore on and I kept getting re-stuck. I have perfectionistic tendencies and I allowed the fear of failure to paralyze me. I wouldn’t (or couldn’t?) write because I was afraid the message would be terrible. No wonder it took me six months to write the second chapter.
With the deadline for my rough draft weeks away and my fears confirmed that I could not do this, I spent some time soul searching. If I was going to quit, this would be the moment to do it. If I was going to see this through, then I needed to find a source of motivation.
I felt a divine commission to write the message that was in my heart, 5 attitude changes that will help you pay down debt, avoid financial stress, and keep more of what you make, even if it never went to print or never sold a copy.
In that moment I let go of a financial motivation. The divine commission motivated me. I became personally committed to writing the book simply because I knew it was part of what my course in life required of me.
The results prove that my new intrinsic motivation was powerful. It took just 2.5 weeks to write the third chapter, then a week after that I turned in the fourth. I wrote the remaining 9 chapters over the following 22 days.
With the right gas in my fuel tank I was able to get myself to go. Maybe you’ve had an experience different than me, where money did motivate you to accomplish something. I’d love for you to leave a comment and share your examples.
Money decisions aren’t made at the surface level
The book’s premise is that we have attitudes toward or about money that fuel our behavior. We often try to make financial change at the behavioral level by committing to only go out to lunch once per week or cut our cable bill. Sure, we do ultimately need to act differently if we want different results in our financial life, but the starting point is much deeper. It’s on the inside of you.
Where you draw lines for what’s appropriate and not for your family and your finances, my lines might be different. We can both be right. This stuff is personal and requires a deep introspection.
The last chapter I wrote (which will be chapter #5 in the book) was the “I Can’t Afford It” attitude. It’s like one of those brain teaser puzzles where you look at an image one way and see a young girl, but look another way and see an old woman. That single phrase can be healthy to those that lack restraint, but can be bondage to those that fall prey to hyper-restraint.
It’s an example that you can’t judge yourself or others by the words they say about money. The matter is a deeper one of the heart.
How have you seen inner attitudes influence your outward behavior or decisions about money?
Bank balance doesn’t matter
We share a common humanity regardless of social status, income or net worth. The attitudes we bring to our personal financial management are universal. You can be motivated by consumerism when you live on a meager unemployment check just as well as you can be motivated by it if you make six figures.
It’s similar to how you may feel when you turn 40. Friends and family send greetings and tease you for being over the hill. Then you wake up the next morning, age 40 years and 1 day, and are still yourself. Your struggles, desires, strengths and mindsets are still with you. Nothing magical happened when you crossed over the hill to erase what is inside you.
Likewise, there is no income level or net worth amount where you suddenly change. You bring the same attitudes to your finances when you have little as when you have much.
Have you found this to be true in your life, or those of loved ones, or no?