1. We tell ourselves how to perceive the world. By itself, the world is simply a bunch of facts, measurements and statistics. Let me give you an example. Last December I went to Disneyland with some friends to enjoy the Christmas decorations. My father had died the previous May and I was in the process of breaking down his estate. I had also just gone through the end of a relationship which had been very important to me. In short, I was struggling with some sadness and I was very invested in having a good time at Disneyland. That doesn't mean I stormed the gates aggressively, rushing from ride to ride, trying to pack everything in. Instead, I tried to stay "in the moment" as much as possible. I watched other people and let the happy looking ones and the toddlers lead by example. Although I've been to Disneyland before and have always been a fan, it was a park made fresh and new by my attitude. When I found my hand rising to pet the projected mirror "Nightmare Before Christmas" snake in my Haunted Mansion "Doom Buggy" rather than simply passively observing it like an adult (or like I usually do,) I realized I was tapping into the Disney experience in a way I never had before. I danced and sang and giggled my way around the park on that trip.
Not everybody I watched was as happy. There were still plenty of people who exited a ride only to complain they were now standing in a gift shop. There were plenty of others who walked from line to line, never actually riding anything because none of the "wait times" was acceptable. Even at Disney, people looking to complain and be offended found plenty to complain and be offended about. At one point, I overheard a cast member, nearly overwhelmed by adults who were pushing and shoving, call out to them, "Remember why you came here." I'm not sure anyone else even heard him, but it stopped me in my tracks. I remembered. Not why I had come there, I'd never forgotten that. What I remembered were previous trips. Ones where I was one of those pushing, shoving adults fighting to have fun. Ones where someone in my party likened Disney to an overgrown monster who lifts you by your feet only to capture whatever change you might have left in your pockets and I had agreed with them. In that moment, with those previous trips fanned out like a solitaire deck of playing cards in my mind, I could visualize very plainly what made each trip stand out. What made each trip either happy or sad had very little to do with Disney itself. I was the key. In that moment I was gifted with a visualization of something I had previously only known as a quote by Abraham Lincoln.
"Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
Whether it is Disneyland or a tax audit, you decide what sort of time it is going to be.
2. I've been studying the Law of Attraction quite a bit lately. I have seen it work in my own life and I would like to nurture it into working more. One of the explanations I've heard for why the Law of Attraction doesn't work for more people has to do with limiting beliefs. You know that negative voice in your head? The one that scoffs at you and occasionally calls you an idiot? Sometimes it talks and undermines your confidence when you don't even realize that you're listening. Not consciously at least. Have you ever watched someone buy a lottery ticket and lose only to hear them say, "I knew I wouldn't win." It says things like that. In the lecture I listened to, the life coach compared our unconscious thoughts to things underneath the ground and the different aspects of our life to trees growing on the surface. One tree represented our health, while another represented our career and yet another our personal relationships. Those limiting beliefs were little traps of poison affecting the health of the trees. In some cases, every aspect of our life was damaged, while in others the nature of the beliefs attacked only specific regions like health or finances. Without the help of an outside observer, it can be very hard to notice those limiting beliefs because they function largely in our subconscious mind, but once in awhile you will get a glimpse of one of them. When you do, an effective way of diminishing them is to ask yourself a few questions: 1. Is this thought true? Is it fact? Or is it just opinion? 2. Would a friend say this about me? Would I say this about a friend? 3. Is it in my best interests to think this thought? What good does it serve to think thoughts that aren't in my best interests? 4. Build a mantra or affirmation around an opposite positive thought as a replacement. Nurture it into being a belief. One technique would be: when you find yourself thinking the negative thought, tell yourself "STOP!" Do something like breathe in an aroma that is pleasant to you, but strong, like peppermint and follow that breath by thinking the replacement thought. Repeat as necessary. If you don't have an essential oil or something that smells pleasant and strong nearby, try tapping your wrist three times with a finger and then think the positive thought. You are trying to add a physical, concrete detail with which to anchor the replacement thought.
3. The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he justly entitled. Andrew Carnegie
Talking with Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich, Andrew Carnegie credited his capability of being in control of his own mind as being the secret of his success. On a personal level, I learned on my first attempts at the stock market that money is made and lost on fear. The average person, aka the 99%, will do exactly what they know is not the way to make money nearly 100% of the time. They will buy at the top of a market (stocks or real estate) because they are afraid they will miss out when everyone else is winning. They will sell at the bottom of the market because they are afraid the world truly is ending.
I was on another trip to Disneyland in 2008 when Lehman Brothers closed its doors, the stock market began dumping and everybody from my father to pundits on CNBC began metaphorically shouting, "We're all going to die." In most cases, my gains were slashed in half by the time I was able to sell. Because I did sell. After all, everybody was saying, "We're all going to die." But you know what? If I had held onto every name I had owned? If I had simply had the skills and knowledge to turn my head, look away and hold? Every one of them was back at those bountiful levels and even higher just a couple of years later. If I had held and stuck to my guns, I never would have lost a dime.
I need to caution you here. That is not always the case. There is a difference between a market trend and something wrong with an individual stock. A good rule of thumb is to seriously consider selling a stock that has dipped 8%. After all, if you had held Enron until the end, you would have been left holding nothing. You will need to learn to handicap your stock companies like a gambler does the ponies so you can judge whether it is just a bad day or the end of a career and know whether to sell or hold accordingly.
When you find yourself being swept away in fear, a surprisingly good tip is one I heard in the television show Lost. Perhaps you remember it. Jack, the character who is a surgeon, is telling Kate, another castaway, how he dealt with the fear when he accidentally cut a patients spinal cord open. He says he allowed himself to feel the fear, but only for five seconds. Then he got on with the business that needed to be done.
So why, in a blog entitled No One Taught You About Money, am I placing so much emphasis on detoxifying from negativity?
Quite simply, it's because I believe positivity is the key to a happy and successful life.