This is a story that I wrote that was published in Chicken Soup for The Soul Series: Tough Times, Tough People.
I vividly remember walking back to my house after collecting the afternoon mail, flipping through the envelopes in my hand. I saw a credit card statement, another credit card statement and our bank statements. It was in that moment that I felt a deep tension in the pit of my stomach.
I realized that even though I had married the man that I absolutely loved and adored, I really didn’t have a clear sense of how he handled money and how the two of us were going to blend our different approaches to handling money in our marriage. I was very organized, detailed and more frugal with money. He was more of a laid-back, free spirit type. I knew that getting on the same financial page was a key factor in creating a successful marriage and financial future.
I asked my husband if he would be willing to set up a time each week to talk about our finances and develop a plan for getting rid of our credit card debt (we had acquired over $43,300 in credit card debt over a three year period). My husband said he would be willing to do this. Admittedly, he was skeptical—but willing.
We came to refer to our weekly meetings as our Financial Dates®. We didn’t really have a clue as to what we were doing. All we knew was that we needed to give our finances undivided attention. I remember the knot-wrenched feeling I would get in my neck several hours before our designated Date.
We had so far to go – how were we ever going to get rid of our debt? We basically made things up as we went along. At the beginning of each Date we would jot down a list of what we wanted to focus on and throughout the hour we progressed through the list until most of the items had been dealt with.
Some Dates were filled with tense conversations, blaming accusations and snide remarks. Other Dates were filled with laughter, joy and creativity. However, we kept showing up for our Dates and we never gave up. What started out as a means for survival became a powerful connecting thread in our relationship. Something shifted within us.
Instead of finances becoming a source of divisive tension that pulled us apart, it became the glue that held us together as we became a unified team – creating electric synergy as we focused on the single goal of getting out of debt. We did succeed in getting rid of our debt.
I still recall the day that we excitedly marked through our last credit card payment on the chart we had created. We had finally arrived. We were free. We had been given wings to fly.
While our debt is now gone I have gained several invaluable lessons from our debt struggles that will stay with me forever.
1. We were committed to changing our situation. Even though we felt overwhelmed, uncertain and stressed about how we were going to turn things around, we were 110% fully committed to getting rid of our debt. I realize now how powerful a commitment can be. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe expressed the power of commitment so beautifully:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, rising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
2. Opportunities presented themselves during our journey as a result of our commitment. Many people won’t begin a journey or declare a goal because they can’t see the means to achieving it – so they give up. More often than not you won’t see the means of accomplishing a goal until you make a commitment and bravely begin your “hero’s journey”.
We had given ourselves four years to get out of debt – but we were able to do it in two and a half years. Creative ideas and opportunities presented themselves to us that we truly couldn’t have envisioned at the beginning of our journey. We used extra money from Christmas and birthdays to put towards our debt.
And we even sold our beloved Eurovan because we realized that the deep peace and security of being out of debt meant more to us than having the van.
3. We took full responsibility. Instead of blaming the economy or factors outside ourselves (although there were times when we got angry at each other), we were willing to accept full responsibility for creating our debt situation. Many times in the past I thought I was accepting full responsibility for my situation, when in reality, I wasn’t.
Whenever I blamed anyone outside of myself (even if it seemed completely justified in my mind), I was giving away my power to change the situation.. I ended up feeling like a victim and experienced a lot of waiting—-waiting for the economy to change, waiting for my husband to change, or waiting for a friend to change—until I could be at peace.
Now, whenever I feel a twinge of stress or reactivity I ask myself, “how am I contributing to what is happening right now (or the way this person is reacting to me)? This gives me the ultimate power to change my situation.
Even though my husband and I don’t have any guarantee against future challenges, I am left with something deep within that is unshakable and that can never ever be taken away – the memory of our past successes and the power to constantly integrate these lessons in my day-to-day life.
There is an old Cherokee saying that reveals a great deal of wisdom about manifesting money…
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
- A Cherokee legend
I remember one particular incident many, many years ago, before I began my private coaching/consulting practice, when I was driving downtown rushing to complete my errands for the day. I remember noticing the beautiful sunset and the incredible colors in the sky. And yet in spite of the beauty that surrounded me there was an internal voice that said something like, “Sure the sunset is beautiful – but that doesn’t really matter. What really matters is that you are STUCK in your life. How are you ever going to get anywhere? You got real problems to deal with…” And the voice continued on and on – round and round.
Ironically at the time I believed this inner voice was just telling me the truth about my current situation. I assumed my inner voice was the voice of reality and reason – even though it was a huge drain on my energy and mental outlook.
Another time I was feeling overwhelmed about all the credit card debt me and my husband had accumulated after we were married. And even though we were determined to pay it off I remember wondering how we would ever manage to get rid of it. Both of us had brand new start-up businesses at the time. My mind just couldn’t grasp the possibility that life could be any different from the way it currently was.
The “scared wolf” was quite loud during these particular times of my life
Many of us hear the voice of the wolf howling at our doors. We experience a deep sense of anxiety and impending doom and gloom around our current circumstances. Sometimes the pressure is so intense that it wakes us up in the middle of the night – and we wonder how we’re ever going to break through our current circumstances and manifest more money in our lives.
I used to wonder where all this internal pressure and anxiety was coming from.
For most of us, if our beliefs remain unexplored we find ourselves thinking that our external circumstances are causing the pressure and fear. We find ourselves worrying about finding a job or making enough money to get through the next month. We have very real external circumstances that we’re dealing with, and we think – that is what’s causing the pressure and stress after all!
I remember working with a client who experienced a dramatic breakthrough when she realized that SHE was the one who was creating the stress and pressure that she experienced around money. She had thought that her current circumstances were creating the pressure. In fact, she became aware that for most of her adult life she experienced pressure and fear that she wasn’t doing it right, or doing it good enough when it came to money as well as other aspects of her life.
If we are experiencing anxiety or tension it’s a sure sign that we are feeding the scared wolf. What I’ve discovered is that whatever circumstance I am facing, I can ask in the midst of it, which wolf am I feeding? Is it the wolf of joy and peace or the wolf of anger, greed, guilt, and inferiority? What I’ve noticed is that the scared wolf is very sneaky and clever.
I mistakenly take his voice to be the voice of reality. Of truth – as if he were an impartial reporter of “just the way things are.” His voice might sound like this—“People just aren’t hiring in today’s economy… It’s not possible to increase my income by this month…It’s not possible to find my dream job.”
Which wolf are you currently feeding?
It’s one thing to hear the voice of the scared wolf. It’s another thing to feed it. When I feed it I am agreeing with the scared wolf’s reality. I know that I’m feeding and agreeing with the scared wolf’s reality when I experience fear, resentment or anger.
So what can you do? It’s not a matter of getting rid of the scared wolf’s voice. That just creates resistance. It’s an opportunity to explore what you’re believing and which wolf you are about to feed. It becomes an ongoing practice, a discipline – the personal path of the warrior.
So now when I hear the bark of an scared wolf, I stop and identify the voice. I am called to create in each moment a new possibility – I can choose to feed the scared wolf or the good wolf. Either way it’s my choice. The one I choose to feed is the one who will win.
Action Steps for Manifesting Money
- Get honest about your subjective “reality” or “truth.” What is the reason you’ve been giving yourself about why you can’t achieve something that you really want right now? Which wolf are you feeding?
- Ask yourself how your subjective reality might really be resistance to manifesting what you want (remember this may require a huge stretch on your part – because that’s the nature of subjective reality – it seems so, well real!).
- Ask yourself what would happen if your subjective reality didn’t have to come to pass.
- Notice how you feel when you make this mind shift. You will notice that you are left with opportunity. From this space be willing to take the next step toward what you want – instead of putting it off. Be willing to see that you don’t need to wait any longer – and that your “reality” is merely resistance in disguise.
It’s amazing to recall all the struggles I used to experience around money. One of my biggest challenges was my overall lack of knowledge about finances—I felt completely inadequate and money management seemed very complicated… Something other people were capable of succeeding at but not me.
I believed that I would never be successful at balancing the constant onslaught of money demands and needs for our large family (my husband and I have four girls).
I was afraid that if I took an honest look at our family’s expenses in relation to our income, I would feel like we had nothing to hang our hats on. I also experienced a lot of resentment. I blamed my financial inadequacies on my girls—my excuse was that I was too busy taking care of them to sit down and create a budget.
I also blamed my husband for not making more and managing better. I resented that he made the majority of the money decisions in our family.”
Through our work with Leslie I realized that the reason my husband had more say with our finances was because I gave him more say. He made the money decisions because I wasn’t willing to step up and assume more responsibility! And yet I was secretly afraid that if I assumed more financial responsibility our situation would get worse and I would feel overburdened.
I experienced a breakthrough when through Leslie’s coaching and support I realized that I actually suffered more when I didn’t step up and assume financial responsibility. Ironically, when I started taking on more responsibility around money I felt lighter, freer, and more empowered.
The Financial Freedom Light at the End of the Tunnel
Working with Leslie has brought me the confidence and peace around money that I never knew I could have. Learning to create a spending plan was especially empowering for me. A spending plan gives us the flexibility to decide how we’re going to spend our money each month based on our needs and wants for a given month.
Instead of being locked into a budget that remains the same month after month, we decide each month exactly how we spend our money. We base our decisions on our past month’s spending (which we track closely, looking at how much we spend in each area of our lives).
Creating our Financial Headquarters
One of the actions we took that made the biggest impact on our lives was creating what Leslie refers to as our ‘financial headquarters.’ We now have a specific place we keep our mail, our bills, our ‘bill pay calendar’ (which lists all our bill due dates) as well as an organizer that contains all the necessary items for paying bills like stamps, staplers, envelopes, pens and post-it notes.
During the week I open the day’s mail and sort it in the proper place, making sure the bill due dates are recorded correctly on our bill pay calendar. I recycle the day’s junk mail. Every week my husband and I sit down together and look at our bill-pay calendar to see what bills we need to pay. We have truly created order out of chaos.
I used to equate spending money with love. I thought that if I began to take control of my finances and reign in my spending habits I would be withholding love and freedom from my girls, our family, and myself. But much to my surprise I discovered that love is really about being more conscious about my money decisions.
I realized that I’m not being loving when I randomly purchase things and don’t have a clear sense of how much I’m spending and what impact it will have. I’ve learned I can say “no” from a loving and supportive space. Saying “no” to an unplanned dinner out means that I get to say yes to something else that is more meaningful to me – like paying down our debt.
Creating a Break Through With Money
This work has been an amazing transformational process for me. Just this last Christmas my teenage daughter told me that this had been one of the best Christmas’s ever. Instead of fighting over money, my husband and I had a clear plan for our spending and were working together as a financial team.
Our commitment to our financial journey and working with Leslie has not only resulted in us getting rid of over $3,000 in debt but it has improved our relationship. And because of that my husband and I are able to be role models of true financial responsibility for our girls. I can’t imagine a better legacy to pass on to our children.
. Click here to sign up for my FREE webinar onWed., March 31st, “Personal Transformation Through Money: How to Consciously Achieve Your Money Goals And Create Financial Success in Your Life.”