For the past two weeks, my community has been hard at work decluttering spaces that cause stress.
The idea is to Clean Up & Clarify before creating Your Money Roadmap for 2022.
To that end, I’ve shared pics of desks, wardrobes, closets, bathroom cabinets, and basements you’re transforming.
It’s all been about physical spaces – the bits of our environment we see around us. They have a large impact on how we feel.
As overwhelming as physical clutter can seem at moments and as important as it is to clean that up, that’s the easy stuff to deal with.
Stacks of papers is a known problem. You can see the problem.
You may not immediately know what to do with each document, but the process will probably involve filing, shredding, and taking action – like dealing with the insurance quote you’ve been putting off.
Ditto for a packed basement.
You might not know what to do with all those bits and pieces (and what the hell are they anyway?!), but you do know that the process will involve sorting, donating, and ditching.
Now that the process of cleaning up your physical spaces is underway, or is maybe even completed (yay you!), it’s time to turn your attention to a more important space to clear up:
Your head space.
Why head space?
Those of you who know my work well might be surprised that I didn’t start with mindset in early January when I first announced my Clean Up & Clarify project.
Everything I do usually starts with mindset.
Because after nearly twenty years of working in the personal finance space, I have learned this:
Money problems are seldom about money.
Typically not a money problem.
You might be tempted to argue that debt comes about as a result of overspending (i.e. outflow of cash exceeds inflow), and you’d be right.
But overspending isn’t the cause; it’s a symptom.
I’ve personally worked with hundreds of clients now. For all but two, debt stemmed from an underlying mindset issue.
Ditto for underearning – a challenge that plagues the majority of women I work with.
Here’s what else you can add to the list:
- inability to save
- fear of investing
- fear of speaking up
- abdicating financial responsibility
- feeling stuck – can’t seem to make progress
I can trace back most major financial issues to an underlying mindset issue, which means that there is an emotion at the root of it all.
Fear, feeling unworthy, wanting to belong/be loved – these are three of the usual suspects.
Important clarification: I don’t want you to think that the emotional component represents the entire piece of the puzzle. It doesn’t.
Sometimes there are systemic issues and barriers at play, too, like inequality, to name just one.
Setting aside structural and systemic impediments, mindset play a major role in financial challenges.
Here’s the thing about mindset work, though: it’s hard.
It’s also not obvious.
It’s not like an overflowing bookshelf that you see, without effort, every time you walk by it.
When it comes to mindset challenges, if you don’t have a system or a clear path to follow, it can get confusing and overwhelming really fast.
Hell, even when you do have a path and a guide, it’s hard work.
That’s why I didn’t start with the mindset component.
I wanted you to get some quick wins on the physical front before turning your attention to your head space.
Given the importance of mindset, though, it’s time to roll up your sleeves to do some digging.
Let’s ensure that you eliminate a few of these blocks in preparation for creating Your 2022 Money Roadmap.
This week, I will guide you through a simple process of decluttering your mindset.
Let’s start by tackling two common sources of mental clutter.
Use your (empowering) words
The language you use to describe yourself, your situation, your life, your challenges, your day, and your future matters a great deal.
Language is a powerful tool.
I know you know that.
That’s why you’re careful about the way you phrase things when speaking with children.
When they don’t understand a math problem, for example, you don’t berate them and use belittling language. You reassure them that they are capable of learning and that it’s all about practice.
Now I want you to face a mirror.
How do you typically talk to the person you’re staring at?
When it comes to the language you use to talk about yourself – or to talk to yourself – is it encouraging and empowering?
Do you use what I call the language of potential, particularly when things are going as you’d hoped?
For example, which are you more likely to say?
#1 –> “I haven’t yet learned this, but I’m working on it. I’ll get there.”
#2 –> “I just don’t get investing. I’m not good at it. It’s not one of my strengths.”
How about this? Which are you more likely to say?
#1 –> “I just can’t seem to get out of debt. No matter how hard I try, I’m still in debt. What is the matter with me?!”
#2 –> “I’ve accumulated a fair bit of debt and I don’t feel good about it, but I choose to find a solution. I know I can do this.”
The first of the above statements is damaging, because they paint you into a corner. The implication is that you’re the problem.
The message to yourself is that you’re either incapable of learning or there’s something wrong with you – you’re inadequate or “less than” in some way.
As a result, you’re going to stay stuck.
Not helpful and not accurate.
The first step in cleaning up potentially toxic language is to be aware of it.
This week, pay attention to your language. Grab your journal and write down the ways you talk to yourself – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
When your inner critic pipes up, write down what she said.
If you find yourself making a judgement about yourself, write that down, too.
Find yourself using encouraging words? Write those down!
You can’t change or improve what you haven’t identified. Put on your detective hat and pay attention to your thoughts and the way you talk about yourself.
The same goes for the language you use to describe your day or your situation.
Do you keep saying you’re “crazy busy” or “overwhelmed”? Write that down in your journal.
Is that the identity you want for yourself?
If you do use unhelpful phrases like the ones I’ve mentioned above, ask yourself, “Is that the identity I want for myself?”
This isn’t about going into a state of denial.
You’re not going to pull a Pollyana routine and pretend that life is just-peachy-no-really-it’s-all-awesome-couldn’t-be-better-thank-you-very-much if it isn’t.
As I said in my book, people who behave like that look like they are one synapse away from a total meltdown.
You’re not trying to deny your reality, but you do want to take care with the word you use to describe it.
Words influence your energy, which has an effect on how you show up and what you feel capable of taking on.
It is time to eliminate any words, phrases, or descriptions that are unhelpful, damaging or limiting.
Reframe your descriptions
I encourage you to be careful with sentences that start with, “I am/I’m not ….” or “I can’t ….”
What comes after can be quite harmful.
Here are a few examples of potentially harmful phrases:
- I’m terrible with money.
- I can’t seem to hold onto money.
- I’m so overwhelmed.
- I’m not good at tracking my money.
For each of these examples, I suggest using a reframe in which you change the statement from a definition of your capacities to one where a better outcome is possible.
- In the past, I didn’t do a great job managing money, but I’m learning now and am getting better. I’m getting there.
- In the past, money seemed to flow out of my life, but from now on, I choose to make different choices that will serve me better.
- Life is busy at the moment and it can be stressful, but I know I’ll get through this. I’m focusing on one step at a time.
- I’m not YET good at tracking my money, but I’m learning!
Do you see and feel the difference in these statements?
Word matter – a lot!
Be careful how you talk about yourself and remember that your state is not your fate.
Good luck with your language sleuthing work this week. I’ll pop back in shortly to share another mindset hazard.
In the meantime, when your inner detective comes up with examples of language you choose to change moving forward, send me an email and let me know. I’d love to hear from you about this. The linguist in me can’t wait to hear your examples of words and phrases you’ve giving the boot to!