Be Kind to Yourself in Finances

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by Brent Kessel

Sometimes your yoga practice is just hard. Like today for me for instance. As I experienced tightness that wasn’t there yesterday or last week, as gravity or a wandering mind conspired to have me tumble out of a pose I can usually hold, the judgmental voices in my head gained confidence. I was lucky today, because there was some small part of my awareness that could notice this emboldening of self-recrimination. And so I did everything in my power to speak kindly to myself.

“It’s hard to wake up not feeling well. I know you’re doing your very best in each pose. I’m happy you’re practicing.”

It is the same with money, income and success. When our finances aren’t going our way—the credit card bill comes in higher than expected, the raise we were hoping for is delayed, the sale we thought was in the bag falls through—we usually can’t help but contract and speak judgmentally toward ourselves, even shaming ourselves despite having made our best effort.

To make matters worse, we think that others have it all together when it comes to money. The people who drive the luxury cars or send their kids to expensive private schools or live in nicer houses than ours, must have fully funded retirement and college savings plans and no debt.

Yet as a certified financial planner who works with some very wealthy clients, I can tell you that the surprising truth is that many of those who appear most successful in America today are struggling financially, because consumption does not equate to a sense of financial sufficiency, or “enoughness” as I like to call it. Nevertheless, given the millions of marketing messages we’ve already internalized, we can’t help but feel “less-than” when our finances aren’t going smoothly. So our tone of voice tightens. We overuse phrases like “I should be able to…” and “I can’t believe I….” or “It’s just not fair.”

But all of these violate the yama of ahimsa, or nonharming, which is focused as much on cultivating non-violent words and thoughts toward the self as it is on not delivering a death-stare to that other driver who just got the last spot in the parking lot. Ahimsa requires vigilance and real effort to strengthen kind and self-caring voices during life’s most difficult moments.

Beating yourself up about finances is self-defeating. It undermines your belief in your ability to change your circumstances or achieve your goals.
Compassionate self-talk, however, has the opposite effect. It acts like a gentle but steady tailwind along the path of your set intention, whether that’s to practice yoga every morning, to save enough money to put a downpayment on a condo, or to stick to a long-term investment program.

Brent Kessel is a yogi by dawn and financial planner by day, having dedicated himself to yoga since 1989 and progressed to the fifth series of Ashtanga under Chuck Miller and Pattabhi Jois. As the cofounder of Abacus Wealth Partners, a financial-planning firm specializing in sustainable investing for individual clients in 35 states, Brent has been named multiple times as one of the top financial advisors in the United States by Worth magazine. An advanced practitioner in both finance and yoga, Brent is the country's foremost authority on bridging these two disparate worlds for personal transformation. He has appeared on the CBS Early Show and ABC News, has been quoted in the Wall Street JournalNew York Times, and Los Angeles Times, and is the coauthor of "The Money & Spirit" workshop. Learn more at abacuswealth.com/yoga.