You have decided to get on board the Dave Ramsey debt freedom train, but you are having trouble keeping up your momentum.
Every time you start to make a bit of progress, you get derailed.
You might have trouble resisting the siren call of I deserve this, or My kids shouldn’t have to suffer because of my bad decisions, or Everybody goes to Disney.
Perhaps it’s painful emotions that stop you in your tracks: fear, anger, anxiousness, bitterness, deprivation, or even hopelessness.
Whatever the case, you need a different approach, because what you are doing just isn’t working.
While you made the conscious decision to take control of your money, you may not have addressed the automatic behaviors that have been years in the making. We all have scripts running behind the scenes in our minds, often without our knowledge or consent. Somewhere, somehow, someway, these scripts were laid down as the the playbook for how things are done.
For example, you might have some scripts that sound like this:
Being a good parent translates into buying everything on your child’s Christmas list.
Taking a great vacation equals spending thousands on a family getaway.
Having a positive self-image requires regular and large investments in clothes, makeup, and jewelry.
The fuel for these scripts is supplied by emotions, such as pride, jealousy, insecurity and more.
While emotions provide the fuel, culture ignites it.
Marketers conduct exhaustive studies of what causes people to spend money. Companies spend billions of dollars using that information to convince you that what you are and what you have is not enough, and that you should be able to have whatever you want. When you buy into their message of discontent, you effectively give up control of your spending.
Firewalls have one purpose: to keep dangerous things out.
Robert Emmons, author of Thanks! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier, described another type of protection:
Gratitude can serve as a firewall of protection against some of the effects of these insidious advertising messages. When a person wants what they have, they are less susceptible to messages that encourage them to want what they don’t have or what others have.
Such a simple concept with such powerful possibilities!
When you develop a firewall of gratitude, you are erecting a barrier of thankfulness which effectively blocks those negative, cultural messages of the necessity of being, doing and having more.
Most importantly, understand that gratitude is not conditional.
I wrote previously on this subject:
At its core, gratitude is about learning to be deeply grateful in the midst of the storms, whether relational, spiritual, vocational or financial.
The apostle Paul wrote a letter of joy and gratitude—from prison—to the Philippians: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”
Former Prisoner of War Commander Paul Galanti, said “There’s no such thing as a bad day when you have a door knob on the inside of the door.”
Another wartime prisoner in a concentration camp, Corrie ten Boom, wrote of being grateful for the continual infestation of fleas in her barracks, because it kept the guards away. She and her sister were thus able to read and share the encouragement of the Bible with the other women.
Being grateful for discovering weakness revealed, for a working doorknob, for the torment of fleas.
Below are five ways you can begin:
1. Write down three things a day for which you are grateful. To quote Robert Emmons again, “This practice works, I think, because it consciously, intentionally focuses our attention on developing more grateful thinking and on eliminating ungrateful thoughts. It helps guard against taking things for granted; instead, we see gifts in life as new and exciting. I do believe that people who live a life of pervasive thankfulness really do experience life differently than people who cheat themselves out of life by not feeling grateful.”
2. At dinnertime, go around the table and take turns sharing a “thorn and a rose”. This means recalling a difficult point in your day, plus one thing for which you were grateful. As time goes on, you may discover what others have: finding gratitude in every situation becomes easier, and the focus on the negatives fades.
3. Keep a Thanks-Giving Journal for your spouse. Darren Hardy of Success Magazine relayed a story of having a tiff with his wife and later writing a card to her in which he shared his gratitude for her. While he struggled at first to look for those blessings, he found his attitude towards her had completely changed to one of deep love and thankfulness once he finished with his message. He expanded his writing to a year long journal of notes of gratitude to and for his wife. This project caused him to look for the good every day in his wife, which in turn changed the way she responded to him. The process produced absolutely the best year of their marriage, and it has just kept getting better and better.
4. Make a game of gratitude. If you are traveling with your family, you can call out anything you see for which you are grateful. It can be simple, like a green light, or more difficult, like a pile of manure (fertilizes crops!). You can take turns calling out objects along the way, and asking members to see how they might be grateful for them. This is great practice for seeing things in a fresh perspective.
5. Find gratitude right where you are. If you are having difficulty finding your blessings, here is a snippet from my free Practicing Gratitude ebook to get you rolling:
Draw an imaginary circle six feet around where you are right now. Carefully view everything in that space as a potential object of your thankfulness. Here are just a few things you might see: a floor, a roof, windows, air, appliances, clothing, your hands and feet. Think beyond the object to what it represents: freedom, relationships, the ability to work or to hold a loved one’s hand, security, safety, warmth, etc. Express your gratitude for those things. Nothing is too big or small to qualify.
Take note of who or what is bothering you today. Change your perspective so you can see the good, and express your gratitude. Did you have a run-in with a surly person? Give thanks for the reminder to always be gracious and respectful.
The firewall of gratitude is a force so mighty it will make you faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Ok. Maybe not.
However, counting your blessings certainly will strengthen your marriage and provide a shield against over-spending. In essence, it will help you find happiness wherever you are, so that you can apply your combined energy, joy and optimism to lowering your debt!
How can you be more intentional about practicing gratitude?
(Photo by latteda)
Kim Hall created Too Darn Happy to help you build stronger and more joyful relationships through offerings of fresh perspectives and practical advice. Having been a wife for thirty years and a mom for almost as long to two daughters, she also shares occasional cautionary tales of her own character building life experiences. Kim recently authored her first ebook, Practicing Gratitude and Discovering Joy-Thirty Days to a Happier You. You can connect with Kim on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, too!