Many adjectives have been used to describe the work those of us in the naturally-oriented health care fields do and how it differs from mainstream medicine. A few decades ago it was referred to as “alternative,” then to be more inclusive, the term “complimentary” emerged. At some point “holistic” was popular and now the terminology is “integrative.” Regardless of the name given, at its core is the understanding that whole foods, herbs, exercise, and reducing stress and toxins all play major roles in optimizing health.
While I try to practice gratitude all year long, something about autumn and the march toward the holidays reminds me to be thankful. For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. Not because of the food, although I do like turkey and dressing, but rather for the sentiment. We set aside an entire day to ponder that for which we are grateful, and spend time with loved ones to do it! With yummy food! What could be better?
Thanksgiving is all that’s “right” about celebrating holidays, while Christmas, with its reckless slide into consumerism, is much of what’s wrong. But what has happened to the real Thanksgiving? All too often now, we’ve turned it into a hurried meal as a prelude to shopping right before a big football weekend. Sigh. I feel certain that in many homes, the original intent of the holiday (and likely the holidays that follow) still stands. But those holding on to that intent surely seem to be a dying breed, and for that, I am sad.
I encourage you to spend time this holiday season digging deep and finding the gratitude. Surely some days it is harder to find than others, but even on our worst days most of us are much better off than many others. You may be wondering why this column about money is waxing sentimental about gratitude and Thanksgiving. Well, I feel passionately that gratitude is inextricably linked to wealth and abundance. Simply put, if you want to be wealthy and experience the abundance of life, you cannot, in my opinion, achieve either state without gratitude.
I have certainly fallen into funks about money, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Starting a business is hard, and there were many, many lean years. I understand the tendency to slide into self-pity about how hard life is now, and how utterly unfair it seems! But here is the thing: I might have indulged in the pity party briefly, but then catch it and slap myself around a bit to “wake up.” I would then put my problems into perspective with what was going on in the big, bad world around me. No matter how bummed I felt, a minute’s reflection made me realize how many people were suffering far more than I was. This realization would lead me right to where I needed to be – a place of gratitude. I would realize that I was truly the recipient of a multitude of blessings. Spending some quality time meditating on how rich and abundant my life was, regardless of how little was in my bank account, got my head screwed back on straight.
And that’s my suggestion to you. When your financial life is out of control and you feel like throwing in the towel on your carefully crafted budget, your over-worked, under-paid work status, or the “bad luck” that seems to follow you and your money, sit yourself down for a pep talk. Begin with a loving slap session (metaphorically speaking, of course) then find a way to get to a place of gratitude.
These days, I do this easily and frequently. The moment I start to grouse inside my own head about circumstances I find to be less than awesome, I tell myself a more colorful version of, “Starksy, straighten yourself up.” I’m sure to some, relating gratitude to wealth and abundance seems like the worst sort of magical thinking. But as it turns out, I believe in real magic, and gratitude is one of three magical keys to building wealth. Never lose touch with gratitude and the humility it brings, for that is a requirement for lasting, meaningful wealth.
But I mentioned three keys, so now I’ll spill the beans on the other two.
Magical key number two is all about respect. You must respect money if you expect money to respect you and bless you by showing up in your life. I don’t remember my parents or any relatives teaching me this lesson, but somewhere along the line I developed the notion that money required the utmost respect. I will come to a full halt crossing a street to pick up a penny. Coins don’t just accumulate on counters or in pockets for me – I make the special trip into another room to put those coins where they belong, in my wallet with all their coin friends. Perhaps you have encountered a scene at the grocery store where someone is paying and accidentally drops coins on the floor. When I witness this, I suck in my breath. The person is either going to dive down to rescue the poor coins, or more often, they’ll conclude that it’s not worth it and leave them on the floor. I’m convinced this disrespect will not go unanswered in that life.
Not treating money as disposable is only one example. Treating money with respect also refers to how you use money. Money is a valuable tool, and it works best if you are thoughtful and careful about how you spend and save it. This is why financial planners encourage people to develop a spending plan. Know how much money you have coming in, and then assign jobs to it – how much will you save and in what savings vehicle, and how much will you spend, and on what will you spend it? If you are cavalier with your money, I assure you it will escape your grasp at its earliest opportunity.
Gratitude and respect – both are mandatory if you plan to enjoy a life of lasting abundance and wealth. The third key is your thoughts. Napoleon Hill, in his classic book, Think and Grow Rich, * said, “You become what you think about all day long.” So, if you constantly think about how broke you are and how miserable it is to be poor, guess what? That condition will continue. If instead you focus on and tell yourself that you have all you need, that you are rich already, you will be well on your way to bettering your current circumstances. Focus on the positive. Focus on the situation you want to achieve, and act and think as if it is already your circumstance. Do not give in to the negative thinking.
*(I highly advise everyone to read Think and Grow Rich. But if you are a female, please disable your eye-roll mechanism and just accept that this book was written in a different age. Overlook the blatant male-dominated world view and look for the nuggets of wisdom. It’s difficult, but worth it.)
I know, I know. Sounds too good to be true. Perhaps my philosophy is too absurd or weird for you. But take it from someone who knows – this stuff works. I’m living proof, a success story if you will. Keep your thoughts in line with your goals, keep gratitude at the forefront of your attention, and respect all money. Even the lowly penny on the street is a penny more than you had a moment ago. Magic.
~Dawn Starks of Starks Financial Group
Any opinions are those of Dawn Starks and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. There is no assurance any of the trends mentioned will continue or forecasts will occur. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation.
Dawn Starks is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and financial advisor at Starks Financial Group. Starks Financial Group is not a registered broker/dealer, nor is it affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. This article expresses the opinions of Dawn Starks and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Raymond James does not provide legal services. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™, and CFP®
In my experience, side dishes have been just that – dishes that often get pushed to the “side.” Well, no more! Whether you eat a traditional dinner with turkey, stuffing, and mashed tators or you are a little out there like ME and see the sides as a main part of the meal, I think you will enjoy these additions. So “spice it up” and try something new!
Gratitude practices have been found to create physical changes in our brains. According to research by USC Performance Science Institute’s Dr. Glenn Fox, when subjects reported feelings of gratitude, the area of the brain associated with understanding other people’s perspectives, empathy, and feelings of relief showed increased activity. This area of the brain is also responsible for regulating emotions and lowering stress levels.
Intuitively, I knew I needed to train my brain to notice and be thankful for the good. This practice forced me to pay attention to the things that are actually happening, rather than the doom and gloom my over-active imagination routinely conjured. I started recording the moments, people, and things that I was grateful for onto a post-it note every day. I kept the post-it next to my work area, or in my purse, and as things happened throughout the day, I took a few seconds to jot it down. Some days, my post-it was full.
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