from the Inside Out
"money changes everything" calls to mind a common cultural
belief: if we just change the scenery of our lives, things
will be better. The grass is always greener "over there."
The culture says: money will make you happy. The culture also
says: if you're not happy, you need to make a change in some
external aspect of your life- change your income, your job,
your partner, your neighborhood. We strive to find something
outside ourselves that will finally enable us to feel important,
safe, wealthy, content, good enough.
The truth is, of course, that the grass
is rarely greener somewhere else. You might create or experience
a change in your life, yet you notice that many of your
problems are still there. You get a new job, start a new
company, or inherit money, but you soon find the same old
frustrations. You begin a new relationship, but after awhile
are trapped in old patterns of conflict and resentment.
You finally get that increase in income, yet you don't end
up with the surplus you had anticipated. (Earn More, Spend
More = Still Not Satisfied)
You might find yourself saying, "if only"
(If only I had never inherited, If only I had made a better
career choice, If only I could take some time off) or "I'll
be happy when . . . " (I get a bigger house, I lose twenty
more pounds, I make the next million). When we hear ourselves
using these phrases, they are clues to our own dissatisfaction.
We rarely find what we are looking for when
we focus solely on changing the external circumstances of
our lives. To make any change that is ultimately satisfying,
we need to make shifts on the inside that support desired
changes on the outside.
For example, after years of moving from
one company to another, yet never finding one that totally
suited me, I became convinced that I would only be happy
when I became self-employed. While many aspects of self-employment
were appealing to me, there were a number of challenges
as well. Because I didn't clearly see my own ambivalence
about being self-employed, I walked right into opportunities
for self-sabotage. Being selfemployed turned out to be more
challenging than I had expected. Although the "highs" were
way up there, the lows were equally far in the other direction.
It truly tested my mettle. It forced me to grow in ways
I never anticipated.
Some years later, I am now successfully
self-employed and happy in my career. What led me to this
place of resolution was resolving my own inner contradictions.
The approach I have used is based on the work of Leslie
Temple-Thurston, who writes in her book,
that we are polarized within ourselves around
many issues. Our unresolved emotions (about money and other
matters) keep us moving from one side of a polarity to another,
e.g. happy/sad, secure/insecure, wealthy/poor, contented/restless.
For example, if you haven't resolved your
own contradictory emotions and beliefs about your spending
choices, you might spend lots of money on a luxurious lifestyle,
but you're still not happy. So you think, "If this doesn't
make me happy, then I'll live simply instead." So you change
your lifestyle-- you go in the opposite direction. But you
may still not feel fulfilled, because you've only shifted
to an opposite polarity. You still haven't resolved your
inner ambivalences about your spending and lifestyle choices.
No matter which polarity you're playing
out in your life, unless you resolve and integrate the opposing
feelings within yourself, you'll either get stuck continually
re-experiencing the problems associated with that polarity
or you'll go in the opposite direction, and that won't make
you any happier-and you still won't be fully aligned with
your life choices, so you won't be able to harness the power
they hold to bring good to the world.
Temple-Thurston offers an exercise to integrate
these polarities. It has produced amazing results for me,
as well as for my coaching clients. The idea behind it is
that by making conscious the ambivalences we have inside
ourselves, we can integrate them; this not only relieves
our emotional tension around a given issue, but things in
our "outer" life end up changing, too. We're no longer stuck
in our old, unfulfilling or ineffective patterns, because
we're changing our lives from the inside out, not vice versa.
By Elyse Hope Killoran
Elyse Hope Killoran is a professional
coach who works with clients to enhance fulfillment in career,
finances, and relationships. She is founder of Women's U.,
the first virtual university for women, and is a mentor
coach for Coach University.
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