More Than Money
Issue #29
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Money Changes Everything

Table of Contents

“Money and Happiness”

Changing from the Inside Out

The adage "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, The Marriage of Spirit, 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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