Money and Your Path With a Heart

May 6th, 2014 by Steve Pavlina

There’s this idea that if we want to experience more financial abundance, we must identify and rewire our limiting beliefs about money, such as “money doesn’t grow on trees” or “money is the root of all evil.” But the people I know who have lots of money usually didn’t bother to fuss over their beliefs. In fact, current brain research tells us that dwelling on limiting beliefs can be self-defeating since you’re still reinforcing the same neural patterns by thinking about them, thereby making them stronger.

A more effective approach is to largely ignore your so-called limiting beliefs. Put your focus on what you desire first and foremost. The tricky part is figuring out what you actually desire.

I found that the best approach for me, financially speaking, is to follow my path with a heart and to admit that money just isn’t that important to me in the grand scheme of things. So I actually seek to minimize the role of money in my life, making it mostly irrelevant. I create enough financial abundance that I don’t have to devote much mental bandwidth to fussing over money. Money is there when I need it; otherwise I can largely ignore it. This frees up my attention to express my creativity, to explore relationships with people, to travel, to read a lot, and to generally enjoy and experience the aspects of life that matter to me so much more than money ever will.

When I tried to center my life around money, it didn’t make me happy. I found it pretty stressful actually. It set me up for a competitive relationship with others. And I wasn’t very good at making money for the sake of money anyway. I didn’t find myself particularly motivated to do the things that would make me more money. I would procrastinate on seemingly profitable work and spend time learning about personal growth instead, which for much of my life was just a side hobby.

Eventually I saw the folly in investing so much energy into trying to make more money, especially when I wasn’t doing a very good job of it anyway. I realized that I don’t actually want to fuss or stress over money in my life. I don’t really want to make a lot of money. That isn’t a true desire for me. A more genuine desire is that I’d like to live without giving much attention to money. I’d like to live as if everything I desire is free.

Growing up, I was inspired by the characters in the universe of Star Trek: The Next Generation. They didn’t seem to need money. Technically they did have money in their universe, but money was so unimportant that hardly anyone talked about it — except for one race that everyone made fun of. The people in that universe worked because they wanted to work, not because they got paid. Money was irrelevant because they lived in a universe of abundance. They had unlimited food, cozy quarters, quality healthcare, and speedy transportation. Having all their needs met gave them the freedom to focus on other parts of their lives: hobbies like music or painting, recreation, intimate relationships, reading, exploration, and more. They lived in the ultimate personal growth playground.

I was inspired by that idea and asked myself how close I could get to it in the real world. Obviously this reality isn’t the same idealized fictional universe, but I could at least get closer to it if I tried. I realized that one step was to earn a certain threshold level of income in such a way that it wouldn’t require me to do a lot of grunt work to maintain it, and then all my expenses would be covered. That’s what got me interested in passive income.

I’ve been experiencing that reality for many years now, and honestly… I love it.

In order to play the game of life this way, I made decisions that many people would consider foolish. That’s because their priority is to make more money. My priority is to have a life. I’m not interested in getting rich or retiring. I’m already doing what I’d do if I were retired. So I deliberately pass up many opportunities to earn more money, so I can give less attention to money and more attention to personal growth, relationships, and more. I’m very pleased with this trade-off.

I don’t want to waste my life fussing over money. I did that during much of my 20s, and I think it was a mistake to live that way.

What may surprise you is that I learned to live this way even when I was broke. The key is how you focus your mind. To really enjoy life, focus your mind on what you love most, and bring that into your life now — not later, not when you have more money. Whatever you think money will add to your life, you’re probably wrong about that. Add those elements to your life now. So if you think money will allow you to travel more, start traveling now, even if you’re doing a lot of couchsurfing. Realize that you already have the means to do what you tell yourself you’re going to do when you have the money. You’ve just been programmed by social conditioning to think you need more money, but you don’t. And besides, you aren’t really going to be more motivated to earn extra money if you aren’t already following your path with a heart.

Take time to experience the simple pleasures of life. Put more attention on what you can enjoy and experience right now. That doesn’t actually require money. You can enjoy a long walk for free. Long walks are still one of my favorite pleasures.

When I couldn’t afford to buy books, I would go to the library and check out five or ten personal development books and audio programs and go through them. I very much enjoyed doing that, and it was free. I still do this today, typically averaging about one audiobook per week.

Today I can buy the best organic produce. I don’t have to look at prices when I shop. I like to shop as if everything were free. Whatever the bill is, I know I have plenty of money to cover it.

When I couldn’t afford the best food, I bought the best that I could afford and learned to appreciate it. I tried different foods. I learned to cook. I expressed my desire to have growth experiences through whatever level of abundance I could muster.

That approach was very motivating. It gave me a reason to actually earn some money. My reason for earning money was to help express my desired life path — a path centered around personal growth, exploration, and relationships. The real shift happened when I stopped using a lack of money as an excuse for not pursuing that path. I released the fear of not having enough. I started pursuing this path when I was broke. The money came later.

In my experience, needing money has usually pushed it away. When I don’t adopt a needy relationship to money, I seem to attract plenty of it. It flows to me quite naturally as a result of following my path with a heart. When I’m on this path, I’m feeling good about my life, my self development, my connections to people, and my contribution to the world. That state of being is very attractive. It attracts people, opportunities, business deals, and more. And that state of being doesn’t depend on having any particular level of income.

What if I want to increase my income? Trying to increase it directly seldom works. What works for me is to expand my path with a heart first. Internally I must open my heart to greater challenges or new levels of experience. If those experiences require more money, then the money will flow into my life — but only when I take the first step and get moving.

Quite often when it seems like money is a block to having certain experiences, that’s a false belief. We block ourselves because we aren’t ready. We’ve turned our backs on our light. In truth we are very powerful and creative beings, capable of summoning wonderful experiences into our lives when we’re finally ready to embrace them — and all their rippling consequences.

I used to think that traveling overseas was a really big deal. I turned it into this behemoth of complexity. I definitely used a lack of money as a reason for not traveling more. I also used the excuse of being in a relationship with a woman who didn’t like to travel. But once I realized that those limitations were just excuses and that of course I was a powerful enough being to summon the experience of travel into my life, I simply made it happen. It felt like there was a push to get moving initially, but afterwards it felt more like allowing than pushing.

Once I started traveling more, I began getting a lot more free travel invites. As I shed the belief that I needed money to travel, I found myself being able to enjoy amazing trips while spending very little money. For instance, people would invite me to speak at their events, and they’d pay for my travel expenses and provide a place to stay. I recently received an invite for my fourth free trip to Europe within the past two years, to speak at the Lifestyle Design Convention in Zurich in January 2015. I haven’t been to Switzerland yet, so I’m really look forward to it.

But of course this wouldn’t be happening if I wasn’t following my path with a heart. Part of that path involved facing and overcoming fears. I used to really dislike public speaking. Now I love it! It’s such a beautiful way to share a positive message and connect with people.

I’ll probably be getting speaking invitations with free travel opportunities for the rest of my life. I love speaking, I love traveling, and I love meeting new people, so this adds a lot of happiness to my life. This unfolded very gracefully by following my path with a heart. I didn’t have to push myself to do work I disliked to earn more money just so I could travel. I made travel a part of my life first, to the extent that I could afford it, and then it expanded, including the expansion of opportunities to fuel it.

You may be assuming that money is the ultimate fuel, the ultimate enabler, the ultimate resource in life. If that were true, then people with lots of money should be so much happier, shouldn’t they? But the data shows that once you get passed about $75-80K per year in income, happiness doesn’t increase with additional income and often decreases.

I have many wealthy friends who earn 10 to 100 times as much as I do. Most of them, however, actually seem less happy than I am. Some of them have told me they’re jealous of my lifestyle. They have empires to manage. They travel 150-200 days per year because they believe they have to. Otherwise they wouldn’t make as much money, and they might have to start laying people off. They often seem worried about potential threats to their revenue streams. Some of them are disturbed by the fact that I’ve uncopyrighted most of my work since they believe that intellectual property is their most valuable asset. But what does their income matter if they aren’t as happy as they could be, if they’re experiencing chronically higher stress levels, if they spend a lot of time worrying, if they wrap their self-esteem into their achievements (which sets them up for an inevitable fall)?

I think that especially in the U.S., we undervalue what actually makes us happy in life. We push ourselves to earn more, but why? If the path to get to that next level of income isn’t fulfilling, and if the money isn’t likely to fulfill you either, then why expend so much energy on an unfulfilling path? Why not put happiness and fulfillment first in our lives — and then see what it does to our incomes?

The approach that worked for me was to surrender the socially conditioned path. I gave up the path that said I have to earn lots of money first, and then I can do whatever I want and be happy. After trying that for many years, I found it foolish and unfulfilling. I actually resigned myself to being broke, figuring it would be worth it to be perpetually broke if I could at least spend a lot of time doing what I found fulfilling and enjoyable. But much to my surprise and delight, that path with a heart turn out to also be the path of abundance. :)


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