(approx 7 minute read)
So here’s a question for you. Should you feel bad about wanting more?
Have you ever felt bad about having more than others? Have you ever felt bad about wanting more than you have? Where is that point at which you had your ‘fair share’?
Did you know that someone, probably with much more time on their hands than myself, did a survey of a bunch of films and TV shows. Specifically they were looking for wealthy characters that represented big business owners, or heads of major corporations. In this survey, it turned out that over 90% of these characters were portrayed as greedy, sinister, or in some way involved in criminal activities.
Isn’t that fascinating? The way that being in business, or having money, frequently has negative connotations. Was this something that you ever came across? Did you have a negative attitude towards money? Is it possible that you still do? Do you feel bad even talking about money?
(By the way, check out the Sunday papers supplements this week. The ‘Entertainment Section’ – 52 pages. The ‘Money Section’ – 8 pages. You’re not alone feeling uncomfortable discussing money.)
I grew up in a middle class household, both of my parents were full time professionals and we didn’t go hungry. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t money concerns. Indeed, nearly every household argument was in some way tied to money. Any relationship advisor knows that money is in the top 5 subjects of conflict between partners. But it’s not always about whether there’s enough of it, but the differing attitudes to it. In our house, the prevailing attitudes were,
1) Money is the root of all evil
2) Don’t chase after money, let money chase you
3) Money is a taboo subject
I’m betting that some of these will also ring a bell for you.
It was an unwritten rule that ‘the harder you work, the richer you’ll be.’ Logically, it would seem to make sense. The only problem is, it’s not true. You probably know many people who work many hours, sometimes more than one job, yet they still struggle with money. They may not be a million miles from you right now!
‘The scarcity mindset’
Most people are not wealthy. Not financially, not socially, not spiritually. What do I mean by that? I mean that most people live on a basis of scarcity, which is the concept that there is not enough to go around. Therefore, if I have more of something, then there is less of that resource available for everyone else. On the face of it, it makes sense. After all, we only have this planet to live on, with its physical limits. There’s no denying there is enormous inequality between the people on earth. The prevailing thought process is that the rich are taking from the poor and are absorbing all the wealth for themselves while the rest of the world starves to death – the ‘1% vs 99%’ argument that galvanised protests all over the world not long ago.
Stuck in this mindset, most people take some sort of nobility in poverty. They don’t want to be seen as ‘that rich guy/girl’ lording it over everyone else. They become really uncomfortable at the idea of becoming wealthier, even though if you give someone 3 wishes, what’s the very first thing they wish for? To be rich!
But here’s the thing. Hardly any of us are set up to be rich. We’re not taught how to accumulate wealth, how to live within our means, how to invest in the future, how to develop skills around money. Nobody taught me this stuff at school or at home. Some people will be lucky enough that they knew these things early in their lives. I was not one of them.
I’ve struggled with developing a wealth mindset most of my life. I’ve worked hard, become well educated, put in long hours, sacrificed family life and holidays, and been professionally employed for many years. In all that time, not only did I not become wealthy, although I certainly owned some of the trappings of wealth, I was actually the opposite of wealthy i.e. I was headed deeper into debt. Happily my circumstances are different now, but it took a big shift in attitude towards the concept that thinking and talking about money is not a bad thing.
The other thing I realised, is that there is no need to think in terms of what economists call the ‘zero-sum game’ – which basically means that for someone to win, another must lose. This also is not true. In a fair trade, both parties benefit. With multiple trades, many people win. Therefore, it’s possible for everyone to be better off even with finite resources. See what I mean?
‘But what if money changes me?’
Do you find it difficult to attain a wealth mindset because you feel guilty about having wealth that you didn’t previously? Goodness knows, there is almost a psychological instinct to self-sabotage when we have been close to success, because of the innate discomfort of reaching a goal not previously attained. There’s a huge mental block to any kind of change, especially if it has to come from within (I cover this in a separate blog)
However, a big obstacle, especially here in the UK, seems to be the number of people we find around us that also do not want you to be wealthy. How odd is that? These may be friends, or even family, people you’ve known for years possibly. Why on earth would they not want you to succeed? Is it because they too have bought into the scarcity mindset i.e. the concept of ‘more for you = less for me’?
I don’t see this in, for example, America. This may be a generalisation, and my American friends can feel free to disagree, but I notice how there is very much a culture there of ‘you can be anything you put your mind to’, and people go for it, knowing that others have got their back. There’s a level of team spirit in achievement. There’s also an understanding that being wealthy involves helping others to do the same. There’s something deeply satisfying about helping others.
This doesn’t seem to happen this side of the pond. Success is frowned upon, even resented in many quarters. If you are seen to succeed, people cannot wait to pull you down. If you don’t succeed, you are laughed at, ridiculed for having tried something different, for looking at ways to improve.
They say old habits die hard, as do old attitudes. Changing any of these is harder still if they are reinforced by those around you. Maybe they think they are protecting you. But the truth of it is, most of your closest contacts don’t want you to change. It’s too uncomfortable for them. Here in the UK there is a saying,
‘Don’t get above ideas above your station.’
Whatever. This is the reason the class system is alive and well in Britain today. It also completely ignores the fact that every stage of human progress is related to having ideas not just above your station, but in the stratosphere. Sure, if you leave your station you may leave some friends behind. That’s a painful reality, but what kind of friends don’t really want you to achieve more than you already have? Just remember, you can make plenty of new friends at the next station.
I’m not naïve enough to believe that all wealth is accumulated honestly or with moral intentions. There are some warlords, sex traffickers and narcotic producers in this world with a lot of money.
Neither would I try and convince you that some people are not adversely changed by an improvement in financial circumstances. By the same token, there is no reason not to believe that people may become better. There are a lot of people in this world who are immeasurably better because they are no longer poor. Nearly everyone with a moral compass believes that to be true. Why else would millions stand together and demand to make poverty history?
How to avoid the scarcity mindset
First of all, stop feeling bad about money. Stop feeling bad about talking about it. Instead, here are a few tips to get you on the right path :-
1) Surround yourself with winners. They are out there, and they will welcome you when they see your commitment to making life better for yourself and others, because for most of them they started the same way, with nothing but determination to succeed. Most millionaires didn’t start out with wealth. Winners attract winners.
2) Give from the heart. It has been shown that, pound for pound, money spent in charity makes the giver happier than almost any other kind of spending. Plus, it can significantly reduce your tax bill. Win-win!
3) Finally, be smart with your money. Learn the difference between accumulating assets and liabilities. Being able to spend well is as important as being able to earn well, but very few of us are taught the former.
As always, comment is welcome, so leave your thoughts below, and don’t hold back. Until next time, be safe, be bold, and live it like you mean it. It’s more fun that way.
BTW, for a little more insight into the wealth mindset, check out