Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Secret to Money: Gratitude and Thankfulness

Recently, I’ve been jazzed about The Secret. I suspect a lot of you are saying, “Oh, jeez!” But hear me out. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie but I downloaded the audio version from iTunes about a month ago and it has made my morning run more enjoyable. I’m training for a half marathon in October, so it feels like I’m running a lot these days and the ideas that make up The Secret have been motivating me along the way. Some people are spurred on by music. As Elizabeth noted in her roundup below, I gravitate to podcasts and audiobooks on iTunes U.

The Secret isn’t really a secret. It’s an anecdotal book blending self-help, pop psychology and motivational theory. The secret is “The Law of Attraction” and the author and her “experts” believe that what we think creates what we feel. If our feelings are positive, then positive energy and experiences flow back to us. Like attracts like. We are our thoughts.

There certainly are plenty of skeptics. At the other extreme, there are die-hard devotees. I’m somewhere in the middle. I regard the principles metaphorically, not literally… much in the same way that I’d choose to appreciate the Bible or other sacred texts. Does it really matter if it’s nothing more than pseudo-scientific twaddle? Can’t I glean a few truths about positive thinking and goal setting and call it a day. For me personally, I find this to be motivating. I find it inspiring. And listening to it makes six miles feel like three. I’m hoping in another month it will make 13 miles feel like 6.

How does this apply to money? The Secret to Money isn’t really any different than Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich where he explains how riches are the offspring of thought. But is wealth really a mindset as so many people claim?

I believe most things begin with changing your thinking. Lana recently wrote an excellent series at Queercents about building wealth consciousness from within… it’s worth reading (purchase the eBook here) especially if you struggle with negative thought patterns when it comes to money.

I consider myself a happy and positive person, but I’d probably never use the word grateful to describe me. To be honest, I never really understood the concept of gratitude and thankfulness until I started listening to The Secret. What’s the magic with these concepts? And what’s the difference between the two?

“Gratefulness is full awareness; thankfulness is thoughtfulness.”

Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk and the person behind, explains the difference in this column on Beliefnet:

Do you remember a night when you stood outdoors looking up at the stars, countless in the high, silent dome of the sky, and saw them as if for the first time? What happened?

Eugene O’Neill described his experience this way: “For a moment I lost myself–actually lost my life. I was set free! I dissolved in the…high dim-starred sky! I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and a wild joy, within something greater than my own life…to Life itself! To God, if you want to put it that way.” [You may have good reasons for not putting it that way, for not using the G-word, but in any case you have caught a glimpse of “something greater” than your limited self.] “For a second you see–and seeing the secret, are the secret. For a second there is meaning!”

In the second that follows, you may hear your heart calling out, “Thank you, thank you!” – “to God, if you want to put it that way,” or to no one in particular. But let us steady our focus on the second of gratefulness before thankfulness. Why do I call that wild joy of belonging “gratefulness?” Because it is our full appreciation of something altogether undeserved, utterly gratuitous–life, existence, ultimate belonging–and this is the literal meaning of grate-full-ness. In a moment of gratefulness, you do not discriminate. You fully accept the whole of this given universe, as you are fully one with the whole.

In the very next moment, when the fullness of gratitude overflows into thanksgiving, the oneness you were experiencing breaks up. Now you are beginning to think in terms of giver, gift, and receiver. Gratefulness turns into thankfulness. This is a different fullness. A moment ago you were fully aware; now you are thoughtful. Gratefulness is full awareness; thankfulness is thoughtfulness.

I remember as a born-again, Christ-like teenager, I never quite understood the concept of prayer. Prayer would have made a lot more sense if someone had explained it to me in terms of gratitude and thankfulness. In The Secret, Rhonda Byrne writes:

“With all that I have read and all that I have experienced in my own life using The Secret, the power of gratitude stands above everything else. If you do only one thing with the knowledge of The Secret, use gratitude until it becomes your way of life.”

With money, it begins with being content with what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have. Leo Babauta at ZenHabits writes:

The reason we get into financial trouble, oftentimes, is that we buy more than we can afford. And the root of that buying is buying things we want instead of only things we need, and the root of that is not being content with what we already have.

Finding contentment with the stuff you have and with a simpler life can lead to buying less, to buying things we need instead of want, and to only spending what we can afford. I know this first-hand, as uncontrolled spending led to debt for me, and contentedness led to me getting out of debt.

Gratitude, thankfulness and contentment are the foundation for a rich life and I believe, when coupled with sound financial decisions; we realize wealth. What do you think?

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