Looking: The Gift of Power and Agency

Our resident financial health expert, Hillary Augustine, says we should all spend a little more time really observing our own financial patterns. Here's why...and how to do so.
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Original Artwork by Rosie Bowker

Original Artwork by Rosie Bowker

Decades of money-related conversations bring consistent scenes to my mind: moments when the “veil lifts in the room,” the air is lighter, and there is the feeling of levity and the scent of freedom. Sometimes tears well up – for both me and my client. Change is here, and we feel it.

A spirit wafts through the room that says, “You have agency. You are ready to wield your power and insight. This is your life.” This spirit ignites the energy for the client recreating their existence; for the couple beginning to look at their finances – together – for the first time; for the person seeking new forms of abundance and growth post-divorce; and, for the business owner operating with renewed desire and hope.

The big gulp from a throat clogged with tension might be present, too, but the moment a person looks at their financial picture, they are poised for movement.

These "looking moments" represent a powerful life activity that ignites deep re-patterning and fosters agency. Here are a few ways to create and experience your own "looking moments" in order to cultivate new realities...

1. Dashboard HIT (High Intensity Training).

Set your timer for 10 minutes and write down all the balances of your financial life. Create a quick, intense "Financial Dashboard." Include checking, savings, investments, approximate home value, mortgage(s), credit card debt, student loans, etc. If you don’t know a balance, put a question mark on that line. Once you have everything written down, take the remaining time to check into how you feel as you look at the balances or question marks. What memories come to mind? What bubbles up? Scan your body as you scan the numbers. Bari Tessler, founder of The Art of Money, calls this activity “The Body Check-in. You are looking externally and feeling internally. This cultivates holistic wisdom about your spending, your savings and your general approach to your finances.

2. Calculate and look at the true cost.

The true costs of many expenses are never calculated (i.e. cars, college, cell phones, and cable – to name a few). Calculating the true cost feels odd, even uncomfortable, because it goes against the common script. Who ever says, “Cable will cost you $1,800 per year. Would you like to sign up today?” It’s not surprising that this is not the marketing language we hear! Instead, there’s this statement: “It will cost you $150/month.” Ahhh, that’s better. We can stomach the monthly cost. It’s a much different consideration. Or so it seems. A car payment costs $4,800/year, even if we think of it as $400/month. Insurance costs $1,200/year, though we break it down to $100/month. So total car expenses come out to $500/month, $6,000/year, or $24,000 after four years – all of these statements are true, though we’re likely to avoid looking at the last one. Instead of forgoing these calculations, annualize and forecast like a warrior. The true cost has a different weighted value when considered in the present moment with an eye towards the future.

3. Look at the horizon. Envision the future.

Consider the vision of your life in terms of time. For example, can you “see” three months, six months, one year, or five years ahead? Vision casts a direction. We may often envision what’s just over the horizon, but it is rare and countercultural to consciously take space and time to look further into the future. To look is to pause – neither of which drive consumption. In fact, most of what is sold to consumers relies on just the opposite: quick decisions and scarcity-based experiences. Be a revolutionary by looking and pausing.

Anytime you participate in these “looking moments” with objectivity, openness and curiosity, you offer yourself the gift of power and agency – even the possibility of change. The reverse is also true: when we don't look, we don't actually see. And, the spirit of levity and freedom stays stuck behind age-old money patterns.

What if simply looking became the new norm or first step to cultivate a conscious relationship with your numbers?

I have witnessed the most pronounced and profound shifts when people commit to an intentional period of looking. It’s Quantum Physics applied to money: the “observer effect happens when just observing the situation necessarily changes that situation. 

Likewise, the moment you look at your finances, you are poised for movement and change. You are cultivating a new reality. It’s worth looking! Try It. 


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