Mastering Contentment to Discover Abundance — Part II
by Rachel McDonough, CFP®
When we discover abundance, the possibilities are endless. It is this courageous and generous mindset that allows us to make intentional financial decisions that can transform our entire lives.
As we learned in Part I of this series, discontentment is a destructive force in our lives and in our clients' lives. Finding practical ways to avoid this trap ourselves, we can make powerful financial decisions that will result in a more fulfilling and abundant life.
If contentment is acknowledging that, "I have enough," then abundance is realizing, "I have more than enough." There are both internal (psychological and spiritual) and external (physical) aspects of abundance. We need to foster both of them. Frankly, I find it a bit annoying when I hear people talking about how we only need to shift our mindset from scarcity to abundance and we'll be swimming in money. Not so. We need to manage our money wisely as well.
On the contrary, those who focus on accumulation without a sense of purpose, also fall short of true abundance. The following stories illustrate the two types of abundance.
On a number of occasions, when I was a child in Kenya (as the daughter of missionaries), my family was honored to join local Kenyan families for a meal in their homes. Over the years, we experienced these local, traditional meals with a number of tribes and in a number of different villages, and I observed a pattern of unexpected generosity each time.
For rural families in Kenya, livestock is still the primary form of wealth. Yet a family, whose net worth might have been four goats and six chickens, would often serve meat to us as their guests—often whom they had just met. The typical rural Kenyan family eats meat only on special occasions.
Amazingly, these families showed no sign of hesitation or regret as they dished out a significant portion of their personal wealth onto our dinner plates. Rather, they beamed with joy, and kept refilling our dishes until we could not take another bite. At that time, our still-full plates were passed off to a hungry group of children waiting in the next room.
These families represent an absolute lack of external (material) abundance, yet displayed an overwhelming and humbling internal abundance and generosity. These people genuinely wanted to honor us and provide for us as their guests. They did not feel the least bit imposed upon and invited us to come again soon.
Now for an illustration a bit closer to home for many of us as financial professionals, let me share a story from the life of a client. Years ago, I worked as a sales assistant and provided customer service for a client of the firm who was in her mid-seventies. She had $6 million in her investment accounts, in addition to her real estate holdings and sizable life insurance policies set up to provide for her children.
I initially admired how she chose a relatively modest lifestyle considering her level of wealth. But as I got to know her better, I realized that she was unable to enjoy or use the majority of her wealth. She was constantly concerned about running out of money, no matter how many retirement projections we drafted for her, all illustrating that her fears were without merit. She was incapable of giving away or spending the wealth that her husband had accumulated in business and left to her for her enjoyment and provision.
This woman had massive external abundance, but had very little internal abundance. This is a great tragedy. Because so very many people in the world truly are impoverished, I find it all the more tragic when wealthy people—for whatever reason—act, think, and feel poor.
Much can be said about internal abundance, but if we were to distill its definition down to two concepts, they would be courage and generosity. Courage compels us toward our goals; it's the fuel that allows us to live out our calling. Generosity builds a lasting legacy—the impression our lives leave on the world.
Courage in our financial lives means taking responsibility for the things we can influence and change, rather than resigning ourselves to accept whatever comes our way. It is the exercise of personal power for the improvement of our financial situation.
We must recognize that what we will do with what we already have is of far greater significance than what we would do with what we wish we had, or what we used to have, or what our neighbor has. As we shift our awareness to effectively managing what we already possess, two things happen that increase our internal abundance:
- Our preoccupation with what we lack loses its negative influence on our minds and emotions.
- We become increasingly empowered to live out our values and calling through consistent, intentional, and creative financial decision making.
Generosity is the expression of love through sacrifice. Love is the most powerful force in the universe, so let's acknowledge its influence in our financial decisions. What sacrifices do you make in your personal finances because of love? Are they the right ones, or do you want to change them?
Love compels us to help others, even when it costs us something. This is generous living. Most people define their life's purpose (or calling) in terms of helping others in one shape or form, and the process of discovering abundance can make them more effective helpers. When they know they have more than enough, they experience an increase in generosity and can enter into the financial aspects of their life's calling more and more. This in turn means an increased ability to teach, heal, provide, protect, serve, encourage, and inspire others to live out their purpose.
Generosity is a privilege—not a right. You can't fully embrace the privilege of sharing sacrificially until you're truly ready. When you give beyond your level of abundance, you run out of momentum either by having your bank accounts drained, or by feeling empty and burnt out.
If you wish you could be more generous, be patient. Generosity takes a lifetime to develop and mature. There are no shortcuts. You can't simply start giving money away and think that you will become generous by doing so. It may look like generosity from the outside, but that is no measure of internal abundance.
Be honest with yourself. There may be a very good reason why you're not feeling particularly generous in this season of your life. If you're not very generous today, go back to mastering contentment (see last month's article). Generosity will come in time when you practice and master the art of contentment and couple that with courageous decision making. Don't become self-critical, and resist the urge to skip steps.
If you are already a generous person, what is your next step on the path of giving? Remember, generosity, like the tree of abundance, grows with time, and the legacy you are building is not complete as long as you still have breath in your lungs. Your internal abundance has no ceiling. Keep going.
When we discover abundance, fear and greed can no longer hold us paralyzed and powerless. We are no longer convinced that we are poor. Therefore, our hands are no longer tied by the deception that we are unable to change and improve our financial situation, our careers, our lives, our families, our community, and our world.
You are meant to be a world-changer; one who leaves a meaningful legacy. And, as you master contentment and discover abundance, you can direct your money (and all your resources) toward living out your values, priorities, and beliefs...and making a difference.
© 2014 Rachel McDonough
Rachel McDonough, CFP® is the founder of Make Your Money Count, LLC. She combines her insight from years living among some of the world's poorest people in Kenya, with her professional experience as a Certified Financial Planner™ designee to offer a refreshing perspective on money. She teaches that the best way we can attain true success is by making financial decisions that reflect our personal values and support our life's purpose.
Rachel is the author of True Treasure: Giving, Saving & Spending According to Your Calling and is a frequent speaker on the topic of money and values. To be added to Rachel's email list and receive a free download, "6 Tips to Mastering Contentment," click here.
Make Your Money Count, LLC is an independent firm. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA / SIPC. Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., 8200 Building, 5600 W 83rd Street, Ste 560, Bloomington, MN 55437, (952) 548-3111.
Any opinions are those of Rachel McDonough and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Examples are for informational purposes, individual results will vary. Raymond James does not endorse the book True Treasure: Giving, Saving & Spending According to Your Calling. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members.
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