We’ve all been there before and many of us are there right now.

And where would that be? Probably not on vacation, enjoying an experience to remember or working to improve our health.

We’re chasing money.

Many cultures preach that once you have a good income stream or a certain amount of money built up then good things will follow. Things like going to great restaurants, taking exotic trips, creating a home immersed in entertainment options, and freedom from the fear you’ll have to take a hand out.

Fact: Money is the primary pursuit for most of us from the time we finish high school to the time we retire.

Is this relentless chase the only way it can be or should be? You might not like my answer but you will get some actionable steps to improve your relationship with money.

The Ugly Parallel

Ever watched a cartoon or YouTube clip of a dog chasing a car? Even if they catch it they don’t exactly win a medal. Even worse, sometimes the dog gets permanently harmed in the process.

A human parallel comes from reflecting on this quote by the Joker in the movie The Dark Knight.

“Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!”

Do you see your relationship with money in this quote? Don’t feel bad if you do. I certainly used to but I’ve learned a mindset that helps combat the desire for the constant pursuit of money. Try some of these steps to alter your beliefs about it and help yourself grow into positive behavior and habit change.

1. Say This Phrase Out Loud: “More money will make things better”. According to research, this is one of the most common beliefs among Americans (and I imagine people in other countries). Now say it a second time. Is it any more convincing? If you have a negative reaction to this experience the feelings when you say “happiness can be achieved with less or no money”. Which one of these statements resonates more?

2. Realize Why You’re Often Stressed: Did you run out of time to exercise this week because of your work hours? Were you racing around so fast that you didn’t have time to eat well? And did you prioritize your commitment to making money higher than your family and friends? Saying yes to any of these questions generates stress in all of us. Not surprisingly, the American Psychological Association found that money is the biggest cause of stress by far. To prove this isn’t just an American problem an international Reader’s Digest poll asked people in 16 countries what their biggest cause of stress was. The runaway answer? Money.

3. Ask Yourself What Role Money Plays in Life: So many people are too busy to assess the role of money in their life. I view money as the future ability to buy products and services that fulfill the needs of my family, friends, community, and charities I support. Just to give a couple of examples, two unfortunate paths in life I see people leading look like:

Money –> vacation –> relaxation/adventure –> happiness

Money –> buying future free time –> satisfaction with life

An alternate mindset is where money is at the end of the path instead of the start. After all, money is a by-product at the end of the path for people living out their core values (a.k.a. the happiest and healthiest).

4. Define Why You Chase Money: Getting and having money is not a bad thing. It’s not inherently evil and the reality is we all need it. But try brief exercise though. Write down five good reasons why you pursue money. Pause for a few minutes and actually write them down. Do you like what you see? It the time spent and priority assigned to getting money more important than other things you value in life?

My challenging you to find the “why” behind your relationship with money is for a sincere reason. This quote from the Goldberg and Lewis research team sums it up well.

“[People] have become so indoctrinated with the idea that having money is important, that they no longer question why. They are unaware that perhaps what they are truly seeking is an increase in self-respect, or security, or freedom, or love, or power.”

Treat Yourself with Respect

Your relationship with money could be an issue of balance but most likely it’s an issue of priorities or not knowing why you want it. Give yourself the respect you deserve by being more mindful about money than a dog is about chasing a car. I don’t want anyone getting hurt by a reckless pursuit and I hope you don’t either.

Which of these steps works best for you? Are there other steps you’ve successfully used to stop chasing money and improve your relationship with it? Please share a comment below.

(Photo credit: Man Chasing Falling Money via Shutterstock)

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