Does Fear Of Money Stop You Doing The Work You Love?

I worry about money. This is a problem for me. Not just because it makes life more anxious. But it makes getting money less likely.

The more we focus on an outcome, the less likely we are to get it. If you want someone to want you, it will feel creepy and off-putting.

The psychiatrist Viktor Frankl referred to it as hyper-intention. It’s the phenomenon that means the more you try, the less likely the result.

Think of those times you’ve tried hard to get to sleep. The act of trying harder pushes sleep further away, not closer.

It’s the same with money. The best way for me to get money is to stop caring about getting money. Yet caring about getting money is hard. The world demands I have it for pretty much everything I need.

When my caring about money gets too strong, I get pulled away from what I’m best at. I change the work I do to try and get the money.

The moment I do, I stop doing my best work. I do things because I need the outcome, not because it shines my brightest beacon.

My light becomes duller. Who wants a dull light?

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My ongoing challenge is to do my best to stay intrinsic. Even when the spectre of a penniless future haunts my thoughts.

It’s not easy. Fear has a job to do. It’s what keeps us alive. Fear wants us to do something to change the dangerous situation. When the squirrel sees a terrier running towards it, it darts to the nearest tree. That’s fear doing its job.

The squirrel did something to make itself safer.

Fear is trying to get me to do something to make me safer. So doing nothing different isn’t what fear wants. Fear is freaking out!

When terrified, I need to defy evolution and stay doing the terrifying thing. No mean feat!

I’ve decided to turn this into a game and turn myself into a SuperHero. Who doesn’t want to be a SuperHero?

My name is Alun The Intrinsic. My super powers are at their strongest when I am doing things for intrinsic reasons. I’m at my most awesome when I do stuff because I want to.

Yet every SuperHero has a nemesis. So I name mine The Temptress. Her job is to tempt me away from those moments where my super powers are at their height.

Her job is to lure me into a place of misery and weakness. She wants me doing dull work that lights up no passion in me. She wants me to be miserable. She doesn’t even want me to be me.

She achieves this by preying on my fear of being penniless. So she lures me with possibilities of money. Try this, she says. If you do this, then you’ll get the money you need. The work you need to do will only be temporary, she says.

The twist is that after following her, there tends to be no money at all. And it takes a long time to find out. Often, she removes money from me, making me even more fearful. All the easier to prey on me next time.

She succeeds in taking me away from where I get my superpowers. As an effective nemesis, this is her real job.

So how do I defeat such a worthy foe, who lessens my own powers while increasing the vulnerability she preys on?

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When struggling with sleepnessness, I used a 5 step method. I managed to overcome that particuar enemy, The Wake Up Gremlin.

So I decided to try it against this much bigger villain, The Temptress.

There are 5 strategy areas, each situational. The aim is to be resilient enough to cover every eventuality.

1. How do I avoid her in the first place?

2. If I fail to avoid her, and she shows up despite that – how can I resist her once she is there?

3. Is there a creative solution that might defeat The Temptress for good?

4. The Temptress shows up, and my attempts to resist her fail. How do I challenge the negative impact? How do I ensure she does not get the fruits of her victory?

5. Finally, how can I accept her victory this time, yet somehow turn it into a positive?

Strategy Toolkit 1 – Avoiding The Temptress

Here are some of my ideas for avoiding The Temptress in the first place.

1. Always classify each activity as Intrinsic or Temptress. This brings the nature of each task into consciousness. Which tasks I am doing because it expresses me, and which I am doing for an end goal? A good way to identify Temptress tasks is to ask “would I do this if I were already rich?”

2. Go through the “Temptress tasks”. Ask 3 questions about them, in this order.

a) Does this need doing? Get rid of those jobs that had no place on my task list in the first place. It may involve dropping some projects that I was doing for the wrong reasons. That’s okay.

b) Can I be creative so that I achieve the same goal quick and easy? Or perhaps to do it in such a way that it becomes something I’d get intrinsic enjoyment from?

c) Can I outsource it? The task may need doing. But does it have to be me who does it?

3. Learn optimism. Optimism about the future lowers the fear that The Temptress preys upon. By doing one optimistic narrative per day, as outlined here, I can learn to be more optimistic. This will help me expect good things in the future. So my fear will drop.

4. Develop a “what if” negative scenario, and make peace with it. The writer Kevin Kelly remembers being poor as a college student. He didn’t like it. But he feels confident in his ability to cope if it happens again. So he doesn’t fear being poor. Perhaps I could do something similar.

Let’s say, I assume all my resources run out, and I am unable to generate more. What will happen?

My tendency is to jump to the catastrophic end of the movie. But what if I took it step by step. If I have no money right now, what would I do? What would my next step be? And the one after that? Build a whole scenario that sees the full reality of what life would be like, not the catastrophe.

See that scenario and visualise it. Spend time with it in my mind. Make peace with the possibility. Build my sense of feeling that I could cope with it. Things would worsen, yes. But I’d still be okay.

5. Have a reminder sign in my office that says:

NEVER HATE THIS MOMENT JUST SO ANOTHER MOMENT MIGHT BE AWESOME.

MAKE NOW AWESOME.

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Strategy Toolkit 2 – Resisting The Temptress

This is about realising that The Temptress is there – and then resisting her.

First of all, I need some clues that she is there. She can sneak up on me.

Here’s how I know she is there:

  • I feel anxious about my future finances
  • I feel fearful about poverty
  • I am doing work that doesn’t feel joyful
  • I would happily fast forward my work
  • I am thinking “If I do this, then I might get that” rather than doing it because I want to.

If ever I encounter those feelings, I can be sure The Temptress is at work. So here’s what I need to do.

1. Stop what I’m doing immediately

2. Check my needs list to see which needs are not met in this situation

3. Can I do this another way so that it does meet my needs?

4. If not, don’t do it. Or outsource it.

I’ll also need to do some self care. My anxiety levels will be high. So I need to do some things that ease my anxieties.

Here are my two best strategies for self care when anxious. Meditate for 20 minutes. This is a great reset.

Or go on a jog to burn off some nervous energy. Better yet, jog then meditate.

Strategy Toolkit 3 – Eliminate The Temptress For Good

So far I’ve been looking at strategies for dealing with the existence of The Temptress. But what if there was a solution that got rid of her once and for all?

These ideas are the most half baked of my strategies, but I’ll share them anyhow. I’ll come back to them another time.

The Temptress feeds off my fear of the future when it comes to finances. So these might help.

1. Learn the Buddhist style approach of surrender. My mind stays in the now. When I feel attachment, I am capable of letting go.

2. Have a steady, reliable income source. I know that this would end the problem for sure. (This could be a bit circular. To get this can involve giving up the intrinsic stuff. So this could turn into a decisive victory for The Temptress, not me.)

3. Faith. Just believe that all will be okay no matter what. (Note: I don’t know how to get this faith.)

4. Be completely comfortable with the worst case scenario mentioned in Toolkit 1. If I don’t fear the worst, then I won’t worry about the future.

Strategy Toolkit 4 – Challenge the negative impact

The job of The Temptress is to stop me from enjoying this moment. This is a cruel trick, as this moment is all that any of us have. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may not happen. Right now is the only thing that is real.

Her task is to take that moment from me and ruin it.

There are 4 negative impacts:

  • I feel anxious
  • I am doing work I don’t like
  • I am not doing the work I am most passionate about
  • I am not enjoying my life (i.e. this moment)

This is where I need to say “fuck you” to my nemesis. She wants me to feel anxious and not enjoy this moment. So the only response is to stop everything, and do something enjoyable instead. Just to piss her off!

Do it even if it has no point to it. In fact, do it especially if it has no point to it.

Feel good. Have fun. Enjoy now. It’s exactly what she doesn’t want me to do.

The Universe says: “Here, I’ve given you this moment – enjoy it.”

So I’ll do just that. It’s better to piss off The Temptress than The Universe.

Strategy Toolkit 5 – Find The Benefit

At this stage, The Temptress has overcome all my best strategies. So here’s one final way to refuse defeat.

Accept she is there. Then use her presence for my own benefit.

Be thankful to her. Tell her how she is helping you by being there. That’s sure to annoy her!

Yet it’s true too.

Here’s what I’ll do in this situation.

1. Whenever I notice her presence, I’ll thank her for acting as my alarm bell. I’ll use her as a signal to review my life, and realign back to the good stuff.

2. I’ll thank her for keeping me on track, and I’ll respond by deleting or outsourcing a load of work.

3. I’ll thank her for coming up with ways I can make my work pay. After all, she entices me with money making ideas. “Here’s what you should be doing to make money” she keeps whispering. Well that’s not too unhelpful, as long as I keep control of it.

Do you have this battle too? What are your strategies? Do any of these ideas feel useful? Let me know. This is my number one obsession, so I’d love to hear from you.

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Alun Parry is Director of The Liverpool Psychotherapy Practice


2 thoughts on “Does Fear Of Money Stop You Doing The Work You Love?”

  1. Thanks for the reminders, Alun. I’m pretty sure I have a “Temptress” too, and also some “Wake Up Gremlins”! It’s good to remember that sometimes chasing after things is what chases them away from us.

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