Lately, I have been asking myself two questions. These are what makes us financially healthy and how do we know that we are financially healthy. So, what is new, you may ask? Not much! This is another example that there isn’t much new under the sun; including in matters of money, managing money and relating to money. This shouldn’t stop us asking the questions again, however. I believe that by asking old questions again and again, we see new ways to approach them and enable change. By now many of you know me well enough to expect me to question established beliefs, norms and conventions.
Many will attempt to answer these questions by providing a clear definition of ‘financial health’ and proposing ways to measure progress towards achieving it. This is the ‘motorway’ approach and motorways, convenient and fast as these are, mostly lead to predictable destinations. So let us take the track across the mountains and see where our search for answers will lead us. Do you wish to come with me on this trip? If you do, I will ask you to close your eyes and take 2-3 minutes to imagine ‘money’. What do you see?
Concentrate on the images that rush through your mind. Are these images of objects? What objects? Are they static or moving? Are the images brightly lit or dark and gloomy? Concentrate on every little detail and remember it. Now open your eyes and write down the image – describe it exactly as you saw it. What does it tell you? What does the image you described tell you about what you consider to be financial health and about how to achieve it? If your answer to the last question is ‘not much’ this is exactly what I expected.
When I first thought of this exercise and did it I saw money either as coins and banknotes, or as the object I desired. This image was usually rather dark and it was static – I saw old photographs rather than a film in vibrant colours. More importantly, this image did not help me to figure out what is ‘financial health’ for me and even less to decide whether I am there or not. So, I changed the image.
My new image is of money as a flowing river and myself as a small island in the midst of it. This river is large, its waters are plentiful and deep and its currents slow and relaxed. There are many more islands in the river, some smaller others larger than me, some are organisations, others are people and their families. What connects all islands and makes them, and me, full of life is the river of money that connects us. Different badges flow on the river – the products and services that we exchange. Each island, including me, draws some water from the river and puts water and badges on it so that the flow continues. Close your eyes and see it; see yourself in the middle of this river.
What kind of island are you? What does this tell you about the way in which you feel about your finance and about money?