Friday, September 28, 2012

The Power of Negative Thinking

I will admit that last week was not a stellar week for me. Sunday I set my alarm to wake up early and ended up sleeping through it. So I missed an event that was very important to me. Later on in the afternoon I had to deal with some "crazy family" issues and that got me really down. And on Monday I started a brand new, and particularly stressful, long-term project at work. So along came Tuesday night - my favorite night of the week because I have my pottery class. My opportunity to get my hands dirty and be creative - a necessity for someone whose day is mostly spent in front of a computer doing some type of non-creative accounting activity.

I walked into class that night, grabbed some clay, wedged it and then headed for the wheel. As I began to try to center the clay I realized I couldn't do it for some reason. Feeling frustrated, I called over the teacher and asked for help. Once the clay was centered, I opened up a hole in the middle and tried to coax the clay to become taller to make my soon-to-be mug. But for some reason my technique was completely off that day and I couldn't figure out why. Try as I might, I couldn't get the clay to do what I wanted that night and ended up completely exasperated and leaving class an hour early.

As I drove home that night, I wondered why I had so much difficulty that night. I typically really enjoy these classes regardless of the quality of my clay outputs. It suddenly hit me. I think I walked into class still carrying the negativity from the past few days and it subconsciously reared its ugly head.  Imperfections seemed much more significant and less tolerable that day. It also affected my pottery technique just enough so that I wasn't able to produce my typical results. It's as if the negativity was spewing out of my hands and into the mug itself.

Often negative thoughts can affect your daily life without you even realizing it. Your actions, like the clay I was using, are controlled by you. But when you are channeling negativity into these actions, you will not get the results you expect. And no matter how hard you struggle you may never get where you want to be.

Negativity can especially derail your long-term personal finance goals. It may not be as obvious to you as ending up with a crummy looking mug, but there may be signs to watch out for to prevent sabotaging your financial progress. Do you have a sudden urge to buy, buy, buy? Have you convinced yourself that you have earned a vacation or fancy dinner out? It may be something completely unrelated to money that is affecting your mood and creating the potential for a financial setback. To prevent a money pitfall, consider these tips.

1. Get to know your mood better. Rather than pushing your thoughts to the far reaches of your mind, sit with them for a minute so you can at least have an idea of how you're feeling that day. Once I figured out I was still suffering from happenings earlier in the week, I felt an immediate relief and the negative cloud began to lift.
2. Get to the bottom of the negativity. Before you go out and spend your way to a happier day, try to figure out the cause of your negative thoughts. Fight with your mom last weekend? Guy almost ran into you on the freeway this morning? Stressful day at work?
3. Do something about it! Knowing your negative mood may be sabotaging your goals is just half the battle. Use that awareness to change your course and make positive changes. Rather than perusing the web for a new thing, google around and learn about CD ladders or mutual funds.

Your wallet will thank you for it.

Stay tuned,

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw /

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