Archive for March, 2007

Zen and The Art of Money Management

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

Books on approaching sports, motorcycle repair, and job hunting with a Zen attitude were very popular for a while. I think it’s time I provided some guidelines for approaching money the same way!

You see, Zen is really an attitude towards life. It encourages people to be natural and spontaneous, yet controlled. It is a creed of doing yet not doing, of relaxing to create energy rather than trying too hard and wasting energy.

A lot of people seem to waste a lot of energy being tense about money. Yes, I know that jobs and resources are scarce. But nowhere in nature does any animal have access to unlimited resources without effort. Why should we expect things to be any different for humans? And is that sufficient reason to be so tense that you cease to enjoy the resources you do have?

I also know that the unexpected expense or catastrophe can come along at any time and wipe out savings. (Do I ever known that! Remind me to tell you about my catastrophes sometime!) But that only means it’s even more essential to develop a healthy attitude towards money that will carry you through the hard times as well as the high times!

Let’s face it. There’s been plenty of research that shows that while having a little more money may help you be happier if you have been struggling below the poverty level, if you’re already middle-class or higher, more money does not automatically result in more happiness.

How do you allow yourself to feel rich when your bank account says you’re not?
By relaxing and accepting your limitations with a certain Zen tolerance, and then letting yourself enjoy what you do have. Build in things that are fun. Don’t let your thoughts about money dominate you just because it’s scarce. If that seems too esoteric and mystical for you, try these tips:

1) Plan ahead and take stock of your assets. Many people find this the most difficult step. List all income, and don’t forget possible income and hidden assets, like things you can sell or services you can barter. Don’t be afraid to know where you stand financially. You might be better off than you think.

2) Set your priorities. Make note of all necessary outlays. And I do mean necessary! Check to see what’s really essential to your survival. Rent or mortgage may be fixed, but many other things are flexible. Look for creative ways to reduce expenses. There are many articles and websites that offer tips on how to cut food, utility, and other bills.

3) Keep a positive attitude. Make it a game to live well on less money, and be cheerful about it. This is a chance to show how much you can learn, and a chance to prove how adaptable you can really be. Make it a challenge to economize, not a choice. It’s really an adventure to see how much you can create from what you have already.

You may not have a choice about how much money you can make, but you do have a choice about the attitude you’re going to have towards money. Planning ahead, setting priorities, and keeping a positive attitude are things you can do. When it comes to money, a little Zen goes a long way. Don’t work so hard you forget to enjoy the adventure!


Sunday, March 4th, 2007

Driving down a country road the other day, I stopped behind a school bus and watched a young teenager get out. Even before the bus had pulled away, he had his thumb out in the universal sign for hitchhikers. With nationwide concern over the rising amount of crimes against children, this young man was literally risking his life.

When I talked with some 13 and 14 year olds that I know, I found that they had a distorted view of child abductors. They felt they were too smart to be lured by promises of candy and too big to be forcibly abducted. They became more thoughtful when I pointed out that grown men could be mugged, and that no one was immune to a gun or a surprise attack.

Rapists and child molesters do not necessarily look seedy or suspicious. They would rather offer a ride to a hitchhiking youngster than resort to a public show of force that might be witnessed. They might stop to ask directions, or for help with reading a map.

They aren’t relying solely on the physical weakness or inexperience of a child; they are relying as well upon the trust of children towards adults. This makes the crime even worse, and the need for educating children even more imperative.

Children should be taught to recognize a potentially dangerous situation, and what to do in such an event. No matter how pleasant a stranger seems, a child should never go over to their car, or even within touching distance.

Teenagers need to be reminded that it is not ‘cool’ to be macho in a case like this. However grown up they feel, they will be helpless against a well-planned or well-rehearsed attack. A real hero will run and get help, not try to fight alone.

Families can help by having a Secret Code Word that only the family knows. Teach them not to go off with anyone who claims to be sent by their parents unless they know the family Secret Code Word. This applies to people with official identification, since ID’s can be forged. (It’s harder to fake a uniform and patrol car, although not impossible.)

And with the growing number of sexual abuse cases within families, teach them that this Code Word is the only secret a family member should ask them to keep! If someone tries to touch them, they should never keep that a secret. All children should be aware that they have the right to say ‘no’ to an adult.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just strangers who may try to molest children and young people. Babysitters, relatives, or the friends of friends may be guilty as well. The most important thing to teach your children is that they should tell an adult they can trust about the assault. No one has the right to touch them in a way that feels bad. And they are not ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ because someone else assaulted them; they are not at fault! Let them know that they are not to blame, and that they will have your support and protection.

There is no simple way to be sure that your child understands these suggestions. You will need to sit and discuss these carefully to be sure your children understand them. Open the lines of communication with your children and keep it an open dialogue, and you can increase their safety without frightening them unnecessarily.

Weeding Out Guilt

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

In my otherwise bright day, there is one flaw. I look out my office window to a battlefield and the weeds are winning again! I got the garden ready for planting early enough. I just didn’t get around to putting the seeds in. One too many emergencies; one too many deadlines.

I’m trying to decide whether it’s something I should feel guilty about. Oh yes, being guilty is a choice we make. Deciding to make a judgment that we are wrong is a choice, and feeling rotten enough to punish ourselves takes energy. Before I start feeling like a failure, I think I’ll follow my own guidelines.

Am I angry or resentful? Who’s telling me I have to grow dinner’s vegetables anyway? Is anybody else pressuring me to take over this job, or insisting that it be done? No, I guess not. It’s me that telling myself I ’should’ have done it.

Can I develop a sense of perspective about it? Why do I think I should have done it? I’ve been working hard every week. It would take several hours to plant the garden, then several more to weed and tend it daily. Do I really have the time? Is it really worth it?

Why do I feel responsible?

I guess I’m feeling like I’m supposed to do everything. I remember when I was younger and that tape would play ‘A good wife never lets her family down.’ A real woman could work a 60 hour week, clean the house, pamper her husband, spend time with the kids, entertain her friends, milk the goats and still be able to tend the garden. Hey! Wait a minute! Nobody could do all that!

Let’s be reasonable. Even Superman takes a break just to read a book sometimes. I admit that these days, there’s a few less chores and less people to take care of. Still, I do hate admitting that I’m human. Maybe I’m really telling myself that somebody else could do all these things. But that’s just not being realistic.

What would happen if I didn’t feel guilty?

I don’t think my family or friends would stop loving me. After all, they’ve put up with me this long. Besides, they’re not perfect either. And I love them anyway. I wonder if anybody even notice. My friends will take fresh lettuce that’s store-bought, and nobody else likes weeding the garden either. I bet they’d rather I had the time to bake fresh bread and share that and my time with them instead of weeding the silly garden.

One more thing before I let myself feel bad about myself. I can count my good qualities! Let’s see. I do earn enough to buy fresh vegetables. I do enjoy most of the work I do, and I smile a lot. Maybe the garden isn’t neat, but the house is livable and we all had a great time camping last weekend. I guess I’m not such a bad person after all.

Hey! It works! I don’t have to choose to feel guilty at all! I think I’ll go take a break and bake some homemade bread. I can even read a book while it bakes!

[Addition by Webmaster, NOT Dr. Daniels]:

Here are some related articles:

Dr. Daniels’ Break The Procrastination Pattern

This one from Web Worker Daily discusses taking a break without feeling guilty about it: Be Productively Unproductive Online. Without Guilt.

This article from discusses the source of guilt in Is Guilt Innate?.

An article from (a site targeted to women, but with useful information for all) has Get Rid of the Guilt, which discusses steps to overcoming procrastination and guilt.