Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My Relationship with Money and the Three Laws of Performance

I don’t find it surprising that I have not written a single blog entry discussing my finances or issues relating to my income until now. What follows now is not a philosophy or s theory of people’s relationship with money or not even my personal philosophy of money. Here I am sharing my own relationship with money, the contexts through which I looked at money and how I transformed these contexts to generate new possibilities in the area of money using Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan’s Three Laws of Performance. Read my review of the book by clicking here.

No, I did not have any severe ‘problems’ regarding my income. As a university teacher working on a granted post, I have probably one of the most secure and one of the highest paying jobs in the country.  However, I still put off buying that new PC or more expensive model of the car or buying a bigger house. At the end of the month, I still have a feeling that I could have saved more than I have and invested this saving. Very often, I do not save at all, apart from what the deduction of General Provident Fund from my salary. I am also worried about my future. What if the Government decides to discontinue paying what it is paying now in future if it goes broke?  I am also worried about my habits of spending fearing what if my family and I have these habits but I won’t be earning as much as I do? What if something happens to me? Whatever little I have invested, I have invested- not surprisingly- in insurance. Besides, financial transactions occur to me as very boring and mundane. Therefore, I keep procrastinating going to banks or paying my insurance premiums.  I try to take interest in stock markets, buy books, but later abandon my interest in these things. I still leave bigger financial transactions like buying and selling house to my dad. I also feel a bit guilty about my lack of interest in these things and my ignorance regarding these things. What was my ‘Default Future’? In The Three Laws of Performance, the default future is the future, which was not inevitable, but that which is probable and almost certain to happen unless something dramatic and unexpected came along.  I would continue doing and being the same thing for long time to come in the future- I would be remaining worried, trying to adjust my needs according to my salary, struggling to save, remain fearful about being at the ‘mercy’ of the state and so on. 

Zaffron and Logan’s Three Laws of Performance provide a powerful technology for transforming the area where we feel challenged. It does not offer ‘strategies’ or ‘tips’ or even theories for boosting performance. It lays down laws, which govern our performance, and getting these laws provides an access for transforming our performance. The first law of performance is “People’s actions are correlated to how situations occur to them.” Our actions are correlated, not to the facts and reality of the situation, but to how this reality and facts occurs to us. The perception that everyone is relating to the same set of facts of the situation is what the authors of the book call ‘reality illusion’. 

So my fixed ways of beings (being detached, being scared, being bored and irritated, being weak and small, being irresponsible, being casual etc) and my ineffective actions (putting off buying things that I want, procrastinating financial transactions, struggling to save, not taking authentic interest in financial matters, inconsistent interest in the stock-market, etc.) are perfectly matched, in Zaffron and Logan’s words “in dance with” how the situation occurs to me. 

So how does the situation occur to me? Well, financial matters occur as ‘peripheral’ to my life, the inflow and the outflow of money in my life occurs as if it “happening on its own”. I am “forcing myself to take interest in the matters which occur as “mundane and tedious”, because I “have to”. I am struggling to ‘save’ money because I ‘have to’ in case the state discontinues paying what it is paying now or something happens to me. The situation occurs to me as ‘insecure’. I occur to myself as being at ‘mercy’ of the government and university authorities. 

The second law of performance says, “How situation occur to people arises in language”. How situation occurs to us arises in our conversations and verbalizing about the situation. These conversations usually comprise of the use of ‘descriptive use of language’. They are mostly made up of our ‘interpretations and stories of what happened in the past’, decisions about future, which we took in the past, our ‘already always’ internal dialogue consisting mainly of our opinions, evaluations and judgments,  and our persistent complaints. We do not ‘have’ these conversations, we ARE these conversations. They form the colored spectacles through which our perception of reality and facts is filtered. We cannot see these conversations, we can only see through them. These conversations are most of the time “‘unsaid and communicated without awareness”. These past-based conversations are the hidden and default contexts –our blind spots- in which situations occur to us. 

So what were my past-based hidden and default contexts in which my relationship with money showed up? “Thinking all the time about money and running after money is bad” ( I am making those who are financially better wrong),  “One should always be content with what one gets ( one is content usually during the first fortnight after the salary day ;) ) ”, “ Financial matters are ‘none of my business’?”, “ I am at the mercy of the government and authorities”, the transactions are ‘mundane and tedious” , “ I am dumb and not capable of minding my own finances”, “I am small and don’t deserve what I am getting ( earning around a lakh rupees a month for teaching Keats and Derrida? What are my students going to do with that?) , “I am a steno-typist’s son and I haven’t done all that badly (I making my dad small! I shared all this with him; by the way)”, “Business is not in our blood (as a Maharashtrian Brahmin blah blah blah) and so on were my conversational contexts. I was a “clearing” a space for scarcity and insecurity. My life was the life of adjustment and compromise. The default context on my financial life was the context of ‘surviving and fixing/changing”. Not that it was ‘wrong or bad’, but it was definitely disempowering very often. There was hardly sense of power, freedom, self-expression and peace of mind inside this context. 

After I uncovered all these interpretations, stories, complaints and opinions and distinguished them from facts and reality, extraordinary things started opening up. The third law of performance says, “Future-based language transforms the way a situation occurs to people”. The future-based language is the language of creating a future rather than living into the ‘already written/default future”. It is the language of declaration, promises and commitments. 

Earlier, I was not taking responsibility for the inflow and the outflow of money, I was not seeing myself as causing it, but after I put these conversations aside, I invented a possibility of being at the source, and being the cause in the matter of my financial life and not at its effect.  In fact, I could see that whatever financial life I was living was because of conversational contexts, which I had created.

Money is MY business now. I have invented the possibility of being confident and courageous. I can relate to my expenses as not something “wrong” to be reduced or to be fixed but as what they are as expenses. Instead of relating to the people who are wealthier than me as being basically’ corrupt and dishonest and hence to be kept a safe distance from’, I can relate to them as who they are – as possibilities. Instead of seeing money as ‘given and fixed number’, an inflexible box inside which I have to accommodate my needs, I see flow of money as something to be caused and created. I have also invented the possibility of being enthusiastic and interested in finance.  Hence, I am looking for various ways in which I can now cause and create money. Landmark Education Advanced Course says you win whatever game you play. I was playing the game of survival, fixing and changing and winning at it, now I am playing the game of creation and possibility. The games begin with a declaration ‘X is more important than Y’ (scoring more runs or goals is important than scoring less runs or goals). So the declaration I am making in the matters of finance is “the game of creation and possibility” is far more thrilling and enjoyable than the game of survival and fixing.  Zaffron and Logan talk about our lives as three act plays, where the first act is our past, the second act is our present and the third act is our future. However, they point out our first act has already written and shaped our third act, as we have put decisions and interpretations made in the past not into our past but into our future we are living into. Using Three Laws of Performance I am rewriting my third act.