Over and over, I see businesses that are doing great work in the world struggle to create an abundance of money. While some of the problems can certainly be traced back to business fundamentals, I often see ways that leaders’ perspectives and mindsets are actually blocking the flow of money to them and their businesses. As conscious capitalists, we can’t separate our personal “stuff” from our business; the business is a beautiful reflection of our beliefs and values, including our beliefs and values about money.
I define money as “energy that circulates through systems.” Just like electricity, every circuit that works carries a current of energy running through it. This current of energy can be turned on or off, and it can be redirected to where it’s needed most at any given time. This energy — be it electrons or dollars — is a neutral force, neither good nor evil, until it’s placed within a certain schema.
As conscious businesspeople, we use money to make the world a better place. Within our schemas, money is — or at least can be — a force for good. It’s the current of energy that allows the virtuous cycle of giving and receiving to play out on a global scale in a multifaceted system involving billions of people all over the world.
But there is a glitch in some of these systems. I see three common dynamics block the flow of money through virtuous systems:
1 // Blocking the full cycle of the circuit
A healthy circuit involves a two-way flow of energy: giving and receiving. Many mission-driven businesspeople I know are really good at the giving part of the cycle, but horrible at the receiving. This used to be true for me as well, until I hired a coach many years ago. She helped me shift my relationship to money so powerfully that I was inspired to become a coach myself in 2003. It was the first iteration of my life as a conscious entrepreneur.
I was a financial planner at the time, and it had recently dawned on me that a big part of the job was client attraction (aka sales). I was out there hustling, but wasn’t seeing the results I wanted. One day my coach noticed that I’d deflected a compliment she’d given me. She told me that for one week my job was to really, fully receive compliments. I could only say one of two things in response: “Thank you,” or “Thank you, I know.” I enlisted the help of my husband, who enthusiastically bombarded me with compliments every day.
It was torture. The first day, I gulped out a squeaky “Thanks” as my face flamed with embarrassment. It slowly got easier, to the point where I could say thank you and actually mean it. One day at the end of the week, my husband came around the corner and surprised me with a compliment. I stopped dead in my tracks and really received his compliment for the first time in my life. I could feel it entering my system, filling me with love. I responded, “Thank you, I know.” Within a week of that experience, I landed nearly $3 million in new business. Coincidence? No way.
Because money is energy, when you block the flow of either giving or receiving, you mess up the whole circuit. In the context of your business, your clients or customers get joy from giving their money in exchange for your products or services. They freely choose to buy from you, in no small part because of how you conduct yourself and your business. You don’t want to deny them that joy, do you?
2 // Outdated personal beliefs about money
The three most common limiting beliefs I hear from clients are:
• “Money is the root of all evil.”
• “You have to work really hard to get by (not even to thrive, but to simply stay afloat).”
• “If you’re doing work that benefits humanity, you shouldn’t sully it with money.”
These beliefs are usually inherited, either from primary caregivers who saw the world that way, or through our DNA via epigenetics. Scientists have proven that we inherit beliefs and behaviors from our ancestors; in one study, they trained a generation of mice to fear the smell of cherry blossoms. Three generations later, their offspring feared the smell without having a reason evident in their own lives. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have to look very far up the family tree to find ancestors who needed to work really hard to survive.
The good news is that you can change your beliefs once you’re aware of them. I know it’s possible because I’ve helped thousands of people shift their beliefs about money for the better. One of my favorite plans for shifting beliefs follows.
1. Make a list of all the things you believe are true about money and wealth. Write quickly, without editing: set a timer for two minutes and go. Some of the things you write may contradict each other; that’s fine.
2. Notice which of the things you listed are unlike you. An example from the first time I did this: “Rich people are old white guys.” Since I was neither old, nor a guy, that was a problem. If my subconscious mind believed that, then it would have a really hard time believing that I could be rich.
3. Taking a page from Byron Katie’s “The Work,” ask yourself these questions for each belief: Is it true? Can I be absolutely certain it’s always true? And if I can’t be certain it’s not true, what else might be possible? Make a list of other possibilities; be sure to include possibilities that would allow you to see yourself as rich.
I strongly recommend that you do this for your business in addition to for yourself personally. You’ll be able to uncover any ways that you’re blocking the flow of money in your business and shift those beliefs. The hardest part about changing beliefs is becoming aware of those beliefs in the first place.
3 // Ignoring money
“I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it to make a difference in the world.” This may be true, but you can’t make a significant difference in the world if you can’t pay your bills. If you ignore money by saying or acting like it’s not important, it will ignore you right back. Imagine money is a loved one. Give it a persona. How do you want to treat it? How do you want to be treated by it? I get that money is not the primary motivator for most mission-driven business leaders (it’s definitely not for me), but are you willing to allow money to support you in achieving the thing that does motivate you?
I’ve talked personally with and read about several conscious business owners who were swindled out of fortunes; because they believed they weren’t “good with money,” they abdicated responsibility of caring for their finances to someone who was unscrupulous. They ignored their money, so it went (with a little help, of course) to someone who wanted it more. I always tell my clients that when it comes to money, they have to be financially literate themselves before they can give what is essentially the lifeblood of their business over to someone else to manage. To show your money that you care about it, be sure to review your profit and loss statements with your CFO or accountant on a monthly basis. When you pay bills or sign checks for the person who pays bills for you, be grateful that there’s enough money flowing through the circuit for you to pay them.
I encourage you to check in with your own beliefs about money, and then choose whether they serve you. Practice the art of receiving, whether it’s a compliment, a new client, or an investor. And for the love of all things good, holy, and beautiful, please don’t ignore your money. It’s here to serve you, to help you make this world a better place.
Johanna Lyman is the founder and CEO of NextGen Orgs, helping companies unlock the hidden potential of their teams in ways that improve profitability, sustainability, and culture. Her “impossible mission” is to see world peace before she dies. In order to have peace in the world, we must first have peace in our hearts. And she knows from firsthand experience that we can’t have peace in our hearts if we’re miserable at work. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.