‘I have everything I need.’
That’s quite a statement. Could you say the same? When a friend told me that some years ago, I was somewhat taken aback – how could he say that? (I obviously didn’t feel the same way at the time.) He was in a pretty thankful place.
Now a new study shows that if we get into an attitude of thankfulness, it could make a big difference in the way we manage our money. A bit of gratitude, apparently, may go a long way in helping us avoid impatient financial decisions, impulse buys or borrowing in a crisis.
It sort of makes sense. By being grateful for what we have now and giving thanks for all that there is, we focus less on what’s lacking and more on what we actually have. And we’re less prone to hit the ‘Buy now’ button if we don’t need to.
Since so much about the way we handle money is about our emotions and not just figures and percentages, the way we think and relate to money really matters.
But usually we think that we need to play down our emotions to avoid making money mistakes. For example, we feel a bit low so we go in for some retail therapy and pay too much or splurge on things we later regret. In the past the solution has been to try to ignore our underlying feelings – keep it all under control with a bit of willpower.
This time it’s different: researchers have identified an emotion that actually helps and should instead be played up. No need to keep a lid on it. The more we reflect and appreciate things, the more patient we become and the better choices we make.
Yet we’re an impatient lot. People tend to value smaller instant rewards and discount those larger ones that are far off in the future – and we all make costly, short-sighted mistakes because of it.
But putting off a purchase or putting money aside for the future is too much like giving money away, right? The problem is, giving it to a future version of yourself seems too much like you’re giving it away to someone you don’t know. Why would you?
Yet if we can delay our need for instant gratification, and increase our patience, we can make better decisions and get better results. (No wonder patience has been called a virtue for centuries.)
So apparently, even when real money’s at stake, gratitude reduces excessive impatience and helps avoid costly mistakes. Not just general happiness, but gratitude in particular.
So what do you feel gratitude about – right now?
An attitude of appreciation is what’s called for. Someone I’ve found inspiring in this regard was the exceptional Chiara Lubich, who said that she hoped to reach the end of her life being all gratitude – ‘for everything, and for always’.
Not sure that I’ll get that far, but hey, I’m just grateful for the chance.