What is your #1 barrier to creating the change you really want?
People often place money at the top of that list. I’d agree that I believed it to be my biggest obstacle when I was stuck in dentistry. But I wonder… is that really what’s holding us back? While it seems obvious that money is a major reason that people stay stuck, I’m not so sure it is the money as much as it is the mindset around money.
Did you ever think it possible to be living in scarcity, even if you have a lot of something? It sounds weird, but it happens. We know that dentists generally make a nice living. Sure there are exceptions, but one of the main perks of being a dentist is the comfortable lifestyle that it affords. How we choose to live with or without our money is entirely up to us. That’s where our mindset comes in.
When I made the most money in my life, I felt the most trapped.
Four of my ten years practicing dentistry, I made what I considered to be a lot of money. I could afford to do pretty much whatever I wanted, but I didn’t appreciate that. I spent a lot of energy worrying about losing my money instead of enjoying what I had. Instead of focusing on the freedom my income afforded me, I always worried it would somehow go away. I allowed my job dissatisfaction to permeate into every part of my life; even with the things, like finances, that were going well. Because of that, I wasn’t living. Instead I needlessly worried all the time.
The good news is we all have the power to shift our perceptions.
Luckily, I was able to shift from scarcity into more abundance. How did I do it? Simply learning how I viewed my money was the first step. Worrying that we’ll lose something we already have is a form of living in scarcity. Another way we live in scarcity is wanting more, even after we’ve achieved what we previously thought was enough. This focuses on what we don’t have, instead of what we have. Becoming aware of what abundance and scarcity really looked like in my life is what ultimately allowed me to decide how I wanted to think. Then it took some practice.
Actually living with less income also helped change my perceptions. Just as I feared, some of my income did go away– while practicing dentistry! The work environment of my first practice was very stressful and contentious. I left that job in search of happiness, finally focusing on the idea that “you couldn’t pay me enough to be so unhappy.” My new practice seemed to fit some of my practice values better. However, the trade-off was earning 1/5 of my old income, something I never anticipated. I guess we should be careful what we wish for, right? Dealing with a much lower income was a huge struggle, but I learned that I could survive it.
Experiencing those tough financial times made me realize how much I could have enjoyed my money when I had it. I decided that never again would I waste my energy worrying about money that I actually had!
Eventually I cycled back and was able to increase my income again and found a better balance in dentistry. Through these cycles in my career, I came to see that after a certain level, having more didn’t increase my happiness; however, my career happiness stayed on a spectrum of dissatisfaction. I knew I had to, so I finally took the risk and switched careers. Taking this leap of faith ultimately tipped the happiness scales and allowed me to finally feel free. Now that feeling of joy and freedom permeates into the other areas of my life, including money.
Even though I make less money now, I feel wealthier than I ever did.
My life feels more abundant now. I make less money, and I don’t feel like I’m lacking for anything. I rarely buy the odd lottery ticket anymore because I don’t need to escape anything. When you make that shift in mindset, it’s amazing how much more you will actually have. Now it’s simply about practice– practice thinking there is enough to go around, practice letting go of the fear of losing it, and practice enjoying what we have. It works!
I know I’m not alone here. Some of you have cut down your hours, changed work environments, or completely changed careers; and although money was an obstacle for you at some point, you learned that you are perfectly happy with less money and more joy.
What worked for you?