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Whether you're sitting down and looking closely at your financial records for the year, or simply wondering if 2021 will bring the chance for a raise — money is probably on your mind as December comes to a close.
According to wellness expert and bestselling author Deepak Chopra, that could be the case whether you have millions in the bank or just enough to make ends meet.
"The amount of money that you have has actually very little to do with whether you are financially secure or not financially secure," Chopra tells CNBC Select. True financial security, he argues, comes when a person doesn't worry about money or feel scared that they could run out.
At a time when millions of Americans are stressed out and struggling to cover rent, food and other essential expenses, Chopra acknowledges that attaining this level of wellbeing is impossible until those basic needs are met. However, he argues the fixation we have with money doesn't necessarily stop when we can finally cover rent.
"I find two categories of people who worry about money a lot," explains Chopra. "The extremely poor because they have to survive. And the extremely rich because money becomes their identity. Look at all the billionaires and try to find out which one is the happiest. You will be challenged."
In other words, you can solve your money stress by earning more money — as millions of unemployed Americans awaiting the second stimulus check know firsthand — but only to a certain extent.
That's where knowing yourself comes in. Before Chopra sits down to map out money goals, he asks himself a few simple questions to make sure he's in tune with what makes him happy. This keeps him honest and helps him choose how to use his discretionary resources (time and money) for things that fulfill him on a deeper level.
"From a spiritual point of view, financial security is important," says Chopra, who was a former physician before becoming a leading voice in the New Age alternative medicine movement.
People with financial security use money in ways that are constructive, intentional and aligned with their sense of purpose. They tend to feel better after spending or utilizing money, not worse.
That's very different than living in financial insecurity, in which no amount of money ever feels like enough, and you're constantly spending it on quick fixes here and there to either survive or just to escape uncomfortable emotions.
We're all human, and money can certainly be a comfort during times of stress. Before setting any money goals, you should get clear on what's behind your money behavior by setting some personal intentions.
Chopra suggests starting every day with these four intentions:
- Have a joyful, energetic body.
- Maintain a loving, compassionate heart.
- Develop a clear, reflective mind
- Feel lightness of being.
"These are the only goals I set every day," says Chopra. "Everything else happens by itself."
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While Chopra's approach might seem a little abstract, these four qualities (joyful body, loving heart, clear mind, lightness of being) are effective tools to gauge whether your money choices are healthy for you or not.
This will look different for everyone, but the concept is simple.
The next time you're about to make a really simple money decision, whether in line at the grocery store, shopping at the mall or while browsing online stores from your couch, check in with the above four intentions and notice if any of them feel off.
Then, notice your actions. Do you: a) plow ahead with the decision no matter what, ignoring your body's response; b) listen to your body's response and decide accordingly; or c) feel too uncertain to know one way or the other?
You can apply this four-step check list in any financial scenario, big or small. Use it when shopping, when making plans for your 2021 budget, applying for a new credit card or taking another financial step, such as opening a new savings or checking account.
Once you've observed how you felt before you made the decision and during the decision, pause and notice how you feel afterward.
If you feel better, notice for how long. Sometimes an impulse purchase gives us a quick hit of satisfaction, but the feeling goes away after a while. However, the right financial decision has the ability to result in long-lasting comfort and satisfaction.