Finance and money can cause stress and conflict for individuals and society. Mindfulness is an antidote to these challenges, and a path to meaning and fulfillment through finance.
Change is Coming
A wave of societal change is building, arising from people’s desire to integrate their values into all aspects of their life. Part of this wave is a change in the expectations we, as individuals and as a society, have of money and finance. The view that accumulating vast amounts of money is a legitimate goal, in and of itself, is waning. Instead, the growing sentiment is that wealth creation and management should serve a purpose greater than just the facilitation of further accumulation.
Finance is Not Fulfilling its Potential
Currently, the finance industry does not enjoy a favorable or revered place in society. The industry is not viewed as fulfilling a higher purpose for the greater good. Quite the opposite, many people lay the ills of society at the feet of the finance industry. There is a widespread perception that greed and a “profit at any cost” attitude still hold sway in the world of finance. This reflects a disconnection between what is wanted from the finance industry and what it is currently providing.
Similarly, at the level of the individual, people feel disconnected or conflicted in relation to their personal finances and the financial systems in which they participate. Personal finances, and dealing with the “realities” of money, are often viewed as a necessary evil. It is hard to feel confidence and goodness in the path of managing one’s personal finances. People would like to achieve more authority and intentionality in their financial lives.
These disconnections, between where things are and what is desired, cause stresses and conflicts, and bring up questions that are difficult to answer. The benefits that can be gained through mindfulness practices make mindfulness a compelling way to meet these challenges.
Humans have been engaging in mindfulness practices, meditation in particular, for 1000’s of years. Mindfulness is the act of focusing one’s attention on the present moment. Observing thoughts and feelings objectively — without judgement — which helps awaken a full experience of living one’s life, here and now. Mindfulness is connected to the innate human ability to work with the challenging aspects of life in a creative and productive manner.
The reason people have been engaging in this kind of activity for so long is that it has benefits. Science is now corroborating the benefits that these practices are able to deliver. Benefits of meditation are far ranging, and can include: lowered stress and anxiety; improved memory, clarity, concentration, creativity, and job performance; greater size and resiliency of parts of the brain; and others. Additional research is consistently being published which reinforces these findings, and introduces other psychological and physical benefits of mindfulness.
In 2012 we started using the term Mindful Finance to describe our practice as financial advisors at Highlander. Usually the first thing someone asks upon hearing this term is the very logical question: what is Mindful Finance? Initially, this question was a challenge for us. We knew we had been engaging aspects of it for our entire careers, but we had just gotten the term named, and didn’t have a concise set of words to elucidate the subject.
Moving forward a few years, we have enjoyed some time to contemplate and converse with people on the subject of Mindful Finance. These experiences have made it clear that, in essence, the term Mindful Finance relates to the view that finance can support personal empowerment and societal transformation. The main message of Mindful Finance is that paying attention to our very human experiences, as they occur while we are relating to money, is valuable.
The mental space offered by mindfulness is the perfect vessel for the rigor and clarity which benefit financial decision making. All too often there is a storyline that feeling conflicted, confused, or disempowered in our relations with finance is problematic. Mindful Finance rejects that storyline. Mindful Finance shows us that by examining our emotions and their causes in a non-judgmental way, we become engaged and regain agency in the actions we take. Suddenly, we have a lot of information with which to make decisions. This turns emotions into learning experiences, which provide important information for making meaningful and fulfilling financial choices. In this way obstacles become more workable, and Mindful Finance is an antidote to financial disempowerment and ethical transgression.
Defining Mindful Finance
As part of our aspiration to see all levels of finance infused with mindfulness, we are pleased to present a working definition for the term Mindful Finance. To form this definition, we were guided by the definition of mindfulness from Jon Kabat-Zinn: Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. As well as this definition of finance: Finance is the management, creation and study of money, banking, credit, investments, assets and liabilities.
Holding these definitions in mind, we offer this working definition of Mindful Finance:
Mindful Finance is the joining of non-judgmental awareness of personal experience, with matters relating to money, in the present moment.
This direct and practical technique of joining money matters with the human mind and heart is a simple idea which has the potential to be transformative for individuals and the finance industry. We envision a society that is aware of the pitfalls money can provoke, and relates to these challenges with compassion and creativity. With this approach, finance can be a strong, positive influence in people’s lives and in the world as a whole.
We are always excited to hear your thoughts on the subject matter we work with. Please feel free to reach out to us and share.
- Schulte, Brigid (May 26, 2015). Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/05/26/harvard-neuroscientist-meditation-not-only-reduces-stress-it-literally-changes-your-brain/
- Beard, Alison (March, 2014). Mindfulness in the Age of Complexity. Harvard Business Review.
- Ireland, Tom (2014) What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain. Scientific American
- Taren, A.A., Creswell, J.D., & Gianaros, P.J. (2013). Dispositional mindfulness co-varies with smaller amygdala and caudate volumes in community adults. PLoS One, 8, e64574.
- Walton, Alice G. (February, 2015). 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/
Sol is president of Highlander Financial. He has over 20 years of experience in financial markets and managing businesses.