So, here we are in September, reaching the end of summer and the turn into autumn and that time of mist and mellow fruitfulness. The grain and fruit is nearly all safely gathered in. You might be back from holiday and getting ready to return to school and work. Or waiting for everyone to go back to school and work before setting of on your travels yourself.
It is one of my favourite times of the year. It is also one of the turning points of the year, a good time to carry out a reassessment of your life and resources.
And it is important to carry out a full review at least once a year. During the preceding twelve months things will have probably drifted of course a little (or a lot) and it feels good to get back on track, be fully up to speed on where things stand and make any changes necessary.
So what is the purpose of this reassessment? Well, it may mean a complete change of direction. It is more likely, though, to mean a tweaking of your resources to ensure they are appropriate and well positioned for what you want to achieve in the next twelve months.
A review means measuring something against a standard and adjusting it if it is not right; the standard here is your values, your aspirations, the meaning in your life. We underutilise some resources, others we drive into the ground. Some resources need maintaining, others are simply a gift for us to use any time.
Whatever, they all need to be reviewed and assessed regularly to ensure we are using them to help us achieve our deepest and profound goals.
Reviewing your resources is a form of ‘CONSCIOUS APPRECIATION, an intention to develop mastery over your assets, transform your relationships, especially those around money, into space for growth and freedom’ in the words of Lynn Twist.
So your review of your resources is less about how much or how little you have, or how to get more. It is really about recognising and appreciating what you do have and using what you have to make a difference to your life and the lives of others.
So don’t use your review to focus on what you LACK OR DESIRE. That is the route to an inward looking, anxious, fearful and constrained life, the life of a victim in which you are unable to fully utilise the resources you do have.
Instead, use your review to focus on WHAT YOU DO HAVE, to give thanks for what you have and to appreciate its ability to help you be creative, appreciative, outward-looking and growing. Powerful, vulnerable and responsible.
AS THE SAYING goes, what you appreciate grows; what you desire turns to dust.
So how do we ‘appreciate’ what we have.
One way comes through the practice of ‘appreciative inquiry’, a tool for building organisational success and a model for change first promulgated by David Cooperrider in 1987. Appreciative Inquiry (or AI) aims to help individuals and teams discover what is really good, and to build on that good stuff.
It is a model for sufficiency rather than the earlier ‘deficiency’ models which focused on problems, identified what was wrong and what needs to be fixed.
Instead, AI seeks to build organisations – which could include families and small businesses – around what does work, rather than trying to fix what doesn’t. It is based on five principles:
1 RELATIONSHIPS determine thought and actions, so the language used in relationships constructs the organisation they inhabit. What you believe is true determines what you do.
2 QUESTIONS are powerful, never neutral. When you ask a question you change the system
3 THE LIFE OF an organisation is expressed in the stories its members tell, and the choice of topics and the words used have an impact far beyond the words themselves
4 WHAT YOU DO TODAY is guided by your anticipation and view of your future, so defining a vision brings the future into the present and determines how you act today
5 MOMENTUM AND sustainable change requires a positive environment and social cohesion around a vision. In turn, social cohesion requires a degree of VULNERABILITY which in turn promotes understanding, creativity, innovation and change
I was privileged to have been coached a few years ago by Dr Ed Jacobson, who worked on applying the principles of Appreciative Inquiry to financial life planning and I started to use the technique in my practice with dramatic results. I remember one couple who always tended to see their glass as half empty rather than half full.
Before I met Ed I would ask them general questions about their lives, which usually resulted in a slightly depressing and downbeat tirade about their woes and the whole planning process became difficult and an exercise in walking through mud.
After learning about Appreciative Inquiry I changed tack. As soon as they came in for a meeting I would ask them to list three good things that had happened since we last met, or to describe something that had gone really well in the implementation of their plan, or to describe a recent good financial decision they had made.
The impact was powerful. Meetings became energetic, fun, creative and dynamic. More importantly, things started to change for the better for the clients.
So, as you carry out your own personal review remember that questions are powerful mechanisms for change and growth, and as you ask yourself questions about your circumstances remember to ask them appreciatively.
REVIEW YOUR VISION, your resources and your life
Your vision, your resources and your life are all interconnected, each dependent on the other, and each should be reviewed separately and together.
I have developed my own process for this, which amalgamates concepts from life coaching, financial planning, appreciative enquiry and the role of money in our lives. Its a six step process that goes like this:
1.FOUNDATION. Explore, quantify and qualify your strengths, values, successes, skills, assets in all areas of your life (family, work, community, health, finances, spirituality, environment etc). Build a picture of where you stand in the world today. In particular, work on your own self-awareness to give you more personal power to bring about beneficial change in your life and the lives of others
2.UTOPIA. Discover. Dream. Develop a meaningful, inspiring, vision for a fulfilled life. Review and re-affirm the values you hold most dear, and in particular your most important, key guiding star value. Update your manifesto or personal mission statement. If your life has been unfulfilled until now, change the dream.
3.TRANSFORMATION. Plan and build on assets, connections, processes that you have identified as working well. At the same time, address obstacles with an AI approach. The process of dealing with obstacles leads to transformation and personal growth in its own right, as well as the solution to whats holding you up. Key here is transforming your relationship with money so that its financial power is diminished, its humanitarian power expanded and conflicts with your values, commitments and ideals (your spirituality) are resolved.
4.UTILISE your resources. Not just money, but your skills, energy, non-financial assets, connections, beliefs etc. In particular, develop your relationship with money so that it clearly and consistently serves you in the achievement of your highest purpose. Work out how to use your money for your own personal growth and transformation in a way that gives money its true spirit
5.ROADMAP. Write it all down. Use words and figures pictures and graphs, your voice, music. Create something that you are proud of and can share
6.ENGAGEMENT. Implement your plan and be appreciative when you meet problems.
This time of year is a time of transformation and abundance. Farmers and growers are working hard to harvest their crops of grain, fruit, vegetables. The barns and storage bins are filling up and the hard work of the year is coming to fruition.
Shortly, these people will take stock of what they have achieved over the year, consider where they stand now and how they are going to move forward in the next year.
You may not be a farmer or grower. However, there is no reason not to take stock of what you have now, and to seek out the abundance in your life too. In particular you can work on that all important relationship with your money. The steps I have just described will transform your money from a tool with power to drive you in the unfulfilling chase for more, to break your integrity, to trap you in the grinding cycle of eat, work, sleep, spend, repeat.
Instead, it will help you look at your money and your life through the lens of abundance, not scarcity. Scarcity is a lie. `In the mindset of scarcity, even too much is not enough’. Your drive to enlarge your net worth prevents you from discovering and growing you self-worth. Conversely, a mindset of abundance gives you the incentive to treasure and steward what you already have. When this happens your assets flourish and grow and become more useful.
In this mindset, money becomes a tool to express value rather than determine value. Having sufficient isn’t a figure, like Lee Eisenberg’s ‘The Number’ – a measure of how much you need in the bank in order to retire.
Sufficiency is a state of mind of knowing that you are enough and you have enough.
Thats it for this month. As usual, there are additional resources for you on this month’s members page.