If you find yourself financially frustrated, it starts with the way you think.

I once read a book called Flow that provides people with a look into what makes them tick. Flow’s author argues happiness is connected to singular states of complete absorption in tasks, relationships or events. When “time flies,” or when you’re in “the zone,” author Mihaly Csikszentmihaly says, that’s Flow.

He stresses the need for control over our consciousness, linking the state of our inner being to the state of our outer lives and the way various circumstances affect us. To sum it up in a sound bite, the sense of peace and contentment we’re seeking requires control over what is conscious within us; control over our thoughts.

Here is how Flow and finances combine. The dollars and cents in our bank balances are a direct reflection of the Flow we create through our thoughts. It’s a simple chain reaction: Thoughts stir emotions; emotions influence desires; desires produce actions.

Thoughts are critical to the actions they’ll ultimately produce, and to the outcomes we’ll have to endure because of these decisions. The way we think about the money we spend determines the type of financial fantasy life or fiasco filled future we’ll come to experience.

Snowball spending, where tiny purchases combine to slowly steamroll our budgets is a result of a particular mindset toward money, while the ability to curb the splurge and use discretion in the daily grind comes from an investment in a different form of thought; an investment in Flow.

It’s hard for us to make this connection as we live Gen X or Gen Y from day to day. The hoops we’re required to jump to pursue the lives we’ve been sold on living require immediate action and determined daily maintenance. As we attempt to graduate, to find a job, to meet our mate, to pay the bills, to start a ministry, or begin a family, the action-item to-do lists stack before us a mile high. To tackle the stack we often let critical thought come second to action. We do what “feels” right or what “seems” best, letting the thoughts that should direct us toward sound and reasonable decisions play second fiddle to those sneaking suspicions that we “need” this or that to achieve our goals or make our lives complete. And so becomes our motto: action-items first, financial consequences second.

Here’s where we return to Flow and finance. When we toss aside our thoughts and run rampant through the to-dos of our dreams, we’ll want, we’ll seek, we’ll pine, and then …we’ll leap; we’ll sign on the line for the life we think we just can’t do without. Falsely resigned to the inevitable fact of debt in our lives, we shun the thoughts that should be considered critical in favor of the high we get from our feelings instead. After all, thinking is such a drag … all logic and outcomes and reality and consequences and debt and …. Feelings are much easier to reconcile. Imagine it, see it, want it, buy it, like it, and like magic, we like us.

As we’re well aware, feelings are fleeting, especially with regard to finances. The skate deck or dubs, the shoes or Silverado that sold us on the spot, can easily turn our stomachs south come the 15th. Bills to pay out; bank books to bleed dry. We might have the stuff, but we’re financially strapped and frustrated to boot. And if we’re ones to link our sense of self to these emotional highs and lows, our self-worth becomes cyclical, tied to the financial peaks and valleys of our lives.

Control over our consciousness, control over the way we think about the conditions around us and the way we’ll act in response, that’s the argument of Flow. If you’re still not buying it, try this on for size: Flow isn’t new, and it’s right in line with our Christian faith. Control over our thoughts as a way to create conscious action is as old as the apostles, and the focus of Romans 12. Such advice then, as now, is solid and satiating. Renewing our mind is the first step in the chain we discussed where thoughts stir emotion, emotion influences desire, and desire fuels action. When we choose to create Flow we can contribute to the top of this chain the renewal of our minds. This renewal will trickle down the chain creating renewed emotion, desire, and ultimately renewed actions that will create the outcomes we’ll have to endure with regard to our finances.

Finances are first about the way we think. Renew your mind; create financial Flow.

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MANAGING MONEY AND YOUR HONEY

IS CONSUMERISM CONSUMING US?

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