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Building Wealth and Your Personal Values – How to Stop the Money Tug-of-War

Money is a singular thing.

It ranks with love as man’s greatest source of joy.

And with death as his greatest source of anxiety.

~John Kenneth Galbraith


When your self-concept is at odds with how you feel about wealth, it’s hard to imagine yourself building authentic wealth. It can feel like you can either be true to yourself or become wealthy. No matter what you choose, you lose.

Even when you know in your mind that a person is both able to live her personal values and be wealthy, you may still feel that you don’t or can’t experience wealth. All the affirmations in the world won’t change that.

What does work is to drop the rope.

Do you remember when you used to play tug-of-war? It didn’t take long to discover that dropping your end of the rope caused your opponent to lose footing. The same principle applies when you are stuck in an internal tug-of-war.


Dropping the rope is tricky when you are tugging on both ends. You can’t move toward authentic wealth if you keep holding onto both your current self-concept and your current beliefs about money. Something has to give, but what?

Since you are reading this, I feel pretty confident about your innate decency. I’m guessing that you care a good deal about living from your personal values and that part of what brings you pain around building wealth is that it seems you can’t be wealthy and honor your values.

Let’s assume that your personal values — the things you care about most and that you associate with being a decent human being — are authentic. Human beings are complex critters, capable of behaviors from stellar to, well, let’s just say less than admirable. Unless you consciously identify with your values, you can find yourself identifying with everything your inner and outer critics find wrong with you.

Authentic wealth begins with discriminating between competing self-concepts and choosing to identify with the one that is most life-affirming. Sure, you’ll still be subject to the indignities of human imperfection, but you will always have a home base to return to when you feel confused or at odds.

This is important because when you drop the rope I want you to be left standing. Right now you are caught between your idea of what it is to be happy and good and your beliefs about creating wealth. If you try to drop your beliefs about money by using affirmations and positive thinking or replacing your beliefs with someone else’s, your self-concept will absorb the recoil. Ouch!

And it doesn’t make any sense to just drop your self-concept, willy-nilly. As Byron Katie says, it just doesn’t work to try to live from someplace you’re not. As long as you need an identity, dropping it is a bad idea.

The solution? Drop both ends at once. When you shift your identity to your personal values, when you make a conscious decision to “come from” your best self, you can afford to question your beliefs about money and building wealth with an open mind and heart.

Opening your mind and heart allows you to drop your attachment to who you think you are around money. And questioning your beliefs from this place of openness allows the other end of the rope to drop at the same time.

You may be thinking that this is one to those solutions that is simple, but not easy. I disagree. The actions that result in letting go of both ends of the rope at once are available to you right where you are.

The key is to forget about the rope. Once you have decided to drop it, the rope is of no further use. Every time you look to see whether you are tugging on it or not, you’re picking it up again. For a method that works, read Keys to Dropping the Rope and Keeping It Dropped.


You need to drop the rope. You want to drop the rope. And then I tell you to forget about the rope. What’s up with that?

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Dropping the rope is as simple as making a decision. I strongly recommend that you work on your self-concept and personal values, aligning it with your best self, before you make that decision so that you’ll have a firm basis for moving forward. Besides, it’s almost impossible to question your beliefs about money and creating wealth with an open mind and heart if you are mired in self-criticism.

The first key, then, is self-acceptance. Participants in the Authentic Wealth program learn a variety of tools for developing deep self-acceptance. One of them is a simple mantra: “When I experience and express myself just the way I am, then I change.”

The second key is to replace the rope. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does your mind. If you want the rope to stay dropped, you’ll need to give your mind something else to do. Every module of the tele-retreat (see below) includes an extensive workbook plum full of new ideas, challenges, and exercises for your mind.

One of them is a daily practice I call Open, Accept, Wonder. Do it before you get out of bed in the morning.

Open. Start by bringing awareness to your body, just letting yourself be present to how it is right now. Open yourself to the intention with which you started this retreat.

Accept. Notice how it is with you and money right now, today. See if you can observe and accept your relationship exactly the way it is.

Wonder. Allow yourself to wonder in what ways this relationship will grow, deepen, or heal today.

This practice prepares your brain to notice and learn in ways that support a healthy relationship.

The third key is to shift focus. Before you dropped the rope, you were focused on the conflict between how you felt about yourself and how you felt about money and building wealth. When you drop the rope, shift your focus from conflict to relating.

Participants in the tele-retreat shift focus by keeping a diary of their relationship with wealth. This is not journaling! This is pouring your heart out on paper without reservation, as if you were a teenager in love. Give it a try and let me know what you experience.

The fourth key is repetition. You probably didn’t start tugging on the rope yesterday, and it’s going to take some time to get used to having dropped it. By repeating various exercises and practices and engaging in an ongoing conversation about the new relationship with money you are building, you move more and more firmly into the new way of being.

The fifth key is community. Most of us learned the money tug-of-war at an early age, absorbing it from our parents, friends, and the community. So much of the conflict is embedded in these relationships, that individual efforts to let go of the rope can be sabotaged. The support and feedback of others on the same path can make the difference between success and failure.

Prepare to be disoriented. If you’ve had an unhappy relationship with money, your beliefs about creating wealth are so familiar that it’s going to feel strange to drop them. When you feel shaky or confused, go to that place inside where you are whole, where you are nurtured by your deepest connections. Whether you find this place in nature, in spiritual practice, or some other way, going there is absolute best way to deal with disorientation.

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