Posted: March 11, 2009
Money, mind-set and the mess we’re in
How the principles of sufficiency can improve your businessStephen Koenigsberg
As we’ve seen repeatedly in recent years, businesses based on “not enough to go around" and "got to get mine” motives – from Enron to WorldCom to Bernie Madoff – often achieve huge profits in the short-term, but eventually prove unsustainable and financially disastrous.
But it's my belief that businesses - and the people behind them - grounded in the principles of sufficiency are led to success and sustainable growth.
Many of us are suffering financially in unprecedented ways – the latest figures show 16,200 jobs lost in Colorado in 2008, a 7.6 percent (and rising) national unemployment rate and the Dow down 50 percent since its October 2007 high. Could there be a more ideal time to take a look at our attitudes about money, how we earn it, spend it and the power it has in our lives?
None of this is to say that money isn’t important. We must continue to earn and grow savings, and provide for ourselves and our families. But why not reframe our relationship with money? Even in the presence of the huge loss of external resources we are experiencing now, we have enough inner resources to meet the challenges we face. We can discover that our inner resources are deeper than we knew or imagined.
In her insightful book “The Soul of Money,” veteran global activist and fundraiser Lynne Twist speaks about the scarcity mindset, the myth of “there’s not enough,” the chase of “more is better,” and the surprising truth of sufficiency. I borrow liberally here from her compelling exploration of American attitudes toward money.
Twist observes that in America, conversation is often dominated by what we don’t have and what we want to get. For instance, you wake up and say, “I didn’t get enough sleep.” As you rush to complete the items on the day’s checklist, you think, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” Other familiar refrains include "you can never have enough business,” "I don't get enough exercise,” “I’m not thin enough,” and of course, "I don't ever have enough money."
This drives Americans to the chase for more, and we may even believe that money can buy happiness as we begin to focus more on being fulfilled externally. Scarcity becomes an underlying assumption, programmed into us, an unquestioned defining condition of life. Trouble is, it’s a lie. And we have a choice about whether to buy into it or not.
Businesses that make sufficiency a guiding beacon use collaboration and partnerships to make efficient use of resources, combining social responsibility with a dedication to service and quality. Socially responsible businesses are everywhere now: companies that earn money honestly and don’t exhaust the planet’s bounty irreversibly. In Denver, there should be plenty of them attending CORE Colorado’s Sustainable Opportunities Summit next week, Tuesday through Thursday, from all over the globe. All are interested in learning about enhancing sustainability and creating a more responsible economy.
Rather than seeing the recession as merely a time to get through, I propose using 2009 as a time to grow in new ways. Instead of saying “what if” followed by something negative - i.e. “What if I lose my job?” or “What if I can't retire?” - take New York-based business and career coach Siobhan Murphy’s suggestion and reframe the question like this:
- The changes to our economy make me a more thoughtful purchaser of goods and services?
- This environment makes me more innovative in my business? A better negotiator? A stronger salesperson?
- I bring my spending in line with my most important values?
- I take time to enjoy the parts of life that don't cost anything?
- This "correction" allows me to make better choices for myself?
- These changing times bring me to a simpler existence that gives me more space and less stuff?
This year, we can reassess our beliefs about prosperity. True wealth is not to be found on a balance sheet, no matter how large the numbers. It’s about using our resources to nourish what we believe in and care about. It’s about the intention we give to money and the integrity with which we send it out into the world, no matter what the amount.
Who knows what could happen if enough of us, corporations and individuals alike, reframed our thinking about money and abundance? It makes me smile just to think about it.
Steve Koenigsberg is a senior public relations consultant and media relations strategist, and President of Denver-based Stephen Koenigsberg Public Relations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.