When I worked for a community foundation, my job entailed reviewing hundreds of grant applications each year. And while I had skills in writing and editing and was an avid reader, numbers were not my game. However, for the first time in my life, I was able to read the story of the numbers and I began to relish reviewing the financials. Sometimes they told a completely different tale than the narrative; sometimes they added detail and nuance that created opportunities for fresh conversations. It had never before occurred to me that numbers were just another alphabet, scaffolding whole structures of meaning.
Years later when I read Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez it brought all of this experience to life for me personally. Their book transformed my understanding of ‘abundance’ into appreciating the concept of ‘enough’, and it gave me the perspective of viewing my time as my life energy, which is the greatest gift I have to give. Life energy, the vital anime that wakes us up each morning, is our most valuable commodity. It provides us our time, purchases money and cultivates skills and networks. Our life energy is the original gold coin.
We all have a money story in our lives. It’s a story that society shapes for us, one that our parents and friends help nurture. It can be about anxiety as well as freedom, about joy as well as sorrow. The concept of money holds a lot of power, personally and politically; it is abused and misused in our society and economy, creating and filling voids that we never knew we had. It is a way to buy power and influence.
Yet it’s important to remember that money is a human creation; it doesn’t exist in nature. It’s something we imbue with whatever ideas we have about it. Money is a tool that creates a distinct transaction between what we have to give and our needs and wants. It is just one of the many conduits for human experience, representing a concrete manifestation of our life energy. And therefore, it’s important to your philanthropic journey to become clear about the role of money in your life.
Consider your ideas of money: What does money mean to you? What does money do for you? What would having more or less money look like in your life? Consider where your money comes from and where it goes. Then ask yourself, “what’s my money story?” The details will add greater appreciation, nuance and meaning to your narrative.
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