Excerpt: 'Lighten Up' By Peter Walsh

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I don't need to remind you what's been going on in America since I last wrote a book. Treading water has become second nature as we attempt to recover from the worse financial fallout since the Great Depression. Technically, the most recent recession may have been declared over already, but that doesn't negate the fact so many of us are still stuck in its debris. Millions of people remain lost, disheartened, uninspired, debt-ridden, and frustrated by having to live on less. Some of us are paying the price of living deep in an orgy of consumption for the past decade—surviving giddily off of borrowed money and a kind of pay-as-you-go happiness. But others of us have just been bystander victims of the financial tsunami that has swept through the country. The combination of an unexpected job loss, medical crisis, and tumbling net worth due to the real estate decline, for example, can be enough to devastate even the strongest and savviest of financial planners. And this kind of financial change can steal not only your happiness, but also your sense of self.

Regardless of your unique story and experience these past couple of years, what's obvious, now, is that the time of personal reckoning has come: we need to change the way we think about our finances, our lives, and what brings us happiness and fulfillment. It's time to seriously clear out the psychological clutter tied to money and finances and the hurdles to happier lives that are running, railroading, or ruining our lives.

You can either continue living in denial or (and my guess is you're considering alternatives because you're reading this book) you can learn how to navigate this current tsunami that has affected all our lives and create a new path of hope, happiness, and well-being for you and your family. The old adage rings true and begs to be repeated: With crisis comes great opportunity. I honestly believe this and think that if we wallow in our collective problems and fail to see the chance for something great here, then we're seriously missing the point! That said, you must be brave enough to seize the opportunity. If you'll come along, together we can use that to our advantage.

Glance again at that lady standing nearby and now pretend that she turns to you and wonders what it's like to live your life. Your story might not be so extreme, but how much of what she sees on the outside contradicts what's hammering you on the inside? Do you look

strong but confront an inner turmoil daily about how to rebalance your life now that things aren't what they used to be? Do fears about the future and of "not having enough" keep you up at night? Are you physically tough but mentally weak and drained from relentless thoughts about your financial situation—and the fact that you're struggling to define yourself and your life in a way that makes sense anymore? We all measure our happiness in different ways. Many of the people I work with find it hard to distinguish happiness from getting more stuff. For these people, better is measured by more and their possessions have become the measure of their well-being. Chasing more and having more has come to mean that I'll somehow be more; that if I just buy the right things I can somehow acquire the life I want and will then—of course—be happy. It's a common theory. And a great recipe for disaster!

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