Last Friday, my teenage daughter asked me to come up with a list of chores she could complete around the house to make some extra cash, so that she could go “get some stuff.”
“What kind of stuff?”, I asked, settling down with a cup of tea and patting the couch next to me, inviting her into a deeper conversation.
Rolling her eyes, she sat down and took out her list. Among other things, she listed hiking boots, new fish for her fish tank, a manicure, body piercing, hair dye, make-up, posters for her room, and money to eat out with her friends – you know, stuff.
I braced myself, noticing my own judgments about her list swirling around in me.
I wanted to point out that she needed to be saving money if she wanted to buy a car, gas and car insurance soon, that she still had outstanding phone payments to me for the phone she asked me to buy her that she would “pay me back” for, and that she would likely want money for gifts for various family members and friends who are having birthdays soon.
I also didn’t want to enable what I was seeing as a consumeristic, short-term, crisis-oriented, materialistic mindset about spending resources, including time, attention, energy and cash.
While I want to celebrate her motivation and initiative to find ways of getting more resources, I also want her – and all of us, really – to be thinking more broadly and deeply about what we are empowering and nurturing in the world by where we spend those resources.
I took a deep breath, “OK, so I’d love to help you find ways to make some money this weekend. And, first I want to think a little more broadly with you together about how we use and relate to our time, attention, energy and money in general – cool?”
I thought about our conversation later that weekend as I was decluttering the ridiculous amount of promotional e-mails in my inbox. I found myself unsubscribing from all sorts of “offers” and “promotions” and “sales” designed to get me to buy more stuff.
Going through those emails, I found myself asking some key questions:
To what do I lend my time, attention, energy and money?
What do I want to see more (or less) of in my inbox, and by extension – in the world?
I kept my subscriptions to the New York Times, Medium and Yes Magazine, even though I have virtually no time to read them each week, because I want to support a particular kind of journalism, stories and discourse in the world.
I like knowing that my money supports things I value. For example, I kept my subscription to Imperfect Produce because I like supporting companies trying to address the massive waste of resources going on in the world.
I’m mindful about what shows I chose to watch and what online media I “click” – imagining that everything I watch, click on or give my attention to is being measured and tracked somewhere and is influencing decisions about what creators create more of, or less of.
How we each spend our time, our energy, our attention and ultimately where we spend our money, is a powerful way of “voting” for and co-creating the landscape of our current world.
And, it all starts with making the time for living room conversations over tea with a teenager about resources, about values, about what really matters, and about how we harness our energy and choices to move us in the direction that we are longing to go.
It starts with being in relationship with one another, with caring about how we feel, about how others feel, connecting with our deeply shared universal human needs, and keeping our attention on solutions and possibilities that move us forward.
So my questions for you this week are these:
What are you spending your time on?
How are you spending your energy?
Where do you spend your attention?
Who do you empower with your money?
Simple changes in what we empower with our attention, time, energy and money make a significant difference in our lives.
What would help bring your choices into even more alignment with your deeper values this week?