Have you ever had a discussion about music? Most of us have, at one point, talked about an album or song or band and how the experience touched us deeply. If you are familiar with classical music, you might call it your “Ode to Joy” moment, when something reaches down and grabs you deep into your soul. Most of us have had the experience when a lyric, melody, or rhythm moves us to sing, dance or simply revel in some aspect that touches us.
But in reality, these moments, for most of us, are few and far between. Music is usually in the background; playing in our cars, homes, offices or while we walk to work or exercise. It sits behind our thoughts and fills up the silence or lack of stimulation with sound. Music is and always will be there when we choose to listen, it’s just a matter of how closely we’re paying attention that truly impacts our connection with the song. Our relationship with music is a lot like our money lives in that without deep involvement, consideration, and focus we tend to let it drift into the background.
I love music. I listen to all kinds; from rock to opera, from classical to jazz. There’s very little I don’t love, and yes, sometimes when I’m on the treadmill or driving to work, the music playing doesn’t capture my full attention; after all, if it did, I would be more likely to cause an accident or lose my pace and injure myself (ok, I am not the most athletic guy on the planet). Of course it’s impossible to focus on and actively listen to every song you hear, but the ones that are lucky enough to get your undivided attention are the ones that will have the most profound impact on you.
When I listen, really listen, I hear the layers, the threads, the pieces, the harmony, the complexity of my attention, and the experience is vastly different from cranking the sound while I drive. It is a singular experience that can transport and evoke feelings that are surprising and very real. These feelings aren’t meant to be your everyday emotions – they are special and rare; only felt when the time is right.
When you engage with your thoughts about your money life and really consider the truly important questions, such as:
What do I believe about money?
Where did I learn those beliefs and do they work for me?
Who and what do I care most about?
Are my values and actions aligned?
When you engage in these questions, you are more likely to point your money life in the most effective and meaningful direction.
Otherwise, it all becomes background noise and nuts and bolts-type strategies, like signing up to participate in a 401(k) program, contributing to a college savings plan, or renewing your auto insurance. Checking the boxes. While these are important actions, they don’t measure up to the impact of experiencing a fully engaged financial life plan; one that brings your values together with your actions.
Think back to a time when you had a goal. Maybe it was your first car or big purchase with money you accumulated on your own. Can you recall what you bought and how you felt? You determined that it was important enough to make choices that would bring you closer rather than farther away from attaining your dream. Achieving that goal, whether big or small, was a milestone that was most likely celebrated.
I remember working after-school jobs and on weekends to save enough for my first stereo (back in the day before turntables were popular again!). I worked hard and saved for the day when I had accumulated enough for the purchase. I also saved enough funds so that I could buy a few albums. I remember my first additions to my collection: Miles Davis Kind of Blue, Chicago Transit Authority, Blood Sweat & Tears were the first of many albums. (Give me a break, I was a trumpet player!)
I listened to each album fully; absorbing the melody, the rhythms, the lyrics, the shading of the ensembles. They became a part of me. I savored every moment in front of that stereo — adjusting Tone and Volume, increasing the Bass and lowering the Treble, just to see how it impacted my listening experience. That stereo represented a goal I had worked for, waited for, and achieved on my own – making it all the more celebrated and special.
When you engage fully, beginning with what you really care about, and put it in the context of your financial life, you begin to see spending differently; you might see a desire to do more of this and less of that. It’s unique to you and your loved ones; as it should be.
Your involvement with music or money can run the gamut from running in the background to committed engagement. The choice is yours and the outcomes are drastically different experiences.
Here’s to harmony and the attainment of all your important dreams.