Rediscover your courage and face your financial fears

By:  Monty Sandhu, IFW Financial Coach

Here at IFW, we prioritise your financial wellbeing. In these uncertain times, we will continue to support you by delivering materials and resources, helping you deal with the financial challenges that affect you and your family.  As well as providing practical tips, we want to help you find the courage to face your financial fears and worries both now and into the future.

Courage Is a Choice

Whether you think you’re courageous or not, it’s likely that the global pandemic has tested your courage and will continue to do so for a while. But what exactly is courage?

One thing is clear. Courage is not a feeling. It is an act. It is doing the thing that fear prevents us from doing.

Understand Your Fear

Courage and money may not be words you readily associate with each other, yet some of the most common causes of financial self-sabotage are thoughts, feelings, and actions motivated by fear.  Broadly speaking, fear has two sources

  • External fears are caused by something outside of you that you are strongly motivated to avoid, such as the fear of catching a virus and falling ill. External fears are therefore associated with physical pain.
  • Internal fears are something inside you to which you link a negative emotion, such as the fear of feeling inadequate because you can’t provide adequately for your family. Internal fears are therefore associated with psychological pain.

Hence, all your fears are the fear of pain.  It’s also worth noting that fear isn’t a single emotion. It’s a family of related emotions including anxiety, worry, concern, alarm, panic, insecurity, unease, hesitation, indecision, apprehension, and so on.

How Fear Leads to Inaction

We usually choose our fight or flight response unconsciously, which is great for reacting to sudden, short-term threats such as avoiding an oncoming car or fending off a mugger. But this automaticity is not so good for dealing with more abstract, longer-term threats such as the fear of financial loss.

Fears about the future are usually based on illusion. They are caused by imagined outcomes and consequences that you want to avoid because you think they will make you feel a certain way.

Unfortunately, our conditioning stops us using the emotion of fear correctly. Instead of producing an active response, we can become unresponsive. We freeze. We procrastinate and become stuck.

If we’re not careful, we can allow the fear to become a permanent feature of our lives and allow it to dictate our decisions and behaviours in inhibitive, disempowering ways, especially when it comes to money. However, the freeze response is actually intended to make us pause and plan.

Face your financial fears

What are the most powerful fears you have about money right now?  One way to make the list is to complete sentences beginning with:

  • I am afraid that …
  • I am afraid of …
  • I am worried / anxious / panicking / scared about …, and so on.

Write the first few that come to mind on a sheet of paper.

Turn Fear into Action

Briefly scan your financial fears. This time, instead of focusing on the negative event, situation, or experience, reflect on its positive intent for you, which is to find practical ways of removing or reducing the threat.

What actions should you be taking but have avoided for one reason or another? Write the most important ones that come to mind on a sheet of paper.

Pick just one action from that list and imagine how it would feel if you went ahead and did it. Relax, breathe, close your eyes, and stay with that feeling for a while.

Don’t try to work out how you would eliminate the fear.  Just accept the feeling and let it energize you to act calmly, confidently, decisively.

What will you do? When and how do you intend to do it? What resources will you need? Whose help do you need? Write down your answers in the form of a goal, to-do list or checklist.

Turn Action into a Habit

Depending on what the fear is, it might take minutes or hours to work through it and come up with a plan of action. You might need to sleep on things while you process your facts and feelings from a more resourceful standpoint.

However long it takes to unpack each fear or worry, stick with it. Remember, the intention is not to eliminate fear but to hear its message and act.