What does the Duke of Sussex have to do with our bank accounts? Why would he care about our financial health given that he has bigger fish to fry, like an angry monarch, a growing family and a $10 million estate to manage?
When Prince Harry assumed the role of chief impact officer at BetterUp, focused on “human flourishing, peak performance and mental fitness,” he said, “I firmly believe that focusing on and prioritizing our mental fitness unlocks potential and opportunity that we never knew we had inside of us. As the Royal Marine Commandos say, ‘It’s a state of mind.’ We all have it in us.”
Thanks to celebrity endorsement, mental fitness is a new term for the power of positive thinking and practices that help us build our mental muscles to combat negative emotions, avoid triggers and even manage mental health. It is moving the woo-woo from the sunroom to the boardroom as scientific studies of the brain and neuroscience confirm what we have known for years — that clear-minded action is not as easy as we think.
How mental fitness drives financial fitness
When it comes to money, emotions can run high and lead to behaviors that don’t serve us.
- We avoid checking our bank balance or talking about money because it is stressful.
- We hoard money instead of letting it come and go easily.
- We spend money to treat sadness, stress and anger.
Our financial fitness might look like our physical fitness — something we know is good for us but which we avoid or struggle to commit to regularly.
Any phrase with “fitness” in it can be an immediate invitation to feel shame. “I’m not ___enough.” Fill in the blank.
When we have money shame, we judge ourselves, others and circumstances relating to money despite a deep desire to avoid judgment.
If this rings true, no matter what’s in your bank account, the following mental fitness workouts, if put into regular practice, can help build your financial fitness, with the bonus of a positive impact on other areas of life.
What is mental fitness?
Mental fitness is a state of well-being around how we feel, think and act. It depends on a healthy relationship between our brain and bodies, and can require deliberate attention and practice, just like physical fitness. Shirzad Chamine, founder of Positive Intelligence, says mental fitness is the “x” factor that can impact our ability to handle tough situations. If we’re not physically fit, we feel physical stress climbing a hill. If we’re not mentally fit, we feel mental stress like anxiety, frustration or unhappiness.
Chamine has created a scoring system for measuring our mental fitness by looking at how we can respond to life challenges — like money — in the “sage” versus “saboteur” mode. With our saboteurs in charge, we can react with negative emotions: stress, disappointment, self-doubt, regret, anger, shame, guilt or worry. With our sage in charge, we respond with positive emotions like empathy, gratitude, curiosity, creativity, self-confidence and clear-headed action. The relative strength of our positive sage versus our negative saboteurs Chamine calls our PQ (Positive Intelligence Quotient).
How do we build mental fitness?
We build mental fitness by flexing and strengthening mental muscles that help us intercept our saboteurs and engage our sage mind. This is ideally done through short, 1-to-5-minute practices throughout the day, using simple techniques like breath work and changing focus to shift our brain, come back to the present and into our body. The more we practice, the stronger we get, with physical results seen in brain scans and even rewiring of the brain. Then, when we get hijacked by emotion, we’re able to act with clarity and calm.
6 Easy Mental Fitness Workouts
Check your emotions. Next time you notice your emotions running high, check in and ask yourself, “Am I holding my hand on the hot plate?” When emotions become extreme, it’s possible the situation is triggering something deeper like traumas or expectations that can sabotage our ability to act with a clear and calm mind.
Practice empathy. Next time you judge yourself or others and it doesn’t feel good, notice the negative emotion and the driver of that emotion. Then, take steps to calm yourself and be present. When ready, close your eyes and imagine yourself or the other person as a child and reflect on how you or they started out with such innocence and beauty. See if you can see the situation differently by stepping into their shoes.
Get curious. Pretend that you are a curious anthropologist and ask as many open-ended questions as possible while listening intently without judgment. Try this with yourself! It can be harder than you think ,so keep practicing.
Play the “Yes … and …” game. Next time you need a solution, try using this back-and-forth focusing on the positive. Person 1 shares, “What a hot and miserable day to be a ranch hand!” Person 2 responds, “Yep, and the boss said we get water once this fence is mended.”
Take action with advice from your elder, wiser self. Next time you get triggered, engage muscles from the previous workouts. You can also consult your elder, wiser self as our sage wisdom can serve us well.
Watch your bank balance grow.
When we have a higher level of mental fitness, we can make financial decisions with more clarity and calm. For example, if we worry about our finances, we can dig into those worries, asking ourselves what judgments and beliefs we bring to the table. Using our mental fitness muscles, we open up to new perspectives and sources of power to explore possibilities and take action.
Cindy Morgan-Jaffe is a certified Positive Intelligence and money coach who helps individuals and organizations set and meet money goals.