Overcoming Fear and Financial Phobia
What is Fearvana?
It’s a concept created to explain two contradictory ideas that are actually very complementary.
Ideas that exemplify the idea of Fearvana are the experience of overcoming drug dependency and yet seeing your friends fall to the growing problem of addiction. It’s knowing it could be you.
It’s a marine (or physician) who works to overcome PTSD, depression, and alcoholism that can push anyone struggling with these daily burdens to the edge of suicide (and sometimes over that edge).
It’s learning that struggle is a way to access our true bliss. That sounds counter-intuitive, right?
Stay with me while I explore the idea that there is a way through the struggle of overcoming the fear that we can find our own route to happiness…and what that has to do with your finances.
When it comes to your money, happiness and fear intersect.
There is a definite relationship between fear and money. Battling through the process and overcoming the fear makes all the difference to your mental state.
I’ll bet you’ve felt the fear in relation to your finances, almost everyone has, but you’ve probably never thought of how you avoid your feeling of fear. Denial and avoidance might drive you into ostrich type behavior (burying your head in the sand), which only makes the problem grow.
I’m talking about personal problems or financial ones, or both since they are interrelated.
Embracing the fear and tackling your problem(s) is the first step to a happier and more productive life and financial future.
In the medical community, a common saying is “it gets better”. This is a reference to the long, hard process that physicians (and their spouses) go through on their road to becoming doctors.
It means you’ll be thankful once it’s finished. You’ll feel so much better, so relieved when it’s done and over.
I’ve written many blogs where I reference the relationship between our emotions, behaviors, and money.
The struggle, suffering, and fear that you go through can also access your bliss.
Don’t give up, because you can find happiness through it all.
One of the biggest illusions in our society is: we’ll be happy when we get there.
As physicians, we’ll be happy when we get through medical school, residency, fellowship, or we drive off the sales lot in our brand new Tesla.
It’s constantly reaching for the dangling carrot, you finally grasp it, then some new goal comes into your view, and you need to reach the new goal in order to be happy.
Do you see how this works? It’s such a treadmill that we forget to live, for now, to be happy now. You think that progress will eliminate your problems, instead, it just causes another one.
What can you do about the infinite number of problems that are in your future?
That is the way it is…
The way it always was…
And the way it always will be…
That is the nature of life.
Embrace your problems by overcoming the fear, and create a strategy to navigate them. That strategy will most likely include a financial plan for paying off debt or reaching your future goals.
Embrace navigating your problems.
Start by acknowledging your problems.
The faster you accept your problems, the faster you can overcome the fear and find solutions to them. That’s when you can find true peace and happiness.
With any high-level problem, you will suffer.
Developing a positive relationship to suffering can help you move beyond the feeling.
Don’t stop and wallow.
Jump in and take a proactive stance. Start searching for the answer to your problem.
Taking action when overcoming the fear will make you feel better (and you will actually get gain some traction solving it).
Take the time to find the beauty that exists in your life…right now. Find joy in the most current struggle… right now.
Did you notice I said “most current”? There will be others.
Just don’t let life pass you by.
To embrace suffering means developing a constructive relationship with suffering.
That is a type of resilience.
That means no matter what happens in your life, you are able to use the situation to your advantage and come back from it.
You’ll be able to live a more meaningful and inclusive life because you will learn to find joy in every situation.
As a lower-key example, if you are a runner or ultra-marathoner, you may have experienced suffering because of your determination to endure the pain of finishing a race. It becomes a self-test of your true grit.
Once you pass the finish line all the suffering becomes worth it as you experience bliss. You did it! You persevered and through hard work (and suffering) reached your goal.
Does this sound a bit like medical school and residency?
I have a friend who does ultra marathons. I’ll look at his before and after photos, and wonder why he does that to himself. When I ask him, he’ll admit it’s tough but he still does it!
I think overcoming the fear and doing it anyway becomes a positive habit, and possibly addictive!
What is Happiness?
I’ll tell you what it is not…
It’s not the elimination of sadness.
That’s because we all have things to figure out.
However, most people can find happiness or joy in the darkest circumstances.
People are resilient. You are resilient. We are great at overcoming the fear, working hard to overcome the hurdles in life (or in medical school and residency ) and appreciating the beauty of a rainbow after a storm.
That’s the ability to look for and acknowledge the silver lining. There are times when you can find moments of happiness even during periods of great sadness.
Has there ever been a time when you found beauty in your lows? Did it make you appreciate the high-times in your life even more? Did it make you want to savor the good times even more?
Overcoming the fear is akin to seeing the light.
The fear is the darkness of not knowing which way to turn. Finding the solution is the work involved in overcoming the fear and then being able to see the light.
Sometimes the fear is the confusion. You don’t know where to start. You don’t know which financial task to tackle first.
You want to create a future for your family that is worthy of your struggle (and student loan debt amount).
It can be daunting not knowing which path to take in order to get the best results.
An example is figuring out how to pay down the overwhelming amount of student loan debt that you have as a new attending physician, which averages $293,000 right out of residency. While launching a demanding career, starting a family and figuring out the complexities of retirement plans and understanding how investment work for future financial independence!
That is a lot on your already full plate!
Overcoming the fear may mean that you reach out to a fee-only financial planner. This is someone who can help you create a straightforward financial plan that takes into account your current life and future goals. Someone who can gently educate you on how finances work as you go through the process as a team.
You are hitting your fears head-on.
You are reaching out to someone who can help you overcome the fear (and confusion) of taking control of your financial future.
Finding Something Worth the Struggle
Pick your poison.
Choose your battles.
You don’t have to engage every fear that you have, but when you work to master a major obstacle, fear or goal, it can bring positive change to your psyche.
You will learn to forge your own methods for facing and overcoming the fear that currently has you in its grip. That, in turn, can help you build confidence. That creates happiness and joy.
Once you conquer one fear, you learn that you are capable of overcoming the fear. You have what it takes. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.
Have you endured a situation that took all your fortitude?
Was it the process of becoming a physician?
Was it preparing to run a marathon?
Once you succeed in overcoming the fear, problem, mood or attitude, it becomes easier each time. Keep in mind there is no right path, it just so happens that this is the path you are on and you must deal with it the best you can
I know my readers struggle with things, everyone does.
I see this a lot around relationships and finances. I’m part of a group called “Dads Married to Doctors”. I’ve noticed that some of the fathers have a common struggle, they switch roles with their wives. Instead of being the primary breadwinner–they are staying at home with the children.
What should someone do who is struggling?
Will changing your viewpoint transform the nature of the struggle?
How do the words fear, pain, stress, anxiety, struggle, suffering, or adversity make you feel?
My guess is they induce a feeling of stress and pressure. Your guard starts to come up, and you feel the need to protect yourself.
Perhaps, it’s time to rethink your view of struggling and the suffering that goes along with it.
Reframe and see overcoming the fear as a new challenge or something positive, instead of your default assumption that it’s solely a negative experience. Your mindset can change how you view your reality.
Taking control of your struggle and the feelings around it may not be easy, but it’s definitely worth it.
What can you control?
- Your actions
- Your attitude
I’ve written about the behavioral aspect of finance. It’s not just a simple formula you can plug in to get an answer. There are pros and cons to everything.
Something that runs through my head is a question someone asked me: If you had all the money in the world, would you retire?
My answer was, No…I love what I do. I’d work less. However, there is no chance I would quit what I’m doing.
I’m enjoying the journey. That includes the struggles and the things that others would view as negative.
When my wife was spending every fourth night at the hospital, that wasn’t positive for me–or for her! However, it was part of the journey. It was a long series of challenges that we overcame together.
There is some beauty in that!
Getting to Know You
How can someone who is not in touch with their emotions embrace the ideas in today’s blog?
Is that you? How can you find the beauty in these things?
One thing you can do is to start labeling your feelings and questioning your thoughts. It brings awareness to your emotions. If you do it consistently enough, it’ll become a habit.
One day you’ll find that you are effortlessly in touch with how you feel and where your thoughts are taking you.
Everyone should strive for a better understanding of their own emotions.
Imagine your thoughts, feelings, and experiences as a triangle. You aren’t any of these things, but we can (and must) choose who we are irrespective of them.
It can change how you respond to the struggles in your life, and how you view suffering. After some practice, you’ll find overcoming the fear easier.
I relate usually everything to finance. My brain works more with numbers, and less with emotion. That changes the way I understand things, then cope and deal with them. I don’t consider to be right or wrong. It’s just the way I am.
You’ll be different–and that’s okay. Try to embrace the way you are, improve where you can, and embrace the journey.
Fighting the Good Fight
What will make you happy?
When I began this blog, I wrote about one of the biggest illusions in our society is the belief that we’ll be happy when we reach X destination.
There is another illusion that many in our society unknowingly indulge in. That is the next purchase will make you happy.
Our society is encouraged to become spendaholics. We are subjected to endless credit card offers and advertisements. Sure, it’s good for the economy but bad for our personal finances.
I’ve written in other blogs that the way to happiness lies in having experiences and spending time with your friends and family.
Happiness doesn’t come from buying stuff that will gather dust and clutter your house. The excitement (no matter how low-key) of a new purchase lasts only a brief time. That’s when you start “needing” to buy something new.
That feeling of excitement is created by chemicals in your brain. They briefly are able to convince you to buy an item.
How do we fight brain chemicals, manipulative advertisements and our own nature that hooks us into participating in next purchase euphoria?
Once you realize that spending your money on useless items (clothes, gadgets, small appliances, etc.) won’t bring you happiness (and end up forgotten in a closet), there is no going back.
This realization will free up time, money and headspace.
Do you have experience with overcoming the fear? Recognizing and engaging your emotions? Have you been able to embrace your struggle?
Tell us about how you were able to overcome your fears. Find and join the Physician Finance FB group and share!