Recently, I realized that I suck as a saleswoman. No, I didn’t have a particular good or service to sell. What I wanted to do was persuade people to volunteer. My challenge was finding a way to sell them on the belief that volunteering is worthwhile and valuable. I needed to find some trick to get them to sign up and get involved. I gave up on hoping and waiting for people to come to me, and I stopped scouring the internet for advice. Then, I brushed off Dale Carnegie’s dusty classic How To Win Friends and Influence People by downloading the author-read version from Audible and began to listen at every opportunity.
A previous attempt at manipulation- Zero #3 thinks he is a comedian.
When Zero #3 heard me listening to it, he accused me of plotting to trick him into cleaning his room or saving his own money for college. I thanked him for the great idea. Then he said, “I will always know when you use these on me, Mom, so it won’t work.” I laughed and realized the little booger saw the value of the book opposite from its intentions. He listened with me to learn how to escape my influence over him. I also realized I would be accused of manipulation the next time I asked him to do chores in any way other than directly.
So- what did we learn? How to Win Friends and Influence People maintains that the way to win over an individual is to show him/her genuine appreciation. It is paramount to understand what he/she truly wants. Luckily, we all want the same things, so this part would be easy to get! Dale Carnegie teaches that there is only one real need left when all the basic survival needs of a person are met (shelter, food, well-being, sex-yes, he says sex-“sexual gratification” to be exact). Then he lists a slew of philosophers and psychologists who have realized this one real need: Humans have an inherent desire to be important.
If our ancestors hadn’t had this flaming urge for a feeling of importance, civilization would have been impossible. Without it, we should have been just about like the animals. ...This desire made Rockefeller amass millions that he never spent! And this same desire made the richest family in your town build a house far too large for its requirements. This desire makes you want to wear the latest styles, drive the latest cars, and talk about your brilliant children. It is the desire that lures many boys and girls into joining gangs and engaging in criminal activities. … If you tell me how you get your feeling of importance, I’ll tell you what you are. That determines your character. That is the most significant thing about you.
Dale Carnegie then goes on to discuss iconic heroes and criminals who all were driven by the desire for importance. Could they have been driven by something else? I asked myself. Based on on their value systems and what was available to them, How to Win Friends… illustrates that people in all walks of life seek importance.
Because I am extremely interested in the psychology of money-making, saving and spending, this concept sparked my curiosity. And my goal of reading this book to win volunteers morphed into understanding how the desire to feel important influences my financial life.
There are many ways for us to gain the perception that we are important. Maybe we do secret acts of goodwill. Maybe you are considered irreplaceable at work. Maybe I take care of our family or buy the perfect gifts for friends. Perhaps devotion within a religion or competition in sports helps someone feel special. Or maybe it’s riches and things. I explored in a previous post the “desire of having.” And now, hearing Dale Carnegie begin to relate “having” to importance, things began to click for me.
Presuming that even an enlightened and self-aware Mrs. Zero cannot escape this biological craving, how does this desire work on me?
And how does all this relate to a blog about financial independence?
How have I found my importance in the past, and how do I find my value now? Do I feel important being pampered at the salon? Do I find pleasure in stepping out of a sleek new car? Do I gain my importance from feeling beautiful, nurturing, crafty, or smart? Have I been blessed with a natural feeling of superiority? Is it in my head? Do I self-aggrandize? Do social media site activities and video game playing gratify this urge? How about posting my thoughts and opinions in public?
After much analysis, my thoughts turned to when I don’t feel important and valuable. Those are the times when I struggle with anxiety and depression. And either I wallow in it, feeling particularly alone and exceptional in my misery, or I get active trying to fill that empty place with some THING special (because I’m special, right?).
This self-exploration is key to building financial independence and goal planning. As we begin to understand some of our motivations rather than letting them run us, we can unlock and unravel those that are obstructing our paths.
So what of us who may love swanky restaurants and clothes to match? I propose we love them because they bring us pleasure, and the pleasure sensation actually comes from our perception of status. Is it good or bad? Let’s drop judgement for a bit and pay attention to the details. People crave love and appreciation naturally, and they find all sorts of ways to meet that need. Pointing back to Dale Carnegie, we can understand one’s character, but we cannot judge one as to how he/she creates value in life. Just as I only have what’s available to me, they also have only what is available to them.
I have let a myriad of different things define my value. I have let youthful self-righteousness give me a sense of self. Being an active member of a church family gave me a sense of love and worth. Even confessing my sins and taking the communion brought a profound joy and relief. Volunteering has brought me joy because I enjoy reaching out to others and helping. I feel important because I can lend a helping hand. I have bought clothes that were too expensive for my income which gave me the pleasure
of feeling like I had successfully arrived. In all of these cases, I didn’t say, I am going to do this so I will “feel” important. But the pleasure these activities brought me, as I look at them now, came from the status, and the pleasure kept me returning to these activities.
As Mr. Zero and I began to analyze and clarify our goal for financial independence, I began to realize that some of the activities in which I sought pleasure would only keep me from my goals. Did I want a purse now, or two extra days of food or fun money later? My perspective began to shift from quick satisfaction toward thoughtful, goal-oriented living. Gradually, I found myself less and less interested in buying what I want immediately. Of course I still feel a twinge when I see a fancy new car or fabulous outfit. And sometimes, I might have an appropriate time where I need to dress for an occasion. For now though, my sense of importance is being fulfilled by setting a goal for financial independence and consistently focusing my energy on making it happen.
An essential tool to gain power over finances is to understand core desires and how they operate in our lives. You don’t have to have the grand goal of gaining financial independence. Maybe you are like I was for a long time– I had a feeling that there was a goal out there, but I just couldn’t quite define it. It’s not required to have lofty goals to become financially healthy. The best place to start is where you are at- whether it’s a small goal of making rent, or a sack full of debt pebbles, or even if it’s with a good income and a big house on a hill. As each of us become more aware of how how our innate desire to feel valuable influences our behavior, we clear the pathway to find our goals. Slowly, through a process of self-awareness and acceptance, our sense of value will transform to they align more with what is healthy and positive for us.
In a following post, I will explore the how to maximize feeling important while in the pursuit financial independence.