This week I picked up a book that’s been on my shelf for ages. I walk by it daily, but it was only this week that it actually grabbed my attention. And I’m so glad that it did. The book, Right Riches For You, is usually the kind of self-help book I stay away from. For one, the topic — money — is one of my least favorites, and, for another, the cover reminds me of some old school motivational book (complete with wispy flowers and ’90s Word Art) that people who aren’t fans of the self-improvement space usually envision when they hear the words “self-help.” But, at this particularly turbulent financial time in my life, I thought to myself, Why not? and pulled it down off the shelf.
If you struggle with money, this book is an invaluable resource of information on how to change your attitude about money. Most of us (myself included!) are thinking completely the wrong way about money, and it’s that limited kind of thinking that causes us to struggle with it. I took so many wonderful gems of inspiration from that book that I’ll probably dedicate an entire post just to its insights. But, before I get into all of that, I just had to share with you one of the most important things I learned from the book.
HEAVIER OR LIGHTER?
The book begins by asking you what you think about when you hear that word “money.” You’re then asked to review that list, asking yourself the following question about the items on the list: Does this make me feel heavier or lighter? It’s a simple question, and one I’ve undoubtedly heard before, but for some reason it clicked with me this time around and I started thinking about it not only in relation to money, but in relation to everything.
It turns out that this simple question is pretty darn powerful. Whenever I asked myself this question over the course of the past week, my decisions became so much clearer. Essentially, this question is the similar to asking yourself, Deep down, is this the right choice to be making? The only difference is that the question Does this make me feel heavier or lighter? comes with a very physical, instantaneous reaction that is much harder to dismiss, ignore, or excuse. And that makes it incredibly powerful.
Perhaps it’s just me, but as I went about the week, using this question as a guide, answers to questions became surprisingly clear. When you ask this question — rather that something like Is this a good idea? — the body (or at least my body) has an immediate reaction. There’s an instinctual vibe that seemed to occur every time I asked myself Does this make me feel heavier or lighter? It was never confusing. Whenever I asked the question, into my mind would instantly pop the word heavier or lighter.
Heavier / lighter isn’t a judgment; it’s a feeling. It gets right to the heart of what’s right, and tells you instantaneously. Even if something is hard — for example, ending a relationship — you’ll know if it’s right or wrong by whether or not it makes you feel heavier or lighter. A breakup might be painful — we even have the term “heavy heart” — but, if it’s the right choice for you, you’ll ultimately feel lighter having done it.
THE CHOICE TO CHOOSE
Knowing and paying attention to the heavy / light dichotomy doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily choose what makes you feel lighter at all times. After all, we often make “bad” choices when we know they’re no good for us. For example, you might have a negative, draining friend, but, even though you know his or her absence would make you feel lighter, you still remain friends. This might not be the right choice, but it’s an understandable one. There could be a variety of reasons why you continue to socialize with this particular individual, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is when you allow heavy situations to happen without your consent.
In order to give consent to a situation, you have to know whether it makes you feel heavier or lighter. Once you have that information it is then up to you to consciously choose what you do with it. You give yourself the choice to choose. You might be thinking, Oh, but I always have the choice! But, if you’re not asking this question first, you’re not always actively choosing. Most of spend a great deal of time operating on autopilot, not actively making choices.
Whether or not something makes you feel heavier or lighter is never unclear (or, at least, it hasn’t been for me this past week), but it can be confusing, at times, to know what to do with that information once you have it. If I determine that something or someone makes me feel heavier, I can choose to ignore it, try to rationalize why it’s worth carrying around the extra heaviness. But, regardless of what action I choose to take, I cannot deny that I had that initial gut reaction.
The idea of a gut reaction, or an instinct, certainly isn’t anything new, but what I do think is new is how easily it is to ignore these things — and the Does this make me feel heavier or lighter? question — in our modern age. Most of us are constantly bombarded with distractions. There is so much to look at that sometimes we forget to ask that question and, more importantly, take note of its answer.
When distraction abound, that gut instinct — whether it’s about people or a job or an event or thing — either goes unheard or is quickly and easily avoided. Compounding this our ever-increasing exposure to people all over the world. With access to information and people spanning the globe, we can often examples or information rationalize whatever choices we make. Regardless of whether or not the choices are good or bad, lighter or heavier, if you see others making them, it becomes more and more difficult to tune into your own inner voice, the one that will quickly tell you heavy or light if asked.
Rather than listening to our instincts, it’s becoming our standard to look things up before tuning in. After all, if you’re unsure about what to do, it’s useful to conduct a quick Google search to see if anyone else has had a similar experience. We look to others for advice and information. This, in and of itself, certainly isn’t a bad thing. Information can be useful and essential to making good, positive choices, but, I’m starting to realize: in all of the information, the instinct often gets overlooked.
When surrounded by a multitude of choices, as more and more opportunities continue to arise (many of which as a result of the Internet’s rise), it is challenging to pay attention, let alone to pay attention well enough to determine what’s best for you. And that’s why it’s so important to ask: Does this make me feel heavier or lighter? Often the answers are clear — we know that murder is going to make you feel heavier, that spending time with a friend you love and admire will make you feel lighter — but this question is particularly useful when the answers aren’t so clearcut.
SUIT UP FOR SOME SURPRISE
Even after asking this question for just a short while, I’ve experienced firsthand just how powerful it is. And, I’ve discovered that it has an added bonus: it will surprise you. Things you might complain about or feel ambivalent toward might actually be things that make you feel lighter. Things you don’t claim to love might not actually be heavy. Likewise, the “good” things don’t always lighten your load. For example, something might be really fun and enjoyable in the moment, but if it’s morally wrong, it’s likely to cause a lot of heaviness in your life.
Though this idea — that a single question can have such a positive impact on your life — might sound strange, give it a try this week and see how it feels and see what you learn. You don’t even have to make any changes to your life. All you have to do is ask yourself, as often as you can and in reference to as many aspects of your life as you can, does this make me feel heavier or lighter?
(Side note: Isn’t it funny how, when you start thinking about certain concepts, they start to appear in your life in unexpected ways? This week I came across a new song by Linkin Park (featuring Kiiara), “Heavy,” and it couldn’t have been more perfect. I’ve been listening to it on repeat all week, feeling more and more inspired each day to let go of all the heavy things that’ve been dragging me down.)