Life’s just much easier and a heck of a lot more fun with some abundance in it. To live with an abundance mindset means to live striving for larger quantities of things than just needed for survival, and I strive to stay at least a few notches above just surviving.
What I’ve learned to be the single biggest obstacle to an abundant life is simply the belief that we don’t deserve one. As I worked to challenge that belief, I started to see people who had abundance in time, relationships, hours slept, and money, and say to myself, if they deserve all that, then I do too. Actually, almost every day, I hit an obstacle that once would have intimidated me, but now, I’ve learned how to make choices in life and just tell myself, people a lot dumber than me have figured this out, and if they can, I can too.
It wasn’t always like this, though—when I first started with my coach back in 2018, I stressed about money ALL THE TIME. Our first project was to understand what I believed about money and why. I had homework assignments where I journaled about money—its purpose, if it’s okay to discuss money with people, and how my beliefs came to be in the first place. As we went over my findings, we uncovered that I believed money was very scarce, that there was no one to rely upon other than myself, and that I had a lot of work to do to repair my relationship with money.
I told my coach how, growing up, my parents were terrific savers, but it left me feeling like the future was far more of a priority than the present, and there were so many things I believed I needed that were not possible unless I figured out how to get them for myself. So, by the age of eight, I was off doing work for neighbors and grandparents to earn money of my own. I was proud of my independence, but it left me unsure how to discern between a want and a need because so much of what I thought I needed was not able to be provided, and I had to figure it out on my own.
I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, and their philosophies on finances couldn’t have been more opposite. On my mom’s side, Grandma and Grandpa took me grocery shopping, and when Grandma put a loaf of Roman Meal into her shopping cart, I noticed she didn’t look at the price tag and asked her, “Why aren’t you checking prices and buying what’s on sale?”
She and Grandpa grew up during The Great Depression on farms in Nebraska, so it shocked me when she said, “Matthew, we always buy this kind, and whatever it costs, I’m buying it anyway.”
They were anything but well-off, but when something broke in the house, they just got it fixed without a fuss, and with us grandkids, they simply couldn’t have been more generous. It felt so good to be around them because it was the only place where, as a kid, I didn’t feel stressed about money.
Nanny (my dad’s mom), on the other hand, made spending decisions that left me scratching my head—extreme couponing at the grocery store, and at home, she’d bundle herself up in blankets to save money on gas for heating. Yet, she drove a Mercedes, and I’ll never forget when she learned about wrinkle cream and took me with her to the drugstore, where she dropped hundreds of dollars on lotions she saw advertised promising to reverse aging.
She always said to me, “Money’s your best friend,” and I hated it because I knew it wasn’t something I was supposed to believe, but hearing it incessantly was confusing for this 10-year-old kid.
None of it made any sense to me—she was more frugal than anyone, yet she grew up quite wealthy, the daughter of a successful entrepreneur in Tarrytown, New York, and her childhood, as shown in photos, screamed elegance.
As my coach and I continued to sort through my beliefs about money, I realized that I still believed that to want money was selfish and to desire more than what I had was being ungrateful for what I did have. I also thought money should really never be talked about, especially outside the home, and that other than for a holiday, I really couldn’t expect any generosity thrown my way, which was why I was so stressed out about it. My emotional health was at an all-time low, and I didn’t have anywhere to turn for help, and I needed to keep making money to survive.
My coach and I started working to identify what it was I valued in life, and I found a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware (which is one of my favorite books of all time!). Bronnie tells about her work in palliative care, where she closely comforted the dying, hearing their most intimate reflections on life, and spoiler alert: not a single person wished they had more money when they died. Bronnie also introduced me to the phrase, “Money is here to dance with us,”—meaning it comes and goes and is a transactional instrument, not to be hoarded but to be shared with those who need it when we have an abundance of it.
I started to identify my values, and at the top of the list were safety (for myself), generosity (to others), and also, growth—it’s important for me always to be growing and, if I can, to help others grow. I was beginning to understand what it was in life that I needed and worked on finding inner strength to go after it.
It was in a couple’s therapy session around the same time my coach and I were aligning my beliefs about money with my values that we uncovered I still felt so much shame for my needs that oftentimes, I couldn’t even express them to David. I still harbored the belief that to need something that challenged the status quo was not okay and uncovered that a huge source of my depression stemmed from my unexpressed needs, and by learning to articulate my wants and needs, I learned how to manage my anxiety.
I knew what I needed to work on—I needed to learn to love my needs because my needs are a part of me. As I learned how to get help and continued working with my coach and my individual and our couples therapists, I gained an appreciation for my needs and embraced my desire to go after an abundant life and build safety for myself, and that’s when everything changed.
Over the past few years, what I need (or want) has changed. You won’t find any luxury clothes in my closet anymore, and though I once loved amazing culinary experiences, I generally prefer a meal at home in my sweatpants with David. I used to always be in an airplane, traveling the world, but when the pandemic happened, David and I started driving and exploring California, and my favorite places in the world are now just a car ride from home. In this season of life, I’m finding myself happier with less, and while still valuing safety as much as ever, I’ve finally learned I’m allowed to desire whatever the heck I want to.
David and I just came back from a three-night camping trip in Kernville—it wasn’t entirely “roughing it,” I suppose—the campground had shared bathrooms with running water and clean showers, and at our campsite, we had a cold water spigot. We bought normal camping stuff—a stove, battery-operated lights, air mattresses, and sleeping bags, and there was a solar battery pack that kept our phones and speakers charged. Three nights of sleeping in a tent without modern conveniences like a coffee maker or refrigerator can sure be jostling, but I was totally fine without the comforts I have at home—good, actually, because it was SO NICE to be in nature. The camping trip reminded me that the world is so much bigger than my little spot in it and, essentially, my little problems, which is what I need more than ever at this point in my life.
While at the campground, I saw a lot of families, and it reminded me of how, when I was a kid, my parents took us camping all the time, and as I grew older, I stopped wanting to go with them because I started to hate it, which challenged the status quo and made me wonder, why can’t I be happy. I was feeling the desire to travel on an airplane and visit big cities that I thought one day I might want to live in, and opposite of now, I was overloaded with camping and nature and needed different experiences in life, and those needs also weren’t bad; they were simply just my needs then.
After getting home from camping, I got the bill for my part, and for three nights, including lodging, food, drinks, and firewood, I owed a whopping $218, and I had just as good of a time as I would have on a $2,000 trip, which made me think about how abundance has to do with so much more than money.
I think “abundance” sometimes gets a bad rap—as if it’s not okay to want more than what we have. For me, what I had wasn’t making me feel safe, though, and when I started to go after what I needed to feel safe, not only did my bank account become abundant, but my life started to FEEL ABUNDANT.
When you think about it, our lives are all about reserves—we make choices to keep a few extra cans in the cupboard, a few extra dollars under the mattress, and hopefully, you have a few extra rolls of toilet paper underneath the sink. Why? Because reserves make us feel safe, and when a neighbor comes knocking, our reserves allow us to send them home with a can of beans, helping them feel safe.
I still hold generosity as one of my absolute highest values. For years, I’ve been questioning myself and wondering if it’s because I thrive on accolades, but the answer is no—not at all. What makes me thrive is helping others feel abundant because now I know how good it feels, and I believe every single one of us deserves to have a bit more than necessary just to survive.
I won’t be able to solve the world’s inequality problems (though I’d love nothing more), but I can continue to help others by giving what I have that’s extra—all made possible by going after an abundant life.
Let me leave you with this: YOU DESERVE AN ABUNDANT LIFE.
And, once you believe it, you can achieve it—like I always say, people a lot dumber than you have figured this out, and if they can, you sure as hell can too.