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Advice on Work, Money, and the Holidays From the Authors of The Nine Rooms of Happiness

We're thrilled to present this smart Learnvest story here on Savvy!

Imagine that you could compartmentalize your daily issues and problems into a manageable, easily-tackled structure that would allow you to not only triumph over your dissatisfactions, but to become happier overall. According to the fabulous Lucy Danziger, SELF magazine Editor-In-Chief and Catherine Birndorf, M.D., certified psychiatrist and director of the Payne Whitney Women’s Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital—it’s called The Nine Rooms of Happiness, and it’s the title of their bestselling, critically acclaimed book, as well as their website (be sure to check out this cool house-building feature). The Nine Rooms Of Happiness was published in hardcover earlier this year, and is coming out in paperback in mid-December.

According to the authors, The Nine Rooms of Happiness uses a house metaphor to divide your life into rooms of an emotional house, and each one corresponds to a different part of your emotional being.” We’re especially interested in the metaphorical office, which is for money, career and financial security. And, we were lucky enough to get Lucy and Catherine to help us sort out the financial stresses and work questions that we face every day.

Before they answered our questions, the authors had two primary pieces of insight to share: “Firstly, you can always close the door on the office, or any room of your emotional house, until you are ready to come back to it and “clean up the mess” on your own terms, your own time, and use the strategies provided in the book,” says Lucy. “Also, these strategies, called “Key Processes,” work as well for your relationship with money as they do for your relationship with people. In other words, if you don’t like how you’re feeling about your financial picture, your career, your prospects, it’s your choice to change it. And yes, you have the choice, and we give us the way to make it." Keep reading for the rest of the interview.

LearnVest: How can women get happier at work?

Lucy & Catherine: In your emotional office, which represents career, money and financial matters of all nature, we believe that it’s possible, even on the grimmest of over-taxing days, to think of your job in two ways: Does it bring you a rewarding feeling, add meaning to your day, and make you feel happier for the work you are doing and contributing? Perhaps the drudgery is more bearable if you think of your corporation’s purpose or their give-back programs, the fact that it provides jobs for thousands and supports an industry. If your company makes poisonous chemicals or your job itself is counting paperclips, then perhaps the purpose comes from the paycheck that allows you to  seek out meaningful experiences in the other parts of their lives, and provide for their families in ways that allow them to find meaning as well.

We want you to look at the things that you like about your job and then figure out if you could do more of those tasks, and change the balance so you’re doing less of the onerous jobs—leaving time to take on more meaningful work. If you’re unhappy, then you have to make a decision whether or not to try to find another situation that suits your life circumstances, interests and passions better. Realize that you have a choice! We say: Not to decide is to decide, which basically means you can stay, go along with the status quo, or take a risk and go. But if you stay, understand that is a decision unto itself, and you have to then make peace with that choice… or make the opposite decision to move on!

LV: Why does managing money cause some women great stress and what can we do about it?

L&C: The question of stress is usually tied to conflict. If you have conflict with your mother, it stresses you out, and if you have conflict with your money, it’s equally stressful. We offer a Key Process we have named “the Relationship Equation,” and basically it is algebra: A (you) plus B (the other person, in this case money) equals C (the outcome of your relationship). In this case, you have to think about the fact that you are in a relationship with money. If you need to create a more honest relationship with money, tell yourself the next time you pass up a beautiful pair of shoes, “I could buy those, but I choose to spend my money on other things, or to save it for a bigger purchase, such as a home.” You don’t need to feel poor (“I can’t afford that” is a typical refrain). You can feel in control. Change yourself, your outlook, and your relationship to money, and the outcome changes. You will never change B, the other person or object, but you don’t have to. Changing A will make C different, and that’s all you need—not necessarily more money (though that would be nice) but less stress about money. And that’s better than money in the bank.

LV: How can we break out of the mold of our mothers when it comes to money?

L&P: When thinking about how we can be less like our mothers as it pertains  to money, chances are you have childhood memories that are as indelible as if they played on a big screen in the mind. We call these screen memories since they are also what Freud referred to as the most salient moments of our childhood. We tend to use them as screens, or filters, for all our subsequent events and emotional motivations. If a coach insulted you, you may have quit sports or worked harder to react and show her you could make it as a world class athlete. If you mother spent the rent on her fur collection, you could either become a saver, not wanting to follow in her footsteps, or you may reward yourself with your own favorite wardrobe items. In either case, you’re reacting, not making your own, active decisions and the first step is to think about what your own inner compass tells you to do. Being true to yourself is imperative. So figure out what works for you, and do it!

LV: Anything we should keep in mind as we are shopping for the holidays?

L&C: When shopping, in general we would say that it’s a question of balancing two powerful emotions: the desire to please and the need to save. Let’s say you always want to buy a lovely gift, , but have less than you wanted to spend on your gift budget this season. It’s a great example of the Key Process—conflict is okay. We like to point out that most people take an all or nothing approach but in fact,  It’s not either/or… it’s both/and, meaning you can both find a lovely gift that is small, meaningful, serves as a reminder of your  caring about the other person’s values and loves…and you can keep within your budget and not overspend. The point of giving isn’t who can spend the most. It’s about showing you are there for the other person, listening and reacting and showing love or affection. Another key process that works here is one we love called “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” (the good thing is generosity, the bad is being overextended, where you can’t pay the January credit card bill). Think in terms of knowing your limits—and then stay within them. It’s possible! We all wish we had oodles to spend, but the nicest presents are those that show you thought about the person, and that you care.

LV: What is your best money tip for 2011?

L&C: Our best tip for 2011 is “Be true to you!” Remember that money is just another form of self-expression, and that your value system is often played out by how you spend or save your money; basically what you spend on reflects what you most care about. Is it personal health? Sports? Hobbies? Clothes? Travel? Buying a home? Be honest with yourself and then spend on those passions that will bring you the sense of purpose, or add meaning to your life. Don’t just buy stuff because you get enticed by it in the moment. Think: How will this make me happier in the long run? And if it reflects a basic personal value (I want to spend more time with my family) then do it (take the family trip) and tell yourself that you work hard for your money. If you can’t enjoy your life, what is the point? In other words, don’t feel guilty. Take pleasure in it and tell yourself you deserve to be happy too.

For more smart tips from Learnvest, check out:

What Would You Endure For Cheap Plane Tickets?
Bad Financial Habits to Drop By 30
The 3 Ps: Three Influences On Your Money Decisions

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