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Senior Correspondent

Today I heard an interview with a psychotherapist by the name of Dr. Brad Blanton, who is an expert in stress management. He wrote a book called “Radical Honesty” that explodes the myths and lies by which we live. “We all lie like hell,” he says. 

Blanton believes that relationships require true intimacy, and that true intimacy only exists if we can be radically honest with each other in a way we weren’t raised to be; it’s not just a matter of always telling the truth, but of telling ALL the truth. In other words, we mostly lie through omission — the avoidance of saying what we really think. 

He talks about how exhausting it is to live with all the lies, or half-told truths, and to remember what we said to whom. While he recognizes the price that relationships pay for total honesty, he emphasizes the price the individual pays for the lack of total honesty. 

This is pretty heavy stuff, and there are lots of ramifications I’m still thinking through about Blanton’s beliefs. Imagine telling everyone everything you’re thinking! To make that change requires a level of courage I don’t quite have at the moment, because of the vulnerability it creates. I will, however, be digging further to see how the lack of total honesty might be bringing stress to my life, and what I’m willing to change.

In the meantime, thinking about “Radical Honesty” did lead me to a place where we can safely practice it today: with ourselves.

So let’s pick three places in which we can remove some stress and safely build a solid new foundation in our financial lives by practicing what I’ll call Radical Financial Honesty.

The Emotional Aspect of Money

We have behaviors regarding money that we know are unhealthy for our financial security, but that we push back into our subconscious minds. It could be impulse spending because it makes us feel good — especially in these difficult times — or repelling money by not charging enough for our services because we don’t feel we deserve it.

Other unhealthy habits? Working such long hours that we rarely see our family, because we believe that money cures all ills. Hiding receipts from our spouses because we don’t want to hear how we can’t afford luxuries these days. Spending money we don’t have on our children because we don’t ever want them to go through what we did as kids.

Time for radical financial honesty … Stop for a moment. Pick one behavior you know is messing with your finances. Spend a few minutes thinking about where that behavior came from. (Whatever it is, you more than likely brought it forward from childhood.) Where did you first see it? In a parent? Or, is it an opposite reaction to something you saw or heard as a child?

Whatever it is, be honest with yourself about the damage it’s doing to you and your loved ones. Decide if it’s something you want to get radically honest about. No one needs to know, just you. Believe that you can change it.

Becoming aware is the powerful key to changing anything.

The Physical Aspect of Money

When it comes to our money, we know (more or less) how much we owe, but we don’t want to add it up and write it all down in one place because the number will probably scare us.

Or, maybe we tell everyone that we have a budget and talk about how we live within it, but the truth is that we don’t actually have one; we just stop spending when we run out of money each month.

Perhaps the bills and statements pile up on the counter, unopened, because we feel out of control. Reality is so frightening that we don’t even want to know.

Again, time for radical financial honesty … to take a leap of faith and accept that numbers alone will not kill us. They’re just numbers. And, in the great majority of cases, we’ve blown them up much worse than they really are.

If the numbers are bad, the only way to start getting them under control is to know what they are. If you don’t know the problem, you can’t fix it. Tear open those envelopes. Look at those statements. Add up what you owe, then figure out exactly how much you bring home. Look at the gap between what you need each month and what you earn. Designate an area in which you’ll cut back so you can cover expenses, and then start addressing debt.

Knowing is infinitely easier than not knowing.

The Spiritual Aspect of Money

We talk about wanting to save, but we don’t follow through. We talk about downscaling our lifestyles so we have a better shot at financial independence, but we put it off until next month. We talk about building a new business to generate income for our future, but we don’t take action. We buy products that will help us start something up, and they sit, unopened, on bookshelves or computer hard drives.

Time for radical financial honesty … Stop and think seriously about what you’re willing for your life to look like today so it can look the way you want it to in five years. Envision graphically and in great detail what you want your life to look like 20 or 30 years from now, depending on your current age. What do you still want to achieve in your life? Let go of other people’s dreams and aspirations, and focus on your own. Make a short list of two or three things that will put a fire in your belly — giving you the strength to do what you have to for those visions to shift from fantasy to reality.

Having a crystal clear personal vision is non-negotiable.

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