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Senior Correspondent

To listen to the mp3 version rather than read: Ten Seven Five Financial Peace of Mind

I must have fallen asleep with the television on. Because when I woke up, there he was: Dr. Phil. In all his glory. I always thought of him as a bit of a buffoon who lucked out and landed in Oprah's orbit at just the right moment. I had never watched his program.

The segment was about a house he had set up and his wife had decorated. This was the first family to be brought in and what a dysfunctional bunch they were! They were there to undergo some form of therapy, supported by cameras in almost every room to provide proof of lie-telling and other chicanery.

But not too far into the program, Dr. Phil shared something I later realized was brilliant. It was the series of three questions he asks each person to answer before coming onto his show. Those answers, he says, clearly define the person's self-concept which, in turn, helps him understand what kind of guest they will be: how they view their problems and how open they will be to solving them.

A quick internet search told me this process of his had been popularized in a Dr. Phil book over ten years ago.

So I tried it. It said that by focusing on just 22 little key external experiences, the origin of my self concept would be revealed to me clearly. The clutter and distractions of everyday life would fall away and be left with how I perceived myself. These 22 things that came from outside of me would somehow get inside and mold how I saw myself and my life.

This was going to be good.

Here's what I did and I think you might want to do, too:

  1. Make a list of the ten most defining moments of your life, the ones you can recount clearly as if they were yesterday.
  2. Now list the seven most critical choices you have made to put you on your current life path, those that spelled out major happiness or doom.
  3. And, lastly, name the five most pivotal people in your world and how they have shaped you; whether they terrified you, inspired you or just plain left an indelible mark.

Go ahead and do the exercise. Print out this page or grab a blank one and take a few minutes to list the answers requested. Don't read on until you've done it, or you might skew what you write down, and then it will have little value.

It seems we don't have to rummage through all the thousands of days we've lived in order to discover the basis of our entire lives and who we have become.  It's enough to honestly list the events, decisions and people who have most impacted us.

What will be surprising is how many provided positive input and affirmed who we are. And also how many were negative and distorted the view we have of ourselves. As for timing, whether something happened to us at three, or in the sixth grade or last month, if you take seriously the words in each grouping, old ones can impact as much as new ones.

Now look at all your responses and see if you discern a pattern. Lots of positive or lots of negative? No judgments here.

The purpose is to help you understand your mindset when you face issues or change.

I often write about personal responsibility and taking the reins around money. I believe we have all the knowledge inside us that's needed to be terrific money managers for ourselves. But somehow we don't always find the focus, courage or will to do what would take us to the financial peace of mind we all crave.

If that's you, have you wondered why? Has this exercise identified what might be tripping you up? If your life has been defined by difficult moments, can you forgive and let go the event or person? If you made bad choices, can you forgive yourself and let it go? If any pivotal people terrified or belittled you, can you take back your power and get on with your life?

Let me know in the comments section below what your greatest “a-ha” was!


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