Follow Your Heart

Kelly Willis

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

That Bible verse has much meaning in today’s culture.

As February is the month of love, I thought it would be interesting to explore the theme of using our money to follow our hearts. What does it mean to mindfully allocate our capital to the things, people or experiences we treasure the most? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what you treasure most deeply? How would the choices you make be different if you did?

A widowed friend of mine is currently rethinking her entire career path after two decades as a highly paid manager in the legal profession. She’s hired a career transition coach to help her discover her true passion. She recently wrote to me in an email that, “I have never ever really sat down and thought about what I enjoy doing. I just kept falling into jobs and the money got more and more…..and then it all came to a crashing halt. So, I no longer pine away, wishing everything was as it was, or wishing my husband was back. Suddenly my brain has admitted to itself that all of that just isn’t going to happen. Now that my situation is what it is, I have to take a positive from it. The positive is that for the first time in my life, I am going to figure out what I like to do, find something to do and enjoy it!” 

I am excited for her and admire her courage to step out in a new direction, even one that may mean earning a lesser income.

Others among us may not have the financial flexibility to take a lower-paying job that is closer to our heart’s desire. We may, in fact, be forced to make changes to our lifestyle and spending as a result of the loss of our partner’s income. Even these decisions, difficult as they may be, can be done with intention. This is where a budget or spending plan is essential. (See my article, Mindful and Intentional Spending.)

One woman I know who was widowed suddenly and left with a lot of debt, went through all of her expenses line by line, cancelling magazine subscriptions she didn’t have time to read, disconnecting the hot tub that was too costly to heat, renegotiating her telephone plan. Though this process may have been forced on her, it was also empowering, she told me, and it gave her a measure of control that helped her cope.

Are you clear on where your treasure and your heart intersect? If not, you may want to follow your own ‘money trail’ for signs of what you value. What does it tell you? Another way to think about this may be to consider how you feel when you spend money on something. What gives you joy? What causes buyer’s remorse or disappointment? All things being equal, we know from research that people who spend on experiences have higher levels of happiness and fulfillment than people who spend on material things.

And of course we’re all allowed the occasional departure from plan. Anyone familiar with Weight Watchers knows there are cheats that are ‘splurgeworthy.’ So perhaps consider, is this expenditure splurgeworthy? What am I trading off? Could I satisfy my desire another way? Could there be a less costly substitute that would still give me the same thrill? As with so many things in life, a little creativity is all that’s needed.