When my brother was small, he would always start some explanation for a wrong-doing by saying, “There I was minding my own business when….” I smile whenever I hear someone using that phrase because it reminds me of the countless excuses I’d hear from him about some incident or another.

It’s not so funny though when we feel like “there we were, just minding our own business,” and then we begin experiencing outcomes that we never would have chosen. Or did we actually choose them? It’s hard to see where it started going wrong.

The reason it’s hard to see is that it is actually a series of decisions that led to these consequences. The reason I talk about getting your power back is that sometimes we make decisions that box ourselves into a corner, and then, instead of changing the situation by making a new decision, we set up camp in the corner, feeling powerless.

Sometimes a series of decisions will lead to a financial life of stress and struggle. Some decisions are like a promise to a friend or loved one, something you would not wish to break. Decisions can be about our money choices or they can be about our time choices, or sometimes they can be about both.

One client described a situation with an adult child. The original promise had been that “Jim” (not his real name) would pay for his child’s college education. The child was now 25, had been in school for six years, and was asking for additional support to go back to school. “Jim” said he was feeling resentful that his child continued to request money for school, and that he was concerned that by giving the money he was actually helping to hold this child back.

In another example, I had a client say that she felt drained, and had no time to commit to her finances. The reason that she was talking with me, however, was that her finances weren’t going in the direction that she wanted and so finding time for them was important.

I asked her how her time was currently committed. She was president of her PTA, on the Board of her homeowners association, and volunteered at her kids’ school. She also had her own business and provided half the family income.

When I asked her what it would feel like to give up some of these commitments, she said that she was concerned that if she gave them up, no one would step forward. I pointed out that she wasn’t allowing anyone to step forward because she wasn’t creating the opportunity needed for them to fill.

In both of these examples, the clients were no longer feeling the same way toward the decision that they had made, but felt uncomfortable about going back on that decision. Here’s the Truth: decisions aren’t final. You aren’t “cursed” by a decision that isn’t working out.

The power comes in owning your choices. How are you feeling about your money commitments and your time commitments? You aren’t required to feel victimized by your own choices. If, on honest review, you find there are areas where you aren’t thrilled with your results, then you are entitled to claim your power back.

You can reclaim your power by reviewing all of your decisions to see if you still stand behind them and if you still want to continue committing to them in the same way as you move forward. Perhaps there are conditions you need to add to a decision or commitment you made earlier. Or, you might find that you need to alter that decision based on new conditions that weren’t in place when you originally made your choice.

Here’s the Truth: decisions aren’t final.

Sometimes you need to rethink a decision, for example during the downturn. Post downturn, incomes may have changed. It isn’t necessarily that the initial decision was faulty, but it was made using criteria that are no longer in place. The downturn was a game changer, and decisions made prior to it may have not worked out because the conditions now are different. So here are steps can you take:

  • Honestly review what isn’t working for you. It might be something about which you feel powerless, fearful or resentful. Make a list.
  • For each item on the list, trace back the history of the decisions you made that got you there.
  •  Check to see if you’d make those same decisions today. If yes, then no worries. Your road is toward acceptance of what is. If no, then you need to see if it’s a matter of adding conditions to the old decision or remaking the decision entirely.

In the example of the client with the adult child, he chose to attach conditions: that a certain grade-point average be consistently achieved, and that all school support would end by a certain date regardless of whether or not a degree was reached.

With the client whose time was challenged, she chose to relinquish her PTA and Board commitments as soon as possible, so that she could reclaim her time and let others be of service.

You own the power of decision-making and choice.


Susan Bross, AFC® (Accredited Financial Counselor®) and has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, 15 years experience in marketing and finance, and four years as an addictions counselor. She established her own business
in 1993 and is located in Eugene, Oregon and San Rafael, California. You can contact Susan by phone at 415-479-1290 or email susanbross@ brossmoney.com.

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