Two summers ago, I got a money tree plant. As a metaphor for the intention to improve my financial lot in life, I ceremoniously transplanted it to a larger pot, gently cutting the wire ties that bound and twisted the stalks tightly together. I felt really good about that, letting it loose. Be free, little plant! (Be financially free, me!)
The money tree hung in there for some months, but by mid-winter I finally concluded that it was dead. Uh, oops. What happened? Did it not get enough sunlight? Did I underwater (or over-water) it? Should I have used better soil or a different pot? Was the shock of the transplant too much in the end? Oh crap. Does this mean my finances are also doomed!?!
That’s certainly one morbid way to interpret the situation, however I chose another, more empowering view. I re-framed the money tree, allowing it to be a representation of my old financial life: my rocky financial history and the various ways in which I had dealt or not dealt with money that determined how I experienced it in un-fun ways, including limitations in the prosperity department.
Obviously having the tree keel over and die did not mean all my money issues died along with it. But there is significant power in symbolism, because it gives depth and greater meaning to the stories we tell ourselves. It provides a reference point, a thread to weave into the plot of our lives… hopefully to a better end.
Growth takes time, especially when you’re after a healthy and abundant crop. In order for growth to happen, there have been aspects of my self that have had to die out completely to create the space for fresh development within, which could then manifest as desired changes without. It has been necessary to roll up my sleeves and weed out the garden, uprooting all nonconstructive thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and habits with regard to money and everything that goes along with it, replacing them with supportive, abundance-oriented alternatives. In other words, it was necessary to start telling myself a new story.
A few weeks after the money tree’s demise, I was headed into the grocery store and felt spontaneously inspired to pick up a new plant. Not explicitly to replace the money tree, but rather to invite new life into my home. I was instantly drawn to one of the plants on the shelves outside the store entrance. I loved how it looked, and it just had a nice, lush vibe about it. I did not notice until after getting the plant home that it was called a Dragon Tree. “Coincidentally,” dragons are among the most powerful symbols of wealth, prosperity, and luck!
It turns out also that the dragon tree is one of the easiest, hardiest house plants you could possibly have indoors. They can bear considerable neglect and still bounce back strong with a little TLC, but they don’t need much at all to thrive. That got me thinking. What if my finances could be that hardy and resilient? What if thriving financially were easy and came naturally?
When I got my dragon tree (which I named Mushu after the character in Mulan, heheh), I did my research to know what to do for it and to confirm that it is indeed a worthy symbol for my financial future. The money tree I had was sensitive and fragile, and I didn’t really know how to care for it properly. But “Mushu” stood for a completely fresh start. It was an external representation of my renewed determination to dig in deep and change my relationship with money, across the board.
When the money tree died, I felt a subtle shift happen internally which was not there when I oh-so-gingerly transplanted it. What I discovered in myself was unwavering resolve that no matter what happened on the outside, inside I knew I had the power to change. As I’ve continued to forge ahead, staying focused and doing what needed to get done, I keep growing ever better and wiser with my finances. Really, that’s what has mattered most anyway.
As with every change, it began with a desire for things to be different, followed by a decision to make it so. And then consciously making that decision over and over again, taking action accordingly until the vision started becoming reality. The Dragon Tree served as a placeholder, a reminder every day of what I wanted to create.
A year later, I still have Mushu, transplanted in a bigger pot and doing well. In that time since bringing it home, I have likewise transplanted myself and experienced personal growth financially…
- Left the big corporate bank I’d been with for a decade, opting instead for a local credit union that actually operates based on values like integrity and supporting the community (I now feel good about where my money is; and I’m not constantly afraid of hidden fees and other b-s games that big banks like to play! About to do a similar switch with my phone carrier, looking forward…)
- Faced the looming horror of my student loan debt, getting well in the loop on the status of each & doing what was necessary to stay in good standing… (with a plan in place to pay one off entirely by June this year!)
- Created a personal reference guide that includes a big picture overview of every financial piece in my life, all in one place.
- Established a system to stay on top of bills, monthly or otherwise.
- Started automating some payments. (This never felt like a safe thing to do when I was with the corporate bank… Or before I had my big picture set up…)
- Sold for the first time at a swap meet and raked in half a thou just on old stuff!
- Started an online savings account for my family to collectively stash away funds.
- Spent several months buckling way down in order to save for the laptop that I am now writing this from… (things got very tight for a bit but the goal was top priority!)
- Got a new job that pays 30% more than my previous one.
These developments might not be all that grand in the grand scheme, but progress is progress and it is all relative. I’m sharing them to point out that changes might not always be super impressive and dramatic, yet even the small stuff makes a big difference when the changes start to build off each other. When you set the intention to make part of your life better, and move forward based on the vision you create for yourself, interesting things start to unfold; your mindset shifts, experiences come up that get you to leave old thinking and behaviors behind, letting fresh ones in. I am excited about these evolutions in my life and confident about my ability to continue to improve. What a feeling!
I have plants in my home for the pleasure and beauty they provide; I take care of them because it is necessary to keep them alive and well. Similarly, money is to enjoy, but it must be nurtured in our lives. Money is no good if it stresses me out, gets me feeling dry and brittle inside, makes me afraid or unable to live. For a long time, that was the “vibe” I carried around and the relationship I had to finances. It has felt really good to shift to a healthier place with it.
Having large numbers in my bank account is part of the vision but it’s not the end goal; that is merely a side-effect and a benefit of my true aim. What I am working toward is improved alignment with abundance and prosperity, so all the little adjustments along the way count. Feeling relaxed, free and flexible, and having lush, rich life experiences (that money can aid but not buy!)–that is the true purpose to all this. It is something I can and will work on my entire life. As long as I put in the effort, change is inevitable. As I’ve shifted into the mindset of money being a means to personal growth, money has become just another way to learn and improve.
The seeds of change, that I am in the process of cultivating now, are bound to form firm roots and a solid foundation within me. Eventually, nothing will be able to ever truly shake my financial health and well-being. I will have established the supportive habits, knowledge, beliefs, and energy “vibe” necessary to keep me on track or, if I’m knocked off, to bounce me right back on top.
It bears mentioning that when I got the new higher-paying job, my sister gave me the gift of a new money tree plant. Six months later it is gorgeous, green, and growing—even now in mid-winter. 😉
If the new money tree plant or my dragon tree Mushu happen to wither away unexpectedly, no worries here. I’ll get another house plant to love and appreciate, learn what I can do better, and do it.
End of story.
“There! That’s what I’m talking about! That’s my tough-looking warrior girl! Now go out there and make me proud!” ~ Mushu, Mulan