Lynne Twist is the author of the best-selling The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life and founder of the Soul of Money Institute.
She has worked with over 100,000 people in 50 countries for more than 40 years, as a global visionary committed to alleviating poverty, ending world hunger, and supporting social justice and environmental sustainability. Co-founder of the Pachamama Alliance, Lynne has worked with some of the most resource-poor and resource-wealthy individuals in the world and has gained a profound understanding of humanity’s relationship with money. Seeing the dysfunction and suffering that is so often attached to money, Lynne is committed to bringing a new level of consciousness to the way that money impacts our life and society.
Recently, Lynne sat down with Kate Green Tripp, one of our partners at 1440 Multiversity, for a conversation around personal purpose and our relationship with money:
1440: You often say we can learn a great deal about ourselves by looking at our checkbooks. How do we do that? Do you think we see with clear eyes when we look at our bills and accounts and spending patterns?
Lynne Twist: I think we first need to come to a level of consciousness that it is a useful exercise to look at our credit card bill or our checkbook and then ask the question: How am I using the financial resources that I have? Am I using those resources with a mind-set of scarcity, where I’m frightened and accumulating out of some sort of fear that I’m not enough—I don’t look well enough, I’m not thin enough, I need another pair of black pants that make me look even thinner—so that we have a frame of reference for seeing how we use our financial resources.
It’s an amazing thing when you really sit down and look at how you’re spending money.
Obviously, we spend money on really important things like the education of our children, our rent or our mortgage, making sure that we have a safe place to live and be, and food. And yet we also suffer from extraordinary impetuousness and a consumer culture that has us triggered into buying stuff that we don’t need, over and over and over again.
Look at our huge industry of storage units—it’s the weirdest thing.
Not only do we not have enough room in our houses, we have to rent or buy space in an alternative place to put the stuff that we’re not using in our houses when, in fact, we have millions of homeless people. And we’re not building houses for them—we’re building houses for our stuff. That is a symbol of fear-based spending.
When you look at your checkbook and your credit card bill through the lens of Am I spending some of my money out of fear, out of a deficit relationship with myself and the world?, it will stun you and reveal where you go overboard, where you purchase or use to excess things that you really don’t need. It is a very powerful exercise.
1440: We live in a world where purchasing and spending is made so incredibly easy these days. What impact do you think that has on our relationship with money? What skills do we need to build to navigate the world of digital consumption?
Lynne Twist: I love buying online. It’s so easy. It’s so convenient. I’m so grateful for it. At the same time, I think about all the trucks and the planes and the packaging and the delivery mechanisms that don’t involve very many human beings, that get things right to my door. Is this really healthy for me? Is it really healthy for society?
So much gets eliminated through one-click buying—an encounter with a salesperson, a trip to your local community hub or store, actually bringing something home and taking it out of the car, unpacking it, and putting it away—all of which have you think more consciously and interact with other human beings.
And I think that thoughtfulness, that consciousness, that connection, that human relation is something important in our society and something to maintain, to nourish, to support, and to affirm when you can.
As a society, we’re committing ourselves to belongings rather than what we really crave, which is belonging—belonging to the community, belonging to the family, belonging to our circle of friends, belonging to our neighborhood.
We crave relationship. We crave belonging. And yet we’re supplanting it with stuff, or belongings.
I think one of the most important, almost spiritual practices is to shift the way you relate to the material world and to the access you have to the material world. It’s a really powerful path to get yourself on. And the satisfaction, fulfillment, and freeing up of financial resources you discover when you put yourself on that path will stun you, nourish you, and satisfy you.
1440: These days, we are seeing an increased value focus on experiences over possessions. At first blush, that shift seems aligned with what you call giving soul to money. But if we’re still using money to primarily fuel and satisfy the self, are we still at risk for the same dissatisfaction?
I think what people need is a purpose larger than their own life, a purpose that serves the world, a purpose that makes their life meaningful.
In every person that I’ve really, really gotten down deep with, I see that they don’t want to be about their own life. They want to have their life be given over to something larger than their life starring them.
I’ve been really blessed because I have lived what I call a committed life, which means that I have commitments that I cannot accomplish in my own lifetime, so I can’t have my life be about my life starring me. I’ve turned my life over to endeavors that will probably not happen in my lifetime, but I want to contribute to them.
We have the opportunity now, given the problems we face in this world, to live the most meaningful lives any generation of humankind has ever lived. And that’s not a burden. That’s a huge, huge privilege.
The choices we make impact the future of life for the next 1,000 years. That ennobles your life. That ennobles you. So in order to be fully self-expressed within that gorgeous context, yes, take workshops, get better at communicating, learn how to love more deeply, find that way that you can meditate and do yoga in a way that makes you much more focused in your service to the world. Those experiences are all then done in service to something greater than you. And when you have that, these experiences are fabulous.
If the context isn’t larger than your own life, then I question experiences that are only about me-me-me-me-me.
I don’t think they’re bad necessarily, but they’re contained, and I think you can get so self-absorbed that you can’t see the forest for the trees anymore.