The economy, Wall Street, and personal finance are in the forefront of everyone's minds these days. But have you ever wanted to connect your fiscal needs with your values? Do you try and be socially responsible with your consumer choices? Want to learn how?

In Patricia Aburdene's newest title, Conscious Money, you'll learn just that. How to have a values-based financial life. Today, we sat down for an exclusive interview with Patricia to learn more about Conscious Money.

1. How is Conscious Money different from your Megatrends books?

I think they differ in two ways: audience and focus. While plenty of individuals read the Megatrends series, the books were primarily addressed to business people. Conscious Money, in contrast, speaks primarily to the general reader and to the Mind, Body, & Spirit set. In Conscious Money, I especially want to reach individuals who might not have been keen on finance or business in the past, but feel they must take an interest now because of today’s tumultuous economy. Second, in terms of focus, Conscious Money gives me a platform to speak about the spiritual journey we all share. That has been enormously fulfilling—yet challenging, too, because it required me to let go of a journalistic voice that had become quite comfortable for me and begin to speak more from the heart.

2. You assert that a values-based investment system, such as Conscious Money, has proven a successful strategy for increasing wealth. Can you give us an example?

There are many. But before any of them make much sense, we must first examine the common belief, especially among spiritual people, that successful investments are somehow tainted with selfishness. Often we don’t realize we hold this belief, because it’s unconscious. In Conscious Money I describe “conscious investing,” an approach that’s anchored in values like sustainability, compassion, and justice. This investment strategy focuses on companies, policies, and investments that honor “people, planet, and profit.” An important part of conscious investing is Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), which is a great way to grow “conscious wealth.” During one recent year, two thirds of SRI mutual funds financially outperformed their mainstream counterparts. That metric clearly explodes the myth that successful investing is based on greed. However, it is often true today that it can be more financially rewarding to grow wealth with a commitment to people, planet, and positive values than a commitment to self-interest.

3. You talk about how people actually block their own ability to increase wealth. How and why do people hinder their own success?

In addition to the investment misconceptions described above, we’re limited by negative thoughts and emotions about money. Many self-help gurus argue the key to wealth creation is therefore to change them, perhaps by creating positive affirmations to take their place. But as many of us have experienced lately, it does not always work. True, we must indeed transform harmful money thoughts and emotions, but before we can, two things are necessary. We must first observe them, which requires a high level of consciousness and dedication. Second, we must lovingly accept them. (Good-bye self-judgment!) Once you quietly witness and genuinely accept a negative thought, emotion or belief, you are in a much better position to change it. Those three steps, observe, accept, and transform, are the work of self-mastery, a practice that we generally associate with spirituality. But self-mastery also plays a critical role in success and wealth creation. In fact, I believe self-mastery can be our greatest financial asset. Finally, it’s important to know some core principles of business and finance. You don't need to be an expert, but you do want to understand the basics. I describe them throughout Conscious Money.

4. What does it mean to “take your values shopping”?

More and more people consciously choose to be guided by their values when making day-to-day purchases. Most of us understand that values shape us as human beings, but we sometimes forget that they also influence us as consumers. In Conscious Money I invite you to identify the transcendent values that you personally honor, such as love, compassion, or truth. There are probably also consumer values that are important to you, like frugality or durability. When you "take your values shopping,” you first remind yourself exactly what those values are. You might carry a short list of them in your wallet or compile them on your mobile device. That way if you are in doubt about whether or not to buy a product, you can refer to your values list and ask yourself whether or not the item reflects those values. In chapter five, “The Joy of Mindful Spending,” we consider three values that reflect some of today’s most popular consumer sectors: sustainability, well being, and justice. Green transportation is defined by the value of sustainability, while the quest for well being motivates shoppers who demand 100% organic, chemical-free personal care products. Social justice is the force behind the growing Fair Trade (FT) movement, which promotes FT coffee, chocolate, fruit, flowers, and, more recently, olive oil and wine.

5. Can you offer an example of one of the exercises you recommend readers use to improve their relationship with money?

That’s tough to answer because Conscious Money is chock full of exercises! So I’ll focus on an enjoyable one that cultivates a highly useful Conscious Money skill: the ability to identify companies whose values and consciousness are a good match with your own. In chapter four, “The Trademarks of Conscious Capitalism,” I invite readers to “research” (on two different levels) a nearby business with which they would consider having a relationship as a customer, employee, or investor. The first level of research is an intuitive one. In the exercise you: 1) choose a time when you won’t be disturbed; 2) think of the company in question; 3) note any questions you might have about it in your Conscious Money journal; 4) take a few deep breaths and contemplate the business, noticing any feelings or body sensations that arise; 5) lastly, you jot down any potential insights you receive in your journal. The second level is more concrete: you visit the same place of business to gather onsite “intelligence”, observing the physical space, the energy, the managers, the people and how they interact, and the general atmosphere. Later you debrief, collecting your thoughts and impressions and noting them in your journal. This exercise is important because it allows business to come alive for people who have not previously thought very much about it. It underscores that truth that doing business is a relationship, similar to any other relationship: it requires a similar level of consciousness and a pleasant sort of compatibility. People clearly recognize when they’ve had an unhappy experience with a store, restaurant, bank, automobile dealership, or any other business, but they might not know how to create more positive commercial experiences. The answer probably lies in values, consciousness, and compatibility.

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