“The key is to live not in a poverty mindset – but one of abundance.”

I heard this from my island dwelling hippie pal who’d be totally “off grid” if not for the fact that I met him through his youtube channel (so obviously they’ve got internet out there). But aside from that tech connection, this dude’s the real deal. He lives off of foraged fruit, built his own dwelling, and probably levitates when he meditates. It’s a legit minimalist lifestyle. And some might say, “Sure – he’s on the ocean in Hawai’i; what more do you need?”. I know I sure did (snidely, internally, admittedly); but the reply comes in the form of anyone who’s ever lived there and caught rock fever (“Is this it? Where do I go now?”). Judging by what I’ve heard from these folk, after a while it becomes like “Castaway” – except with internet and Wilsons who talk. Like anywhere else, you start to catch desire for more. Even in paradise. So, having few possessions on dream island may be a better environment, but your acclimation to the environment makes the whole “poverty” versus “abundance” mindset as bad a battle as it’d be in AnyTown, EarthRock.

Still, I had my doubts about this earthchild’s advice on “being grateful” as an answer.

So, I tried consulting our culture’s God himself:

Now, I’ve written about how being poor can impair your cognitive function before.

Especially for those who’ve grown up poor, it can actually structurally affect your brain, putting you at a deficit from the time the race gunshots go off, till you spend the rest of life’s survival race sprinting with a shin that’s shattered. That’s legit. What’s also legit is that science indicates that – wherever you come from financially – mentally fretting over rent, insurance, and how you’re gonna fund resuscitating your car’s expired transmission is so unhelpful that it can literally impede your thinkery. What they did was take a bunch people and paid ‘em to contemplate all the shit they couldn’t afford. Then, these people were asked to take a test. Compared to the other group (that was given what I assume was cupcakes and an inspirational quote sesh), they did crappily on the brain game. While I’ve had my doubts about decision fatigue before, I don’t doubt that it’s a real thing, and that poverty rumination is a good example of it. Spending too much time playing mental tetris with your money isn’t helpful. On the other hand, I knocked the decision fatigue for good reason – because it’s controllable. You see, what happens when we have a payment problem along our life path, is that a perspective fork appears. And we hafta decide which route to follow. We can either take the “Solution trail” or the “StewAboutIt loop”. The former borders a stream of faith that – whatever happens – you’re probably not gonna die, and it’ll end up alright. You’re able to more easily keep in sight that you have a lot in your life that make it mayhaps not worth not jumping over the cliff in the next half mile. You’re not on fire, you probably have at least one person in your life who loves you, and there’s still oxygen on Earth.

That’s a good start.

And it makes your journey more tolerable so that you’re not gasping for air by the halfway mark.

In that way, Solution Trail helps you look at logical ways outta life’s financial foibles.

And if nothing else, you thank god you’re not taking “StewAboutIt Loop” like nearly everyone around you. These hopeless hikers suffer cyclical worry on a rugged terrain of pain. Round and round they go, and when they get bored, they start talking about how poor they are out loud so that the others in their party can confirm it and say “Oh, yeah – me too”. They’re so stuck on this endless journey, that they can’t even conceive that there might be a secret path over to Solution Trail. In fact, after too much time there, the few times they do get a glimpse of the happy hikers on the other route through the brush, they just get jealous and try to recruit them into joining their misery marathon.

The idea behind this extended metaphor (which conveniently relates to me, since I travel all kindsa trails – literally) is that there is a way outta thinking shittily. Especially if you’re not dirt poor – but just, ya know, make bad choices. Those bad choices start out with your brain habits and then turn into unnecessary expenditures that dump even more stress boulders in your way. But there’s good news. You don’t even have to hunt for some secret path to get outta there. It’s easier than that. And it starts with one simple question that can help you float above the brush and drop your own ass over into the trek culminates in contentment:

“What’s the solution here? What are all the possible solutions?”

Protip: I find this question works better when I ask it alone. To myself. Especially if I’m already in a negative place.

Otherwise I’ll just tell the person trying to help me “Nothing! I’ve tried it all! The only answer is to complain and cry!”

But if I’m alone, the enlightened entity that reluctantly resides within me says:

“Well, that’s impossible. ’cause I’ve seen people worse off than I am thrive better after trying a few new options.”

Tandem to this question comes a list of everything that is going alright in your life. Write it down. And don’t tell me you don’t have time. You have time to text me complaining about how bad your job is, how bad your health is, and how bad the finale of “Girls” was. Instead’a that, text me tomorrow with how good the weather is (it really was today), how good it is you’ve got a job (but wait until after you’ve passed that poor homeless soul, please), and how good the sub you just Dysoned down sans utilizing so much as a molar was. It’s hard, I know. But let’s be honest about that – it’s not that you don’t have time; you just don’t have the desire to change your mindset because you think it’s too much mental energy expended. And for the preliminary switch (much like starting a healthy diet after a starvation one and initially gaining weight before losing it), you might be right. But as it levels out, it becomes easier (and you shed all the fatty, shitty thoughts of your previous pessimistic brain diet). And then life becomes easier without the decision fatigue hopelessness wreaks. People don’t want to do this not ’cause they’re dumb but because they’re smart – right down to their subconscious which is saying “But if I look for solutions, that might include quitting my latte-to-go obsession, changing my job, taking public transit – and that’s haaaaard.” Hard on a temporary level, yes. But easier on a long-run level. And that’s proven. I mean, we look to science for everything else. And what it shows is that the mental energy you’re already expending on financial fussing is far, far worse for you.

So, the brain-to-budget change might just be an investment worth making.