By Natalie P. Wagner

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.” —Rumi

In my mid 20’s, I worked what seemed to be a “good job” in the corporate world. It started great. I enjoyed my team, was developing my skills, and was proud of the money I earned. Together, these experiences gave meaning and pleasure to my days. But when the commodity I was selling changed ownership, my team was replaced and my duties shifted away from my personal strengths. Things turned sour.

My days became long and uncomfortable, and my sales dropped significantly, and over time I felt smaller and distant from what is special and uniquely gifted about me. As much as I tried to have a good attitude, my sentiments toward my work and its meaning in my life spiraled downwards.

I chose to stay with the position because of the money. But as my relationship with the job soured, so did my relationship with the money. After all, if the money was the reason I was there, the money represented the job.

My spending behaviors changed. In subtle attempts to show myself that I was valuable, I began choosing the more expensive entrees and wines. I splurged on longer massages, telling myself that I deserved it for what I endured through the workweek. I felt like my money owed me something. But, as Lynn Twist writes, “Money cannot replenish the soul.” Truly, that’s what I was asking it to do.

Profound Realizations

Fusing this experience with years of observing people and money, I came to two profound realizations. The first seems too obvious to need repeating, and yet is too often missed to leave out: Money alone is not enough. The second realization is more elusive: Our relationship with the money in our lives is deeply impacted by our relationship with the source of that money. 

When my relationship with my money source became toxic, it contaminated my relationship with all the money in my life. The toxicity was attached to every dollar I earned, and I could feel it in every dollar I used. Considering how often and intimately we interact with money, I felt this effect across my entire life.

Not long afterwards, my favorite yoga teacher gave a lesson on Dharma. My heart moved to the idea that, as unique beings, we each have a something special to share—something we uniquely do better than anyone else. What’s more, engaging and sharing this part of ourselves is our opportunity, our duty, and our purpose.

Dharma and Purpose

The “Aha!” came when I saw the potential of one simple and life-changing question: What if our Dharma was the source of our money? 

I’m very lucky to have grown up with two parents who claim purpose in their work. The power of the energy lines connecting their work to their earnings continues into their giving, spending, and savings. It is tangible in how they’ve embraced their work days, as well as in the integrity and joy that’s permeated their personal lives as they’ve used their money in ways deeply connected to their values. Each dollar earned and used makes them more of their true selves, and this touches their lives every time their lives touch money.

In my opinion, it’s overly idealistic to expect each person to work their personal Dharma to create money. Between unpleasant work that needs doing, family money or business dividends that one may not work to receive, and roles where one creates value without being paid money (such as a stay at home parent), there is a lot of work, money and value that is coming and going around that may not directly connect with each other or bolster purpose. However, there is clearly a relationship between money creation, the work that we do and purpose.

Making It Personal

In my case, perhaps if I had had a family at the time that my corporate job went sour, there might have been a sense of purpose in providing for them that would have changed my experience—and perhaps changed what the money and its source meant to me.

My story and that of my parents are not the only examples that beautifully illustrate the connection. I have a client whose immense family wealth was created in ways that she deems morally questionable. For some time, these ethics defined her relationship with her money, and she felt lost in a sea of its quantity, her perception of toxicity, and a lack of sense of self and purpose.

Through coaching, she began to take ownership over the money that effectively became her responsibility when it became her money. At the same time, she developed ownership over her personal purpose. Honoring the value of the money itself, she now uses it in ways that connect her to that purpose, and that help connect others to theirs. She’s come to value her freedom from the daily task of making money, realizing she can work, and create genuine value in ways that don’t “earn a living.”

I have a girlfriend who does not work outside the home. Even though she works hard and feels connected to her Purpose as a mother, she initially questioned her own value in light of her lack of earning. She generally felt like she wasn’t doing enough and did not feel entitled to spend money on herself. But when she saw the connection between her invaluable role as a mother and the financial benefits of her staying inside the home and the support it gave her husband to earn for their family, she was able to connect her purpose to the money in her life. This gave her an internal sense of value and freed her to use money on herself.

Another dear friend of mine works a corporate sales job. She does not have children, and her work, though interesting and exciting, is not her Dharma. Still, her life is riddled with both Purpose and money. She finds her self through travel, music and adventures with friends and family. Her job creates the money that supports her ability to live purpose in these ways. For her, this ties purpose to the work itself, and gives meaning to her days.

What do these stories demonstrate? We must connect our money to purpose.

When purpose fell away in my cooperate job, the money was not enough to satisfy me, and the fallout stretched the breadth of my life. When we connect our money to our purpose, however, whether directly through work or indirectly through what our money enables otherwise (or both), purpose flows throughout our lives on the back of every dollar. Our lives build up around it, and, ultimately, our purpose becomes our legacy.

As a Money Wellness Coach and Finologist (a money theorist who studies human value exchange and what money means in our lives), these are the kind of questions I look to answer. I’ve created several tools for understanding your money in light of your life – or if you prefer, in light of purpose. Aptly, this work is my Dharma, and I find deep purpose in helping you use your money to live yours.

As a Money Wellness Coach and Finologist (a money theorist studying human value exchange and what money means in our lives), Natalie has created a metaphysically different approach for understanding and interacting with money in our daily lives. Her discoveries, The Money Energy Cycle™ and Money Breath, are a map and a portal for viewing money through energy lines of value and through the wisdom of the body. As a coach, she infuses this philosophy into money management systems to bring balance, alignment and inspiration to life in your everyday finances. Explore more at Natalie lives in Denver, CO, with her husband, young son, and twin baby boys.

For more articles on legacy planning, click here to subscribe to Legacy Arts Magazine.