Money — the stories we tell ourselves and an opportunity to change the narrative
A compassionate take on Happy Money Story originally a game by Charlies Davies is an interesting tool / game that helps groups explore ways in which to share a pot of money by telling stories about it. It is in the crafting of those stories and in the observations we notice in ourselves that we can see and hear our own relationship with money right now be it one of abundance or one of need. I have to credit Stefan Morales for his skillful facilitation and Naomi Joy Smith who had planted the seed in my head months ago whilst telling me about her experience of Happy Money Story.
An unsure start
First of all I must emphasize that I walked into this exercise unsure because having moved across the continent I am not currently in a position of abundance especially with large expenses to pay and uncertainty around how long I am likely to have to stay into a high expense low income balance. When this was first proposed I voiced the concern that at the moment I can only commit to work which I can and know that I will be paid for. My team mates reassured me that the aim of the game is that everyone who participates walks away at the end happy with the outcome. I put my trust in the team. Perhaps there’s a whole new article right there about trust in remote teams but I will put that in my pocket for next time.
Putting honesty first
Having voiced the needs in the beginning allowed team members to flex around their participation levels to allow for the allocation of work to go where it was needed to the team members who needed it the most.
We also went through some more flexing as life threw at us some health issues and bureaucratic hiccups elsewhere. Important to note here how the team was able to maintain flexibility around deadlines to accommodate being human. What a privileged state to be in compared with perhaps more rigid corporate models. What a privilege to work with and around compassionate people where being human is accepted for what it is.
Happy money story brought us all together to each talk about what we had brought into the team, what was done and perhaps not done and how we saw other team members in their contributions. It was a moment of appreciation and what a delight it is to be seen for things you may have taken as normal or expected. It was also invited to talk about our needs right now. The three dimensional observation points looking at ourselves, each other and hear each of our needs really enriched not only the discussion but also the team dynamic and relationship. Most of all it created a safe space to talk about money in a way we don’t normally allow ourselves to with others or even with ourselves.
Talking about money feels so alien and uncomfortable and yet in an understanding compassionate space we show up as more human, less aloof and more invested into the shared story.
I felt seen, heard and appreciated and reflected that back into the group as we moved into the next part of the exercise.
Crunching the numbers
In the mathematical part we each got to individually write down our contributions and others and come up with a numerical allocation for each person. When we were all done we looked at all the proposals and each took a turn to express our process and observations. I could see from the allocations that people in the team reflected on what was shared, the result therefore was a manifestation of that process.
As we talked through them we came up with a couple of tweaks and together arrived at a “winning” proposal which everyone was happy with.
Often money is described as the root to all evil and here it was just a cool tool for appreciation and compassion.
I must say I may have started a skeptic but I felt inspired enough by the process to sit down and write about it. Not only had I walked away happier and lighter but also felt that I was well paid for my contribution, in fact more than I had anticipated.
Where is it appropriate to use Happy Money Story?
I certainly recommend it to groups who are willing to be upfront about their needs, willing to explore their own relationship with money and to sit with their discomfort a little as they begin to build trust in their own changing narrative about money and in other humans.
Small freelance teams, families who share group budgets, groups of friends trying to find a good way to share a bill for a group meal all these would be good ways to try this out.
Perhaps even a small company might want to take this on as an experiment.
Surprises & self reflection
My biggest surprise was at looking how my relationship with money started to change as I heard team members, as I heard about their needs and their contributions. I also recognized how this changes sometimes so quickly being a freelancer without a fixed income and that perhaps next time I will be in abundance and be able to flex to meet my friends needs.
I also wonder if we had all been in abundance would we have identified surplus to share outside of the team? Perhaps to the people developing this tool or perhaps keeping the money to give out as grants further down the line… such beautiful and generative thoughts for the future.
Creating compassionate spaces in the financial realm feels like planting a seed in the desert as we each come to the circle to nourish it with our energy to fruiting, hoping the seeds spread far and wide.