How self-reflection can help you achieve your financial goals with Valorie Burton

The mind-money connection

Taking a quiet moment to look inward can help you move forward.

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Bright Dickson (00:04):

Welcome to "Money and Mindset with Bright and Brian," a podcast to help you explore the connection between financial confidence and personal happiness. I'm positive psychology expert Bright Dickson, and I'm here, as always, with my friend Brian Ford, an expert on financial wellness. How's it going, Brian?


Brian Ford (00:20):

I'm doing good today, Bright, thank you.


Bright Dickson (00:23):

Good. Today we're going to talk about ways that you can reflect on the past year and how that can help you nurture a positive attitude going into the year ahead. We're super excited to be joined by Valorie Burton, a bestselling author and speaker who helps people apply positive psychology in their lives so they can build resilience and find more happiness.


Brian Ford (00:42):

Yup. I'm especially looking forward to chatting with Valorie about how self-reflection can help us think through our relationship with money as well. But before we get started, a reminder that you can email us. That email address is Send your money and mindset questions or share some of what you've learned in the past 12 months. We'd love to give you a shoutout on our upcoming episodes.


Bright Dickson (01:08):

Yes, please, please do. We love the responses we've gotten from listeners so far. All right, Brian, ready to get started?


Brian Ford (01:14):

Let's do it.


Bright Dickson (01:21):

We are so, so happy to have Valorie Burton on the podcast. Valorie is a coach, a writer, the founder of the Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute, and a speaker on resilience, happiness, and positive psychology. She's also the author of 13 books on personal development, including "Let Go of the Guilt: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Take Back Your Joy." I've read it and I loved it. She's helped people all over the world take control of their lives by cultivating the power of courage and positive emotion. Valorie, welcome to the show.


Valorie Burton (01:52):

Hey, Bright, it's so good to be here.


Bright Dickson (01:55):

Valorie, I have to say, I'm so excited and honored to have you with us, and when I was thinking about how to introduce you, there's this one kind of phrase that just kept echoing through my head, and it was this. It's "Valorie Burton makes me sit up straight and pay attention." I feel like when you're around, I'm just like, I need to sit up straighter. I need to be, just be a little more present. And we met in graduate school, and I just remember that every time you spoke, I sat up straighter in my little chair and I listened intently to what you had to say, because I knew just from your presence and who you were that whatever you said would be important for me to hear. And I've been sitting up and paying attention to you ever since.


Valorie Burton (02:33):

Wow, Bright. Thank you. What a compliment. I love this work, which you also do. And I wanted to make everybody sit up a little bit taller and really listen, because I really, really believe that each of us has got the potential for greater levels of happiness and well-being, but we have to be very intentional about it.


Brian Ford (02:56):

I like that. I want both of you to know I'm sitting up straight, I'm ready to rock and roll. Many of us made New Year's resolutions. Maybe we even stuck to a few of them past April, and I would think that at the end of the year, it's a good time for some self-reflection when we can look back and learn some important things about ourselves. And that's what we're going to talk about today. Not just why you should take time to self-reflect, but how. So, Valorie, you are a masterful coach, and I know a big part of coaching is encouraging intentional self-reflection. So help us out here. What do we mean by self-reflection and why does it matter?


Valorie Burton (03:38):

Well, I think for each and every one of us, taking the time to pause and notice what's going on and to be intentional about moving forward is something we need more than ever, because we're living in such a fast-paced world where I think we get overwhelmed and we forget to reflect on what we're learning, how we're growing, maybe even how we need to grow, and the choices that we're making and whether they're working well for us or not.


Bright Dickson (04:07):

Yeah, I noticed that in myself, Valorie, now that you say it, that I'm always just moving to the next thing and not really pausing to do a review of "How is this going? How am I feeling about it?" I'm just going on and on and on.


Valorie Burton (04:21):

Yeah. I think a lot of times we don't feel we have the time. We keep going because we know there's more to do. There's more to check off the list. And so the finish line becomes the starting block for the next race. Every time we finish a project, finish a goal. I think really it's an epidemic in terms of how pressed we feel for time. But when you take the time to pause, and that's really what coaching is, pausing, reflecting, and making intentional choices about how you move forward. When you do that, you feel a greater sense of peace. Even if you look at the research that cortisol levels go down, that's the stress hormone, when we pause and just are more intentional, our heart rate goes down, our thoughts come together. And so it's a really great success strategy, even though often we feel the most important thing we can do is just keep going. Sometimes the most important thing you can do is to pause and reflect.


Bright Dickson (05:16):

Yeah, just stop. So when we think about this self-reflection idea, what are we really trying to learn? Are there particular things we should target? Is it sort of dealer's choice? What are we really going for when we self-reflect?


Valorie Burton (05:30):

So for me, the whole purpose of self-reflection really is being able to do something I call self-coaching. So I've been coaching for over 20 years. My company trains personal and executive coaches. And so this idea of stopping is really about getting to the answers you need. And so when you pause to self-reflect, what you're pausing to do is, number one, notice the dilemmas and the situations and the opportunities in front of you that need an answer. Oftentimes, we're just going and asking everyone else or doing what others are doing, but when you pause and self-reflect, you're saying, "What do I need right now? What's the challenge or the opportunity in front of me? How do I want to show up?" So we're pausing because we're really trying to figure out what is it that needs my attention and what is my best way forward?


Brian Ford (06:24):

I really like that. And Valorie, sometimes on our show, we talk about and we know that having structure can help us think and act with intention. Are there any structures, techniques, or tips you would recommend for meaningful reflection?


Valorie Burton (06:39):

Well, one, if you have a time of day or time of week that works best for you when you're able to get quiet. I mean, for most of us, two in the afternoon is probably not the best time. For some, first thing in the morning might not be, because you feel pressed to get your day started. For those, it might be in the evenings, or it might be at the end of the workday, which is a really great time to reflect, especially on what's going on at work, what you want to do the next day. But at the end of the day, when you have an opportunity to relax and self-reflect, that can be good. And for others, it is first thing, that's when they're fresh, that's when everything feels quiet. I'm one of those people. I love first thing in the morning when no one else is up. It's a great time to be able to reflect.

            Another element is journaling. So, you can reflect in your mind, but it tends to be more effective when you can put pen to paper. And if you don't want to put pen to paper, then put your fingers to your screen or your keyboard. And the reason for that is when you begin writing things out and you get them out of your head, a lot of times you're processing, and so you have more space for other ideas or aha moments to come. So getting things out of your head and onto the page can be a really effective way to self-reflect. And later, when you're reflecting more, you can go back and read what you wrote. I don't know about you, but I've had many opportunities where I forgot. I have a self-reflection, I might figure out how I want to move forward, and I forget. And three months later I'm doing the same thing and I go back and I read my journal. I'm like, I already figured that out.


Brian Ford (08:26):

Yes. I've done that.


Bright Dickson (08:29):

Yeah, that's so funny.


Valorie Burton (08:30):

Yeah. And so that leads me really to the third element, which is that once you have had an aha or an idea that you want to move forward with, you want to make sure you capture that, whether it's putting it in your calendar to revisit, or do something to move forward with it, but turn it into an action. Coaching is not just about reflection, but it's also about moving forward. And so you don't want to lose the momentum when you have an answer. You want to realistically say, OK, when can I move forward on that? Or when can I take the next step? Sometimes the next step is very simple, a phone call or an email or something like that.


Bright Dickson (09:10):

I love that, Valorie. I mean, so many things in that. Like, one, I've started, maybe a year and a half ago, started doing morning pages, where it's basically just kind of like a brain dump first thing in the morning. And that has been so freeing for me because I stopped kind of holding myself to some kind of weird, perfectionistic "I need to have the perfect journal that someday will sell at auction, because I'll be such an amazing ..." Right? That kind of thing. And it's just a brain dump. And that's been so, so helpful.


Valorie Burton (09:41):

Oh, I love morning pages. I've done morning pages as well. And you bring up a really great point, which is, this is for you. This isn't for anyone else. Give yourself permission to do it imperfectly if you're journaling. In fact, as a writer, and having written so many books at this point, I wouldn't have written 13 books to date if I didn't give myself permission to get started and be really imperfect with it.


Bright Dickson (10:05):



Brian Ford (10:07):

Yes. Agree.


Bright Dickson (10:07):

Yeah. That's so important. Valorie, as you think about reflection and the questions we ask, what's one powerful question that we could use to start self-reflection? Like what's something that could sort of kick us off in the right direction?


Valorie Burton (10:23):

I think there's probably a couple. The first is just checking in with yourself. So, what is it that is challenging right now? And think about the various areas of your life, which, generally speaking, it's work, finances, relationships, health, and oftentimes even our emotional lives, the stressors and things that are happening. And what's challenging you right now? Because typically that's what's in your mind, that's what's creating stress or anxiety. Get that down on paper, what makes it so hard? So now you're thinking that through.

            What do I need right now? This sounds like such a simple question, but we often don't ask. Oftentimes we're so focused on what everyone else needs, but maybe right now you need more energy, which might mean that you need more sleep or more time. Maybe you're rushing yourself too much. So a lot of these very simple questions. Another that I love as a starter question, especially if you are dealing with a challenge that's frustrating you, maybe you've been talking about it a lot, you've been complaining, we've all been in that space. Ask yourself, what do I want? This is a question that stops you from talking about what you don't want. "I'm so tired of X, Y, and Z." But what do you want? Really shifts your focus to what it is that you could do differently, what boundaries you might be able to set, what new choices you might be able to make. So I find often it's the simplest questions that are the best.


Bright Dickson (12:06):

Yeah, I love that. I mean, I think we should probably take our own advice. So Brian, I'm going to go ahead and ask you, how would you answer that one? What do you want?


Brian Ford (12:15):

Oh, my goodness. So I'm taking notes right now and I'm forgetting that I'm a podcast host. I'm like, wait a second. I literally have a page. I mean, it's a small notebook, but it's like a page of notes already, which is great.


Bright Dickson (12:28):

I love that.


Brian Ford (12:29):

And the three questions that I just wrote down, the first one you talked about checking in with yourself, what's challenging me right now? The second one was, what do I need? And then the third one was, what do I want? And I love the "What do I want?" I love that question. And I love how it shifts us away from what you were talking about, Valorie, which is where we sometimes get fixated on what we don't want and we get complaining. And I love this as a way to shift our mindset. That's fantastic. So Bright, I'm going to answer, what do I want?

            Right now, I want to feel better, meaning I want to feel like I have more energy. And I kind of think of the other question of what do I need as I self-reflect, and Valorie, you talked about this at the beginning of this section, which is it allows us to find our own answers to be self-coaching. And as I kind of self-reflect, even right now on this podcast, I know I can eat healthier. I know a few things that I need to cut out. I know a few things that I need to add. And so yeah, Bright, I would just say answering that question right now is I want a little bit better health, but more specifically, a little bit more energy.

            And what I need is to eat just a little bit healthier, but things that I enjoy, but that are also healthy. So that's what I'd say, Bright. But Valorie, we're going to turn this on you for a minute, because not only are you a wonderful coach, but as you self-coach yourself, I'm curious, how would you answer that question right now in your life? What do you need or what do you want right now? Kind of speaking, just within the last month or so?


Valorie Burton (14:02):

I am always focused on my purpose, which is inspiring others to live more fulfilling lives. And actually, my full mission statement is to create and enjoy a fulfilling, prosperous, and charitable life, and to inspire others to do the same. So when I look at my work in particular, what I want is to make sure that everything I'm doing within my business and my work reflects that mission. That might sound really simple, but as you all have probably noticed throughout your career, there are so many opportunities that can come up. And there's so many things we can say yes to in our lives. And if we're not careful, if we're not intentional, we will say yes to things that are not purposeful for us. And as a result, we end up having to say no to things that are. I think this is true in our work, but it's also true in our home life and our relationships with our family. And that sometimes is hard. And so the "What do you want?" is a question I always like to follow up with "What will you have to do differently to get it?"

            What will you have to do differently? And for me, and I've said no a lot, I'm so much better than I used to be, but I still see an opportunity to be even more vigilant. But to deal with the fears that automatically pop up when you start saying no to things, sometimes it's fear of what are other people going to think, or they're going to think I'm not nice, or sometimes it's "I might miss out. I might miss out on an opportunity. I might miss out on money. I might miss out on ..." You fill in the blank of whatever it is. So we're always having to manage those emotions, the fears that come up, the doubts, the distractions. So what do I want? I love following that up with "What will I have to do differently?" Because that's where the work really happens. And that's why this whole self-reflection thing is so important, because if you're human, if you're alive, when it's time to make change, it's uncomfortable. And self-reflection helps you to identify what's uncomfortable and what you're willing to do despite being uncomfortable.


Bright Dickson (16:15):

Yeah, and it's interesting how even self-reflection, just like we were talking about at the beginning, is uncomfortable, right? Or can be, right? And I'm thinking, how would I answer that? And I think my want and my need right now are almost one and the same. And that it's a greater sense of community.

            And I think about it as of having more shape around me, and I'm not exactly sure how to describe that. But yeah, really more community, I think, more people, just being more anchored into a place, I think, in this post-pandemic. We're all trying to figure it out again, that idea of community. But I've got to say, thinking through that and listening to you guys brought up more questions for me. So it looks like I've got some opportunity for inquiry and probably action here. And as we do, some of that is probably going to be about my finances, and it wouldn't be "Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian" if we didn't talk about finances. So stay tuned to hear a little bit more about reflecting specifically on your money mindset.


Brian Ford (17:33):

So we talk a lot on the show about our own personal relationship with money. And each of us has unique life experiences, values, and beliefs that shape our money habits. No one knows your individual relationship with money better than you do. And so let's get into what we can learn from reflecting on our own financial behavior. Valorie, I am curious about your perspective on this. Should we separate our general self-reflection from our self-reflection on our relationship with money, or are they intertwined?


Valorie Burton (18:07):

I think of course they're intertwined. Depends on what it is you're looking to do financially. But this was huge for me. I love the topic of money, because I had to overcome a lot of mental blocks and just habits that were not serving me well when it comes to money. And there was a lot of self-reflection and self-coaching for me that went into that.


Bright Dickson (18:28):

I mean, it's a challenging topic for everybody. And Brian, I have a question for you on this topic, 'cause I think you've got some stuff to say about this too. So if I'm going to sit down and really do some self-reflection about my money, I think one of the mistakes that I make sometimes is that I just, I'm like, "OK, now I'm going to sit down and think about money," but I don't gather up the tools I need. So if I'm going to sit down and do that, what are some of the information and tools that I should use to inform my self-reflection? Like what would I need to do to prepare?


Brian Ford (19:01):

Yeah, and my answer has changed in the last 10 minutes of learning and listening to Valorie. So I'm almost going to say, instead of jumping in with my full-on nerd hat on and tell you to gather up all this stuff, I'm going to say, part of me just wants to say, don't complicate it, just jump into some money self-reflection, and don't force it if that's not what you want to self-reflect on. But if you want to, and you're like, "Look, it's time for me just to think about these things," I would go back to a few things that Valorie already mentioned, which is, she talked about a few tactics that we can use by setting a time, by journaling. And then if you get that aha moment, turning it into action. As far as writing some of these things down, I would say just do those things relative to your finances and maybe ask a couple of those questions that Valorie mentioned earlier, but just with that money twist on it.

            She started out by saying, check in with yourself and how am I doing? What's challenging me right now relative to my finances? Or what do I need financially? Or that third question, what do I want financially? I love all of those questions relative to our money. So I had this answer, Bright, that I was ready for when we were prepping for this podcast, and I wanted to switch it up. Now I know we've got some super nerds listening, and so for them, if you want to gather up a little bit of stuff to help you self-reflect, definitely you can grab, and Valorie mentioned this, you can grab your old goals or self-reflections on money, let's get some of those out. Maybe you do want to bust out your budget. And for my super nerds, you could even grab your 401(k) statement or maybe even your full net worth statement and just kind of see where you are at.

            But again, I think I just go back to keeping it simple and doing some of these just quiet self-reflections relative to your money. And I think you'll be surprised what will come to the surface. And as you journal these, I think naturally, as Valorie mentioned, that you'll begin to self-coach yourself and you'll know kind of what that next best step is. Write that down, just take that one step in the right direction. So yeah, that's kind of a few things that come to my mind. I'm trying to put into practice what she's teaching us. What would you say, Valorie? Am I on track here? I'm trying to do my best.


Valorie Burton (21:19):

You are spot on. Because when I ask those questions, they're relevant in every area of life. And so the "What's challenging you right now?" when it comes to your money, we can look at what we have, what the statements say. But when you really think about your vision, what you want when it comes to your finances, one of the important questions is, why aren't you there already? Not because I want you to beat yourself up, but because I want you to reflect on the things that tend to get in the way when you set financial goals. And so, for example, in my own life, there was a point at which I realized, OK, I've got to do something different. And there were several ways, like in my twenties when I was in debt and I was an emotional spender, so it didn't really matter that I set the goal, that I wanted to pay off debt.

            If I was going to keep showing up at, I won't name a store, but a very, very nice store, spending money on my credit card, I had to reflect on why I was doing that, even though it was counter to my goals, and that had nothing to do with money and the steps that I needed to take. We tend to know what steps we need to take. The question is when it's time to take those steps, why are you not taking them? We all know how to lose weight, eat better, move more. I don't care what diet or plan you stumble upon, it's going to be a combination of that. And money is very similar to that. I happen to find that when it comes to our mindset and our emotions with money, it's very similar even to someone struggling sometimes with emotional eating, we'll do the emotional spending or we won't be as logical as we need to be, even though we know what to do.

            So being able to stop, and self-reflect. For me, I figured out I had issues of insecurity and lack of confidence that didn't come across when you looked at me or talked to me, and I had to get to the bottom of those things. Am I buying things because it makes me feel more validated? Am I buying this because today I feel a little sad or I feel a little lonely? And so when I started reflecting and noticing when I was making financial choices that didn't line up with my goals, when I started noticing what was happening, I could be more intentional about changing those. One of the things I did is I told a friend about my debt, someone I trusted, because I was keeping it to myself, and there was shame around that. When I told her, it was just a release.

            I came up with other things to do besides shop. If I felt those negative emotions, I might go to the park, or call a friend and go do something, or maybe go exercise. And I always felt so much better because I'd made a better choice. So the reflection helped me to come up with better choices because it wasn't that I didn't know what to do. It was that I was having trouble managing myself when it was time to do it.


Bright Dickson (24:25):

That's so important. And it's one of those things that's so simple but so hard, of like, OK, what's the actual need and how do I meet it? And I think this is really for both of you guys. Sometimes I think I get tripped up on ... I'll have the insight, just like you were saying earlier, Valorie, and then I do nothing about it. So I'm curious for both of you, Valorie and Brian, how do we use that reflection and get that insight to set ourselves up for the future, and then how do we convert that into action? What does that look like?


Valorie Burton (24:58):

I have some thoughts, unless Brian wants to jump right in.


Brian Ford (25:01):

No, please, Valorie.


Valorie Burton (25:03):

So Bright, I'm thinking about one of the pieces of research we learned when we were in grad school together from Dr. Laura King about your best possible future self, which is a vision exercise. One of the things I did that really changed my financial trajectory is I wrote a vision of my best possible future self in the present tense. And what we know from the research is that writing about your best possible future self in the present tense, one, it puts you in the mindset that you're able to do it now. It also has a lot of health benefits. It boosts a lot of positive emotion. But I talked about how much money I needed to make, or not needed to, how much money I was making in that moment, how easy it was for me to do it because I provided the value for it.

            I talked about other things in my life, like my relationships and my health. But that was a really powerful exercise and I kept it in front of me. It was probably about two years where I needed to break through because of what I was wanting to do financially. And I kept a number in front of me on my computer all the time because for me it was a big number, but I knew it was possible. It wasn't unrealistic, but I wasn't fully believing it yet. So having it in the present tense that this is what I'm bringing in, this is what I'm earning, and seeing it every single day, eventually it just felt like, yeah, of course I am. And I had the first number there. Maybe it was only about nine months, because I remember I hit it and then I increased the number. I was like, "Well, that wasn't that hard."


Bright Dickson (26:34):

That worked.


Valorie Burton (26:34):

So I think sometimes we don't understand the power of a vision. If you're in a relationship, if you're in a marriage, for example, my husband and I have had a very clear vision together of what we want financially, and we're on the same page with that. But it also pulls us forward and helps us make our decisions very intentionally. So when it comes to vision, what do you want for your future? Don't let it scare you. It might feel really big, but until you make a decision that it's possible, you won't start taking the kinds of steps that will lead you to it.


Brian Ford (27:14):

Yeah, I like that a lot, Valorie. I appreciate those thoughts. A couple things have come to my mind as you've been chatting, and Bright, I think your question was, if I go back, how do we use self-reflection to set ourselves up for the future? How do we convert this self-reflection into action? And for me, self-reflection gets me in the right mindset to set new money goals. So once I have a better sense of where I am, I'm better prepared to chart a course for where I want to go. And I think that dovetails well into what Valorie was saying, is what is your vision for yourself financially? But Valorie was talking about, man, I'm going to have to go back and literally listen to my own podcast. That sounds super nerdy. But to hear what Valorie was saying, she was talking about being intentional just a minute ago.

            And she was talking about how sometimes we say yes to things that maybe we should be saying no to, and the reasons why we say yes to those things. And Valorie, my super nerdy finance mind was literally going to budgeting. And I'm like, oh, my gosh, she's talking about budgeting. I don't know if she knows it or not. And I often say that, why are we saying yes to all these things when really we should be saying no? But the crazy thing is when we say no to things intentionally because they don't fit with this vision, they don't fit with where we want to go as a human being, what we're really getting more of, we're getting more to the actual yeses that we truly want. And it just came through very clearly to me, and I appreciate your thoughts on that. I'm going to have to go back and listen to that, but budgeting kind of came to mind for me.


Valorie Burton (28:52):

Well, budgeting gives you clarity. Your budget is your vision. Here's what we are trying to do here, right?


Brian Ford (28:58):

Yes. Let's go, Valorie.


Valorie Burton (29:02):

So let's be intentional about it, and now I can see, OK, if it was something you wanted to pay off or a certain amount you wanted to invest or save, or maybe your kids are headed off to college and you know what you need to do for that; by having the budget, even if it doesn't all work right now, you can see what you need to do over time so that it does work. And then you begin connecting the dots. For example, I didn't used to ask for what I was worth. That was scary to me. It brought up all kinds of ... my fear of disapproval and rejection. I just wouldn't ask. But when I then connected it to, if you don't start asking, you're doing the same amount of work, but you're taking less money for it, and then you're not going to be able to meet these financial goals.

            So the self-reflection then connected back to the budget. If I need to meet these numbers, or we're trying to reach these goals, I can't get in my own way. So budgets, even though sometimes people go, "Oh, a budget," usually it's because they think it's just going to take something away from them, but what it really does is it helps you see a really clear picture, and now you're empowered to make intentional decisions about what you want to do going forward. I think a lot of times we don't want to look because we don't like what we see, but it is what it is right now. At least acknowledge the truth. And then you can say, all right, so what would I like to do differently? What would I have to do differently to get to where I really want to be? Because it's possible.


Bright Dickson (30:45):

Yes, the budget is the vision. I've never thought about it like that, but I love that. I'm going to start thinking on that and doing something about it.


Valorie Burton (30:55):

And I heard Brian, he keeps calling himself a nerd. I heard all those nerd bells going off. I said, yes, yes. Budget is the vision.


Bright Dickson (31:07):

While self-reflection is super beneficial, it's not necessarily easy. And getting personal with yourself can also lead to feelings that might be a little "yuck" and difficult to handle. So next we're going to talk to Valorie about how we can let go of the kind of emotions that threaten to sabotage our potential and really use them to cultivate a positive mindset for the future.


Valorie Burton (31:41):

I think we always have to remember that when we're stretching out of our comfort zone, we're going to feel uncomfortable. It's so basic, but we tend to forget it. And so we go out of the comfort zone and we're like, "Ah, this doesn't feel good. I don't like this." And it's like, well, yeah, because you're not in your comfort zone anymore. This means you're probably doing the right thing because it's not comfortable. But if you stay out there in that discomfort zone for a while, your comfort zone expands and you grow and your capacity grows.

            And so we should, on a regular basis, be stepping out of our comfort zone, especially when it comes to self-reflection, because there are things probably for those listening, if you probably could identify one thing maybe you've been avoiding for some time, and maybe you're listening right now because it's time, it's time to deal with it directly, it's time to stretch out of your comfort zone. It's time to stop self-sabotaging and do something a little different. And so, that's going to take some discomfort. But like I said, when you're out there long enough in the discomfort zone, it becomes your new comfort zone.


Bright Dickson (32:55):

And Valorie, one of the things that I've found for me is that I'll do the journaling, right? I'll do whatever it is I need to do. I put the nice music on, I set myself up, and then I'm doing it. And that big, yucky emotion comes up. And for me it's usually shame, right? Followed closely by its cousins guilt and anxiety. And then we're all in there together. And what I do is I just quit reflecting and I distract myself and I make it go away, right? I avoid it. And I know that this happens around, there are a few in particular domains in my life, but money is one of them. So question to you, is that normal? And exactly why does that happen? I have the intention and then I back myself right out of it.


Valorie Burton (33:48):

Well, we're human. We don't like things that feel painful. It is natural to move away from pain. And in many elements of our lives, that's the very smart thing to do. So no need to beat yourself up for it, because it's instinct. And so, we have to use our minds to say, "OK, this isn't the kind of pain that I'm supposed to run away from. It's not me touching fire. This is me touching something that is uncomfortable for whatever reason. Now, what do I want? My guess is I want to be able to intentionally deal with the issues in my life without ignoring them or pretending that they don't exist. Because what I want is freedom. What I want is more joy. What I want is peace in my life." So we still go back to the "What do I want," and then "What would I have to do differently to have that?"

            Well, I might have to stick with this for a bit. Sometimes it's, "I might have to find a counselor. I might need to talk to a therapist because there's some stuff going on here that I can't figure out how to handle." And sometimes it's "Who's my mentor?" or "Who's been there and done that when it comes to this particular goal that might be able to advise me?" Resilient people reach out. They don't go it alone. They're willing to say, kind of like I said, I reached out to a friend and said, "Hey, I'm really embarrassed that I've built up this much debt." And when I told my friend, she didn't shame me for it, she's like, "Oh, wow, I'm so glad you felt comfortable telling me. So what are you going to do?" And suddenly the light was on it and it was like, well, this is not that unusual.

            I went to college and grad school, I have student loans. Maybe I didn't need that particular car, but it sure was a nice graduation present to myself, right? And yeah, I made those choices and now I'm seeing that maybe I could make some better choices, and that's what I'm going to do. So the self-reflection can help us be nicer to ourselves. And there's another concept, positive psychology concept I know you know, Bright, that really is relevant here when we're dealing with those emotions, and that's self-compassion, that when we start to beat ourselves up, if we can be intentional about talking to ourselves and treating ourselves the way we would treat someone we care about, if they were dealing with the same thing. It's not likely that she would say, "I can't believe you did that. That was so dumb." If it's somebody we really care about, we say, "Oh, yeah, I've been there before," or "You're not the only one and it's OK and I think you can work through this. I've seen you work through bigger issues before." Talk to yourself that way. Remind yourself of how you have succeeded, how you have persevered. Sometimes we don't do that enough.


Bright Dickson (36:42):

I really like this idea of number one, reaching out. Don't go it alone. It's not necessary, right? For most of us, the vast majority of the time, there's nothing that's going on in our lives that someone else hasn't dealt with too, or something similar.


Valorie Burton (36:59):

That's right. It puts it into perspective and suddenly we're like, "Oh, it's not just me."


Bright Dickson (37:05):

And your idea of being your own friend, right, and not talking to yourself in a way that you would never talk to someone else.


Valorie Burton (37:13):



Brian Ford (37:15):

It was just wonderful for me to sit back and listen to that conversation. And again, take a little notes, and Bright, as I was just contemplating the question that you were asking, which is, "Hey, this happens to me. And sometimes it's not a good thing." And a lot of what I think is in the same lines, which Valorie just expressed, which is one, it's normal, especially for those who hold themselves to high standards. And I like the term that both of you used, which is self-compassion. I always say that I need to be gentle with myself. That's the way I refer to it, as just being gentle with myself, and make room for self-reflection on the areas that you did right and that you made progress on. Let that be maybe your starting point. You'll naturally, as someone who holds yourself to high standards, go to those areas that you might need to work on. But maybe it's reminding yourself to ask the question, what did I do right? What went well this year for me financially? And then using that as a springboard to further self-reflect, but maybe easing into it a little bit.


Valorie Burton (38:17):

I love, love, love that question. It's one of my favorite questions.


Brian Ford (38:21):

Hey, I like it.


Valorie Burton (38:22):

Yes. Years ago I wrote a book called "Successful Women Think Differently." And one of the chapters is around, stop focusing on your weaknesses. It's your strengths that really will help pull you forward, but you have to leverage them. And so one of the questions that I often ask, especially for those who self-reflect on "What's wrong with me, what have I done wrong?" The better question is, what's right with you? And build on what's right. You've done some things well, you've done some things right, and when you're reflecting back over a year, asking, "OK, how far have I come? What am I proud of this year? What have I learned? What are my lessons?" What's your top lesson this year? What are your top five lessons this year? That's how you reflect in a way that allows you to grab hold of the wisdom that's being offered and carry that forward into a new year or a new season.

            So being able to start with what's right is essential, and it feels good and it opens your mind up to starting to remember more of the good stuff and more of what you've done well that you could do more of. And that also gives you confidence for the things that maybe you haven't done so well, that hey, I can learn, I can grow, I can get better. I don't have to be perfect to make progress. In fact, I'm not going to be perfect. And if I can focus on progress over perfection, I'll keep moving forward and I won't get stuck beating myself up for the things I haven't done.


Bright Dickson (39:53):

Progress over perfection. I love it.

            Thanks for listening to this episode of "Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian." Let's quickly recap our top takeaways from today. Valorie and Brian, what would you say your top takeaways are?


Brian Ford (40:14):

Valorie, I'll let you go first. What do you think?


Valorie Burton (40:18):

No, no, you.


Brian Ford (40:18):

You want me to go? I love it. OK, let's do this. I'm going back to my notes. I love when Valorie said self-reflection is a success strategy. Love that idea. And that really self-reflection can lead to self-coaching. And it's about getting to answers for yourself. And I like that. I love some of the tactics that she related to us, which is set a time, and when does it make sense for you to self-reflect? And then as you self-reflect, number two, journaling as opposed to just thinking, get this kind of onto some paper. Maybe that's even just audio dictating into the notes section in your phone. But once you've got that written, and then once you've got that aha or that idea, turn that into action. So those were some of the things that I really took out of this, was just some of those really concrete tactics for self-reflection.


Valorie Burton (41:10):

That's so good. Brian, I feel like you were an excellent student in school. You take great notes. But thank you for giving me some extra time to reflect here. So I think that the most important thing I want anyone listening to take away is how important it is to be intentional. And our world is moving so quickly. The ways that we engage with electronics and media is, it's designed to pull us away from the present moment and from things like reflection. And so we have to be intentional to pause, to notice what's challenging us and what we need and what we want and what we need to do differently to get it. And that just takes being willing to slow down. This doesn't have to be that you're stopping a whole day every single week. It could be, I'm going to slow down right now for five minutes to breathe and notice what's going on with me and to notice what it is that I'm needing.

            And then the other takeaway I really believe is understanding that it's not about knowing all the steps. It's about what you do when it's time to take the step. And if you're not taking the steps, if you keep getting stuck, that's a sign that you need to self-reflect, stop, pause, and go, "Hey, what's going on here and what do I need to do differently? And what would enable me to do that?" When you start doing that very intentionally, you'll see yourself making the kind of progress that you really want to see.


Bright Dickson (42:37):

I love that, Valorie. Thank you. I think, for me, I mean, the part about "the budget is the vision," that just kind of blew my mind. I had never thought of it that way. And I think one of your last points too, around don't forget to ask yourself what went well, right? Don't forget to ask yourself what you're proud of and really answer that, because there are winning strategies in there that you can use to apply to maybe what's not going so well. I think we skip that more than we should, and it's just so powerful. There's so much learning in there. Valorie, thank you so, so, so much for being here today. I am sitting up much straighter in my chair after this conversation, and my heart feels so full. So thank you so much. If our listeners want to hear more from you, Valorie, which I'm sure they will, and I certainly do too, where should they look? Where can we find you?


Valorie Burton (43:28):

They can go to or, C-A-P-P That's Coaching and Positive Psychology, and they can find me on social media, on Instagram and Facebook. It's just @valorieburton, but Valorie's spelled like valor with an O, V-A-L-O-R-I-E. And Brian, thank you so much for having me on.


Bright Dickson (43:57):

Thanks again, Valorie. So much. Before we go, friendly reminder to our listeners that you can check out all of our past episodes and other great tools and resources at


Brian Ford (44:09):

Yes. If you enjoyed this conversation, consider sharing it with others who may find a bit of self-reflection helpful. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you can get episode alerts and be one of the first to hear next month's episode. It's going to be another good one.

To figure out where you want to go, you’ve got to know where you’ve been. That’s why intentional self-reflection is one of the best ways to understand not just your mindset, but your money habits, too. By thinking about the challenges you’ve overcome—and the ones you’re still working on—you can prepare to crush your future goals.

In this episode, Bright and Brian are joined by bestselling author Valorie Burton, founder of the Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute and a speaker on resilience and happiness.

Tune in to hear how to make self-reflection a successful strategy for taking more control of your life and your money, plus:

  • How journaling can inspire new ideas
  • The questions you need to ask yourself when reflecting
  • How budgeting can help you envision your future self
  • Managing your emotions to cultivate a positive mindset
  • Why self-reflection can help us be kinder to ourselves—and others

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, mental health, or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial, or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.