shiny pennies


For the past month I have been doing a lot of introspection and reflection on intention, goals, and “resolutions” (which I’m not quite fond of, as mentioned in my recent Everygirl column, Ditching Tradtional New Years Resolutions).

And my conclusion has been that in the world we live in, especially around New Years, there is a lot of focus on penny collecting.

When it comes to setting goals, creating visions, and generally becoming more awesome, we often meditate on the shiny pennies of the world.

I should know, I’ve been a penny collector myself.

The truth is that penny collecting has also been a significant part of my intentional path for the past seven years as well.

In my past Future Letters I included my goal weight and income. I discussed possessions I’d like to acquire, features I’d like to land, and vacations I’d like to take.

Which is not “bad.” Those things are all well and good. But the problem came when I then allowed those elements of my life to direct my actions, internal motivations, and self-assessment.

And really, this flawed focus is not completely my fault. So often the messages we hear coummunicate, “the more pennies I have, the happier I will be.”

A shinier body, home, wardrobe, career, bank account, vacation, hair style, wedding, relationship, circle of friends, yoga routine, car, client roster, meditation practice, or manicure will make me justalittlebit closer to my “full potential.”

But by driving my business and life by these external goals, I allowed peace and joy to take the back seat.

By valuing pennies over the present moment and being of service, I felt a lingering sense of lack in almost all areas of my life.

After all, I was being motivated to succeed in order to “achieve” the things that I didn’t have yet. So that’s where my mind dwelt, in the Land of Not-Quite-There-Yet.

However, 2012 was a fascinating year for me. I actually acquired almost all of my penny goals. 

I had a banner year in income. I was within two pounds of my goal weight – without dieting or “trying.” I had a fairytale wedding in Paris. I got the cutest little Westie puppy that I’ve ever seen. I got a whole new wardrobe. I got to transition from a career to pre-retirement doing my purpose.

Yet the power of a little pill was able to render all that shiny-ness useless. I was more miserable in the past three months than in almost any other time in my intentional journey.

It was an eye-opening experience to see how little external reality could affect my internal state of well-being firsthand on such an extreme scale.

So going into 2013 I want to dramatically shift away from the penny focus to that of true wealth. Peace, joy, and service now grace my Future Letter more prominently than pennies.

Rather than track my income as an indicator of my career success, I am tracking the number of people I serve each day. No longer is a dollar figure going to influence my career and emotional state day-to-day.

Sure, I still have significant financial obligations, but now my metric of true success is the number of people I help each day in workshops, consulting, on the blog, and in life.

Though I realize that even measuring the number of people I help each day is essentially another masked form of penny collecting, I know that step by step, I need to train myself not to overvalue outward fame, income, or honors.

Already with this focus on service the past few days I’ve felt internally rich. I’m not forcing anything. I’m not seeking.

While I’m sure new pennies will come my way in their own due time, my focus is on service and connection.

I’ve never felt so light, free, and complete…

Which is really what I’ve been seeking all along.


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  1. Great post!
    So often we forgot to make our intentions in regards to how we want to feel throughout the year. We expect that making and achieving goals/shinypenny goals will make us happy. Instead it’s the other way around. Our goal should to be happy, excited or whatever feeling we want and the rest shall follow.

    I’m glad you are feeling better. Best wishes for 2013 xo
    Holistic Health Coach

  2. Cassie

    I think a LOT of us could benefit from reading this awesome post. It’s so, so easy to get caught up in the things that make us look better on paper, but the real progress comes from within. I think I’ll alter what I had in mind for 2013. I’ll keep the same big goals (grad school! relocate! adventure!), but take away the smaller, more material goals… and pay a lot more attention to the health of my brain and my heart.

  3. This one put a smile on my face, Jess and is such a good lesson in life. Isn’t it amazing how horrible moments can bring a person so much clarity? I’m glad you are feeling better and thank you for this post!
    xo Jen

  4. I cannot lie I am a sucker for the traditional list, and there are a few items that are on that list year after year (hello weight loss). Love this post!

  5. This is written with such clarity – a special gift you have. I’ve been thinking similarly in the past several months but still struggle with putting my goal dollar figure aside, especially. Thanks for the reminder that it’s worth the fight. 🙂

  6. Linda

    I don’t comment very often and I’ve not registered for a workshop, but you can definitely count me among those you’ve helped. 🙂

  7. Hi Jess! I’m Katie from Canada! I’m a 2 year old blogger and I just found your blog! It`s my keeper! I love the positive attitude! even after 1 hour of looking through your posts, I`m inspired to continue blogging and realizing all my intentions that I had in mind, but life with all its business keeps stirring me in a slightly different and too conventional direction. I`ve got to keep myself on track and I know that it requires a good material with an inspiring content….like your blog! Thank you and nice to meet you!!! :)))

  8. Jane B.

    Hi Jess! Can you update this post about shiny pennies? I can see that it does not incorporate your latest thoughts since you have since concluded that “helping people” was still a DOING shiny penny. I wanted to send a post about the shiny penny concept to my friend but this isn’t quite the right one.. Thanks!

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