Head and shoulder shot of Jo smiling at the camera with a new shoulder-length, feathered and layered haircut

I'm not a victim


Yesterday, I cut my own hair. Properly cut it. Like inches of hair feathering onto the floor in front of my horrified eyes.

The reason for this foolhardy behaviour is I’m finally, after a lifetime of not doing it very well, taking care of my finances. I have set myself a saving target for the first time ever and am being careful about what I spend. Having mastered alcohol and nutritional control, I want to master financial control!

So, I’m now proactively looking for ways to save money and cut costs. Buying soap bars instead of shower gels (also paying attention to saving the planet at the same time). Giving myself a finite amount of “spending cash” for the month and not spending anything once that’s gone. Paying off credit cards. Doing a frugal Christmas. Keeping a note of my spending. You name it, I’m doing it.

But, for the last few weeks, every time I’ve brushed my hair, looked in the mirror or tied my hair up, I’ve noticed it needed cutting. This would cost way more than my monthly spending allowance. Initially, I started feeling a bit petulant and whiny… “what am I supposed to do? I need to get my hair cut. Plus, I need to get my car MOT’d, plus I need to get Christmas presents…”

Woe is me. I started to feel a bit like a victim and that my good intentions for saving and getting on top of my finances were doomed before I’d even started.
BUT… I caught myself going into victim mode and stopped myself. I started to think about all the different options I had:

  • Give up on saving money
  • Don’t get my hair cut
  • Cut my hair myself
  • Go to the salon and give up on saving money just for this month
  • Don’t get Christmas presents
  • Get small, meaningful but economical presents
  • Only get presents for people I’m closest to
  • Make my own presents
  • Give up on saving money now and start in the New Year
  • Sell the car and use a bike so I don’t have maintenance costs

I took a look at YouTube hair cut videos and decided:

  1. I would cut my own hair (saving about £80)
  2. I would keep the car (I need it because I live in rural Suffolk)
  3. I would buy small, thoughtful gifts to only five people this Christmas – everyone else would get a heartfelt message in a card (perhaps home-made but probably not 😊)

Having examined my options and come to a decision, I stopped feeling like a victim and started feeling in control and empowered instead. I even got excited about doing my first hair-cut and spent hours on YouTube choosing what looked like the easiest cut to follow. I ordered a pair of salon scissors on Amazon because all the advice said it was best to invest in a good sharp pair of scissors. It was still only an eighth of the cost of a trip to the salon and still within my monthly spend budget so totally within my self-imposed guidelines.

So, this was how I came to be bent over in the bathroom, trying with difficulty to cut the back section of my hair when I couldn’t see what I was doing, feeling terrified when I heard the first snip of the scissors and saw how much hair I’d chunked off, and feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety.

When I finished and shook it all out, I was so pleased with the result! I’m still catching myself in mirrors and admiring my handiwork. I honestly like it better than any cut I’ve had in a salon in the last few years. So, thanks YouTube – you helped me stay on my financial goals track!

There is a serious point behind me telling you this story beyond my overblown pride in my new-found hairdressing skills. And that is to share with you a concept that’s sometimes referred to as being “at cause” or “at effect”.

Being “at cause” means you’re in control of your decisions, your choices and your actions. You’re taking responsibility for what happens to you. When you’re “at cause” – you are the engineer of your life. You’re holding the pen and writing your story. You’re holding the brush and painting the picture. You’re conducting the symphony. This is a place of energy, motivation, power and satisfaction. You are the cause of your life’s outcomes. This is where I was when I examined my options and chose what I wanted to do in the face of my monetary challenge.

Being “at effect” means you’re giving up control to people and events in the world around you. You’re not taking responsibility for what happens to you, you’re attributing what happens to you to things that are beyond your control. You’re allowing others to write the story and you’re just a character within it, playing your part and saying your lines. You’re letting someone or something else hold the brush and paint the picture – and you have to take the pose they give you. Someone else is conducting the symphony and you’re following the music. This is a place of victimhood where you can feel drained, helpless, demotivated and like “what’s the point?” You are the effect of circumstances and people that are beyond your control. This is where I was when I first started thinking about these upcoming costs which could de-rail my plans.

Being at cause is a healthier, happier place to be. We often drift between the two – sometimes we’ll be at cause and sometimes we’ll be at effect. The more often we notice when we’re at effect, the more often we can choose to be at cause instead. The more we consciously choose to be at cause, the more time we can spend feeling energised, motivated, exhilarated, empowered and in control of our destinies.

I could have chosen to stay at effect when I started thinking about how all these upcoming costs were going to derail my financial planning. I had started to feel helpless and to think “what’s the point? I might as well give up…” But, noticing how I was feeling and what I was thinking gave me the opportunity to ask myself:

“What do I need to do to take control of this situation and stay on track?”

The answer was to list all of the potential options and choices at my disposal, including the ones I already knew I didn’t want. The more options you can identify, the better – it gives you more choice which gives you more control. You want at least three options, even if one of them is to do nothing, because two options can feel like a trap. Once I had my list of options, it quickly became clear what I actually wanted to do.

From that point on, I was at cause, happy that I was sticking to my plans, excited about cutting my hair and satisfied I had Christmas covered.

Where have you been at cause recently in your own life and how did it make you feel?


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