CONSCIOUS MONEY: An Interview with Patricia Aburdene

by Linda M. Potter

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by Linda M. Potter

When business journalist Patricia Aburdene accepted a job with Forbes Magazine in 1978, she never imagined it would be the first step toward becoming the leading authority on Conscious Money and Conscious Capitalism. She also never anticipated she would coauthor, with husband, John Naisbitt, an uber-popular, bestselling book series that included, Re-inventing the Corporation, Megatrends 2000, and Megatrends for Women – work that would earn her the reputation as one of the leading social and financial forecasters in the world.

It would have been counterintuitive to believe that someone with no formal background in either economics or journalism would become one of the most prominent voices in both arenas, that over 30 years later, her focus on the social, economic and spiritual trends that are redefining free enterprise would earn her the unofficial title of “Champion of Conscious Capitalism.”

But unpredictability has long been a part of Aberdene’s resume, along with personal and professional resilience. In spite of harsh criticism from the economic community and a split with writing partner, Naisbitt, she’s continued to advocate for conscious spending. Her most recent books are two solo efforts, Megatrends 2010: The Rise of conscious Capitalism, and, in 2012, Conscious Money.

Recently, I sat down with Patricia Aburdene to discuss Conscious Money. In person, this unflappable mega-star is laid back, funny and instantly likeable. Her enthusiasm for her work is contagious and her determination to get her message to people all over the globe is nothing short of inspiring.

Linda M. Potter: You hold a BA in philosophy and an MS in library science. But, there doesn’t appear to be any journalism or economics in your background. Can you tell us a little more about how you ended up becoming a business journalist and an economic forecaster?

Patricia Aburdene: I majored in philosophy in college. I knew I was interested in books and writing, but didn’t really understand what that meant for me. I got a master’s degree in library science because I knew I loved books, but it took a while before I realized I wanted to write them — not organize them. I took a few courses in journalism, but I didn’t go for a journalism degree.

I muddled along as a freelancer in my twenties, and then at age thirty I met John Naisbitt, my former husband and coauthor.

Now as far as economics go, I never took a course in economics and I’m really glad I didn’t. I prefer to use my common sense (from my philosophy background) and my ability to think critically to figure out economic issues. However, even though I didn’t study economics, my first really big job was at Forbes Magazine — tagline, “The Capitalist Tool.” There I learned the capitalist doctrine.

LMP: Do you think not having a formal background in economics has compromised your credibility within the economic community?

PA: People who know a lot about economics wouldn’t necessarily have the take on things that I do. They’re trained to think in a way that supports the status quo -- capitalism as we’ve known it. I think I can be a critic of capitalism without being in any way a socialist, and bring a different perspective to it.

LMP: Conscious Money is divided into two sections: The Inner Dimension of Conscious Money and The Conscious Marketplace. Can you explain a little more about what you mean by “inner dimensions.”

PA: We start looking at our money life by looking at our personal values – something very positive. Then we discover we’ve also got negative thoughts and beliefs about money –– a money shadow. So how do we heal those negative aspects while also understanding the role our values play? The answer in both cases is: by expanding our sense of consciousness through the cultivation of personal spirituality, personal growth and all of the mindful practices from yoga to meditating, to my personal favorite — journaling.

LMP: I like your statement that “people make wiser money choices and can grow money in a sustainable manner when their actions match their ideals and reflect their expanded consciousness.”

PA: Imagine the fun that a traditional economist would have with that statement! Mainstream financial thinking holds that values should play no role in your financial life or your money choices. And yet, how can that be true? Our values shape our choices, and our choices determine our behavior. Our choices and behavior write the story of our lives –– including our financial lives. If you’re grounded in your values, you make better money choices.

That doesn’t mean you can go, “Well I love everybody, so I’m just going to give all my money away and so what if I don’t have any left, I acted from love.” You also need to observe sound financial principles.

The reason that values can serve you financially and economically is that values engage the heart. When you also honor sound financial principles, you’re honoring the head too.

LMP: In the book, you talk about cultivating consciousness around your expenses.

You suggest that we take a piece of paper, make two columns and then list monthly expenses in the left column, and how we feel about those expenses in the right. How can we use that information to make better spending choices?

PA: I’ll give you an example. This story inspired me to create this process.

At a conference, a man shared that he was in grave financial trouble, so he decided to look at all his expenses. He realized that far too much of his income was going to pay for high tech games and tools for his children. So having isolated the problem, he says to himself, “Wow, I didn’t realize I was spending this kind of money on the kids.” So he asks himself, “Why am I doing that?” And he realizes he is doing it because he feels guilty. He was divorced and was trying to buy the kids’ love by overindulging them. That man had a very conscious experience with this process.

LMP: You focus a lot on the importance of a spiritual foundation in developing a healthy money consciousness. You talked specifically about the practice of self-mastery. How does self-mastery serve to enlighten us financially?

PA: If you can master yourself, you can certainly master your money. Mainstream, mundane money thinking would say, “Self-mastery? Oh, that’s about spirituality; money management is about making tough decisions about money.” But, how do you become a master? How do you master yourself? Well, you observe yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions. And that’s also how you gain self-mastery in your financial life.

LMP: You say that one of the most causes of money mistakes is a limiting money-mindset that keeps you stuck in poverty consciousness. Can you explain?

PA: Really, who doesn’t have a limiting money mindset? But you can change that. Let me tell you a family story.

Nana Naisbitt left a good job and moved to Telluride, Colorado. She wanted to live in this small town, but she also wanted to put her three children through college. Yet, she didn’t have any money. So, when it came time for college, she decided to become an expert on everything about scholarships, college essays, deferments and such. She generated $475,000 worth of grants and awards for her three children so they could go to college. Out of thin air, she created real abundance. She did it through her resourcefulness, her dedication and her grit.

LMP: As demonstrated in that story, cultivating a healthy money mindset has the benefit of teaching you to be more creative. Is that important in business in general?

PA: Yes. Cultivating high consciousness can earn you money through the most important factor in the business world today –– creativity. IBM did a big study that showed the most desirable trait that 1,500 global CEOs look for in the workforce today is creativity. Not because they’ve turned all arts and craftsy, but because it’s practical business. The world has grown so complex that you can’t just use rational tools to figure things out. You’ve got to go beyond — you’ve got to call on your higher consciousness to find new creative solutions.

LMP: The second part of Conscious Money focuses on the Conscious Marketplace. What makes a business a “conscious” business?

PA: It’s very important to understand that there’s business and then there’s business. We need to know some basic concepts and learn to be selective. You want to work with companies that are good companies. Ask questions. Do they treat their employees well? Do they treat their customers well? Are they successful in the marketplace? Are they good to the environment? In other words, do their values more or less track with your personal values?

LMP: How do you respond to the person who says, “I can barely pay my rent; how can I possibly afford to shop at places like Whole Foods?” Why can’t they just go to Walmart?

PA: Before you go out into the marketplace you need to truly examine your limiting beliefs about money. Until you can say, and mean it, “I love money,” you’re not even close. You don’t have to go from 0-100 percent right away. You can warm up to it by saying, “I have nothing against money.”

Everybody’s living on a budget. It’s not at all smart to buy everything at Whole Foods. For example, you might want to buy toilet paper somewhere else. Should you go to Walmart? No. But let me give you an alternative: Costco. Costco is a conscious capitalist company that delivers the goods to their frugal customers at least as well as Walmart does. Costco treats its employees really well — consciously so — and they pay their employees much better than Walmart.

LMP: Is there anything I should buy at Whole Foods? Like meat and produce, perhaps?

PA: If you believe it’s important to put organic food and meats grown without hormones on your table, YES! You can always just buy produce, meats and fish that are on special at Whole Foods to save money. It comes down to a matter of values. If health and sustainability are high values to you, then I suggest you figure out ways to honor that part of yourself. You don’t necessarily have to patronize Whole Foods. There are other stores like Whole Foods out there —you can shop around.

LMP: Is it also possible to honor our values around the environment and still stay on a budget?

PA: Absolutely. You can buy green products at places like Target, for example. Also, simple things like cleaning with vinegar or baking soda (which I do) costs only pennies. And I know I’m not getting chemical toxins under my fingernails. There’s also been this renaissance in Grandma’s cleaning products. For example, there’s a great product out there called, Bon Ami [developed in 1886 as a gentle alternative to gritty quartz-based scouring powders]. It’s completely natural and chemical free. It works like gangbusters.

LMP: What would you say are the benefits of making purchases driven by our values?

PA: It not only enhances your prosperity consciousness; it enhances your health and wellbeing.

If you’re living with this black cloud over your head that says, “I don’t have enough money. I can’t. I can’t,” maybe it’s time to question that black cloud. How about telling yourself this: “I may not have much money, but I’m going to choose how to spend it.” Maybe the best choice you could make on a special occasion, for example, is to buy yourself a bouquet of flowers. You could certainly make the argument that that’s not a good use of money. But flowers are bringing life into your energy field and when you’re more uplifted, positive thoughts are going to be easier for you!

_Linda M. Potter is a writer, popular speaker, and the author of If Only God Would Give Me a Sign! available in selected bookstores, on her website, at and Linda is also the Managing Editor of BellaSpark Magazine. <>.