• August 2012

How I Reframed Paying My Taxes: Why Self-Talk Matters

By Lisa Earle McLeod
Keynote Speaker and Author
McLeod & More, Inc.

With quarterly taxes due Sept. 15, here’s something to consider this month: Do you like paying taxes?

I own my own business, which means I write quarterly checks to the IRS. And I confess, in the past I didn’t enjoy paying them.

We have a meeting every Friday afternoon to go over the cash flow, the receivables, and the projected revenues. At the top right corner of the report was an account labeled: Taxes.

We set aside a chunk of every check for taxes so that we won’t come up short at the end of the month. After several years of business ups and downs, this has been our best year ever. I’m grateful. Yet as we made more money, the number in the “Taxes” account grew bigger, too, and I found myself getting more and more frustrated.

I often found myself saying, “I can’t believe we have to send that much of our money to the government.”

I didn’t like how that statement made me feel. I was turning into a curmudgeon.

Then one day it clicked: I have to pay taxes whether I like it or not; why am I creating such a negative experience for myself?

So we changed the name on the ledger from “Taxes” to “America’s Money.”

The next week when we went over the reports, the difference in our attitude was amazing. The conversation went something like this, “Here’s the income, here’s the cash, here are the receivables, and here’s America’s money. Wow, she’s doing great!”

All of a sudden there was a shift in my perception. I realized that this wasn’t our company’s money, it was my country’s money.

We began to feel like proud sponsors as we fantasized about the possibilities. What was America going to buy with her money? Holy cow, we almost had enough to pay for a teacher, or a soldier’s rehab. The line item was no longer depressing; it was exciting.

Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking, “She is out of her mind—doesn’t she know how much money our government wastes!”

The answer is yes, I do know that our government wastes money, and I don’t agree with everything the government spends our tax dollars on.

But that’s a different conversation, a political conversation. This is a personal conversation about how you can feel great about doing something you have to do anyway.

Changing the name on the account from “Taxes” to “America’s money” reframed our thinking. We went from loathing that line on the worksheet to being proud of it.

Sure America wastes money, but I mentally earmarked our tax money for things we feel great about. As the account grew we found ourselves getting more and more excited. My husband says what we did, “made us feel more patriotic; it loosened our attachment to the money.”

The bottom line is this: There’s a price to be paid for everything.

You can whine about it, or you can enjoy it. Being a parent costs you time and money, being married costs you some personal freedom, and doing business in America means that you have to pay taxes.

Quite frankly, I think it’s a bargain. When I look around at the rest of the world, the checks I write to my country are a price I’ll happily pay.

Now, when I send in a check for the quarterly taxes we owe, I sign it with a flourish. It’s America’s money and I’m damn proud to send it to her.

You go to work, you make the dinner, you raise your kids, and you pay your taxes. In the end, you’re the one who decides whether those are good things or bad things.


About Lisa Earle McLeod

Lisa Earle McLeod is a sales leadership consultant. Companies like Apple, Kimberly-Clark, and Pfizer hire her to help them create passionate, purpose-driven sales forces. She the author of “The Triangle of Truth,” which the Washington Post named as a “Top Five Book for Leaders.” She has appeared on “Today,” and has been featured in Forbes, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal. She provides executive coaching sessions, strategy workshops, and keynote speeches. Click here to learn more: www.lisaearlemcleod.com.