Many years ago, in fact, more than I would care to acknowledge, I was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange doing a report for CNN. My first story offered tips on how to get rid of credit card debt. The next was about a survey that found that the average American household carried over $10,000 in credit card balances at that time.
I remember having the thought, “What is it about money? Why can’t we just get it right…myself included?” Few things work as simply: Don’t spend more than you have. don’t borrow more than you can afford to pay back. Don’t invest more than you can afford to lose. In addition, there is so much free information out there that shows us how to ‘fix’ every aspect of our financial lives.
I knew, instinctively, however, that there was a lot more to the story than dollars and cents. I knew that the financial service industry, the financial media, and most people were ‘short-changing’ the issue by only focusing on the numbers – money is a leading cause of divorce, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and even health problems.
What I didn’t know, however, was that I was setting out on what would be a 6-year study on what drives financial behavior, and what a life changing journey that would be.
Why is it that so many of us have every intention of achieving our goals, but don’t always make choices or take the financial actions needed to make them real? The short answer: Conditioning, or as Conscious Finance author, Rick Kahler, calls them, Money Scripts.
“If you think of an unconscious belief as a script, it’s easy to understand it as a set of instructions written by someone else,” says Kahler. “Actors are given scripts, which they rehearse until they can follow them perfectly. In the same way, we blindly follow our money scripts. we’ve learned our parts well, and we faithfully act them out,” he adds.
Money scripts are the result of conditioning that began to take place from the moment we were born. Far too often, we go straight to the numbers when it comes to our finances. That not only doesn’t solve the right problem, but it also prevents us for seeing what’s driving our choices in the first place.
- Childhood Scripts: Our parents and primary caregivers hold specific beliefs and attitudes about money which help to form our own. We often don’t realize how impactful these early imprints are on our brains.
- Social Scripts: We are also influenced by social messages and the media about the things we must have and do. Our brains literally compare our lives to our neighbors and peer groups. Factors like gender and race also have a tremendous impact on the messages and stereotypes that society creates for us about our financial possibilities and behaviors…More importantly, our beliefs about ourselves.
- The Songs We Play in our Heads: “I’ll never understand the financial markets.” “Money will always be a struggle.” “My children will not succeed if they don’t have this experience.” That little voice in the head is one of your worst enemies when it comes to financial wellness. It’s incessant and destructive tunes unconsciously lead us to make decisions that make them true, for better or worse.
Money’s greatest gift is that it is a mirror, that truthfully reflects back where you are blindly letting conditioned thought and behavior patterns ‘run the show.’ It can also serve as a much-needed reminder that there is so much more to you than your mind, revealing where your real power is.
I welcome this opportunity from Psychology Today to help you gain mastery over your mind, and create the psychological, emotional, and financial environment needed in order to thrive.
To learn more about making your mind work for you instead of you working for it, check out my Change Your Mind, Change Your Money webinar.