Making sense of money stories
We learn through stories – it’s how we understand and remember. We tell stories every day – to make sense of something, to remind us, to imagine a possible outcome. A story depicts a journey and is held together by an account of memories, whether real, remembered or fabricated.
Sometimes, in stories, the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred. How we remember things may not be an actual account of what really happened, but how we perceive it having happened.
This is because a lot of our behaviour patterns and belief systems downloaded in the first years of life become automatic. We behave in a certain way, or think about things almost intuitively – an automated, ingrained response.
I consider my own money journey. My parents had a very dysfunctional relationship with money, and I realise how it has shaped my own attitude towards money.
In our house, my father was in charge of all the money and gave my mom a housekeeping allowance. Watching television during the day was forbidden (a waste of electricity), the tumble drier was locked in the garage (too expensive to run) and the telephone was always locked. I remember the anxiety as my mom pleaded with my father to give her extra money to buy Christmas presents.
Don’t misunderstand me: we had money – more than enough of it. It’s just that my dad bullied my mother by restricting the amount of money she could access.
I have always resolved to have my own financial independence. So that I cannot be controlled by someone else. I often need to remind myself that my past is not my present.
Neuroscientists estimate that 95% of our behaviours and beliefs are pre-programmed in the subconscious mind, operating on autopilot. We rarely ever observe these behaviour patterns and beliefs because they are subconscious.
We don’t see things as they are – we see things as we are. (Talmudic tradition)
Your story about money relates directly to who you are – it’s the subconscious tale about how you perceive yourself. And this story is mirrored by what money means to you and the decisions you take around it.
Let’s look at an example: a common money journey is the fear of poverty. You don’t actually have to be poor for poverty to be your story. Stories have to do with your perception of reality and not necessarily reality itself. When the fear of poverty looms in your mind, be very careful. This story can be a destructive and debilitating one to live out. This story is often a story about self-worth, or more accurately, the lack of it.
The truth is that stories are powerful; if we believe our own stories, they will come true. If you keep telling yourself that “you’re just managing to get by” or that you “will never be debt-free” – whether you do so consciously or not – then that is how the story of your life will go. How you choose to think or feel about money will influence your money journey.
A clear understanding of your money journey can start a whole new chapter where you are able to change that story, rewrite that chapter and start making money serve you – instead of the other way around.
A good question to ask yourself “ How much of my money memory is reality and how much is based on a belief I hold onto?”