In my previous article, Your Money Mindset Forms by 7: And the Gift Keeps on Giving, I talked about a concept I call money maps — the beliefs, values and attitudes we have around money that shape how we see the world and the role we (and our money) play in it. For most people, it’s one of the least understood elements of their finances, and it’s arguably the most powerful thing that influences not just their financial decisions but their overall well-being.
Here it is on a billboard: If you don’t master your mindset, you will never master your money (or the role it plays in your life).
Having the tools to reflect on, gain awareness of and change your unhealthy beliefs and attitudes is the key to thriving in your financial life. With an understanding of the past, you can better understand your present and, with the right strategies and guidance, shape your future with greater clarity and confidence.
Before I share a few simple tips to help you discover, understand and change the beliefs shaping your money map, there are three rules everyone should follow:
- Simple strategies, well executed, are the key to lasting behavior change. Find small things you can implement, with consistency, and change will come.
- This is a no judgment zone. Money is very emotional, and you will likely unearth at least one thing that is uncomfortable. Give yourself grace and don’t judge yourself for what you discover.
- Change takes time. Don’t expect an overnight shift in how you feel or behave with your money. My father always said, “Patience is a virtue.” I hate that he is right (but I still love him).
Now let’s break down five steps you can take today to reshape your money map.
1. Identify Your Money Beliefs.
The first step to improve your money mindset is to identify the healthy beliefs you want to keep and the unhealthy ones that no longer serve you. Start with creating a list of the financial decisions you made in the last week or month (you choose the time period). For each decision, ask yourself three questions:
- Why did I make this decision?
- Did the decision align with my values?
- How do I feel about the decision?
The goal is to reflect on your decisions and to gain awareness of what influenced them.
2. Go From Reflective to Introspective.
The first step was about reflecting on decisions already made. This step is about being introspective on financial decisions you have yet to make. So before tapping that credit card or hitting “buy now” on your favorite e-commerce site, ask yourself the same three questions with the present in mind: Why am I making this decision, does it align with my values, and how will this decision make me feel?
Examining your decisions before you make them can, over time, put you in control of the thoughts and feelings driving them.
3. Look for Autopilot Moments.
Humans are creatures of habit. Think about all of the decisions you make every day and how many of them touch money. Now think about how many of those decisions you make without thinking about them.
As you go through your daily routine, take note of the moments where you are being intentional about your decisions and the moments that often fly under the radar of your consciousness. Change requires us to be more intentional about the decisions we make.
4. Change Your Decision Framework.
Has anyone ever asked you what you are thinking? I prefer to ask people how they are thinking. What we think is often just an opinion or a feeling in the moment. How we think is the process we use for making decisions.
A decision framework includes defining the desired outcome, reviewing the information available to you (and the gaps in that information), developing alternatives, evaluating options and making the final decision. The more structure we have around our decisions, the greater clarity and consistency we can apply to our money.
5. Change Your Environment.
Your environment is both physical (your actual location) and social (the people around you). Both act as invisible hands that shape your decisions. While your physical environment can influence your behaviors, I like to focus on the people we choose to include in our lives.
As self-help guru Jim Rohn once shared, we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Those people influence the way we think and act either positively or negatively. Who are those people in your life, and who are you becoming? More importantly, who do you want those people to be?
Your money map and the beliefs, values and attitudes that shape it influence every financial decision you make. Reflecting on your financial decisions, identifying your money habits and changing both how you think about money and the environment in which you make decisions can put you on a path to greater clarity, confidence and control with your money.
And, remember, change takes time. We have decades of programming we have to recode. Simple actions, consistently practiced, will create lasting change. Get it right and you’ll unlock more meaning in your money than you ever thought possible.
Brent Weiss is co-founder and Head of Financial Wellness at Facet. His belief that financial wellness is essential to living well and that all people deserve access to the kind of financial advice that can lead to an enriched life has been the driving force behind the firm's mission and vision. He is dedicated to enabling greater access to innovative, next-generation planning solutions and technology that can improve the quality of life for all people.
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