Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. – Ayn Rand
The most important conversation that you will have about money is the conversation that you have with yourself.
As we set out for a journey, we can have the car, the route, the snacks and the playlist ready on our media centre – but the trip won’t happen if we don’t get in and drive the car.
Life can throw disruptions and distractions that will give us a fear of driving. A past accident or an increase in risk can cause us to avoid starting the car altogether. The same is true of our financial journey.
There are many reasons why we might avoid using our money to our best interests, and these become stories that we tell ourselves; stories that prevent us from changing our financial foibles into financial fitness. If we want to improve the way we think, feel, and act around our money, we need to change the stories we’re telling ourselves and have a better personal conversation with money.
Brené Brown once said:
“Stories are patterns. The brain recognises the familiar beginning-middle-end structure of a story and rewards us for clearing up the ambiguity. Unfortunately, we don’t need to be accurate, just certain. [Robert] Burton writes: ‘Because we are compelled to make stories, we are often compelled to take incomplete stories and run with them.’ He goes on to say that even with a half story in our minds, we earn a dopamine ‘reward’ every time it helps us understand something in our world—even if that explanation is incomplete or wrong.”
It’s powerful to understand this: our stories don’t need to be complete or true for us to believe them, we only need to be certain of them. Brown speaks of two of these stories that we often tell ourselves – the first is the conversation of ‘I am not enough’.
This happens so frequently that we’re probably entirely unaware of it. Every time we see pictures on social media of our friends and colleagues buying things that we believe we can’t afford, going on holidays that seem out of our reach or boasting about businesses they’ve built – our default could be to compare where we are to where they are. If we are to change this conversation, we need to stop comparing our journey with theirs. No two cars can ever be in precisely the same place on the same journey, at the same time! It helps to remind ourselves, in our internal conversations, that they have their path and we have ours.
The second story we tell ourselves over and over again is around the question of ‘Who do you think you are?”.
It follows on from the first conversation when we start to tell ourselves that we are, indeed, more than enough. It creeps in when we decide to negotiate that salary increase, when we feel like we’re the youngest (or the oldest) person in the room, or when we decide to change our destructive habits for a growth mindset.
Fortunately, if we say it out loud, this question can sound (and feel) very different if we change our tone from accusatory to curiosity. When this conversation is in the voice of a dominant oppressor wagging their finger at us, we might want to recoil and hold back from claiming more substantial ground. But, when it’s a kind, curious and encouraging voice, we will be far more likely to change the way we feel about the opportunities and resources available to us.
If money is just a tool, the true gift then lies in how we wield it. It’s not about how much we have; it’s about who we are – despite our wealth or our limitations. At Wellsfaber, we want to help you have conversations that help you thrive, and we believe the most important conversation begins with the one you have with yourself.
You are in the driver’s seat.