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drawing of experiences create who we are

❝Some of the worst experiences in my life are some of the best experiences in my life.❞ -Joshua Fields Millburn

You behave the way you do because of what you've experienced. People who generally experienced a pleasant upbringing will experience the world differently from someone who had a tough go in childhood. Your experiences in childhood and beyond created the operating system that runs in the background of your life. Understanding the stories you tell yourself gives you clarity about yourself, and also gives you the opportunity to rewrite your stories.


You've got a particular life journey. This is the culmination of all the decisions you've made, the things that have happened to you, the things you've seen and done, and everything you've encountered.

drawing of we all have a life journey

To quote an old cliche, this is what it is. Whatever's happened in your past has happened and can't change. There are infinite life journeys that are unavailable to you. It's like existential therapist Irvin Yaloam said, "Sooner or later, you have to give up hope for a better past."

drawing of alternative realities don't exist

The journey that we have experienced has shaped who we are, whether we like it or not.

When we are young, we are on a mission to understand how the world works and our place in it. Most of this is my observing the world and trying to make sense of it.

This is how our experiences - our life journey - have shaped us. We can only learn based on what we've seen or experienced. This is true of life in general, and also applies to money. You watched how those around you behaved with money.

drawing of children observing their parents

Based on what you observe, your mind creates rules for you to follow in order to get through life. If, for example, you notice that your parents fight every time money comes up, your mind will create a script that reads, "Don't talk about money unless you want to fight." If you notice everyone in your family was generous with money, you'll have a script that reads, "Money is supposed to be used to help others." If your parents took your money any time you saved it up, your script might read, "Spend your money before it can be taken from you."

drawing of creating money scripts

You'll collect more and more rules and scripts that add up to who you are. Your experience becomes the filter through which you see and interpret the world.

drawing of experiences filter our reality


It's important to remind ourselves that we operate with our experience filtering our reality.

It's tempting to think that outside events cause us to do or feel things. Experientially, that's how it feels.

It feels like something happened that made me do something.

Like this.

drawing of the perception that events cause us to behave a certain way

It's not just behavior. It feels like something happened that made me feel a certain way.

drawing of outside events dictating how we feel

The insight is that our experience has created core beleifs, including scripts and rules, that determine how we interpret the things that happen to us.

Some people get wildly frustrated when there is a long line at the grocery store. Others calmly wait in line. The same event, long lines, leads to two very different outcomes. That's because people have different beliefs about long lines and how they impact us.

drawing of core beliefs

Use the acronym ABC to help remember. Some Adverse event happens (A), we have a Belief about that event (B), and based on our belief, there is a behavioral (we do something) or emotional (we feel something) Consequence (C).

drawing of money beliefs

Money Scripts® are subconscious beliefs we have about money that we learn when we are growing up in our family systems. A Money Script can be anything, but they tend to fall into four categories. Learn what categories your Money Scripts fall into.


The main insight is that it's our beliefs about and interpretations of events that drive our emotions and behaviors. Thus, it can be helpful to pay attention to our thinking patterns.

The first thing we'll notice is the C in the ABC model. We notice that we felt something (angry, afraid, sad) or did something (raised our voice, canceled an appointment, started crying).

There's insight to be had just by becoming more aware of how we feel and what we do.

drawing of emotional or behavioral consequences are the first things we notice

The next insight is to ask yourself why you feel the way you do or did what you did. This gives you some insight into what triggered you. Understanding what your triggers are can be helpful to understand.

drawing of adversity and triggers

The third, and arguably the trickiest, step is to ask yourself 'why.' Why did that trigger cause you to feel or act the way you did?

The answer to that is the story you tell yourself. It's the narrative, script, or belief that colored your interpretation of the event.

drawing of stories, narratives, and scripts in between triggers and outcomes


Simply understanding the stories you tell yourself is a great place to be. It gives you clarity about why you do the things you do and feel the way you feel. This understanding puts you miles ahead of most people.

Our default mode is to act on automatic tendencies. This is when you felt or acted the way you did without any conscious knowledge of why. Most people spend their lives floating around from circumstance to circumstance, reacting to whatever life throws their way.

This happens when the stimulus and response are too close. This is autopilot and impulsive.

drawing of automatic patterns

Investigating your thinking patterns helps you grow that space between stimulus and response. It helps you act with conscious awareness, making you more likely to make helpful choices.

drawing of conscious choice

By investigating your belief, not only do you gain clarity around your thinking patterns and turn an impulse into intentional action, but you also get to decide if the automatic story you tell yourself is even true.

drawing of investigating beliefs

Many of our beliefs were created long ago when our circumstances were quite different. These beliefs stuck with us, even though they may no longer be helpful or even accurate.

drawing of questioning core beliefs

Investigating the story you tell yourself opens up a whole world of intentional living. You will no longer be a prisoner to your mind and can instead slow down and decide how you want to proceed with your life.

You get one life; live intentionally.


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Denborough, David: Retelling the Stories of Our Lives Gillihan, Seth: Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Hall, Kindra: Choose Your Story, Change Your Life

Kinder, George: Seven Stages of Money Maturity Klontz, Brad, Rick Kahler & Ted Klontz: Facilitating Financial Health Klontz, Brad & Ted Klontz: Mind Over Money Krueger, David: A New Money Story Krueger, David & John David Mann: The Secret Language of Money McAdams, Dan: The Stories We Live By Newcomb, Sarah: Loaded Reivich, Karen & Andrew Shatte: The Resilience Factor



About the Author

Derek Hagen, CFA, CFP, FBS, CFT-I, CIPM is a speaker, writer, and coach specializing in financial psychology, meaning and valued living, resilience, and mindfulness.


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