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❝People often avoid the truth for fear of it destroying the illusions they've built.❞ -Joshua Fields Millburn


We interpret things, including our past, based on context. Consider the following symbols. What do these represent?

drawing of perspective

I imagine you thought they looked like an "A" and a "B." And that would be right in some contexts.

Yet, other contexts could change your interpretation. For example, imagine I put a "T" and an "E" on either end of that "A."

All of a sudden it looks like an "H." It spells the word "THE," not "TAE."

drawing of perspective

We can even at to it. Suppose we put a "B" and a "T" on either end of the same symbol. Now you recognize it as "BAT," because the "A" interpretation makes sense in this context.

drawing of perspective

Now, take the second symbol that looked like a "B." Putting a "12" on one side and a "14" on the other side, it looks like the number "13."

drawing of perspective

You can also put an "A" and a "C" on either side to make it look like a "B."

drawing of perspective

In both cases, the same exact symbol has a different interpretation depending on the context.

drawing of perspective

You might be wondering what this has to do with money or life. Well, the same interpretation and context idea applies to our memories.

There have been a lot of life events in your experience. These are events that have happened to you, around you, because of you, were random, and so on.

drawing of life events

When you think back on your life, you create a narrative. You connect these life events in a meaningful way that makes sense. It gives you a sense of coherence.

drawing of life story

Now, based on all those life events and your throughline, you chose to include some events. Of course, some of those life events are major events in your life, but some of the events in your narrative are small, inconsequential experiences.

It can be insightful to ask yourself why you chose the events you did.

drawing of life story events

Also insightful is to recognize that you left out certain events as you put together your narrative. You might even learn that your siblings, spouse, or kids include some of these events in their life story, yet you leave it out.

It's insightful to learn why these events have been left out.

drawing of life story events


All your past life events made up your life. It represents the life that you've lived up to this point.

Pondering your life is a good way to put your life in context, understand who you are, and strengthen your sense of coherence.

drawing of life

Reflect back on your life by imagining your life is a book you are currently writing. The part of the book that has been written is already over and represents the past. You have no control over the fact that once an event happens, it falls in the past and can't be changed.

So, divide this part of your life into chapters. They could be chronological or divided into different epochs that make sense to you.

drawing of life chapters

Once you have your chapters, think about key events that have shaped who you are. You may find that many of these events happened in your early years because you have more major life events and "firsts" in your formative years. Or, you may find that many of these are later in life because those are the events you can remember more easily.

drawing of key events in life

Next, identify key people who have shaped who you are. These could be family members, close childhood friends, current friends, bullies, bosses, and so on.

What can you glean from this information about who you are?

drawing of key people in life

Resilience is the ability to bounce back (or grow) from stress and adversity. The ability to maintain physical, mental, and emotional well-being in the face of setbacks. Learn more about how resilient you are.


Your past experiences shape who you and your core beliefs, including your Money Scripts. Then, your life is built on those core beliefs. If you want to change your life, you can start by challenging and changing your core beliefs.

Alternatively, you can write a different narrative about your past experiences. You can tell yourself a different story, thereby creating new core beliefs.

drawing of core beliefs and past experiences

Understanding your past and how it shaped you gives you a level of self-knowledge that helps you be more authentic. When you learn what you're good at, not good at, and everything you've learned.

drawing of authentic self


Once you know more about your past and yourself, you'll know more about who you are and what you want out of life. You have the opportunity to take this with you into the future.

drawing of lessons learned in life

When you learn more about yourself, you'll learn more about what you want out of life. This gives you motivation to move toward something.

drawing of ideal future

But you can also describe what you don't want out of life. For example, if you don't like some aspect of your life, you can imagine what your future looks like if you stay on your current trajectory. This could be described as your scary future. It provides motivation to move away from something.

drawing of scary future

Having two separate motivations gives you both something to run toward and something to run from. And you can use lessons from your past to inform your future.

Take a look at your past and see if you can change your perspective and write a new story. This new story will help you design a better future.

You get one life; live intentionally.


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Ben-Shahar, Tal: Happier, No Matter What Denborough, David: Retelling the Stories of Our Lives Emmons, Robert: THANKS! Frankl, Viktor: Yes to Life, In Spite of Everything Hanh, Thich Nhat: No Mud, No Lotus Kahneman: Daniel: Thinking Fast and Slow

Krueger, David: A New Money Story McAdams, Dan: The Stories We Live By Peterson, Jordan: 12 Rules for Life Meaning and Valued Living Masterclass Science of Self-Acceptance Masterclass Reivich, Karen & Andrew Shatte: The Resilience Factor Wilson, Timothy: Redirect



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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