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UNDERSTANDING THE STORIES WE TELL OURSELVES


drawing of your experiences filters reality

❝Finding money maturity means resolving your inner conflicts around money. It really comes down to discovering a sense of ease around money.❞ -George Kinder

I’ve got my recently sharpened knife, getting ready to cut some bread to make croutons. It’s 1998, and I work at a local family restaurant. Making croutons is common and quite routine. It’s so routine, in fact, that I often chop without paying attention. Normally, this is a good system. It means I can do this busy work and have a conversation with a colleague at the same time. Today, though, I make a mistake. As I cut up the bread, the hand holding the bread in place doesn't move out of the way fast enough, and the knife comes down onto my finger.


It’s hard to tell how much of what I experience next is pain, shock, or rumination, but I know I’m in trouble. I just don’t know how much trouble. I know I just cut my finger, and I know that finger is now wrapped in a nearby towel. I don’t know, however, how bad it is.


I find myself resisting looking at the wound. I tell myself that if I don’t see it, there is a chance it is not that bad. I do this knowing full well that it probably is terrible and that I need to do something about it…quickly.


Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar. You have some injury, wound, or other pain, and you find yourself resisting taking the steps necessary to remedy the situation you find yourself in.


We all have stories that we tell ourselves about how the world works and our role in that world. Much of the time, we are unaware of the story. Instead, they lie underneath conscious awareness. Becoming aware of the stories we tell ourselves is a great first step toward self-awareness. Although the process of becoming aware of these hidden stories has the potential to be embarrassing. When we first shine the light of attention on our beliefs, it’s almost like looking at an injury. We may not like what we see, and yet we can’t do anything about it if we don’t know what we're working with.


Your beliefs, values, narratives, scripts, and other stories are all a product of your experience. Understanding your experiences helps you understand more about why you have the beliefs you have.


YOUR EXPERIENCE


Every day we have many experiences. Most of these experiences go by without a second thought. Other experiences are those that we are aware of but forget about very quickly. And that’s daily. You had these experiences every day of your life since you were born.


Some of these experiences are big, and many are small and hard to notice. Some of your experiences you would interpret as good and others you would interpret as bad. Regardless of how we judge the experience, they happen. At the risk of sounding like a cliché, they are what they are.


drawing of your experiences

When we were growing up, we acted like little scientists. We try to figure out how the world works, and we do so by observing the world around us. It’s as if we are creating little if/then statements to determine cause and effect in an unfamiliar world. Then, like a little scientist, we turn these if/then statements into hypotheses. And again, as scientists do, we go to work testing our hypotheses.

drawing of observing money behaviors

If we observe the same cause-and-effect relationship, it makes our belief stronger. If the cause-and-effect relationship doesn’t hold, we adjust our hypothesis and test again.


Of course, we have no idea that we're doing this. This is just our natural wiring. Yet even if we didn’t know we were doing it, we are creating these rules and beliefs well before our brains are developed enough to be good at logic. And even if we were good at logic at that age, we still only have a sample size of one (the family system in which we grew up).

drawing of writing money scripts

MONEY SCRIPTS


The beliefs that we come away with are sometimes called schemas. In the world of money, they are called Money Scripts. Money Scripts are mostly developed in childhood as we are creating all those little rules about how money works in the world. Once we've written our initial set of Money Scripts, they can be altered, shifted, changed, dropped, and further developed as we age. When we experience a highly emotional event around money (positive or negative), we either create a new script or adapt an old one to try to get more of it (if it was a positive event) or prevent it from happening again (if it was a negative event). These highly emotional events are called financial flashpoints.


Your Money Scripts are the root of all of your behavior. Once you behave in a particular way, you'll have some kind of outcome. That outcome will either confirm or disconfirm how you thought the world should've worked. Thus, even the outcomes are constantly being loopback to further refine your collection of Money Scripts.


drawing of money scripts



Money Scripts® are subconscious beliefs we have about money that we learn these 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.



MONEY STORIES AND NARRATIVES


If we go back to our collection of experiences, we can realize that we don't give equal weight to every event that happened to us. Some events have been long forgotten. Other events feel like they're the most important thing in our lives. As we string together our list of experiences, our collection of Money Scripts starts to take on a narrative.


drawing of your experiences and creating narratives

This narrative is the storyline of your Money Story. It can be interesting to ask ourselves why we chose these particular events to be part of the plot while ignoring others.


drawing of creating a storyline our of your experiences

Once we start to rethink the story of our life, it's possible to construct a different narrative. We can string together in an alternate storyline.


drawing of alternate narratives

Some of this can come down to framing and reframing. Some of it comes down to remembering important events that have happened. Some of it comes down to letting go of events that shouldn't matter as much as we've let them matter in the past.


For example, maybe your main narrative is a contamination story. It's a story where your perpetual victim, and everyone is out to get you. And yet a different interpretation of your same history might be that of a resilience story. Perhaps you are on a hero's journey, and you've learned to use that hardship to help others in similar positions.


drawing of resilience stories vs. contaminations stories

In fact, as you look closer and closer at your experiences, you will start to see many different storylines you can tell. You are the author of your life story.


drawing of choose your narrative

What narrative will you use to write your story going forward?


You get one life; live intentionally.


 

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Related Reading
References and Influences

Haidt, Jonathan: The Happiness Hypothesis

Hanson, Rick: Hardwiring Happiness

Housel, Morgan: The Psychology of Money

Kahneman: Daniel: Thinking Fast and Slow

Kinder, George & Susan Galvan: Lighting the Torch

Kinder, George & Mary Rowland: Life Planning for You

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

Newcomb, Sarah: Loaded

Reivich, Karen & Andrew Shatte: The Resilience Factor

Veres, Bob: The New Profession

Wagner, Richard: Financial Planning 3.0

Wilson, Timothy: Redirect


Note: Above is a list of references that I intentionally looked at while writing this post. It is not meant to be a definitive list of everything that influenced by thinking and writing. It's very likely that I left something out. If you notice something that you think I left out, please let me know; I will be happy to update the list.


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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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