‘Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought,’ Marcus Aurelius.
How we engage with our money reflects what’s going on inside our heads, which is an extension of what’s going on inside our hearts. They’re all connected.
Our feelings affect our thoughts, which in turn direct our actions – but we can also turn that around by changing our actions to create new patterns of thinking, which in turn can change the way we feel about things. Regardless of the direction that change takes place, our mind is at the centre of this process.
This means that the actions we take with our spending, savings and investing (our money habits) will not only be shaped BY our thoughts, but can also shape the way we think and feel. It is why we often experience cognitive dissonance, or buyers remorse, after making money decisions.
The term cognitive dissonance describes the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes. When there is an inconsistency between what people believe and how they behave, it motivates people to engage in actions that will help minimise discomfort.
Buyer’s remorse is an example of post-decision dissonance, where we feel stressed by a decision and seek to decrease our discomfort. Purchases that require high amounts of effort but do not bear high rewards are likely to lead to buyer’s remorse. If we focus on them, these thoughts will contribute to a largely negative mindset.
If we always regret purchasing risk products that protect us in emergencies or ill health, we will be more inclined to cancel those policies. It’s hard to spend money on something that will only benefit us in the uncertain future; cognitive dissonance will be fueled by thoughts that are inconsistent with trusting the process. If we are constantly looking for immediate gratification (spending and receiving, investing and seeing growth), our minds will be limited, and our thoughts will affect our feelings and actions.
Marketers know this well, so in most product booklets, they begin with a congratulatory message for choosing their product. If we want to shape our minds, we can set up systems of support that help us remember why we’ve made certain decisions that will be healthy for our future self. This is how we ‘hold in thought’ the choices to keep a healthy mind when it comes to our money (and all other things in life!).
Support systems include working with a financial adviser that we trust and keeping a written record of our financial plan and policy portfolio (a one-page overview is a great start). We can also set milestones for moments of celebration and acknowledgement, like clearing our debt, saving a specific amount of money, or improving the way our family communicates about money. The bottom line is this: the more we think about something, the more likely it is to manifest in our lives. So if we keep thinking that we will never have enough money, we will most likely never have enough. But, if we learn to work with all we already have and hold thoughts of gratitude and awareness of our abundance, we will continue to have more than we need. It will directly affect how we feel about our money and the habits we form.