I’ve always been a bit of a naysayer when it comes to the idea that how you think about money is an important, if not the most important, part of personal finance. But after learning about the concept of a “money mindset,” I’ve realized that this is an integral part of the equation to lead a happy financial life.
Your money mindset is the feelings and thoughts you subconsciously develop towards money from your life experiences. Because our thoughts often control our actions, developing a negative money mindset can create a barrier between you and financial health. It can keep you in a place of stress and anxiety and it can keep you from achieving financial goals.
But just because you’ve developed a negative money mindset, or negative thought patterns around money, doesn’t mean this is how you’ll always feel. Read on for tips about how to shift your negative money thoughts to a positive, more productive mindset.
Recognize self-sabotaging thoughts.
Step one always seems to be the hardest, and this is no exception. Being self aware enough to recognize any sabotaging thoughts is not easy, but without doing this you won’t be able to improve your mindset. Some examples of common self-sabotaging, negative thoughts are:
- I’ll never get out of debt
- I don’t make enough to save
- I’ll never be able to afford that
- I’ll never make as much as so-and-so
Take time to reflect on things you’ve thought or said in the past. If nothing comes to mind, make a conscious effort to keep track of how you feel or what you say when the topic of money comes up. What happens when an unexpected bill comes in or when you don’t receive a raise that you were expecting? Make a note of it, even if it feels like the truth and not a self-sabotaging thought, and reflect on how that thought is affecting your actions.
Appreciate what you have.
A popular Oprah quote that I took to heart is: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Being appreciative for what you have is the best way to start to shake your negative thoughts or self-sabotaging behaviors. We all have so much to be thankful for and while we may sometimes recognize this, when it comes to money and budgeting many of us tend to take a restrictive view that can bring us down.
One area I realized I was struggling with was my negative thoughts toward my student loans. I used to only look at my loans as a burden—a huge debt that was keeping me from other financial goals in my life. Once I realized this negative thought pattern I tried to focus on what those loans represented and what I have. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to pursue my education goals and that I have a job that enables me to pay off my loan. That’s not to say I want these loans to hang around forever; I’m actively focusing on paying them off. But letting go of the negativity of having these loans and focusing on what they brought me has somehow eased the mental burden and enabled me to stress about them less.
Forgiving yourself without forgetting the mistake can help you appreciate and truly learn from it
Forgive yourself for past mistakes.
We tend to be our own worst critic and for many people, making a financial mistake is something that we hold onto forever. But holding on to that negativity and beating yourself up for mistakes you’ve made in the past can keep you from moving forward. Maybe you’ve made some bad choices, spent too much money, or landed yourself in a heap of debt. Give yourself the permission to forgive yourself and look at these mistakes as learning opportunities. Know that no one is perfect and remember that what matters most is how your move forward from that mistake. Forgiving yourself-without forgetting the mistake-can help you appreciate and really learn from past experiences.
Define what you really want.
I recently read the classic personal finance book from the 1930s Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and was struck by how the simple strategies he laid out in the book are still extremely relevant, nearly 80 years later. One of his first and most important principles of the book is desire. That is, to take the time to really reflect on what you specifically desire, what you will do to reach that desire, and when you will reach it by. So if you desire more money he suggests writing down exactly how much you desire, how you are going to get to that amount, and by when.
It’s a simple strategy, but most people don’t take the time to really reflect on their wants/desires and create a plan to get there. Since reading this book and writing down exactly what I want, I’ve found myself working harder than ever to get there.
Stay educated and implement your new knowledge.
Being educated on money matters can help you feel confident and in control of your own future—it’s important to find the type of education that works for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to personal finance. What resonates with one person may not work for you, but it’s important to keep looking to discover what type of financial education suits you best. There are so many different experts, books, and education platforms that each offer something a little different. If you haven’t found what works for you, keep looking. Staying educated is key to maintaining your positive money mindset.