Have you ever noticed that when you start paying attention to something, it is suddenly everywhere? For example, you want a new S2000 Honda convertible—and then they drive past you all the time. Or you want new knee-high leather boots, and you can't go out without seeing 10 pairs pass you on the street. Are you going crazy, or is something else going on?
The truth is that your brain has a wonderful ability to focus on a particular item once you tell it to do so. This function is known as the reticular activating system, and it can help you gather data on a variety of things, including your money scripts.
What Are Money Scripts?
A "money script" is a thought or belief about money. Like how a movie script tells an actor what to say and how to behave, a money script dictates what you say and how you behave around money in a particular situation. You developed your money scripts during your childhood as you observed your parents and other family members manage money. Because you formed these scripts when you were young, they are often oversimplified generalizations that are not always true. Also, these beliefs reside in your subconscious mind, making it hard to know how much they drive your money habits.
The key to making better financial decisions is to turn up the volume on your money scripts by kicking your reticular activating system in gear! By doing so, you can consciously decide to listen to these beliefs or not. Here's how it works.
Step 1: Decide To Notice Your Money Scripts
The best way to get your brain to zone in on something is to make a conscious decision to do so. Make a commitment for 1 week to tune in to your money thoughts anytime you are handling money. This includes paying bills, buying a cup of coffee, or using your debit or credit card. When engaged in these and other financial activities, notice what thoughts run through your mind. These are your money scripts.
Step 2: Write Down Your Money Scripts
Jot down your thoughts and feelings when you do handle money. By documenting these money scripts, you put a stamp on your brain to notice these thoughts in your conscious mind. You can then look for trends and money scripts that are more frequent than others. Once you see your scripts in writing, you can decide, using your mature and more financially savvy mind, whether to follow the script or write a brand new one.
For example, you notice that you feel angry every time you pay bills. Your thought is "paying bills stinks." Ultimately, you avoid paying bills because who likes to feel bummed out? Instead of staying in a funk, consider a new way of thinking about money. Replace it with something like "paying bills can be stressful, but it makes me feel in control." This new thought makes you feel better about bills, as it reinforces that paying them is a healthy habit. Instead of avoiding it, you pay your bills on time and don't get in a funk every time you check your inbox or pick up the mail.
Step 3: Toss Your Unhealthy Money Scripts In The Trash
Some money scripts need to go in the trash. For example, if you notice that every time you treat yourself by spending a few extra bucks, you hear, "you don't deserve to spend money on yourself," it is time to chuck that unhealthy belief in the garbage. To be financially healthy, you need to splurge sometimes on fun stuff. When you do, feel good about it. Replace that script with something like, "it is OK to treat myself every once in a while." You have worked hard to manage your money responsibly, and a little reward now and then certainly makes sense.
Tuning into your money scripts by turning up the volume on your internal thoughts can really help you get a handle on how you spend and save money. The more you tap into your scripts, the more aware you will be of your motives behind your habits—and the healthier you will be.