Whether you intended to grow up to be just like your parents, you declared never to be like your parents, or you’ve never given family lineage a second thought, one thing is for certain. You got a whole lot more from your family than you bargained for.
As parents we hope our children learn all the things we want them to learn. In reality children take in far more than we realize. Early experiences imprint in the subconscious mind – first in ours and then to our children. Sometimes these unconscious thoughts and beliefs are beneficial. Other times they do more harm than good.
It’s one thing to know you have your Mom’s eyes and your Dad’s skin tone, no big deal. We can manage what we know. It’s what we don’t see that works against us. We have no idea what we’re blind to.
Money is an insidious topic. Thoughts and attitudes about money have a subtle way of seeping into the mind. We learn lessons gradually, sometimes with harmful effects.
We teach kids to recognize the face value of paper money and coins. Kids learn to count money, eventually learning to make change when they join the labour force. Those with an interest may learn about accounting, mortgages and business finance in post-secondary. These are all explicit lessons about money. Fact-based, measurable lessons people intend to teach.
But when our behaviour and attitude about money is inconsistent with what we teach, we send contradictory messages to our kids that are impossible for them to understand.
Emotions speak louder than words.
Inconsistent or contradictory messages about money cause the brain to draw more heavily from body language, observed behavior, and tone of voice to interpret meaning and form beliefs.
Everyone has a money conversation inside them. Behaviour patterns and money conversations repeat - daily, bi-weekly or monthly. Our brain notices subtle patterns. Unlike explicit knowledge, this type of learning happens without a spoken word. As our experiences becomes more and more predictable or mindset about money begins to set like curing concrete.
Before we know what hit us these repetitive conversations about money have shaped our thoughts and beliefs. We make up meaning at an early age to explain the inconsistencies we’ve observed. Striving to keep up with the Jones’ while saying money is evil is an inconsistency. Our interpretation forms our identity. Repetition sets in. It’s no longer an interpretation, it’s the way life is, fixed and immovable.
It’s not until later in life, that some people wake up and start to question the validity and origin of all they know to be true. The time for questioning is when you notice a disconnect between your current reality and your ideal vision of the future. If you’re chronically broke you have unconscious beliefs about money that are no longer serving you. If our current reality is painful enough we will put the effort in to search for new meaning.
My husband and I owned a manufacturing and exporting business that was growing by leaps and bounds. With money came recreational toys. It started with a couple of snowmobiles and a trailer. Next a one tonne truck to tow them. Soon a winterized camper was perched on top of the truck. Acquisitions that should have brought me joy made me feel uneasy.
At first I thought I was growing resentful because we were buying toys for my husband. That wasn’t it. These were our family’s dream activities. Then Randy bought me a new car. It was lovely but I felt strangely uncomfortable.
Within a few years we outgrew our garage and driveway and bought a home on acreage. Our family was enjoying fabulous weekend camping trips in the mountains of beautiful British Columbia - year round. If there was a time in my life I should have felt grateful and excited, that was it.
We were living the entrepreneurial dream but I felt lonely and miserable. Who saw that coming?
At the height of our financial success I started to question my marriage.
Terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre and the US Pentagon on September 11, 2001 triggering shock waves of fear and uncertainty. Real estate development ceased over night as tract builders waited to see how the local and national economy would recover. Our world changed in an instant, when the bottom fell out of our lucrative export market.
Our manufacturing plant was located in Chilliwack but 100 percent of our sales and installations were in Washington State. Orders stopped. With 55 employees on the payroll, we were in trouble.
There were no known markets for us to pivot into. We shifted into survival mode.
Randy, started retooling our manufacturing plant to produce roof trusses. He hoped to slide into the local market by producing a product known to Canadian builders.
At the same time I started selling assets for cash to feed the fixed costs of the business. I juggled two questions, ‘how much do we need?’ and ‘what can we sell?’ To keep the cash flow going I developed a system for managing our Buy & Sell ads and viewings. That’s when I noticed a shift in me.
Instead of being miserable I was energized. Cutting down felt good. Adrenaline addiction kicked into high gear. Crisis mode was exhilarating. It made no logical sense to me.
The collapse of the business forced us to talk to one another in ways we hadn’t for a long time. We both recognized how easy it would be to let our marriage implode among the chaos and confusion of the business. We committed to stick together no matter what happened.
After working through our issues we came up with a plan to ride the emotional roller coaster together. We unpacked the learning lessons by looking at how and why we got into business in the first place. We took stock of our successes and disappointments. We questioned what we’d do differently, if we had it to do over.
When we cracked the tough nuts open we were surprised by what we found inside. I felt embarrassed when we bought toys and vehicles that other people could see. The reason had nothing to do with Randy. It was rooted in childhood insecurities.
A bully stalked me for two full years in junior high. Her name was Lorraine. Kids called her Tank. She was a big, tough girl. I was the sole target of her frustration. She referred to me as “the rich bitch on the hill”. It seemed almost daily that a friend would warn me that “Tank’s looking for you. She’s going to beat you up”.
As for my crime? I lived in a big beautiful house, a heritage home built in 1913. My Mom kept the house and yard in pristine condition. From the outside it looked like my life was pretty great.
Inside our big, beautiful home, money was a problem. My Dad left us without admitting it. He bought a business 30 miles away and never came home again. Several times I got home from school to find the utilities, phone and power, cut off.
Dad purchased that big house and countless other houses, toys, businesses and assets with money he inherited. People looked with envy from the outside. Meanwhile, our family unit crumbled. I cried a lot of tears in that big old house.
Without knowing it, my brain was programmed to associate money with shame.
Disputes about money severed relationships with aunts and uncles on both sides of the family. In addition to the shame I felt for “having too much” I formed a belief that conversations about money destroy relationships. I had plenty of evidence to prove this statement true.
I had no awareness that my adult behaviour was ruled by thoughts and beliefs I’d formed as a child.
Randy’s money conversation had the opposite effect on him. His grade 12 English teacher humiliated him in front of this graduating class by rolling up a blank piece of paper and handing it to him on the graduation stage in place of his diploma. After the initial shock, Randy was seething mad.
The teacher justified his behaviour, telling Randy’s Mom “It doesn’t matter. He’ll never amount to anything anyway”. Randy’s insatiable hunger for success, and possession trophies proved he made it. Randy’s ambition was driven by “I’ll show you!”
Few things in life leave such visible signs in the outer world as the stories we tell ourselves about money. If you want to pop the cork on achievement and success, have a good look at your past experiences and the beliefs you formed about money.
If you have the courage to dig in and look, you’ll see what drives you. Awareness is the critical first step in taking back your power. The only way to experience a breakthrough is to stop what you’re doing and confront the deeper truths we hold inside us.
What do you make money mean? Is wealth “good” or “bad”? How you felt when you read the contrasting stories about Randy and me will give you a clue. How did you react? Did your mind conjure up its own memories?
See what drives you. What phrases about money do you catch yourself repeating?
Behind the worries, fears, and concerns you express about money are deeper beliefs and associations you formed about money as a child. Interpretations about money and success are hidden in your blind spot.
Each time you answer one of these questions ask yourself ‘why do I feel that way’? Associations about money are buried five why’s deep. Keep digging.
Once you discover what’s driving you, it’s important to put a system or structure in place to counteract the forces working against you. For example…
“Conversations about money destroy relationships”, as a belief, had me avoid conflict. I now use a Conscious Communication tool to help me initiate difficult conversations.
What are your tendencies? Do you strive to get more or unconsciously repel money and success? Maybe your beliefs about money are generational and you think wealth could never happen for you. What reminders can you put in place to catch yourself? What can you do to counteract your habitual behaviours around money?
I believe we are driven by concern until vision pulls us forward. We need a compelling future to live into, one that pulls us off the sofa and out of a rut. We can’t have a better life if we believe it’s hopeless.
It’s important to have goals and dreams. Some people live for the fulfillment of their dream. They hold a vision in their mind’s eye, something that fills them with passion and purpose. If you’re going to stretch your head to the clouds be sure your feet are planted firmly on the ground.
Others have let the stories they tell themselves about money and lack kill their dreams. Their actions and reactions are driven by concern. They simply exist, putting in time, within a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So called “experts” purport there is a “secret” to generating wealth and abundance. It’s as easy as cutting out pictures and pasting them onto a vision board. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
The only way to achieve deeply desired goals and dreams is to confront the reality you fabricated in your mind. Your unconscious beliefs about money are what got you where you are today.
We can’t side-step our limitations. We have to tell the truth, at least to ourself.
Are you ready to unpacked your money baggage?