How To Kick Your Money Brain In The Ass

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BearMoney Team

BearMoney Team

BearMoney is the balanced finance blog for new and old Canadians alike. We are a team of people living international that research, write, and share

Human head with a brain drawn on it

As human beings, we are often very bad at taking care of ourselves whether through stress, environment, or taking care of others first.

Why is it that every single one of us has been able to give other people advice that we should also follow? Sometimes we even reject the same advice we’ve given to other people. 

This is because even though we are biologically team players we are conditioned to think of ourselves as the star in our own movie. We are fed a diet of advice and media that triggers our self-preservation instincts.

We will often hold on to more than we need in fear of losing it while at the same time willingly helping people with everything, so long as it doesn’t ‘take’ what we fear losing. But what does that mean for personal finance?

In the journey to financial freedom there are a lot of obstacles and decisions to be made. The two biggest enemies to achieving your goals are yourself and other people. The two biggest allies in achieving your goals are yourself and other people. 

When you look inside and out in the wrong way, you are setting yourself up for failure. However, if you are genuinely introspective and selflessly generous nothing will stop you.

close up photo of toy bot

Your Money Brain Habits

We are all creatures of habit, for better or worse. This can be a great help or it can be your worst enemy. Even if you stay away from bad habits you might still end up living in your comfort zone because your good habits seem good enough.

When working with money, there is no universal pathway to success. There are hundreds of strategies that can get you when you need to go;  being financially independent.  It doesn’t matter whether you do that through entrepreneurship or a 9 to 5, what matters is that you get there.

You can even get there with bad habits, provided they are an absolute minority of your overall money brain.

Good Habits

Most people are fortunate enough to have grown up in an environment that has given them at least some good habits. A lot of the time this comes from observing people in our environment and the luckiest of us grew up in loving homes and learned many lessons.

Others learned their habits by figuring out what not to do by observing bad behavior. The two best money brain habits are frugality and discipline. 

Frugality –  Seeking out maximum value for every dollar you spend

Discipline – The ability to stick to your financial plans

If you possess these good habits, congratulations you’re in the top 10% of consumers today. But if you don’t, you can create them. It might take serious work but it can be done.

There is a famous expression that states that it will take 21 days to form a new habit. Unfortunately this is not entirely accurate. In reality it can take anywhere between 18 to 254 days until you successfully change your behaviour for better or for worse.

That is a very broad range of time, but that’s actually not a problem. If latest research suggests it can take 8 months to form a great habit then you plan for 8 months. Succeeding earlier is a win-win.

As a bonus when we build good habits our brain releases endorphins. Essentially your body rewards you with happiness hormones for doing a good thing.

A habit, good or bad, can act almost like a biological alarm clock. If you feel quick tempered, or slightly off it could mean that there is a good chance your body is reminding you that you have forgotten something.

This drive will be inspiration and motivation any day of the week

Bad Habits

Sadly everything we already said is true of bad habits as well. They can be learned and almost made our default behaviors, they take a long time to break, and they also operate under a form of drive like good habits.

The thing is, everybody has bad habits and everybody has bad money habits, you would not be human if you did. 

Take a look at Twitter and you will see people saying leasing cars is a bad habit, while others say taking out mortgage debt is a bad habit. So we can even have habits that are subjectively rather than objectively bad.

The key to kicking your Money Brain’s ass is to recognise that most bad habits are actively encouraged by society. Debt, wasteful spending, constant treats, they are encouraged in meda every single day.

You have to plan to break the old habits just as much as you have to plan to build the new ones. It is not as simple as replacing bad with good. The bad will always be there, it operates under a different system. You have to kick its ass.

Let’s take the most memed example in history, the $5 latte. If you buy one occasionally it’s fine, if you buy one every day it’s a bad money habit. Actually breaking the habit though comes from understanding that $5 for a latte is always a bad deal.

That is the difference between it feeling like a small sacrifice and feeling like a default position. You’re always going to waste some money. So you have to accept that we waste money and understand where your mind does this.

person wearing red hoodie

You’re a Jerk, And That’s OK

Here is the thing, there are going to be many distractions and obstacles on your journey. The can be big or small, happy or sad. When we think back to the ‘8 Month’ habit change we can already see that there will be a lot of hurdles along the way.

Making your money brain work for you instead of against you is a lifelong process. This means that distractions and obstacles will constantly appear. The only constant controlling factor is you.

How many times have you heard a friend or colleague blame everything under the sun before they ever even consider blaming themselves?

How many hours have you lost listening to someone frustrated about how they’re not meeting their goals while also telling you how they aren’t really trying?

The crazy thing is, we are both sides of this equation at different times. That is probably why it’s so easy to give advice to people but not act on the same advice. Sometimes our circle is a mirror for our own failures.

Excuses are sometimes valid, but they are rarely a permanent factor. If you are failing and you aren’t changing what you can, your excuses aren’t valid. This is when you need to be a jerk to yourself.

You need to call yourself out on your own BS. For every excuse you create you need to hassle your brain to come up with a plan to make sure it doesn’t happen again. This might also involve being a jerk to other people, but that is also ok, within reason.

Be a jerk to the toxic inside and toxic outside influences.

Moving Out Of Your Own Way

Have you ever researched a project, started it, and never went back to it? Don’t worry, it’s not just you. Millions upon millions of projects and endeavours are started and never finished every time you take a breath.

One of the main reasons behind this is that people don’t like risking failure and don’t like having to put themselves to the test. I don’t care if you run Marathons or if you stay on the sofa all day, we all hide from trying something we could rock at.

You are standing in your own way because you’ve jumped to conclusions. The way to beat this fear? Start small, and be consistent. Consistency is the key to any type of success. Whether it is learning a language, getting in shape, or building a business, set a time and a place to work on it daily.

Take for example starting a blog yourself. Many of them fail to turn profitable, that’s just the business. You can turn a blog profitable within 6 months but the level of consistent stress required is very high. However with consistent low level effort over 2 years, you can achieve a good side income.

The same is true of training for a Marathon. You don’t reach full distance in training.

Actually Stepping Aside

You could say we put all of our energy into the plan, and that is why we have no energy to do the plan. Inspiration is fleeting and we almost run through the entire scenario before we begin. It’s important to be humble with yourself. 

Yes you may be excited about learning a new skill, and two hours of study a day does look awesome and will cut your learning time in half. But it may not be achievable. Always take the small steps in the beginning. Get your foundations down first so that you don’t end up stopping before you’ve really begun.

So start with the basics. Here is a guide to a simple plan.

  1. Write down what it is you want to do and WHY
  2. Give yourself a fixed timeline
  3. Assign your specific goals based on general timelines.
  4. Reward yourself for hitting those milestones.
  5. Identify and evaluate your progress and setbacks
  6. Adjust the plan for further personal growth

By sticking to a well-paced system instead of going on your own ‘unique journey’ you will be able to move out of your own way. It’s a small consistent grind, it’s espresso.

Wealth Is Free Time

If you are like 99.9% of the human beings on planet earth then you are familiar with the notion that time equals money. Or at the very least you have stubbornly sat through an interaction thinking “I will never get this time back”. And you would be correct. You will never get the 2 hours and 22 minutes you spent watching “Attack of the Clones” back, nor will we.

Time is precious, and in a lot of cases we do not get compensated for the time we devote to pointless interactions and tasks. But there is something you can do about it.

The biggest misfortune that occurs when chasing a goal is your priorities. Yes, priorities are essential to your survival, but why do they have to impact your passions?

Artists are the most guilty in this phenomenon. “I want to be a painter but I have no time to paint, I have bills to pay”. More often than not, creative people settle with their 9 to 5’s over their passion and become bitter and resentful.

This is also true of people who want to improve themselves in any aspect of their lives, people, things, and bills “get in the way”. They chalk it up to being “too tired”, “overworked”, “under appreciated”. 

There is a finite amount of time in the day, we covered this in our article about the 24 Hour Day Myth.

This is where it all comes together for your ‘Super Money Brain’ though. You recognise that you need a well paced system, to hold yourself accountable and to maximize good habits. 

To do this you need to give your system priority over everything else. That doesn’t mean you abandon beer league soft-pitch. Nor does it mean you abandon your friends. It means you fit everything else around your basic financial independence commitments.

If you need to work on budgeting and learning skills for 7 of your 10 free hours a week then that’s what you need to do. Your other commitments belong in that 3 hour window.

dawn man people woman

Kicking Ass For Life

The difference in approach is subtle. It really involves looking at your environment, habits, and goals in context and fitting them into a working system.

It is much easier than it seems, even if you come from a bad money household. I have yet to meet anybody that managed to invest $250 a month for 2-3 years and then suddenly stopped being an investor.

Consistent becomes automatic. 

You can create a ruthless money making machine or you can also just become a regular investor. If you adopt a workable system you will kick your brain’s ass, one latte at a time.

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