Reflecting on my childhood, I remember we were given a book to write down our money spending during school – Buku Wang Saku. We also had to listen to a talk about how to manage our money. I remember only writing in it for a week and there was no follow-up after that.
That was almost 20 years ago, yet we’re still here talking about the same issue of money management, poverty and struggling to manage finances. We all subconsciously learn about money as children, with concepts that are good or bad depending on what we hear from our family, society, and even things we pick up from watching television or the news. Therefore, as we grow older, we form these money stories in our heads and couple them with our subconscious beliefs around money that influences our behaviour as adults.
It baffles me that even after 20 years, I’m still struggling with the same subject. I started reflecting on managing my money and how I sometimes unintentionally sabotage myself. Now I know that this was due to deep, unresolved money blocks.
What are money blocks?
Money blocks are negative subconscious beliefs about money that limit you from achieving your conscious desires. The main reason why it’s so hard to implement behavioural change is the part of the brain that is used. When watching a motivational video or reading a self-help book, we’re calm and composed to act better. But when we’re about to go shopping or have lunch, we kind of lose our mind, even though you promised yourself to manage your finances better after reading that self-help book you picked up before.
We keep going through this same pattern because of our brain’s subconscious and conscious compartments. For the first five years of our life, our brain is in the theta wave stage, whereby it’s in a sponge mode to absorb everything and anything. We take everything literally and learn how to be a person. These first, vital five years are when we learn all the emotions and feelings that surround us, which results in the formation of habits.
We learn all this from the adults that surround us. We observe their behaviours and mimic them as we grow older. We are very habitual human beings, and with that, we tend to keep close to feelings that we are familiar with, that is, the similar, regular cycle we’re programmed to react to. We tend to react the same way as we’re taught in the first few years of our lives, with all of this formed early on when we have no conscious control. These habits are then carried towards adulthood.
The conscious part of the brain only starts to develop later in life. So as a child, we unconsciously absorb all things wholeheartedly with no filter, including the good and the bad that cannot be told apart. We form most of our beliefs before the age of 5. Therefore, most days we operate solely out of habit and are on autopilot when we come across familiar situations.
When we try to learn a new habit, this is when the conscious part of the brain works. When we’re aware of patterns and want to change bad habits, but are faced with a specific situation that needs an immediate response, previous habits that are hardwired begin to react. This results in the nervous system reverting to existing patterns in the subconscious based on programming, long before our conscious brain can grasp and take control of the situation. Suddenly, you may see yourself falling back to the same lousy money habits even though you know this isn’t a good thing.
To have control over this is to make yourself conscious of situations that trigger you relapse into bad money habits. Take a breather and question yourself, before making a conscious decision. The recurring pattern from your past robs you of strength to make better financial decisions. If you can make a conscious decision to create new habits around your triggers and to change that narrative, you’ll be able to change past thought patterns!
“Money is 80% behaviour, 20% knowledge.”- Dave Ramsey.
Although I have a degree in Islamic Financial Planning, I still struggle with my money blocks. Most of the time, financial planning focuses on numbers and figures but not the human thought process; I wish I was taught this back in university. Even with an abundance of education around managing our finances as a nation, there are still people falling back to their old habits and sabotaging their finances. I believe what’s stopping them is the deeply ingrained habits they grew up has made it hard to break the pattern.
Some common negative beliefs I learned:
- I don’t have the skill to make more money
- Money is evil and rich people are mean and greedy
- I can’t keep a lot of money or else I’ll lose it
- Witnessing parents fighting about money
- I have to work hard to make money
- You’ll get sick easier if you work for money
- When I am rich, there will be poor people suffering
- There is not enough money for everybody, including me
- A lot of things need to be sacrificed to gain wealth
- I have to know someone to be able to gain more wealth
We tend to fall into this pattern of these messages, thus creating a wrong impression about money. These money beliefs tend to stay in our way and form our habits until we decide to identify them and heal consciously.
How to know if you have money blocks?
Everyone has them regardless of their financial upbringing. One way to tell is that you’re aware of money, but you’re not getting any results and constantly battle the same issues. Another indicator is that you know how to manage your finances, but you keep sabotaging your success.
This is what I’m currently experiencing. I have the knowledge to manage my finances well and I know how every decision I make influences my finances, yet I keep making the same bad decisions that trip me up.
Create an action plan
The only way to reset your money blocks is to identify your beliefs around money. Write in a journal and answer these questions:
- What are my money beliefs, how did my family view money, and how was I culturally brought up around the subject of money?
- What are your biggest fears around money?
- If you are blessed with an abundance of wealth, how will you use it to help others?
“Self-sabotage is like a game of mental tug-of-war. It’s the conscious mind versus the subconscious mind where the subconscious mind always eventually wins.” – Bo Bennett
Break that pattern
When we were growing up, the fears that adults subconsciously placed upon children helped them cope with their money concerns. However, when they didn’t heal from their subconscious fear, it tended to be passed down to their kids.
In reality, we control how we can benefit and help others when we have an abundance of money. We’re all born with potential, and it’s our birthright to reach for the stars. We form our blueprint with the words used, and the mind tends to interpret it into reality. Our mind is meant to protect us from harm so it starts creating a scenario to defend ourselves. Re-write a better script around your many beliefs. It’s a process, one that never really ends.
I’ve been working on my money blocks and it is still a work in progress. I hope you enjoy diving into your thought patterns and enjoy the journey!
This article was originally published on Smart Investor, Malaysia’s leading investment magazine.