Dollars and Sense
Tax time is here – that stressful time of year when we get to go through the last 365 days of our financial history in the hopes we might be lucky enough to see a little bit returned to us, maybe avoid having to pay anything back and prevent the disaster of all disasters … being audited. The fact that it is costing us more to take care of our daily needs and the economy is so unstable, cranks the stress up even more in regards to our money.
So here is the truth about STRESS and MONEY.
It is a physiological and biological fact that STRESS makes us STUPID. Stressing about money … makes us REALLY Stupid.
The pressure we feel in regards to our finances actually does things to our Intelligence system that causes us to make unwise, impractical or just plain dumb decisions when it comes to our cash. In a continuously circulating system that gains momentum as it feeds on itself … our money worries put us in a position of creating more money worries, which causes more stress, which causes more ineffective financial focus, which causes us to make bad choices, which causes more money worries. You get the picture.
The human brain over tens of thousands of years, has developed specific areas to process language, store memory, practice empathy, create works of art and a myriad of other intricate skills that make us human. But there is no area in the brain that has developed to handle the ‘concept/idea or practice of money’ – there is no ‘occipital cash lobe’ that gives us the ability to be brilliant with our ‘quan’.
Money is a relatively new human invention – dating back to about 9000 BC when the first bartering practices were recorded, and has gradually, over time, morphed into the paper (and now digital exchange) that we all know and fear so well. But the greater meaning of money for virtually every one on the planet – is that it has become a system, a means, a symbol of SURVIVAL . In our modern society, if you don’t have money … you don’t survive. And that can be stressful, especially as you watch the balance in your bank account begin to dwindle.
Now of course, most of us are very, very far from the threat of not being able to survive. (I am not speaking of those who face destitute poverty in our society – Yes, I know those poor souls are out there) But for the MAJORITY of us, because money has become so ingrained as a SURVIVAL tool – the fear of not having enough of it or losing the bit that we have – activates our ancient primal instincts … and those instincts are NOT money wise.
When a system (human or otherwise) is in SURVIVAL mode (stressed out/under threat/at risk of losing something important) – the parts of the brain that are involved in higher, more evolved and intelligent thought processing … actually shut down! The areas of your Intelligence system that can guide you to efficient, effective or wise money choices are turned off, so the body can take care of the survival issues it believes are crucially pending.
When you are worried about keeping your job, or how you will pay your bills, or whether the stock market is going to plunge, or whether the stack of chips you just placed on ‘RED’ is going to pay off … or when you are being pressured to make a decision about an investment, or told there is a threat of missing out on an opportunity (which is how the stock market, real estate and car sales ALL operate), your body switches into a form of ‘Survival Mode’. While you are in this agitated state – it is impossible to be financially intelligent.
The reason the #1 cause of Divorce is ‘Money Worries’ is because when people are stressed about money (or worried about ANYTHING for that matter) the ability to effectively think, communicate, empathize or consider another living being are completely obliterated. When any system is in survival mode – it truly becomes a battle for survival of the fittest … and it is impossible to develop, nurture or sustain a relationship of any kind in that circumstance.
Here are some simple and practical ways we can activate our Intelligence system to be ‘Money Wise’:
#1 – NEVER MAKE A FINANCIAL DECISION WITH A DEADLINE. The pressure of ‘missing out on something’ activates the adrenaline in your body and shuts down the mental skills required to make a wise decision. If someone pressures you to make a financial commitment because ‘time is running out’ … let them know you need some space and politely excuse yourself to a place where you can take a deep breath, relax and get centered before taking action. Scarcity and time constraints are the big guns used by high pressure salesmen, auctioneers and the stock market … and we all know how we feel about them. There will always be another opportunity to spend wisely.
You can use this knowledge to benefit YOUR bottom line and SAVE money if you know that the seller needs to meet a deadline. (Like at the end of the month at car dealers or a must sell situation in real estate.) Because the sellers Intelligence system will be under stress and YOURS is balanced, you will have the upper hand and should be able to negotiate a better price for yourself.
#2 – NEVER SHOP (for anything) WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY. We have all had those days when we have gone into the grocery store when our stomachs were empty and ended up coming home with 5 bags of groceries with barely an ounce of nutritional value in any of them. When our bodies are depleted nutritionally, either because we haven’t eaten for several hours, or we have been eating a lot of empty calories – our body goes into a mild state of ‘starvation mode’, this triggers ‘survival’ chemistry to become active in our system. And as we have learned; if a body/brain/intelligence system is in Survival mode – higher intelligence and rational cognitive function does not work.
If you are going to make an important purchase, be sure you have provided your body with some good, healthy nutrition before you agree to the sale. (This may also be why people who broker big deals that are meant to be win/win will do it together over a meal.)
#3 – LEARN TO MANAGE YOUR STRESS. Making any sort of financial decision whether it is buying a home or a new pair of shoes can be risky business if you are doing it while in an incoherent or aggravated state of emotion. ‘Retail Therapy’ is a common term when someone goes shopping to feel good, numb their pain or distract their attention; depression, anger, loneliness, insecurity or grief are all great triggers for spending. Scientists have discovered that the very same parts of the brain that are activated by sex, drugs and addiction are the parts stimulated when we spend money. The brain cannot tell the difference between the former and the latter … it is all just chemical stimulation to our nervous system and it doesn’t matter how we get ‘the fix’ … we just know we feel good while we are doing it.
Developing a regular routine of relaxation or meditation will help alleviate all of the stressors that are presented to you throughout the day. When you are able to manage the thoughts, emotions and perceptions that cause your body to react stressfully and as a result can manage the chemicals that activate Intelligence, then your ability to navigate through any situation, financial or otherwise will be greatly enhanced. Take a walk in nature, go for a swim, take a moment to look at some beautiful artwork … all of these practices will regulate your nervous system and your ‘Wealth Wisdom’ will be activated.
#4 – DO YOUR HOMEWORK – Going into any situation, financial or otherwise, where you feel you are outwitted, or someone is smarter than you, has more information or knows some ‘secret’ that you do not – activates the stress hormones that keep us from being MONEY WISE. Why? Because our ancient animal brains perceive this ‘better person’ as a threat. The survival instinct is to associate with the smartest, strongest, most potent animal in the herd, and when we feel weaker, or dumber, or less informed … our bodies automatically go into fight or flight.
If you are making a big purchase, buying a home, investing in the stock market, buying a car … DO YOUR HOMEWORK. The Internet puts loads of detailed and objective information at your fingertips and there is no excuse for not gaining as much information as you can prior to sitting down to negotiate a deal or spending a single penny. The self esteem that comes from being informed levels the playing field and once again balances the stress chemicals that would normally leave you feeling like you have been ‘taken to the cleaners’. Knowledge is indeed financial power.
Our ability to be MONEY WISE does not come from having a huge team of financial analysts or planners telling us what to do, nor does it come from being born to privilege. (One look at Wall Street and the Banking system will clarify that) Financial Wisdom comes from learning how to access and balance our emotional intelligence and activating our higher cognitive function so we can make decisions that extend our wealth, benefit our families and improve our lifestyles over the long run and for the long term.
If you want to know how to manage your Money … you need to know how to manage your mind first.
Integrated Intelligence and my upcoming program The New Mind of Money will help you do that. To be informed as to when The New Mind of Money Program will be launched – please sign up for our Newsletter.