How Your Money Mindset Defines Your Level of Wealth

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Secrets of the Millionaire Mind" by T. Harv Eker. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How would you describe your mindset about money? Do you often mismanage your money? More generally, what role does mindset play in financial success?

No matter how hard you work to accumulate money, or how many financial books you read or seminars that you attend, your finances cannot improve unless you improve your mindset. This is because your mindset will always find ways to sabotage the way you handle your money if the amount rises above your financial setpoint.

In this article, you’ll learn how your money mindset is an accumulation of thoughts and beliefs that you picked up throughout your childhood and some ways you can begin to change it.

What Is Your Money Mindset?

According to Eker in Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, your money mindset is a construct of all of the beliefs you hold about money. This construct programs the way you relate to money because:

  1. Your thoughts and beliefs determine how you feel. 
  2. Your feelings determine the decisions you make and how you act. 
  3. Your actions determine the results you get and how much money you have. 

Therefore, this programming leads you to develop habits and behave (often unconsciously) in specific ways to create results that align with your money mindset. 

Your Money Mindset Is a Result of Childhood Conditioning

Eker claims that your current money mindset is a result of childhood conditioning. As a child, you unconsciously absorbed thoughts, emotions, and beliefs about money from your role models and your environment. Everything you heard, saw, and experienced about money influenced your beliefs about how to manage your finances, and conditioned you to behave in specific ways.

These thoughts and opinions now make up your mindset and determine what you believe about money. These beliefs then unconsciously dictate how you think, feel, and behave when you manage your finances. 

For example, if your role models worked hard but never had enough money to enjoy themselves, you may have the belief: “There is never enough money, no matter how hard I work.” This belief creates an uncomfortable feeling every time you think about going to work or managing your finances, and it leads you to act in unproductive ways such as frivolously spending your money instead of saving it. Your discomfort may also cause you to resent people who do have enough money. In contrast, if you grew up in an environment where money was not a cause for concern because there was always enough, you’re less likely to feel discomfort or resentment around the subject of work and money.

Your Conditioning Is a Result of What You Believe to Be True

The author of Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz, validates Eker’s argument that you picked up beliefs throughout your childhood that conditioned you to behave in certain ways. He argues that you unconsciously adopted the opinions and beliefs of others as truths, regardless of whether or not these opinions were based on facts. 
Why did your mind accept what you heard, saw, and experienced as truth? It’s because your nervous system can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality—it can only respond to what you think or imagine to be true. When you were young, you were less able to question what was going on around you and to form your own rational conclusions. As a result, you simply absorbed everything you experienced and your mind accepted these experiences as truths

As an adult, you can decide what you choose to believe but, according to Maltz, the “truths” you accepted as a child continue to live in your mind and inform your feelings and behaviors. He suggests that you take control of these outdated truths and replace them with what you choose to believe by regularly visualizing yourself acting in ways that align with what you want. For example, if you want to believe that you can enjoy your work and earn a high income, visualize yourself performing this work and try to imagine how it would feel to achieve this. 
Maltz claims that, with constant practice, your mind will gradually become accustomed to accepting your new thoughts and beliefs as truth and will let go of the old, unproductive beliefs.

Your Childhood Influences: Are You Conforming or Rebelling?

Eker argues that while your money mindset is a result of childhood conditioning, it doesn’t always mean that you’ll replicate your role models when it comes to managing your money. You may end up producing entirely different results depending on how you originally chose to interpret what was going on and whether you chose to conform or rebel against your upbringing. In either case, your interpretation of your upbringing defined the beliefs in your money mindset.

(Shortform note: Eker claims that your interpretation of your experiences defines your beliefs. Similarly, Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics) argues that the way that you identify with your experiences determines the beliefs you form. For example, if your guardians couldn’t afford to buy you something you wanted, you could’ve identified with this experience in multiple ways—you could’ve appreciated your parents for doing the best that they could, or you could’ve responded with feelings of anger and disappointment. Whatever emotion you chose created corresponding beliefs in your mind.)

If you didn’t question your upbringing, it’s likely that you chose to conform to the opinions of your role models. As a result, your money mindset now leads you to act in ways that replicate your upbringing: If your role models struggled to make money, you now struggle to make money. If they felt comfortable managing their money, you now feel comfortable managing your money.

(Shortform note: According to psychologists, you’re more likely to have conformed to your role models if you’re the type of person to place more weight on what other people think about you than on how you think and feel about yourself. As a result of this thought process, you grew up acting like everyone else so that they’d accept you, and you avoided taking actions that would invite criticism from others.)

If you chose to rebel against your upbringing, you may find yourself acting in complete opposition to your role models. For example, if your role models struggled with money, you may have made the conscious decision to never let yourself live in poverty. Or, if your role models were comfortable with money but didn’t give you the time and love that you needed, you may have unconsciously associated money with lack of love.

Further, Eker argues that your interpretation of your upbringing determines your motivation for making money. If you grew up feeling like you never had enough money, you may be motivated by fear—you’ll make money to ensure you always have what you need and will always feel discomfort at the thought of losing it. On the other hand, if you grew up feeling like money represented well-being and enjoyment, you’ll have a more balanced outlook and pursue money in more fulfilling ways. Your motivation stays with you and impacts the way you manage your finances.

How Childhood Rebellion Can Lead You to Sabotage Your Own Self-Interests

As Eker briefly notes, sometimes we decide to rebel against the money mindset modeled to us in childhood. Accordingly, even if you grew up in an environment of wealth and luxury, and you were taught the most effective ways to manage your money, you could find yourself acting in ways that create poverty.
Why would you choose to rebel against what you want or what’s good for you? According to psychological research, rebellious behavior occurs when we seek to differentiate ourselves and form our own separate identity—this type of behavior often gets triggered when adolescents transition into adulthood and attempt to reject their childhood identity. 

Rebellion is inspired by a clear recognition of what you don’t want (you don’t want to be a child, you don’t want to be like your role models) but fails to factor in what you do want (you want to be self-sufficient and enjoy well-being). The more negative emotions you feel around what you’re rejecting, the less likely you are to think about what you actually want to experience in your own life. As a result, your rebellion leads you to focus on negative thoughts and emotions that lead you to engage in self-destructive behaviors.
How Your Money Mindset Defines Your Level of Wealth

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  • The difference between the way rich people and poor people think and feel about money
  • How to improve your finances by taking conscious control of your thoughts
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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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