4 Ways Your Mind Can Make You Rich
When I was in my early 20s, I had a lovely photograph of a solitary woman hanging in my bedroom. My mother suggested that I switch it out for a picture of a couple. According to a theory of Feng Shui that she had read, the way you decorate your home reflects your intentions — so if you have artwork depicting loneliness in your bedroom, then you're more likely to be unlucky in love.
I rolled my eyes at my mom — but I switched out the picture of the woman for a poster of Robert Doisneau's famous photograph Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville, which I had previously displayed in my living room.
A few months after making the switch, I met the man who is now my husband.
While proponents of Feng Shui, the law of attraction, and other somewhat off-the-wall theories about cause and effect would claim that the universe responded to my decorating change, science offers an even more intriguing possibility: priming.
Psychologists have discovered that our behavior and thinking can change based upon the context of information that we receive. This phenomenon is known as priming, and it can affect everything from your behavior to your emotions.
For instance, researchers have found that simply hearing the words Florida, forgetful, and wrinkle is enough to cause individuals to start walking more slowly, as if they are feeling the effects of aging. In another experiment, researchers have found that individuals holding a hot cup of coffee when talking to another person felt more positive about the conversation. The warmth of the cup translated into a feeling of warmth about the interaction.
Think Yourself Rich
There are various ways to provide your brain with the kind of stimulus that can help to achieve your financial dreams — just as I reached my romantic dream. Here are four things you can do to help put your mind to work for you.
1. Visualize Doing It
Athletes have understood the importance of active visualization for some time. They will often spend hours thinking about what it will look like, sound like, and feel like to stick the landing, sink the shot, or hit the ball.
In a recent study at the University of Chicago, three groups of participants were asked to make as many free throws as they could. Then, the first group was asked to practice free throws for an hour every day, the second group was asked to visualize making free throws every day, and the third group did nothing. A month later, the first group had improved by 24%. The second group had improved by an impressive 23% without setting foot on a basketball court. The control group had made no improvement. Clearly, visualizing an activity can help you improve your performance.
It's important to clarify that visualizing is very different from creating a vision board. That's because vision boards can actually be detrimental to your goals. Studies that ask participants to envision good outcomes (such as getting an A on an exam or winning a tennis match) have found that the participants do worse on their exam or match if they have visualized the positive outcome. That's because those types of visions skip over the hard work (and those visualizers do study and practice less), and jumps right to the feel-good ending. This is clearly not helpful.
The difference between the type of visualizing that athletes do and the vision boards is action. Athletic visualization is very active and involves multiple senses. Imagining winning the gold or cutting out pictures of the things you'd like to own someday is much more passive and dreamy.
If you want to visualize yourself rich, spend your visualization time thinking through how you will handle various financial situations, from salary negotiation to saying no to pressures to spend money. Priming your brain for these situations ahead of time will do much more for your ability to get rich than gluing a picture of a yacht to a piece of poster board.
2. Appreciate What You Have
If you want to use your mind to make yourself rich, take a moment to truly look at all that you have with new eyes. Isn't it incredible that you can speak to people the world over, learn almost anything about almost any subject, and look at pictures of grumpy cats using a device no bigger than a deck of cards? We really are living in an exciting time and there is an incredible bounty available to us.
Reminding yourself of the abundance in your life allows you to step out of the "consume consume consume" culture that we live in and recognize that you can feel rich with what you already have. While this thought experiment will not necessarily add dollars to your bank account, it will leave you feeling richer and more satisfied with your life — and isn't that the point of wealth?
3. Give Money Away
In his book More Than Enough: The Ten Keys to Changing Your Financial Destiny, Dave Ramsey talks about the difference between having an open hand or a closed fist:
I see the closed fist often in the area of money: a fist full of dollars tightly held so that those precious dollars never get away. That closed fist represents someone who doesn't know how to give. They think if they clutch those dollars tight enough, never giving, that they are on the path to more than enough. The real world will teach you that the opposite is true: those with more than enough got there by giving.
All of this sounds a little woo-woo, but there is something to Ramsey's analogy. Specifically, individuals who are close-fisted with their money tend to have very negative money scripts — unconscious beliefs about money created in childhood. If you feel that you must hold tightly to your money, you probably believe things like there will never be enough money or the amount of money you have reflects on who you are as a person.
One solution to dealing with these money scripts is to get in the habit of giving money away. If you change your attitude about money from something that you must tightly hold to something that flows through your life, then you are in a better position to see and accept wealth-generating opportunities when they arise.
4. Repeat Positive Affirmations
Stuart Smalley was onto something when he repeatedly told himself, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me!"
As it turns out, positive affirmations can really help prime your brain to make significant changes. That's because your mind does not know the difference between reality and fantasy. This is why your heart races while watching a horror movie — your mind is empathizing with the characters on the screen even though you know intellectually that they are not real.
So if you tell yourself over and over "I welcome wealth into my life and I love the positive energy that money brings to me," then your mind will fall in line with the belief system you are stating. Repeat your affirmations out loud three times a day for five minutes. And be like Stuart — look at yourself in the mirror while you're doing it.
If you find yourself rolling your eyes when you state your affirmations, however, you might see no results from this new habit. That's because we all already have affirmations in our heads, and many of them are very negative. You might be trying to reprogram your mind by stating a positive affirmation, but the negative voice inside is undermining it by whispering something like, This is stupid. You will always struggle with money."
If you do have a negative reaction to affirmations, it's a good idea to examine exactly what that inner voice is saying and poke holes in the negative message. Don't let your negative affirmation get in the way of your wealth.
Harness the Power of Your Brain
The human mind is an incredible machine. It helps to create the reality you live in, and you can give it gentle nudges toward the goals you want. If you visualize, appreciate, give, and affirm, your brain will help to bring you closer to the lifestyle you deserve.
Have you used the power of your brain to build wealth — or sink more putts? Please share in comments!