Know Thy (Financial) Self

You’ve probably heard the phrase “knowledge is power” before.

And it’s true. Knowledge is power because it shows you how to act. The more informed your actions, the more likely they are to be fruitful and effective.

Here’s another quote you’ve probably heard a few times—“Know thyself.”

Why? Because there’s no greater power than power over yourself. The more you know yourself, the more capable you’ll be to shape your actions, your habits, and your destiny.

This couldn’t be more relevant than when it comes to money matters. The more you know about your financial habits and tendencies, the better equipped you’ll be to control your financial future.

Here are some ways to know thy financial self.

Notice your emotions. Like any other part of your life, emotions can affect money. They’re especially important to be aware of because they can cause you to act in ways that are counterproductive financially.

For example, have you ever felt anxious about checking your bank account?

Or felt a craving to blow some money to de-stress?

Or swelled with pride when you see how much you’ve saved?

Those are all emotions, and they’re all related to money.

So the next time you’re spending money, or checking your bank account, or pinching pennies, take a moment. Breathe. Notice how you’re feeling. Those emotions can give you valuable information that can help you make better financial decisions in the future.

Notice your thoughts. Feelings almost always lead to thoughts. For instance, anxiety about looking at your bank account could lead to an internal conversation like this…

“Can I afford that? Oh, I bet I can’t. I WAY overspent the other day at… whatever, I never have enough money. I keep meaning to spend less, but I just can’t stop myself. Why do I even bother?”

See what happened? A feeling of anxiety led to a negative thought—that you can’t control your finances.

So what do you think about money? And that doesn’t mean your “opinions” about the economy, your take on billionaires going into space, or the NFTs are the fine art of the future] you share when you’re chatting with friends. It means the thoughts that flow through your mind whenever you encounter money in daily life.

Take a few moments right now and notice those thoughts. Are they positive? Are they negative? Are they neutral?

Notice your actions. Just like a feeling almost always leads to a thought, so does a thought almost always lead to an action.

Those actions might be to ignore, or repress, or give in. But one way or another, thoughts will result in actions.

This is where budgeting helps. It’s like creating a journal of your actions, which are a window into your thoughts, your feelings, and who you are.

Notice lots of new shoes, designer handbags, or suddenly having more blingy watches than days of the week? These can reveal a facet of your financial self—maybe you think that taking advantage of every sale at the mall (i.e., buying things you don’t really need) will relieve feelings of anxiety.

Or maybe you’re penny-pinching so much that you’re surviving on peanut butter sandwiches and hating every bite. That could reveal either a hearty resourcefulness in lean times, or an unfounded worry about going without.

Or maybe you’re mindlessly wasting your dollars with nothing to show for it. Think hundreds spent on games on your phone, getting food delivered every night, or joining that fancy wine club all your friends are in. Perhaps this reveals that you are actually afraid of your finances, so afraid, in fact, that you can’t face reality.

The more you know about your financial self, the better equipped you’ll be to control your finances. You’ll see habits that you need to curb, and habits you need to cultivate.

Simple advice, but it goes a long way. Knowledge is power!