One of the first things I talk about with any of my clients is how they think about and relate to money. Most of my clients come to me wanting to change their income or the means by which they make it.
It turns out that changing our relationship to money is some of the most uncomfortable work that we humans can do.
But it’s not because it’s hard to make money - it’s not. What's deeply and painfully *uncomfortable* is to cut through the unconscious programming - or mindset - that we have around money.
Like most of our unconscious programming, our money mindset is established and developed when we're little. It's modeled and passed down to us by our families and community. Sometimes this happens explicitly (that wealthy prick) but more often it happens more subtly through behavior and off-handed comments (look at that new car the neighbors are driving - too bad we’ll never have one like that).
The beliefs we cultivate when we're little stay with us in our subconscious throughout the rest of our lives - and this is why it's so rare that people step out of the financial comfort zone they grew up in.
Unless you spend time and energy bringing consciousness to your money mindset - and really developing a conscious relationship to money - your unconscious beliefs will determine your earning capacity for your entire life.
One of my coaches, David Neagle, taught me this simple three line model for making sense of what's happening in our subconscious minds. It’s a psychological model and can be used for just about anything, and he uses it often to explain our money mindset. I think it’s the best illustration there is for why people struggle to change their socioeconomic status.
Here’s how it looks:
Each of these lines represents a psychological story about money. The Bottom line is a poverty story. The Top line is a wealth story. The Need line is a comfort story. For a given person, each of these lines correlate to a specific amount of money - but what those numbers are can be radically different, depending on the individual, so let's look at this conceptually.
The Need line is our default comfort line - and we hover around this line. This line represents what we consider to be the things we need to do, money-wise, on a regular basis. This line represents whatever is on your personal list of things that you feel really good about spending money on and feel uncomfortable without. For some this may be paying the rent and bills and for others it may include paying the annual membership to the Country Club. Think about this for yourself - what numbers and commitments are on your Need line?
The Bottom line is what it sounds like - it's the worst it’s ever been for you, financially. It’s what you’re afraid of getting to. The point is that no one ever goes below their own bottom line. For some, this may be defaulting on a loan. For others this may be homelessness. For some this means driving a BMW instead of a Ferrari. Each person is different. Without doubt, everyone has a bottom line - a line past which they never go, no matter what. What’s your need line?
Here's the thing that's super interesting about the bottom line: as we fall closer and closer to the Bottom line...
I've experienced this in my own life and seen it in other people’s lives time and time again: a tax refund check arrives just in time, cash that had been stashed for a “rainy day” gets unearthed from the sock drawer and saves the day, the money that was owed gets paid. It's not a coincidence - it's a change in urgency.
Why? As we go closer to our own bottom line, falling away from our comfort zone, our tolerance for being seen goes down - we don't want to get caught away from our comfort zone. The closer to our bottom line we get, the more likely it is that we will be seen.
And this shifts our sense of urgency. And we bring the money in.
Stay tuned for a more exploration of this mental model at the beginning of November when we’ll delve into the top line and how to break the whole paradigm.