Shortcut #1: Trick Your Brain

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I am an efficient person, an engineer by nature. I’m also lazy. I love shortcuts, but only when they work. So I’d like to dedicate this post, and future posts like it, to a series I’m calling “Shortcuts”. Put simply, they are tiny activities that take little time yet produce great results. I hope they may be of use to the other lazy people out there that want to get hold of their finances!

The human brain is a complex organ, and there is still a lot of mystery surrounding it. One field of study I have been interested in lately is Neuro-Linguistic Programming, abbreviated NLP. To avoid all the science jargon (which I do suggest researching if you’re interested), it is basically a method (some may call it a form of hypnosis) in which we can suggest behaviors, both to ourselves and others. If you’ve ever seen a mentalist perform, or a mind reader, chances are they are using NLP principles to accomplish their task. However, it also holds some striking benefits when used as a form of psychotherapy. Put simply, you can spend just a few minutes each day to completely change the way your brain thinks about money (and more!).

I know for myself, in my journey to become debt free, I have found many presuppositions towards money and how I feel about it. While my conscious mind knows differently, the unconscious part of my mind that is responsible for binge-spending and making late payments was going strong and keeping me on a path to stay in debt forever. I imagine most people that wake up one day and realize they’ve gone too down that path have similar issues. NLP is one method of changing that attitude.

I won’t go into why it works, but I will give the basics. You can apply this to any area of life, too. Are you trying to lose weight but can’t keep from eating poorly? Do you have self-worth issues when it comes to the opposite sex? NLP is one technique you can use to change that. Basically, there are three areas we can use to program (plant ideas inside) our brains. There is kinesthetic, visual, and auditory, meaning “touch”, “sight”, and “sound”, respectively. If you can create a pattern that keys into multiple areas, then it creates a stronger bond. For example, you may look in the mirror and say something out loud to yourself. Yes, basic NLP is pretty much just the tried-and-true “talk to the mirror” advice!

How many times have you said, “I will never get out of debt” to yourself? Likely a lot, even if you only said it in your mind. The thing you did not realize, is that was basic NLP; you were programming your brain to think you will never be capable of getting out of debt, and surprise, now you aren’t! What you will have to do is reverse that. Just like anything in life, it takes as much effort to reverse something as it does to get there in the first place. Every day, or even multiple times per day, use the mirror method. Tell yourself not that you “will” get out of debt, but that you are out of debt. The problem with using future tense is that your brain will always think this action comes later. Use the present tense, because this is the attitude you want to have right now. If your issue is weight loss, then say “I am skinny”. When using verbs, make them active.

The mirror method ties in both the visual and auditory senses to program the brain. You can also use the kinesthetic by writing statements down on paper. The movement of your hand keeps the notion that you are out of debt firmly in your brain. However, you may have to use multiple statements. Try to identify the things keeping you in debt, and make up suggestions for each of those. Try to make a list of 5-10 suggestions you want to program your brain with. Find the root issues of your money problems, and tell your brain the opposite.

An example list might be:

  1. I make wise spending choices and am a thrifty person
  2. I regularly consult my budget before making a purchase
  3. I pay all my bills early and in full
  4. I do not need expensive things to make me happy in life
  5. I no longer make purchases on credit cards

Of course, this is just an example, and for this to work you should make your own list dealing with your own problems. Hopefully you catch the idea here. NLP really is as simple as that, in its basic form. And while it might sound silly (and somewhat non-revolutionary) to talk to yourself in the mirror, you might be surprised at the effect it has on your outlook on money. They say to be a millionaire you have to spend like a millionaire, but it’s impossible to do that without first thinking like a millionaire. NLP is one method to get your thoughts in the right direction. A proper thought pattern will overflow into your natural habits. Keep in mind that initially, you have to overturn years of bad programming, and you may likely think negative thoughts even now. This is why it’s important to do this every day or more. Get it into your brain. When your brain starts thinking properly, make it start thinking in other ways. Start telling it about how you will invest, or think of business ideas, etc. The possibilities are endless, and yet the investment is literally only one minute per day or less. Even if it doesn’t work for you at all (for whatever reason), it got you thinking about why you behave the way you do, which is still beneficial.

Main Excuse: “I don’t have/want/use a mirror!” Well, there is another way, and since it ties into the emotional, many people think it’s actually better than just a visual. Simply say them out loud like before, only while you say each one, visualize your life with that principle. For example, if you say “I pay all my bills early”, then visualize yourself writing a check and sending it in, or clicking an online billpay. What this effectively does is to tie a particular action to your words, which may give it more weight. Better yet, do both methods if you can!

Super-Shortcut: As an aside, you can also use more advanced NLP tricks to enhance your money abilities. Try tying in the the kinesthetic directly to your mirror exercise. For example, when you say “I spend money wisely”, try touching a particular part of your body in a certain way. Maybe you brush behind your earlobe. Something you can feel easily. After awhile of doing this, when you are in Best Buy checking out the latest HDTVs, perform that same touch. Your mind should actually reject poor spending! This is called anchoring, and is particularly effective in making yourself (and others) behave a certain way when a particular stimulus is present.

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