Wealth Blog Post

Understanding Your Financial Patterns of Behavior

George Grombacher October 24, 2022

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Understanding Your Financial Patterns of Behavior

We all have patterns of behavior and habits we follow. But why? Where do they come from? How can we change them? 


Humans have been studying patterns for a long time. Ancient Greeks like Plato and Pythagoras worked to understand patterns in nature. Over time, we’ve used math, physics, and chemistry to more fully understand and explain them. 

From spots on animals, to waves in the ocean, to cracks in the ground, we’ve devoted resources to understanding patterns. But why? Because patterns repeat in a logical way and understanding them allows us to better predict what will happen in the future. 


What’s this got to do with you? 


If you’re where you want to be in life, and your current trajectory will get you where you want to go, you probably don’t need to explore any further. But if you’re not living the life you want, and you’re not on track, it behooves you to dig deeper into your patterns and habits. Without intervention, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve always gotten. To change your future, you need to examine why you’re doing what you’re doing. 


You’re not where you are because of your habits. Sure, the little things matter, but not as much as you think. You’re also not where you are because of your patterns. Even though they play a major role. You’re where you are because of your beliefs. 


We’ve been thinking about things the wrong way. We spend so much time focusing only on habits. We question how long it takes to form a new one, how to break bad ones, and to better optimize. But changing your habits won’t change your life. To do that, you must go far deeper; that’s what we’re going to do here. 


As a financial advisor, I’ve been helping people explore their beliefs about money for over 20 years. I’m honored to be named to Investopedia’s list of the top 100 financial advisors many years running. 


Here’s what we’ll cover:


  • Understanding habits, patterns, and beliefs

  • The old way of thinking

  • The proper order

  • How to do it


Let’s get started.


Understanding habits, patterns, and beliefs


A habit is how you do something. A pattern is what you do. Beliefs are how you are. 


Habits are the behavioral expression of your patterns. Your patterns are the physical expression of your beliefs. Your beliefs are your operating system.


To put it yet another way, your habits are the tactics, individual steps, and actions. Your patterns are the overarching strategy or plan of action. Your beliefs are your abilities. 


While there’s value in exploring them separately, it’s important and more valuable to think about them together and as a continuum. 


The old way of thinking


Research by Phillippa Lally found it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit. She discovered it took some people 18 days, and other 254 days. 


But why don’t they stick? Why do so many diets and exercise programs fail? Why do we give up on our New Year’s Resolutions so quickly? Because we’re not going deep enough. 


When we only focus on the tactics we use without understanding our ability to successfully do it, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. You can have the best financial goals, and the greatest investment strategy, but if you don’t believe you’re someone who can become financially successful, you’ll fall short of your ultimate potential.   


The proper order


“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” – Henry David Thoreau


We’ve fallen in love with life hacks, quick fixes, and making pivots. The real work involves moving past the treatment of symptoms, and getting to the root cause of the problem. Yes, if you’re not where you want to be in life, you have a problem. A problem that, if unchecked, will keep you stuck where you are.  


So, instead of focusing on your habits, you must first focus on your beliefs. To get what you want, you need to switch the order and recognize that you do what you do because you’re you. And the only way to change your behavior is to change your belief system. 


How to do it


You do what you do because you’re you. So, who are you? How well do you know your operating system?


The reality of our beliefs is that we developed them when we were little kids, between birth and 7 years old. Odds are, many of yours are wonderful. For the areas where you’re struggling, it’s important to explore and examine any negative or limiting beliefs you may have.


Here’s the good news; you can change your beliefs. Our brains have neuroplasticity that allows us to reshape them when we want to make a change. 


The first step is to identify the behavior you’re interested in changing. When we struggle with our personal finances, it’s typically because we have negative beliefs about money itself, or we have low self-worth and don’t feel we deserve financial success. To help you examine your beliefs about money, go through these prompts:


  • People with money are
  • Money makes people
  • I’d have more money if
  • My parents thought money would
  • In my family, money caused
  • Money equals
  • If I had money, I’d 
  • If I could afford it, I’d
  • Money is 
  • Money causes
  • Having money is not
  • In order to have more money, I’d need to
  • When I have money, I usually 
  • I think money 
  • People think money


Once you identify an area (or areas), you can change your beliefs by reshaping your neuro pathways. You do that by deciding how you want to think about and feel about money. Next, pay close attention and work to catch any negative or limiting financial thoughts or feelings as quickly as you can. When they come up, replace them with positive thoughts and feelings. 


There’s no telling how long it will take you to successfully change your beliefs about money, but be confident that you’ll do it. 


Making it real


Perhaps you want to be good with money, so you work to make that one of your core beliefs. From there, you adopt financial goal setting, responsible spending, and consistent investing as your patterning. You put them to work in your life through positive habits like monthly budgeting, cash flow reviews, and automated investing. 


Can you see the difference? While budgeting, reviewing your cash flow, and automating your investing are great habits, without digging into your beliefs, you’re only scratching the surface. 


When you look at where you are, are you going to get where you want to go? If no, or you’re not sure, exploring your beliefs about money will certainly help. Whatever you desire, you’re someone who can have it. 


If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, check out our DIY Financial Plan course. 


We’ve got three free courses as well: Our Goals Course, Values Course, and our Get Out of Debt course. 


Connect with one of our Certified Partners to get any question answered. 


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Check out the LifeBlood podcast.


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