We all have stories – they may serve us and can even be empowering, but sometimes they outlive their usefulness and can be quite limiting. Which stories serve us, and which need a re-write? We met to explore our money stories – especially those that grew out of our family histories. We started by sharing some family photos, which provided a wonderful window into the people we are today. And it was a fun way for the rest of us to see others from a different angle.
There’s no getting around it: talking about money can be tough. Talking about our family lessons and legacies around money can be particularly poignant. We witnessed again this week, the courage it takes to explore these issues – and the caring support and wisdom a circle of women in conversation can provide.
Our conversation was guided by a metaphor originally explored by Jonathan Haidt in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis. Meet the elephant (our emotional side) and the rider (our rational side). Imagine in your mind’s eye: the rider is perched atop the elephant, holding the reins and seemingly in control. But this control is precarious because the rider is so small relative to the elephant. Regardless of the skill of the rider, anytime the elephant disagrees as to which to direction to take, the rider will lose – the rider is completely over-matched.
When does our elephant overpower our rider and veer off the path? When we choose instant gratification instead of getting to the gym. When we overspend or take on too much financial risk. When we procrastinate. The weakness of the elephant (our emotion and intuition) is that it can be lazy and skittish, or stubborn and headstrong – looking for a quick payoff, or refusing to budge. When we are stymied in our efforts to change our behavior, its usually the elephant’s fault. Change usually means short-term sacrifices for long-term payoff. Our rider can’t keep our elephant on the road long enough to reach our destination.
If our elephant wants immediate results, the rider excels at the opposite — thinking long-term, beyond the moment. But what about our elephant’s strength and our rider’s weakness? Emotion isn’t always a bad influence – love, compassion, sympathy, and loyalty can provide powerful motivation and resolve when we need to take action on behalf of others or ourselves. The rider’s weakness? Analysis paralysis, overthinking, spinning our wheels.
Here’s the deal: to change things, you need both. Our rider provides the planning and direction and our elephant provides the energy. Both are crucial. A reluctant elephant and wheel-spinning rider can ensure that nothing changes. But when they move together, change can come easily. Imagine the power of getting your elephant to go in the right direction. If you can do that, there’s no stopping you.
We adopted this metaphor because it is such a vivid expression of the core belief that underpins our circle conversations: we believe that expertise (the rider) and empathy (the elephant) both have a role to play when we face financial decisions and issues. As we explored in our circle this week, our history, our current situation and our future ambitions influence every financial decision we make. We were reminded that childhood and old memories can be bittersweet to recall, confusing to tease out and difficult to articulate. By their very nature they are deeply planted and sometimes very tender. But as difficult as it may be to face our most fragile trigger points, we think that disregarding them is doing a disservice to our lived experience. It’s like ignoring the elephant in the room! Instead, if we can recognize our stories and how they motivate us, we can harness them as a powerful tool.
As always, we closed our circle with a poem, one of our favorites. It is a reminder of the power of connection, something we all yearn for.
With That Moon Language, Hafiz
Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying, with that sweet moon language,
What every other eye in this world is dying to hear?
Diane, Lexi, & Hallie