Relationships are funny. Sometimes, something as simple as a name can jump start them forward, or doom them to failure.
Take my friend Bean for example. I first met Bean when I was four. We grew up in the same New England neighborhood, a half hour north of Boston. Bean lived two colonials and one cape away from my parent’s house, and could always make me laugh. She has a heart of gold, and today is still one of the staple relationships in my life. In the unlikely event that I were to meet someone else named Bean, I’m sure I would consider them a friend right away, based on all the good things I associate with the name.
But names work the other way as well. I have another friend, a really sweet person, who will not, no matter what, associate with anyone named Daryl. Why? She had a bad experience with a Daryl once, and that was it. Now, don’t even mention a Daryl to her, she won’t hear anything past the first name.
When you think about it, we all bring our past experiences into our new relationships, and use them to protect ourselves from bad things, and move closer to good things. We go with what we know, even if all we know is a name. It might seem kind of nuts, but its how we work.
This is particularly true when it comes to our relationship with money. Money has a lot of emotion around it, and sometimes just the sound of “money” words can conjure up all kinds of bad feelings. Take the word “budget”, for example. For lots of people, this word is one big, huge, Daryl. I know, I used to feel this way too. “Stick to your budget” may as well have been, “Take a sip of strychnine” or “Bite this poison apple.” My reaction would be the same. I just could not relate to the word in a good way.
The thing is, this negative association creates a major problem. Without a budget, we will fail at managing our money. But we can’t fail! We need to manage our money well! We need it to support ourselves now and when we are too old to work. We need it to protect ourselves and the people we love! We just can’t afford to have the Daryl reaction to our finances.
So, what do we do?
We change the name! That’s right, no more calling the key to our financial success a “budget”. Let’s make it real, something we can relate to, and something we will welcome into our lives. Let’s give that sucker the name it needs to get the job done.
This worked really well for me and my family. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the strong and mighty protector of my own personal economy: Welcome THOR! Thor is a giant Viking Warrior who is leading his people across rough terrains and enemy waters. Thor will bring us safely into the land of financial freedom, for he is strong, and has won many battles (like the one over at DSW last week…). We follow him because he is good, he is right, he is a powerful hero. He is also wicked scary, so we tend to do what he says.
Sound nuts? Might be, but it works. Here’s a recent example:
“Mom, can I get a new lacrosse stick?” asks my 12-year-old son, who knows he does not need another lacrosse stick.
“Hmmm,” I say. “Let me check with Thor.”
The energy in the room changes, the Viking Warrior is being summoned.
“OK,” says the brave sixth-grader.
I look down at the spreadsheet on my laptop as my son waits silently.
I scroll to Thor’s line marked “Kid’s Activities”, see $17 left for the pay period and then translate my findings:
“Thor says ‘NOOOOO, ARRRGH!’ ”
“Fine,” says the boy. He walks away. End of conversation.
Nobody messes with Thor!
For you, maybe Thor is actually Dr. Spock or Flloyd, The Mayor, Frank Sinatra or Diana Prince (remember Wonder Woman at her day job?). It doesn’t matter what name you give it, as long as that name satisfies the emotional connection you need to have with your budget in order for it to be a working part of your life and get you where you need to be with your money.
So go ahead, name your poison! What name will it be?
Question: Do you have a question for Beth? Use the comments below where she’ll respond.