“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
It’s the one thing we all share and yet don’t want to admit. Emotions drive all of our money decisions. Period.
I come from an engineering background where a good portion of the people I worked with are Myers Briggs INTJ types. These people are extremely rational and this quality makes for good engineers. The flip side to this is that because they can disconnect from their emotions, they sometimes forget they have them. They are prone to completely underestimate the influence our emotions have in matters of personal importance.
So as an investment into our future decisions, repeat after me: I am human. I am an emotional creature. Whether I like it or not, I seek approval of those I respect. I will make decisions based on how they make me feel.
Denying any of this is irrational. All it does is confuse truth with the stories you tell yourself. The truth is, you are not only emotional, but your emotions are being hacked. All of the time. Whether its an especially charismatic friend, or an insurance commercial – your emotions are being used to influence your decisions. At the very minimum, you need to be aware of it.
At least if someone “emotional” knows their emotional, they don’t have the hurdle of accepting this fact. They can then go on to ensure they have processes in place to keep the vast majority of their emotional knee jerk reactions in check. You know, stuff like automated savings coming off their paycheque or automatic portfolio rebalancing. Even hiring a financial planner could be summarized as another barrier between you and the stupid decision that you almost made.
So if you’re reading this and nodding your head, congratulations! You have a leg up on everyone already. But if you’re like my 8 year old and yelling at your screen because “I am in control! Not my emotions”. You need to stop and acknowledge your buried, but very real emotions. Worse off, if you are sitting there with Spock-like composure wondering what the hell I’m talking about – you need to do some soul searching. Because even if you’re pointing towards the autistic spectrum like many tech workers in Silicon Valley, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have emotions. They too, need to be identified, processed, and their role needs to be understood in how we deal with money.
EQ – Emotional Intelligence
One of the more profound habits I’ve incorporated into my life recently has been meditation. I used to scoff at it, thinking it was for fluffy, spiritual types who wanted to connect their mind and spirit to the universe in some sort of metaphysical ménage à trois. But, after hearing about it over and over again as a life hack from all sorts of grounded, successful people – I gave it a try.
I’ve been meditating regularly for 18 months. Some of my friends have asked me why I do it, and the simple answer is that my quality of sleep is better. But that’s just a side effect. The real impact it has had on me is cultivating awareness of my emotions. The idea is to meditate no matter what your mood is, sometimes you are calm and tranquil and other times you are agitated and upset. And you just sit there. You sit there and observe. That’s all.
Over time, patterns start to emerge. When I think this… I feel anxious. Anxious feels like a tightening in my chest and an increase in heart rate. Jealousy feels like anxiety but the tightness is lower in my gut. And you continue to observe.
The profound impact is not found in the 10 minutes of slight frustration each day, it’s in how much more aware you are of how you feel for the rest of the day. Instead of undead bodies rustling around in your closet, you get used to your emotions walking around in broad daylight with you. Sometimes they are useful, sometimes they are not. But knowing they are there, pointing and grunting, allows you to accept them for what they are and ignore them when it suits you.