Your Brain is an Evidence-Seeking Machine

In a previous post, I talked about the idea that our brains are “Thought-Making Machines” that churn out thousands of thoughts a day.  My brain is a champ at churning out thoughts by the boatload, particularly if I’m chewing the worry bone about something.

Today I’m talking about a related topic, which is that our brains are also “Evidence-Seeking Machines.”  In this case, your brain will seek out evidence from the external environment that supports your current mindsets and thinking on any given topic.

A great analogy here is to look at how lawyers approach a court case.  The prosecuting attorney will always seek out evidence that supports a guilty verdict for the suspect while the defense attorney will seek out evidence that supports an innocent verdict.  Exact same case, exact same person, exact same circumstances – but looking for totally opposite evidence!

Your brain is the exact same.  If you have told yourself, “I’m bad with money,” your brain will range far and wide to find evidence that supports this belief; and will focus all the attention on your less useful money habits such as  overspending on going out to eat, choosing poor investments or buying a car a little outside of your budget. 

While seeking out the evidence to support this money belief, the brain also becomes blind to the counter evidence.  You may be doing things like packing your lunch some days or brewing your own coffee rather than rolling through Starbucks every morning or starting to use a budgeting app to track your expenses.  Unfortunately, the brain may largely ignore your efforts here because they do not support the, “I’m bad with money,” narrative.

And sadly, it doesn’t stop here.  Once the “I’m bad with money,” belief gets more deeply ingrained, you continue to make more and more choices that are consistent with that.  Whether that be taking on credit card debt, not saving in your 401k or surrounding yourself with people who are also “bad with money” and not supportive of healthy money habits.

So what to do?

First, you need to give your brain a “stepping stone” thought to start the journey toward where you want to go.  You may eventually want to get to, “I always make outstanding decisions with my money and my financial future is secure.”  However, this can be too big of a mental leap for your brain and can often result in reversion back to the old, unhelpful money belief.

Instead, consider a stepping stone thought such as, “I regularly make good decisions with my money.”  This doesn’t imply perfection; but it opens the door for your brain to seek evidence in support of this belief.

When you do this, consider writing down every good decision you make about your money, no matter how small.  Regularly review this list.  Over time you will be surprised at how many good money decisions you make, particularly if your old, “bad with money” belief was blinding you to all the good decisions you were already making!