The news over the last year has brought up again and again that the level of income inequality in the United States has been steadily increasing since the economic collapse several years ago. When you compare these statistics with the American Dream of building your wealth from sheer hard work, you might be feeling like it’s no longer possible. That attitude that you can’t be successful will hold you back from reaching your full potential. Studies have shown that the economic background of your family as you grow up can have a strong impact on how you view your ability to become successful in the future, and can end up actually holding you back from making more money. Taking control of your feelings about money and about success can give you the edge in being the candidate for your next promotion, for a bigger raise, or for closing a big sale when you need it. It’s not easy to shake off your financial hang-ups, but when you can then you’re better set to make more money and enjoy more success.
Control your situation
The core element of getting rid of your financial hang-ups is to figure out how you view yourself in relation to the world around you. I know, this sounds a little meta, but bear with me. Fundamentally there are two ways you can view your situation. You can be a person who feels that things are out of your control and events happen to you, or you can be a person who feels that things are in your control and you control the outcome of events that you encounter. An example of these two differences might be that you are in school and took a test and got a B grade. A person who has internal control would conclude they received this grade because they didn’t study hard enough and a person who externalizes control would think that the test was worded poorly or that the professor has a grudge.
People who internalize their view of the world, saying that they control the outcome of events, are significantly more successful and are able to handle crises better. They take responsibility for their financial decisions and are typically less likely to carry debt and generally save more for retirement. If you already are a person who internalizes control then you’re ahead of the game. If you aren’t, then learning to become somebody who internalizes control isn’t easy, especially if you grew up in a poor or lower middle class household, but it can be done.
Learn why you externalize control
The first step to taking back control and internalizing it is to understand when and why you externalized control in the first place. Commonly for people who grew up poor or in the lower-middle class the habit of externalizing control was primarily a protective behavior. If you’re poor and you don’t trust that the outside world is a fair place because you’re already at the bottom of the pyramid, thinking that things are out of your control can protect you emotionally. By thinking that things happen to you rather than you controlling your fate, you can be emotionally prepared for when things go wrong and blame it on somebody or something else. It’s easy to fall into a habit of saying things aren’t going your way when you’re at the bottom. That idea that the deck is stacked against you may protect your emotional state temporarily, but it holds you back over time.
Take control back
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you’re blaming outside circumstances stop and think for a moment about the situation and what you could have done to avoid it. Starting this habit of pausing to consider your own actions will help you tremendously and taking back ownership of your decisions and allow you to see patterns of bad behavior and ways to do better. When you’re facing a difficult situation don’t waste time thinking about the circumstances of the situation, and think about how you are going to react to it. By thinking through difficult situations methodically you’re taking control. Be willing to be critical about yourself in a constructive way so you can approach situations better in the future. Internalizing control will help you be a more confident, productive, and successful person so get into good habits now.