Subconscious Emotionality

Key Takeaways

  • Research shows that 95 percent of our decisions are made with the subconscious rather than the rational part of the brain.
  • With respect to money, you can’t change your behavior until you understand your emotional side.
  • Emotion, Structure and Behavior are the three legs of the money decision stool. Get familiar with each leg.
  • When it comes to money decisions, most of us have an imaginary angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other competing for our attention.

These next three posts are going to be about (1) Emotion, (2) Structure, and (3) Behavior. These are three important legs of the financial stool that explain how we deal with money on a daily basis. It reminds me of those cartoons in which someone has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, both telling the person what to do next.

First, let’s look at the emotional part.

According to Harvard University professor Gerald Zaltman, 95 percent of our decisions are made with the subconscious rather than the rational part of the brain. Your subconscious is where your beliefs, thoughts and emotions originate. It’s also where learning takes place. When it comes to money, we have healthy and unhealthy beliefs, just as we do in other parts of life. They stem from our childhood and the influences that parents, grandparents and siblings had on our belief system, including our values about money.

Many of us have imaginary devils and angels on our shoulders, both trying to influence our decisions. For example:

  1. “I know what I want, and I’ll wait for a good deal” VERSUS “I know what I want, and I’m going to get it right now.”
  2. “The true way to make money is to provide value to others” VERSUS “The true way to make money is to get it off the backs of others.”
  3. “Advertising has no effect on me” VERSUS “Advertising goes straight into my pocket and takes my money.”
  4. “What I do with my money is more important than what I make” VERSUS “How much money I make is more important than what I do with it.”

Sound familiar? It’s important to understand that many of these thoughts and dilemmas come from your subconscious mind; they don’t come from the rational part of your brain. In future posts, we’ll talk about why we make the decisions we make, but it’s all rationalization, according to the experts.

So, how do you deal with your subconscious beliefs about money, especially if they’re not healthy? First you have to inspect your belief system, and then you must change your habits. Once you’ve really changed your beliefs and habits about something, they lock into your subconscious and become automatic. But you can’t change your beliefs and habits about money until you understand the emotional side.


A wise person once said, “The unconscious mind is the engine of the decision train, and logic and rationale are the cars it pulls behind.” So you really want your angel (not your devil) pulling your decision train.

Until next time, enjoy. Gary

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