Which do you think about the most? The past, present, or future?
You can’t do anything about the past; you can control the present; what you think about now ultimately influences your future.
A recent study found that 10% of the respondents thought mostly about the past, 19% focused on the present, and 71% concentrated on the future.
Some investors sabotage their financial future by continually regurgitating past mistakes. The study mentioned above indicates just 10% of people say they think mostly about the past, but that’s self-reported. Our experience informs us the actual percentage is probably much higher. Things that didn’t work out as planned in the past can serve as fuel for taking appropriate steps in the present toward your future goals; previous mistakes, however, shouldn’t become obstacles to progress.
HOW INNER SPEECH WORKS
What you think about and how you spend your time each day are largely within your control. The things you think about all day are sometimes called inner speech. Your inner speech contains thoughts and mental models or shortcuts about how you see the world.
Inner speech starts even before verbalization. You can see this when watching a one-year-old play. Babies talk to themselves as they play even though they may not be able to form understandable words. These sounds, the result of their inner speech, helps them recall things and process actions.
Researchers have found that inner speech can reach speeds up to 3000-4000 words per minute, which is significantly faster than verbal speech. You continually “workshop” scenarios in your head and over time this forms the core of what you believe.
When you make financial decisions as an adult, your inner speech, the central nervous system for your beliefs, has been hard at work for years. This may help explain why moving away from the status quo or inertia is so difficult for many investors.
WHY WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT MATTERS
That little chattering voice inside your head has a huge impact on every aspect of your life. Remember that your inner speech turns into a feedback loop that either contributes or detracts from what’s most important to you. The output from your inner talk becomes the input for your behavior.
You can train your brain to think more about things that matter to you and less about the messes of everyday life. You control your thoughts and actions; your energy and your goals.
Your inner speech usually has either an optimistic or pessimistic quality. Training your brain to think optimistically doesn't mean you ignore everything that's negative. It just means that you believe things will ultimately work out despite the short-term obstacles.
It’s crucial to understand, however, that you don’t totally control the outcomes derived from what you think about and act upon; these outcomes are influenced, but not controlled by your behavior.
What you think about all day fuels your decisions. These decisions matter much more than what’s going on in the economy, Fed policy, or specific investments. Your actual behavior trumps everything else. Start there.
Related: Relearning Old Truths in a New World