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But Why? - A childish whine becomes a mantra for success

The Coaching Academy Blog

Posted: May 2015

One of the exercises that I use with clients is the but why? challenge. Whether you have children or not, you are bound to remember this phase either from using it yourself or hearing it on repeat by someone else's child.

 Working as a money coach, one of the things I've discovered from my client, is that many of us have deep-rooted beliefs that influence how we spend money.  Internal epic battles take place when adjustments need to be made to our budget for us to achieve our financial goals.

When you are constantly being told to “buy, buy, buy” because “you are worth it” or because the feeling you get from spending is “priceless”, you become hard pressed to resist any attempt at curbing how you spend your hard earned money.  

People tend to revert back to their childhood and become mutinous in their reluctance to change. 

So one of the exercises that I use with clients is the “but why?” challenge.  Whether you have children or not, you are bound to remember this phase either from using it yourself or hearing it on repeat by someone else’s child. 

It’s an endless dialogue that on the face of it is childish but bears a closer look.  Often times we, or children get into this mode when we feel that there has to be a good enough reason for us to stop what we are doing or not to get to do what we want.  As a mum, I would pull out the big guns when I got fed up “because I said so” being my weapon of choice.

But since training as a coach, I realise we don’t ask ourselves “why?” often enough.  Sometimes we tell ourselves that we are too busy to take the time to ask “why?” or doing so is second-guessing ourselves. 

Part of my job is to challenge my clients with a “why?” question.  It forces them to think.  Just as a child’s “but why?” query forces a parent to pause and think about the reason for her response, so it makes my clients do the same. 

What does this have to do with money coaching? In a world of fast decisions and “you snooze, you lose” mantras, taking the time to stop and think is freeing and empowering.  And when it comes to our spending habits, we should definitely bring that “but why?” question along with us.  Many of our money decisions are rooted in childhood experiences.  I’ve seen this in my compulsive habit of when I find trousers that are the correct length for me, I buy every pair available.  Growing up, I was all gangly legs and short body, which meant my trousers were always too short.  I got teased about this a lot.  When shops started selling trousers in longer lengths, I went crazy.  Almost as if I feared I’d never find proper length trousers ever again.  Years later, I still do it but having become aware of why I do it and that the world is not likely to run out of longer length trousers, I’ve learnt to apply the “but why?” challenge to myself. 

In the same way, my clients use the “but why?” challenge any time they are about to make buying decisions that are not in line with their stated money goals or plans. 

I had a client who’s stated money goal was to build up her reserve to be able to put down a 50% deposit on a flat.  She had created her money and spending wheels to identify the areas of spending that weren’t necessary but she still found herself wanting to buy things that were taking money away from her down payment.  Her weaknesses were spa weekends and designer sales.  With the “but why?” challenge, she says she finds herself having hilarious internal dialogues with herself to justify spending out of her plan.  Her snap out of it moment comes when she hears her mother’s voice in her head asking her, “ Should I stop the car?”  Apparently that was the signal that told she and her siblings their mum had had enough and things were about to get ugly.

This challenge is not a miracle cure, by any means, but many clients say that even when they chose to spend outside of their plan, each internal dialogue they have develops their “think before you spend” muscle and it becomes easier to resist mindless spending in the long term.

So here’s why you should channel your inner child and ask “but why?” before spending:

  1. It makes you stop and think.  It’s Pavlovian how it forces your brain to engage and snaps you out of a buying frenzy.
  2. It stops you from deviating from your budget unless you have a good reason why you should.
  3. It puts you in control.  You are no longer a slave to whatever subtle lures advertisers or shops are using to get you buy.
  4. It brings purpose and life to your plans.  You know why your budget is important.  You know what goals you are trying to achieve.
  5. It allows you to have a more mindful and meaningful money life.

Tope Shonekan is a money coach helping women create a better relationship with money.  Her company offers coaching and training support and she also works as a debt adviser with a debt advice charity in London.

If you would like to see one of your articles feature here, send this to qualifications@the-coaching-academy.com for us to consider.

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