Am I safe? Am I loved? Now I can plan.

I recently attended a seminar about parenting a child based on their brain development and it struck me as totally relevant in adulthood and in our financial lives. When you’re a baby your brain is in “Am I safe?” mode. That means it wants a parent to be responsive when it cries, to be fed, cared for, and kept safe. Next comes the development of the emotional part of the brain, it’s asking “Am I loved?” Later, we can use our brains to learn but even then our brains are still evolving until we’re about 24 years old!

Here is the thing, we need to be safe before we can make a financial plan. We need shelter, food in our bellies, and physical security or we’re going to be unable to make sound choices or think past fight, flight, or freeze. Spend too much time in this state and your brain can change. Having a hard time with your significant other? Did you lose a loved one? Are you walking around in emotional turmoil? More than likely, you’re not going to care about sticking to a budget.

Sometimes we fall out of that safe/loved place for a day, or months, or maybe we’ve never really been in that safe place for very long. Have you heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? There are certain needs that take precedent over others and our motivation will be focused on meeting those needs. Our primary needs are physiological, then safety, then love and belonging, then esteem, and lastly, self-actualization. Self-actualization is achieving one’s fullest potential.

The ability to plan for the future and to make sound financial decisions requires that we feel safe and loved. It’s really a privilege and a blessing to be at a point in your life where you can think about the future and make self-actualizing goals. Some of us have to work really hard to get there and some of us were provided with a lot of nurturing and circumstances that poised us to launch right into achieving our fullest potential from the get go. Wherever you are on your journey, I hope you find the resources and help you need to light your way.

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