In our Senior Seminar class, we’ve been learning basic budget and banking skills (i.e., check writing, balancing a checkbook register, reconciling a monthly bank statement, etc.). To help us get the basics, we’re using a fictitious character who is destitute, disheveled, and disorganized and doomed for financial destruction unless we help. After reconciling his checkbook, we then set out as a class to create a budget for him— and we ran into problems.
What we found out is that personal finance is, as Dave Ramsey says, “80% behavior and 20% head knowledge.” That proved true when our class started arguing about how much money should be budgeted for clothes (some said $0, others said $75) and entertainment (some said $0; others said $100). Our class couldn’t agree on the “right” amount because there’s no such thing. The amount a person budgets for anything is an identity issue— a heart issue (Matthew 6:21)— and we all prioritize some things over others.
Writer and speaker Jason Johnson writes about identity issues in his short (free!) eBook What’s Your Why?:
Generally speaking, people make decisions through two primary lenses: Outcomes and Identity. The outcome-oriented lens filters decision-making through an assessment of costs and benefits. The identity-oriented lens filters decision-making through a lens that is more intrinsically motivated by something deep within.
Johnson later writes, “A person who is outcome-orientated asks questions like
- What will it require of me?
- How will it make me feel?
- What are the long-term effects?
But a person who is identity-oriented will ask questions like ‘In light of the costs…’
- Who am I?
- What kind of situation is this?
- What does someone like me do?”
It’s when we begin asking the second set of questions that we find our why— the compelling reason we act the way we do, and just like with personal finance, our decisions are about identity and heart.
“What’s being a teacher at CAC going to cost me?”
-More than you think.
“How’s it going to make me feel?”
– Worn out, excited, uncomfortable, connected, or uncertain— it just depends on the moment.
“What are the long-term effects?”
-There is no way to know.
“Who am I?”
-I am a child of God who can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
“What kind of situation is this?”
-An unpredictable environment where students bring their needs, hurts, and questions with them and occasionally allow us to step into their lives to help.
“What does someone like me do in a situation like this?”
-I step towards it and accept the costs as worth it.
*adapted from Jason Johnson’s What’s Your Why?
I’m so thankful to be surrounded by Christian mentors who have chosen to be part of our mission and model Christ-like behavior every day. When we understand our why, good things happen.
(And in case you’re wondering, my students were eventually able to help our disorganized friend with his budget [head knowledge]— but now it’s up to him to follow the plan [behavior].)