Uncensored Money Season Five: Your NY resolutions aren’t yours: let’s talk about goals & mimetic desire.

Melissa Browne: Ex-Accountant, Ex-Financial Advisor, Ex-Working Till I Drop, Now Serial Entrepreneur & Author, Financial Wellness Advocate, Living a Life by Design | 01/01/2024


Show Notes

Mel believes many of us should be tossing our New Year’s resolutions out the window. In this episode, she talks about New Year's resolutions, goals, mimetic desire and your finances and addresses how understanding what YOU really want is key to having great finances.

Books and resources mentioned in this episode

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Hey everyone. I'm Mel Brown. I'm an ex-accountant and ex-financial advisor, so I have the theory, but I also have the life experience. I'm now financially independent in my own right after coming back from less than nothing in my early thirties. I want this podcast to be like a chat with your girlfriends about money. My aim is to help you discover why you're behaving the way you are with money, to suggest new ways you might behave that are a better fit for you, and to increase your financial literacy and financial confidence. I hope it inspires challenges, educates and empowers you with how you do money. So let's get into it. Welcome to Uncensored Money.

Have you ever followed someone on Instagram who was wearing an incredible dress and suddenly you have to have it? Or maybe you and your friends are out shopping and you can't really find anything, but suddenly the taste maker in the group, you know the one, pulls out a piece of clothing and suddenly that's the thing you all want.

Or maybe you never cared about reality tv, but suddenly everyone at your work is talking about it and you have an unnatural pull to watch it too, or you've never thought too much about the restaurant down the road, but now it has a Michelin star or two hats and suddenly it's attractive to you. Or maybe you're turning 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 this year and suddenly you realize you've always wanted to run a marathon like your friends or others, you know did when they turned a significant age. Now you can insert travel, adventures, food, a restaurant, school, university suburb to live in or your own thing, into any one of those examples. And essentially what I'm talking about is the difference between having a goal, having a want and something called mimetic desire. Now, Renè Girard talked a lot about mimetic desire and he discovered that most of what we desire as humans is mimetic or imitative not intrinsic.

So humans learn through imitation to want the same things other people want just as they learn how to speak the same language and play by the same cultural rules. What we don't realize is that imitation plays a far more pervasive role in our society than anyone has ever really acknowledged before. I think social media and comparison culture really has highlighted this for us, but our power of imitation dwells out of any other animal. And yes, it allows for great things to happen. It allows for language and culture and technology, but at the same time, it has this flip side like all things. It has a darker side. It leads us to pursue things that seem desirable at first, but ultimately leave us unfulfilled and it locks us into a cycle of desire and even rivalry that's difficult and almost impossible to escape.
And this might seem like a strange concept to talk about on the 1st of January, but what I find is on the 1st of January, a lot of people are talking about New Year's resolutions and often that New Year's resolution isn't necessarily theirs. It's one they think they should have. It's based on what we think we want or what we think we should want, or what our age and stage says we should be at. They might be resolutions like, I wanna buy a house in X suburb. I wanna start investing. I wanna upgrade my car, I wanna renovate, I wanna study, I wanna travel, I want, and now none of these things are wrong. My question though is, are they right for you? Because the danger that I see for us is I've often talked about our phone not as being a phone, but as a mobile shopping device. It's like having a slot machine in our pocket. It's not just a mobile shopping device. Someone called Luke Burgis in his book Wanting, which I can't recommend highly enough if you are looking at putting, really making goals that are yours for the new year.

He said that the danger is that we don't have a slot machine, but rather we have a dream machine in our pockets. That smartphones project the desires of billions of people to us through social media, through Google searches and restaurant and hotel reviews, and that the neurological addictiveness of smartphones is real, but it's our addiction to the desires of others, which smartphones give us unfettered access to is a metaphysical threat. The truth is mimetic desire is a real engine of social media. Social media is social mediation and it now brings nearly all of us together and we aren't just comparing ourselves to the person that lives next door. We are suddenly able to compare ourselves and desire billions of people if we had the time and inclination to do it.

And again, you might think yeah, but Mel, what has this got to do with me? What has this got to do with New Years resolutions and my finances? And I think part of this is we don't realize the system. We don't understand that the goals that we are saying that we want, like some of those things that I rattled off earlier, they're things that we think that we should want and it's why many of us are sabotaging ourselves financially because let's just pick out, I wanna buy a house in X suburb. We might think we should want, yet we're sabotaging that because really we're not sure that that is in fact we want, we don't really want that eye watering debt, but we wanna be seen as being that person that lives in that suburb. Well, we've been taught that in order to be an adult, you need to own your own home. But actually is that right For us?

It's a New Year, you've decided you wanna do financially better this year, but the problem is your habits and situationships with money aren't going to change once the clock struck midnight on January one. The truth is, to get where you really want to be financially in 2024, you need a plan tailored to your unique situation. But that's not gonna happen all at once. To reach those money goals, you need to take one step at a time, and that's exactly why I am running free training in January that can be the catalyst to your new beginning. No matter where you are financially. It doesn't matter whether you are dealing with massive debt, whether you're good with money, but you want to learn more about investing, whether you're holding on and just trying to stay afloat or you don't know about money and finances at all. This training is for you called your Financial Fresh Start. It's been designed to be exactly that. It's happening from Monday, the 22nd for two weeks. Head to the link in the show notes and make sure you register so that you are doing something different so that you get a different result this year.

In adulthood, we actually are free to pick some of the systems of desire that we are part of and alter the nature of our relationship to others. And the earlier we exercise that agency, the easier it is. But certainly the problem for many of us is we don't realize that we should be questioning that. We don't realize that we actually have choice when it comes to some of these goals and some of these desires, some of these goals are from our peers. It's from what they're doing. Some of it's from social media. As I mentioned. Some of this might be from the culture that we live in or from magazines from so much that we are fed now. And instead, I want you today on the first of Jan to question what is it that I want to start the year really thinking about What is actually right for me?

Because This is at the heart of great finances. I'm gonna give an example from my own life. If I looked at what my mom wanted for me, she would want me to have two and a half children to be working part-time and to be living down the road from her. Now, that's not to say that that's wrong. Certainly my sister has a version of that except that she's now moved overseas. But for me it is Abso-freaking-lutely wrong. First of all, I am purposefully child-free. I've deliberately chosen not to have children and certainly for my age, it is not something that I grew up seeing. It certainly was not something that I realized early on that was an option for me. It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I actually questioned, well, why am I doing this? If I was to have children, it would be because of fear not fitting in, not because this is what I actually wanted.

And the same for working part-time, living down the road. For me, I love being busy. I love building like business and giving back is something that I I love. And yes, I could keep my mom happy. I could absolutely do that and fulfill her desire, or I could do that thing that is absolutely right for me, which was harder, which was more courageous. That caused problems and friction and all sorts of stuff with relationships. But ultimately is the thing that is right for me. I'm not suggesting that you need to be child free to be working like I do, to be living between two houses and more, but what I want you to do today is to throw out your New Year's resolution, throw it out. Now, whatever it is that you decided to do this New Year's, I want you to throw it out and I want you to ask the question, why do I want the things that I want?

Whatever that was on that New Year's resolution, I want you to ask the question, why do I want that? What's behind the need for that? Who is influencing that? Who is influencing the fact that I want that? Is it social media? Is it peers? That's not to say that answer to that is problematic. It's just identifying that and then to us, the question, what do I really want? Once you realize that, why do I want the things that I want and who is influencing that? What I really want might still be the same thing, but it is recognizing that and being true to that so that you have the agency around some of your choices. Another way to think about it is, what would I want if no one was looking? If we didn't have social media, what would I want if no one was looking?

I have a friend who was desperate to go to Europe a few years ago and went even though he could not afford to because he couldn't cope with the fact that it wouldn't be on his Insta feed if no one was looking, he would not have gone, but he needed to go because he needed to look a particular way. And again, I think these are scarier questions, the deeper questions, but if you can get to the heart of what do I really want? I believe that is far more exciting, far more sustainable and far more transformational for not just you, but also for your finances. Because once you figure out what you want, the next obvious question is, what does that mean for me financially? Because if what you really want is to work three days a week, but you currently have a big mortgage, no investments, and you're working six days a week, then you're going to have to start look at what you're doing now.
It might mean that you push that three days a week timeline to 10 years, and you just go hard for the next 10 years so that you could drop that. Or if you want it earlier, it might mean downsizing. It might mean moving out and house sitting for a few years. It might mean starting to invest. It might mean developing multiple income streams and maybe all of the above and more. And the question then becomes, are my desires and goals worth suffering for if they're not, my question to you is, are they really your goals? Is it still a mimetic desire rather than goals that I really want?

And you might go through this process again and again and again until you find something that you are like, oh, that's worth it. Oh my gosh, that is worth it. That is worth not caring about the opinions of others. That's worth not being like suffering for for the next 12 months, two years, three years, or what have you. Until you get to that, I promise you it's not gonna be long-term transformational slash sustainable. But of course the next step are habits, learning about investing, creating a financial plan and more. And this month here, we're gonna look at all of that. I'm gonna bring on an expert in habits that's gonna talk to us about what are some great financial habits that I can employ. Lawsie and I are gonna talk about some simple things that you can do to move yourself forward financially. I'm gonna bring on people who have made a change in their finances over the last one - three years to inspire you. And I'm going to share free training that I'm running this month to help give you a financial fresh start.

And that training's in the show notes, it's gonna be run over two weeks towards the end of this month, all designed to really give you that financial fresh start that I want for you this year. But the first step has to be abandoning those New Year's resolutions based on what you think you should be doing and do the more interesting, sustainable, long lasting, but more confronting work around answering the question. What do you really want? Let me know how you go. Either email me at [email protected] remembering that there's an E on the end of Browne. Or come dm me over at insta @melbrowne.money I can't wait to hear from you.

If you enjoyed this episode, we would love it if you subscribed and give us a review, then make sure you come and play with me on Insta. I'm at @melbrowne.money Remember there's an E on the end of Browne. I'm one of those fancy brownes, and don't forget to check out the show notes for even more ways you can work with me to transform your finances.



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