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Get Rich By Thinking About Being Rich

This article was written by in Wealth and Affluence. 16 comments.

In her new book, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference, the author, Cordelia Fine cites studies that show how our lives are affected directly by the labels we give ourselves. I’m not interested in the strictly gender-related aspects of this discussion, at least not for Consumerism Commentary, but I am interested in the study that was related to an audience via NPR.

People in the study were asked to imagine the life of a certain vocation. Those running the study separated the subjects into one group asked to visualize the life of a physics professor, while the other group considered what it would be like to be a cheerleader. Then, the study required the subjects to imagine themselves in those roles. Those in the first group were more likely to consider themselves clever while the others were more likely to consider themselves gorgeous.

That result provides some insight into how visualization can change the perception of ourselves, but that’s not quite startling. The interesting part is what follows:

The exercise had actual effects on how people performed on tests. Those who had identified with the professor performed better on tests of analytic intelligence than those who had identified with the cheerleader!

Not only were those in the physics professor group more likely to consider themselves clever, they were tested and proven to be more clever — as a result, the researchers concluded, of the visualization technique.

I haven’t read the book, and I haven’t analyzed the study. From what I’ve seen of criticisms, the sample may have been too small to conclude anything significant about the effect of this type of visualization in psychology and neurobiology. I believe visualization is important, but it is not alone going to change one’s life, unlike some pop psychology advice. You cannot manifest a change in your life, like being smarter, more attractive, or wealthier, just by imagining what life would be like for someone who is smarter, more attractive of wealthier. The Law of Attraction is an idea that changes in one’s life can manifest just by focusing thoughts on a particular issue.

I can’t manifest a steak dinner just by thinking about a steak dinner, and chances are you can’t, either. Focusing thoughts on something is necessary to make a change in your life, but it’s only the starting point. I improved my finances and moves from a negative net worth to a positive net worth just about a decade ago, and this wouldn’t have been possible until I stopped to think about my situation. My life didn’t magically change; I had to make conscious decisions — and I was not used to making conscious decision in most areas of my life — and take direct actions to improve my money management skills.

Visualization is not a fruitless exercise. If you’re a fan of his investing style, consider Warren Buffett. Get to know him. Think about what his life might be like, from the moment he rises until he falls asleep each night. Consider what he might think about on a daily basis. Now imagine you are Warren Buffett, not just by imagining having the same sources of stress and frustration, work and leisure, but by being him inside and out.

If Buffett doesn’t work for you, maybe Bill Gates is your man — or Steve Jobs. Maybe your goal is entrepreneurial. Maybe you’d rather have a woman as a role model. Choose the individual whose success you most relate to, and let their thoughts, feelings, and concerns — or what you imagine them to be — occupy your body and mind for a while.

This may be where some pop psychology ends — just the visualization is enough to lead to success. I think there must be more. This is just the first step. Now, with frequent visualization reminders, make the decisions your role models would make. Ask yourself, “What would Gates do?” and follow that path. You may not be right all the time. Your role model might make a different choice than the one you’d expect, so the more you know about your role model, the more accurate your decision-making will be. Decision-making is an active process, and participation is mandatory. Although I didn’t realize this until I was in my late twenties, and some aspects of my life I still leave to chance despite knowing better, the more I play an active role in my life, the better it is.

By focusing on what your role model would do and taking this approach to decision-making every day, it will become second nature. You won’t have to think about what Buffett would do when deciding to invest in a company because your process will automatically identify the more Buffett-favored option (assuming your understanding of Buffett is accurate enough). By making the choices as if you were someone more successful from you, the choices will eventually result in your success. This isn’t pop psychology, it’s simply understanding how your role models make decisions and learning from them. Visualization is just the first step.

There’s a wrong way to do this, though. Consider the choice of spending $80,000 on a new BMW or $18,000 on a new Honda Civic. What would Buffett do? Well, if he drives rather than outsources his transportation to a driver, he might buy the BMW. $80,000 might be a drop in the bucket to him, considering his total wealth. But what would Buffett do if he had your net worth? Well, if your net worth dictates the Civic is the better choice for future financial stability, he would choose the Civic.

Be relating — or conflating — yourself to your financial heroes, you find yourself making better decisions about money. A series of better financial decisions results in increases of net worth beyond what you might experience if you continue living your life without considering the differences in decision-making between yourself and those whose success you admire.


Published or updated June 28, 2011.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

Doesn’t Buffet drive an older American car, similar to the millionaire next door? A shift to a Japanese car to save money on repairs probably occurred after the research for that book concluded. BMWs don’t have good repair records so the savvy consumer might pass on one.

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avatar 2 Luke Landes

The references I could find to Buffett’s personal cars in the news include, though not at the same time, a 2001 Lincoln Town Car, and a 2006 Cadillac DTS (purchased new) about when the Lincoln was sold.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

I totally agree with your discussion on visualization. It really does work. I have been giving it a real effort this last year in all aspects of my life and so far it is working. I think it helps keeps us focused on working towards something and because we are able to increase our efforts due to this focus, we almost always see progress.

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avatar 4 shellye

As someone once told me…”if you can see it, you can be it.”

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avatar 5 Ceecee

A very interesting discussion. But action, I think, does have to follow the visuals. Maybe visualization just give you more confidence….I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try it…..

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avatar 6 Anonymous

Definitely having a positive outlook on life in general gives you much more positive results. If you are constantly negative Nancy you will not only irritate those around you but you will more than likely fail to be successful in many areas of life. Negativity does nothing but bring you and others around you down.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

Visualization works! At least it worked for me. When I would interview for a position, visualize myself in the position. If I could see myself there I usually got the offer. Most of the rich people I know, do not spend a great deal of money on their cars because they realize cars do not make them money.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

Aside from visualizing yourself as people and professions you admire, surrounding yourself with successful people tends to help as well. I find that each time I hang out with an Angel Investor, a successful real estate investor or an entrepreneur, I leave more motivated and full of drive and ideas than the last time.

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avatar 9 Cejay

Yes, visualization does work to a point. When I decided to lose weight I had to imagine myself thinner and acting like a thinner person. So I can see that if I imagine myself as a CPA instead of a secretary I would motivate myself. But I cannot imagine myself as a doctor if I hate the sight of blood.

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avatar 10 Anonymous

Interesting idea. I do agree that in order to be successful we need to visualize a path. If you want a promotion at work, you need to start thinking about “what would the boss” do and start working in that direction.

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avatar 11 Anonymous

I’m visualizing myself getting off my couch right now but I can’t seem to do it.

Really though…I have sticky notes all over my desk at work that note big things I want to happen at work. I glance at them each day and I do little things each day to make those bigger things ultimately happen. And somehow, most of the time, the big things just happen.

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avatar 12 qixx

What you think is what you say.
What you say is what you do.
What you do is who you are.

So thinking about being rich does not lead to being rich, but being rich was proceeded by thinking about it. I agree with the others that said action is the key here. Without action all you have are dreams. This quote by Gandhi also seems to fit the article. “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

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avatar 13 skylog

i like that qixx! thank you.

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avatar 14 wylerassociate

visualization can only go so far, the hardest part is having the discipline to stay with any goal. That’s the hardest part of losing weight because you have to continue to exercise everyday & eat well.

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avatar 15 lynn

We become what we eat and we become what we think. If we socialize with successful people, we learn to become succussful, by obsevation. This is basic information. I hope taxpayer grant money didn’t pay for this study. I think most of us could have come to these conclusions on our own -albeit- using different verbage. (sp?)

Has anyone else gotten tired of all these ‘intellectual’ studies?

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avatar 16 Anonymous

That study is crazy! The ‘physics professor’ people performed better than the ‘cheerleaders’? ! Man, our minds are pretty powerful.

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