Find Your Freedom: How to Identify Your Invisible Scripts

There’s an old joke:

Two fish are swimming in a pond when an older fish starts swimming the other way toward them. When the older fish passes them, he nods and says, Good morning! How’s the water? The two fish swim for a while before one of them looks at the other and asks, What the hell is water?

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Invisible Scripts

Invisible scripts are truths so ubiquitous and deeply embedded in society that we don’t even realize they’re guiding our attitudes and behavior. Like water to a fish, they surround us even if we don’t know it.

This is a topic that doesn’t get discussed often. Mostly because invisible scripts are revealing. And the things they reveal might be some tough pills to swallow.

But, c’mon, this is IWT. We’re going to talk about them.

Invisible Scripts and How to Find Them 

Can you think of a belief you have that’s pre-written by your societal values?

For example, in Indian culture, parents will sacrifice virtually everything for their child to succeed. I remember watching a Bollywood movie with my mom (because I’m a great son) and watching a scene where the poor parents give their only air conditioning unit to their son while he studies.

In the movie, young Indian men put aside their passions for a stable job, which they can use to support their families. They have little interaction with women before marriage. Anything non-engineering/medical is looked down upon.

We all nod at this saying, Ah yes, those passionless Indian automatons. That is until we look at ourselves in the mirror.

Think about some of the biggest ones you might have heard:

  • You need to go to college to be successful.
  • After college, you need to get married, buy a house, and raise a nuclear family with 2.5 kids and a dog.
  • You need to find a 9-to-5 job and grind away in an office until it’s time to retire.

See what I mean? They’re called invisible scripts for a reason and if you don’t realize they’re there or ignore them, they become traps ensnaring you into something you didn’t necessarily even want to do just because you thought you had to.

They’re usually so subtle they’ll pass through your mind completely undetected all the while influencing what you think, say, and do. That’s what makes them so dangerous.

And invisible scripts don’t have to be negative or false either. In fact, there are some that you might really believe in even after realizing that they’re invisible scripts.

That’s okay as long as you realize any invisible script you adopt has the power to shape your life tremendously, especially when it comes to money. Over time, certain negative scripts become traps, and their power to hold you back increases significantly.

After years of research, and hundreds of thousands of data points from talking to readers like you, I’ve discovered four specific invisible scripts that most frequently hold us back from a Rich Life. I want to show you them now and give you strategies for destroying them one by one.

Invisible Script #1: I Don’t Have Any Money So I Can’t Go to College.

A while back, I started watching the show Friday Night Lights. As someone who hates sports, doesn’t even know what sports season it is, and STILL doesn’t understand how football is scored, I am impressed with myself for watching this show.

Anyway, it depicts a small Texas town and its love of football. True to form, I ignore the football parts and focus on analyzing the meta-messages. I know I am really fun at parties.

Friday Night Lights explained a lot of things that have puzzled me about American culture. For example, in one episode, the dad spends his daughter’s college money, prompting her to say, Now I can’t go to college!

I was confused. Huh? You don’t have money saved, so you can’t afford college? What?

Unfortunately, this is what most Americans believe: That if you don’t have money, you can’t go to college. This belief is reflected in our culture (TV shows), our educational system (high school counselors), and even our businesses (banks that promote 529s with fear tactics).

Of course, it’s simply not true. If you don’t have money, you can still go to college if you know where to look.

SOLUTION: Apply for Scholarships, Loans, and Grants.

My family didn’t have a lot of money when I grew up, and I went to one of the top universities in the country via scholarships (how I won $100,000+ of scholarships). But even if I hadn’t done that, there were still MANY options:

  • Student loans (no, they are not uniformly evil, despite what everybody says)
  • Grants
  • Work-study/part-time job, etc.

In fact, the cultural script of No money = no college is even more absurd when you actually know how college admissions and financial aid work. If you are poor but you’re skilled enough to get admission most top universities will pay for your entire education. This is why you should apply to the best universities you can, regardless of money.

Yet Friday Night Lights reflects our cultural values, which are so deep-seated that we don’t even blink. No money = no college. Of course!

But that’s just an assumption like so many of the invisible scripts that guide our lives.

Invisible Script #2: I Need to Figure Things Out Before I Decide to Earn More Money.

We think more information alone will change everything.

It’s human nature. Think about the people in your life (it could be you!) who obsessively research a product before buying it, or read thousands of articles on a hobby before picking it up but never get to it because they’re so overwhelmed by information.

This is also called paralysis by analysis. And we even hear this invisible script from professors and so-called experts. Give people information so they can make the right decision.

We internalize the idea that information alone will help us make a change. So we start saying things like, I need to do some research or I need to figure some things out before I start

The truth is if we wait on information alone we never take action to accomplish our goals. We already know what we need to do. Do you think that an overweight person doesn’t know they need to eat less and work out more? Do you think someone in debt doesn’t know they need to stop overspending?

When consuming more information doesn’t work, we shift our attention to new learning tactics. But there’s one thing we forget: By focusing on tactics, we’re still doing the same things we have been doing all this time.

What are we missing?

SOLUTION: Get Out of Research Mode and Take Action.

The belief that we need more information prevents us from taking action and learning from real and painful mistakes.

As we get older, we stop exposing ourselves to areas like this where we might fail. Instead, we read blog after blog about the topic to give ourselves the feeling that we’re doing something.

So how do you finally get off the sidelines and take action?

I like to use a technique Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, uses: The Regret-Minimization Framework.

Whenever you come upon a task or a goal you want to accomplish, ask yourself, Will I regret not trying this when I’m 80 years old?

Top Performers know success isn’t just about tactics or more information. They don’t lean on the same mental crutches most people use. And neither should you.

The world wants you to be vanilla...

…but you don’t have to take the same path as everyone else. How would it look if you designed a Rich Life on your own terms? Take our quiz and find out:

Invisible Script #3: I Don’t Have a Business Idea.

One of the best ways to increase your earning power is to start a side hustle. I’ve taught thousands of students how to successfully create a side income stream that brings in at least $1,000 per month (and often much more).

Still, one of the most common invisible scripts people fall into is I don’t have a business idea.

Usually, this psychological barrier comes in one of several varieties:

  • I have no idea what skills I have that people would pay for.
  • I have lots of great ideas, but I’m not sure how to even start turning them into money.
  • Every idea that I think of has already been done somewhere else. I need something original.
  • I start idea after idea, but I never follow through. What should I do to stick with one idea?

If you’ve ever tried to start a side business, then ran into one of these traps, you’re not alone. But how do you overcome them?

SOLUTION: Ask Yourself the Three Questions.

There are three questions you can ask yourself that’ll give you great ideas for side hustles once you answer them.

They are:

  1. What knowledge have I acquired? Major in Spanish? Great at woodworking? Are you an accomplished guitarist? People will pay you money for you to teach them those skills too.
  2. What do I do on a Saturday morning? This a great question to see what you’re passionate about. We all have things we love to do on Saturday mornings before everyone else is awake. Are you at the gym training? Reading dating advice blogs? Working on your car? These are all viable side hustles!
  3. What challenges have I overcome? You can actually turn your most vulnerable and painful moments into a great freelancing gig. Did you struggle to lose weight for years before figuring out how to get in shape? Are you an introvert who’s learned to overcome shyness to be more sociable? Find an answer to this question and you’ll find a profitable idea.

Try answering those questions and come up with 15-20 answers. Once you do, you’ll have 15-20 side hustle ideas you can start today.

If you’re still struggling, below are my best resources on side hustles:

Invisible Script #4: I’ll Never Get a Raise/Find a Job in This Economy!

Ever since the 2008 housing crisis, it seems like the media is always telling us that we should feel lucky to have any job at all. And if you don’t have one, well you’re S.O.L.

Most of us accept this. We believe that companies don’t have money to give us a job or a raise. We believe that even asking for something like that will have you laughed out of a manager’s office.

And many fall prey to this for two reasons:

  • It’s easier. If we accept that there’s a force out of our control (i.e., the economy) dictating whether or not we get a raise or a job, we feel much less pressure to put in the effort of making more money. We cocoon ourselves in it, hoping that we’ll somehow emerge on the other side as some kind of money-making butterfly when that’s not the case.
  • It appeals to the lowest common denominator. The mass media produces fear for the lowest common denominator. I don’t give a damn about them. I’m not writing this for people who are okay with their 3% cost-of-living raise and shuffle back to their cubicles, thankful they have a job at all.

The truth is there are a lot of companies that don’t want you to know.

SOLUTION: Put Yourself in the Company’s Shoes.

I’ve been on both sides of the negotiating table many times. I’ve negotiated my compensation as an employee and consultant, and I’ve had my staff negotiate against me.

Let me share the biggest insight from having those two very different perspectives: $5,000 means less to a company than it means to you.

Let’s assume your current salary is $60,000. That means your company is paying around $100,000 fully loaded when they include taxes, health insurance, benefits, furniture, and everything else. And that’s just for junior people!

If your company employs 10+ people, they’re likely doing at least seven figures in revenue often many, many times that. $5,000 is nothing to a large, medium, or even small company! They do not want to lose you over a few thousand dollars. That’s pocket change to them.

Companies spend an average of approximately $6,000 recruiting new college graduates. As you get more and more senior, that number increases. Factor in training and onboarding, and your company has already spent well over $10,000 just in hiring you.

Keeping their business running is far more important than counting pennies to them and for most companies, that’s exactly what $5K or $10K is equivalent to.

Curious about the exact words to use when asking for a raise? Watch this video where I reveal the exact, word-for-word script.

Invisible Scripts Prevent us From Earning More

Do you see the invisible scripts that guide our lives?

Here are some others:

  • I should follow my passions
  • I should hook up with a lot of people before I settle down
  • I work hard, so I deserve this nice apartment
  • My kids should take care of themselves after they graduate from college

Each of these scripts is so deeply embedded in our culture that we don’t realize they’re there. They prevent us from doing the things we love and living our Rich Life.

FAQs About How to Identify Invisible Scripts 

How can we support others in recognizing and challenging their own invisible scripts?

We can support others in recognizing and challenging their own invisible scripts by creating a safe and non-judgmental space for them to explore their beliefs and assumptions. We can encourage them to question their thoughts and challenge their limiting beliefs. We can also share our own experiences with identifying and challenging invisible scripts and offer resources and tools that have been helpful to us.

Are there any tools or techniques for identifying and overcoming invisible scripts?

Yes, there are several tools and techniques for identifying and overcoming invisible scripts, such as journaling, mindfulness practices, therapy, and coaching. By cultivating self-awareness, questioning our thoughts, and challenging our beliefs, we can begin to recognize and shift our unconscious patterns of behavior. It can also be helpful to seek support from others who can provide a fresh perspective and offer guidance on the path to personal growth and transformation.

The Bottom Line

Invisible scripts can be powerful forces in our lives, shaping our beliefs, actions, and experiences. While some of these scripts can be helpful and positive, others may be limiting us and preventing us from achieving our goals. Becoming aware of our invisible scripts and learning to challenge them is a crucial step in personal growth and transformation. By questioning our assumptions and beliefs, we can open up new possibilities, discover our true potential, and create the life we want. So take a closer look at the invisible scripts that are controlling your life, challenge them, and start living on your terms. The possibilities are endless.

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Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.