You're writing a story that you may not know how to fully tell. It's a very personal story with its own history and language. It's highly visible to others but often not to you. When I spoke with a well-known self-help guru, his response was, "You know, Dave, I don't know how to tell this story to myself in order to know what to change."

It's a story that you talk about every day, and think about several times a day. It is remarkably simple yet intricately complex. This story has an internal and external dialogue, a secret language, and encrypted messages.

It's complicated because some important aspects are emotional, unspoken, and even unconscious.

This story is about the longest relationship you'll have in your life. Your parents discussed it before you arrived; people will deliberate it after you die. Maybe you'll get ten years out of a car, perhaps fifty with a spouse, but this story you can never stop writing or living. You can't break up with it, run away from it, or coax into loving you more.

Even though it's unexamined and elusive-you orient life decisions around it.

You alone determine the genre: fiction or nonfiction; tragedy or triumph. And the story reveals most about the teller.

This story ghostwrites every aspect of your life story. From what you eat and drink, to what you plan and play. Health, recreation, stresses-even the water you drink-are all impacted by this story. At times you've used this story to regulate your moods, increase self-esteem, influence others, or to soothe emotional pains.

And, how you live this story will be what you teach your children. And your customers and business partners.

The villain or hero is the most popular legal substance to all people of the world.

It speaks to you. You speak with it. It's your money.

Loren Eiseley observed in The Unexpected Universe, "Reality has a way of hiding from even its most gifted observers."

What's Your Money Story?

Consider these questions:

Your money story is not your income, assets, expenses, or debt-it's your relationship with money. It's how you use money in storylines of what money means to you, says about you, and what you say with it.

It's a running dialogue about how much you feel you deserve and how much you're worth-even how much you believe you're capable of. It's about your sense of "enough."

Your money story has little to do with math. If money were about math, no one would have personal debt. You can fulfill a desire you didn't know you had by spending money you don't have. You can define yourself by acquisitions not paid for. You can even borrow based on how much money you will be lent rather than how much you can pay back.

We Speak With Money

Money says whatever we tell it to. The wonder of money is that it can represent anything. It's a stand-in for what we idealize and desire yet fear and lack, for what we covet, crave, spurn, chase or follow. We use money to show how much we care-or how little. We use it to measure success and buy happiness-or try to. We use it to bolster our self-esteem, to regulate moods, to influence others. We use money to communicate.

We give money meaning: we breathe life into it, give it emotional value, build a relationship with it and make it bigger than it is. Money can make any statement and carry any message.

Money Speaks to Us

Money sometimes speaks to us just below the level of our conscious awareness. Money speaks to us as confidante, seducer, adversary, protector or drug. Money serves as a tangible container for hope, freedom, ambition, love or disappointment. Money can become a currency of caring, a symbol of success, a promissory note for happiness, or filler for a sagging sense of self.

We make money mistakes because we use money to accomplish non-financial goals.

When we make money more than the simple, tangible thing it is, we stop understanding it.

Money Story and Life Story

A money story reveals our relationship to ourselves.

It is not wealth, position, possessions, or even a chase of happiness that creates problems; it is when you lose yourself in the chase. The messages will keep repeating themselves-we will keep writing the same money stories that imprison us-until we listen to them.

You can illuminate and understand your relationship with money in order to write an informed, strategic, and successful money story. Your money story is a large part of your life story. Some of the money issues are really about money, but many are about other matters, private or secret, hitchhiking on money.