We see what we want to see

By glblguy

For most of my adult life, I thought credit cards, debt, and living paycheck to paycheck were the norm. I lived on this assumption not because I actually knew it to be true, but because I wanted to make myself feel comfortable. I wanted to justify my way of living. I enjoyed having stuff and buying things when I wanted to. I enjoyed deciding that I wanted something now and just going and buying it. At the time, the pleasure was greater than the pain. At some point though, the pain will surpass the pleasure. That finally happened to me.

Pattern Recognition

My wife and I both receive a great deal of email. I’m not one to participate in chain emails or even read the various funny little emails floating around the internet, but my wife does. She’ll occasionally forward one to me. The other day she sent me an email that contained the following:

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Assuming you are like most people you had no problem reading that paragraph. Sure, it looked a little weird but you were able to read it relatively easily. This is because your brain is smart and only requires the first and last letter of a word to be correct. Amazing huh?

Along with the email my wife said: “This made me think about how we used to live. We used debt and credit cards and thought it was ok. We saw what we wanted to see.”

We see what we want to see

As usual, my wife was dead on. While it certainly is true that many people live like we did (large debit, paycheck to paycheck), there are many others that don’t. Trying to justify our actions though, we focused on those that were like us and used their actions to make us feel better about what we were doing. Misery loves company right?

I truly believe that we see what we want to see.  We are able to filter our view of the world in such a way that we can make a pure mess seem normal. Much like how our brain views the paragraph above, we are able to view a life of debt, living paycheck to paycheck or even living on credit cards as acceptable.

See the truth

Instead of looking at others like you to justify your actions, take a look at those that are different. What are they doing? How are they doing it? Others, like myself now, don’t use revolving debt. I only use debt to purchase appreciating assets, and namely a house. I focus on saving and investing and buying the things I need with cash. If I don’t have the cash, I don’t buy it. I’d rather delay my gratification than suffer the pain and consequences of buying it before I can afford it (been there, done that, got the t-shirt, won’t go back).

Take action

If you are living a life of financial crisis, take action now to stop the trend. Recognize that while you might be in good company, it isn’t the right path to peace and financial prosperity. Open your eyes and look beyond the people that are living like you. Talk to different people about how they manage their finances, read the many personal finance blogs on the internet that focus on wealth building and debt reduction. Follow those people rather than those that are like you.

I once heard the definition of insane described as “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result“. Are you continuing to use credit cards and spending more than you earn hoping that one day it will just magically fix itself? It won’t. Open your eyes, see the truth, and try a different approach. If you need help, follow my getting control of your finances series or Dave Ramsey’s baby steps. Don’t make the mistake of seeing what you want to see, see what’s really there. See the truth.

Do you see what you want to see? Are you making these same financial mistakes only hoping that the problem will just resolve itself? Make a commitment today to change the way you see things. Add a comment!

Photo by: shioshvili

8 Responses (including trackbacks) to “We see what we want to see”

  1. Laura Says:

    I completely agree that your viewpoint has a huge effect on how we deal with life. Seeing how my family was living paycheck to paycheck, I thought to was ‘smart’ to spend some of my money on concert tickets, eating out, and other temporary things. I didn’t save because I thought it was futile on some level. Bills were always going to be with me and might as well just have some fun.

    I know understand that money is a tool and if you can use it wisely you can eliminate some stress from your life. I’m working on paying down the debt. Changing your filter can improve your life.

  2. plonkee Says:

    Yes. I often look at other people and wonder where they get all their money to go on exotic holidays and buy nice clothes and so on. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong because there’s no way that I can afford to spend that much and keep up with the saving and investing needed to stay on track.

    And then I find out that other people have large credit card debts and no retirement accounts at all, and it suddenly clicks into place. The longer you spend being in a debt-free mindset the more surprised you will be that other people treat debt as normal. You’ll be seeing different things that you want to see. Different and better.

  3. jim of Blueprint for Financial Prosperity Says:

    The flip side is you’re also blind to what’s in your blind spots, right? It’s often hard to know what you don’t know, as the saying goes, so it’s nice to get another point of view when you can. I think blogging really helps that because you’re opening yourself up to the world, rather than your local friends (less risk there).

  4. Steward Says:

    Other people are a HUGE benefit in breaking any cycle of self-deception – whether it be financial, spiritual, social, or moral. It just goes to show you how necessary being open to different perspectives is for quality living, even if those perspectives initially seem strange or even wrong. By engaging with them we will either begin to see their value or be re-enforced in our already held belief.

    Blogs are a great way to be exposed to new ideas in a way that lets you engage with the ideas on your own terms.

  5. Alisa Says:

    There is a scripture that says something like “… everyman’s way is right in his own eyes.”

    I see this easily applied to those in who remain intangled in debt. To some, it is right to buy thing that you can not afford, it is right to settle for carrying debt from month to month instead of aggressively reducing it, and it is right to do whatever it takes to “keep up with the Smiths.”

    But one day there will be a rude awakening!

    For any readers who have been recently awakened and want help to quickly reduce debt; I found a great free debt reduction tool at this site:


    Once you input your specific debt information, it creates a plan for tackling your debt as quickly or as slowly as you want. And it works!

    Be well.

  6. Uncommonadvice Says:

    As a typical Scotsman I went through my early manhood in a drunken stupor. Always waking up with a hangover 7 days a week. Whenever my mum would call to see how I was I would regale her with stories of how drunk my mates were and what a mess they were making of their lives. Looking back it was a veiled attempt to take the heat off myself and divert her from examining my drinking habits too closely.

    Nowadays, when I am on the straight and narrow I see the same tactics used by my girlfriend whenever we discuss money. I want to get our mortgage paid down so we can enjoy life in a fuller fashion whereas she sees her mates living life now – new cars, foreign holidays, shopping trips.

    It is a difficult argument to win.

  7. David L. Brown Says:

    It is always easy to get into “Debt”, but very hard a time consum-ing…If someone is trying to help you to get out of “Debt” and you say thanks for the help, When that person sees that in the next month, that you are no better off than you where the month before, because of your careless spending attitude, or whatever reason(s) that you want to come up with…It sends a very clear message that you need to “Stop” and take a very close good look at your spending habits and your whatever attitude…When the person that is trying to help you sees that you are just going to keep going on with your whatever attitude, will when that person moves on and turns their back on you, you will probably say that the person did nothing to help you…When you do wake up in your “REAL” world, I hope that you consider getting some “Real Finacial” help…Maybe someone else will want to try to help you, God knows I sure have tried…I feel like a “Fool” used and laughted at, keep up you attitude, one day you will see and then it will be too late…you will have to face the issues on your own!!! I am sorry that you would not try to be honest and show that each month you where getting out of “Debt” in stead of going further into “Debt” God helps those who help them-selves…If you want “Credit Cards and Money” to rule your life and tell you what, when, will, how and why you will do as it tells you, then you can carry on…I am tired of your “Financial Mess” so get your act together…I am going to “Quit” trying to help you…You don’t show that you are getting any better, I just see you going in “Debt” further….You either will or you will not change your “Behavior” in regards to money issues, one day you will be having to face some issues that will require that you have some money to pay it out with, so if you didn’t save some of that money that you had to go out and spend, then you are up the creek without a paddle…So you deal with that…I am tired of your “Financial Mess” Your friend, but not when you come to me in need of money…Go try to get a signature loan…let them see your payment history, your lates, your over-the-limit fees, your “Maxed Out” Credit Cards….I am sure they will loan you the money at a very hight interest/apr and they will want you to take the lowest payments so that they can make the most of your money…