We see what we want to see
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.
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).
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