Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Red flag justification for bad decisions

Sometimes we make really bad decisions. We all do this. Sometimes we just make silly little dumb decisions, but we do it a lot – the now-cliché $4 cappuccino, the daily smoothies we’ll never want to add up, the seventh pair of colored tights. Sometimes we make horrendously huge mistakes – like going to a college our high school sweetheart chose even though it doesn’t offer our major. But in any of these cases, big or small, we talk ourselves into it. And even though that (amusingly literal) psycho-babble is convincing at the time, it does little to quell our guilt after the fact.

Learn to identify the destructive self-talk, though, and we learn to avoid bad decisions before we make them. Here, the worst reasons to do anything:

1.     “I deserve it.” What does this even mean? You went above and beyond in some way that it warranted being rewarded – by yourself?  

2.     “Everyone’s doing it” or “Everyone has one.” If, in fact, we were all doing it and all had one, you already would too. Furthermore, a statement like this articulates a value of other people’s opinions over your own.

3.     “I need it.” Actually, you probably don't. It is, I hope you can agree, very unlikely that you actually need it. The word “need” is attached to things like coffee mugs from every city and blankets with sleeves. Nobody really needs those things.

4.     “It’s an investment.” This isn’t just used to describe questionable home purchases. It’s also the line salesgirls will use to seduce a shopper into luxury goods they can’t quite afford. That $4,000 handbag? It’s an “investment piece.” The thing about real investments, though, is their return – the quantifiable measurement that, with handbags, probably never happens.

5.     “I can afford it.” Yep, I know. But capacity to do something is rarely the reason to do it. We both know that. Otherwise you and I probably would’ve run a marathon and read 2,000 books by now. And just like I believe we could do those things, I do trust that you can afford to buy that thingamob without you actually having to do it to prove you can (which is what you’re doing.)

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