We’ve all done it.
We’ve rationalized our decisions, and then used our rationalizations to avoid changing or improving.
Unfortunately, it’s really easy to do, sometimes without even realizing it.
It usually starts when we’re dissatisfied on some level with something that’s going on in our life. Maybe we’re struggling to make ends meet, or maybe we’re tired of driving around the same old car we’ve had for years, while everyone around us seems to be getting ahead.
Rationalizing might sound something like this: “We’re doing pretty well for our age. We have a nice place to live, and two cars, and we went on that vacation a few months back. Probably most people our age are struggling a little too, but we’re doing pretty good for having full time jobs and being in school.”
When really, we’re barely able to pay the bills and often argue about money. Instead of patting ourselves on our back reassuringly, we should be making changes that will improve our life.
Or maybe it sounds like this: “My car is getting really old. It’s going to start breaking soon, and the repairs will be really expensive. And it isn’t the safest car. I really need something safer and reliable now that we’ll be having a baby. Plus sometimes we need to go camping, bring the dog with us, or pick up something at Home Depot. We really need something bigger, too. Everyone has a car payment, it’s normal.”
No, we don’t need a shiny new car. We want one, and rather than just admitting that, we’re trying to frame going in debt as a positive thing.
The thing is, if you have to rationalize a decision, it means that deep down, you know it’s a bad idea.
But instead of facing up to what we really ought to be doing (getting our finances in shape, sticking with the old car for while until we can afford a new one), we continue on our merry way, getting in deeper and deeper.
We miss out on opportunities for real improvement and change — opportunities that would allow us to fulfill our real dreams instead of convincing ourselves that what we’re doing is what’s best for us.
Sure, sometimes we just want to do something that’s not in our own long-term interest. That’s human nature. But at least do it with your eyes wide open, if you’re going to do it. Don’t rationalize your way through life.Posted in Emotions & Money on 01.31.11 with 10 comments.