I am, without question, the queen of justification. When it comes to putting off an unappealing task, spending money that should be destined for the savings account, or eating a restaurant meal with a four-digit calorie count, I always find a way to make myself think that I’m really doing the right thing in the long run. For example:
Well, if we buy new furniture NOW, we’ll actually get more value because it’s on a huge sale, savings account interest is nonexistent, and we’ll have it for a few extra years before it’s ruined by kids. AND we’ll be more likely to entertain at home because we won’t be embarrassed by our mismatched furniture!
I know my car is fully paid for, but it only gets 19 mpg, so if I buy this gently used car, even though we’ll have a teeny-tiny car payment for a couple years, we’re saving so much on gas. AND my car is due for repairs, so we can avoid those too!
Weeell, I know we shouldn’t be spending money on vacations, but when we’re 97, we won’t care whether we had that extra $2,000 in savings. We’ll be so glad we lived to the fullest and enjoyed all our memories.
I know this fettucini alfredo is 1,763 calories, but if I don’t let myself eat it occasionally, I’ll go crazy and stop dieting completely. So letting myself indulge just this one teeny time, I’m totally preventing myself from failing in the long run!
Not good. Especially not good when you have all of these mental conversations with yourself within a 48-hour period. Yes, I really did. I am thrilled to say that I did NOT order the couch, buy a car (though I did visit a dealership!), book a vacation (but we are tacking on a day to our weekend trip to Jon’s brother’s wedding as a compromise) or order fettucini alfredo. But I came way too close.
So, how does one avoid the justification trap?
1. The 24-hour rule. If you find yourself torn between feeling guilty and rationalizing a decision, do not make any major decisions. Wait at least 24 hours and revisit. This simple step could save you $5,000 if you, like me, were contemplating trading in the ol’ SUV for a newer car. On the other hand, getting a new car may actually be the right choice in your case. In this instance, staying with the car example, the 24-hour hold prevents you from leaping forward at the first flashy red convertible. It gives you some time to read Consumer Reports, get some recs from friends and family, and e-mail a handful of dealerships to get the very best price–well worth a one-day delay.
2. The vision board. Whether you create a collage of images like I did, or simply write a bulleted list of goals, having a concrete reminder of your vision can stave off many decisions you’ll later regret. In my case, my vision board helps me with both weight- and money-related decisions. With one glance, I’m reminded that I so desperately want to wear cute clothes (requiring money in the bank and a smaller body) and have a baby someday (ditto). Suddenly the fabulous aroma of fettucini alfredo isn’t quite as enticing. Make multiple copies of your list/board. Put one on the fridge, one in your office and one in your purse. Let it be a road map that takes you the destination you’ve always dreamed of, with minimal detours.
3. Count your blessings. When you take the time to be truly aware of all the good in your life instead of focusing on the negative, you don’t feel quite as entitled to the next big thing. One of my (many) flaws is that I get so caught up in what’s next. Before I’ve finished checking one thing off the list, I’m full speed ahead to the next one. As an example, we’ll be getting a fence installed soon. I’ve been dreaming of this since we bought the house three years ago. Our labs are going to LOVE it and I’m going to adore enjoying spring nights in a rocking chair on the patio, reading a good book while they run circles around me. So now that we’ve made the decision to install it, you’d think I’d be content. Instead, I find myself moving on to the next coveted item for the house: the aforementioned couch. It’s only by slowing down and being conscious of and grateful for the things that I already have that I avoid the new temptation. Keeping a gratitude journal really helps me keep a positive outlook–and keep away from IKEA catalogues.
The good news? I have a whole slew of ideas for personal rewards when I meet my Fittest Loser goals! The fettucini alfredo won’t make the list, but I am eyeing a DSLR camera…