Around 3 years ago, my partner and I figured out what we felt was a pretty great financial strategy. And ever since, I’ve been busy trying to convince everyone else that they should adopt it too.
Before you abandon this article for fear of an incoming 500 word drone about money management — this is not that kind of blog. This is a blog about why I was so hell bent on encouraging others to embrace our scheme.
At first, I didn’t think too much about why I was plugging our approach so hard. Perhaps I subliminally assumed that I just wanted everyone else to be as happy and wealthy as I projected future me to be.
But the more I thought about it, the more apparent it became that this was not an isolated incident of persuasion. I realised that I often encouraged others to adopt my approaches, and not only to money management. I would champion my political views, career choice, diet preferences, hobby selection.
It was not a comfortable realisation.
“How arrogant must I be to believe that I have it all figured out relative to everyone else?” I wondered. “How absurd to assume that others’ lives would be better if they saved the way I save; thought the way I think; placed their new toilet roll on its holder in the same orientation as my toilet roll?”
But as I wallowed in my shameful discovery, it occurred to me that perhaps there was something else going on after all. That maybe my driving desire for everyone to do things ‘my’ way was actually… insecurity.
There’s a soothing sense of validation that’s imparted from knowing we’ve made a good choice. Particularly when we weren’t completely confident with said choice in the first place.
And when someone else adopts our approach, our sense of validation shoots up like an affluent heroin addict.
“They didn’t just say we were right; they believed it with such conviction that they lay down some skin in the game to do the same. We definitely made the right move!”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that every suggestion derives from self-doubt. Some stem from more wholesome origins, like the desire to transmit learnings from past mistakes to help others elude the same blunders.
But when we’re lying in the beds we have made, we almost always want others to hop in under the covers with us to convey the confirmation we crave.
If I were to quit my frenetic corporate job to shift into the less glamorous not-for-profit sector for example, I would feel far more sure of my choice if a corporate colleague sanctioned my actions by following me across.
If I’ve just forked out a fortune for a sparkling new beach house, I probably don’t want to hear that you think the property market is on a downwards death spiral. No — I want you buying up the place next door as affirmation that I did the right thing.
It’s almost as though we feel, when someone deliberately picks a path that’s different to ours, they’re somehow dubbing our way ‘the wrong way’. And that makes us feel sad. And defensive.
So as a sort of preemptive strike, many of us find ourselves attempting to convince our peers that our way is the best way. The right way. The way they should take.
What we don’t consider however, is that no two people are the same. That everyone has unique priorities, circumstances and life trajectories. And as such, a ‘different’ choice might be right for someone else even while being wrong for us. And something that suits us superbly may in turn be inappropriate for another.
His ‘glorious’ new home could be her mortgage nightmare. Her ‘free’ nomadic lifestyle may make him sick with stress. His 16 hour work day might lead him to his dream job. Her 16 hour work day might give her a stomach ulcer.
So perhaps we shouldn’t always try to sway others to our way. Perhaps it’s ok for us to each peel off in our different directions.
Because who knows?
Maybe there’s more than one path leading to a happy ending.