Selective Perception and a Mindful Approach Toward Spending
04 February 2021
In The Art of Dramatic Writing, playwright Lajos Egri stated, “There is only one realm in which characters defy natural laws and remain the same — the realm of bad writing.”1
We are incredibly attuned to the fact that people perpetually change. Boring films often portray static characters; their values and goals don’t evolve. In this way, their paths don’t resonate with our own lives. The same can be said for creating a financial wellness plan. If your plan assumes you won’t change, it won’t feel realistic.
Despite all the budgeting apps available, many people still struggle with spending. While budgeting programs can provide helpful guardrails, each day represents a new you…with new spending decisions to consider.
This is especially evident during our current public health crisis. Many of us — along with our spending habits — have greatly changed in just a short period. So how do we ensure our money is keeping up with our fast-paced lives while not succumbing to impulse spending?
Experiential financial education, where guests participate in activities that help connect emotions to their wealth, is often helpful. Given the opportunity, dynamic spending beliefs can be teased out in order to gain control of one’s cash flow. This is why, at In Good Company, we encourage you to reflect upon how your wealth can support your life’s journey.
Here are two quick self-reflections — a driving force behind our workshop activities — to help differentiate spending impulses from healthy budgeting evolutions:
List and explore areas where your spending has recently increased.
For example, if you’ve spent more on home improvement, write down notable feelings experienced as you selected your new furniture. Reflect on whether you were spending to acquire these feelings — or if the expenditures truly aligned with new values.
I’ve noticed lately that there have been packages piling up by my door, waiting to be opened. I wonder if these more frequent deliveries are truly a necessity, or if I am searching for other things, as sometimes “deliveries feel like love arriving in a cardboard box.”2 After reflecting, I realize that I am often more excited about anticipating the boxes than the actual items inside.
Decipher your selective perception.
When considering a new product, we may suddenly spot it everywhere. Selective perception, if triggered, can cause us to be hyper aware of things that are newly important to us. Take note whenever you see something on your wishlist pop up frequently. Do you truly value this item, or is it more about targeted marketing and the excitement of acquiring something new?
Before I got engaged, I had never considered diamonds. It was inconceivable to spend so much on something I didn’t value a whole lot at the time. Yet when I was getting ready to propose, I was suddenly spotting diamond rings everywhere, mesmerized by their variations.
I assessed how my perspective had evolved so quickly and recognized areas where my wife’s values overlapped with my own; this emblem seemed important to both of us. It became clear that a diamond ring would be a significant keepsake, symbolizing that special moment in our lives. The social pressure and jewelry commercials weren’t the source of my selective perception, so I felt more comfortable in allocating towards this purchase.
Financial planning involves building structure. That’s why we demonstrate how effective spending plans work in our Spending and Saving workshop, where employees can gain insight into their patterns and habits. Yet we also know that placing spending guardrails is just the first step. In Good Company workshops take personal values and circumstances into account, recognizing that a person’s budget can be adjusted throughout life. Applying this attitude to how they spend money, in a reflective manner, can help your employees ensure that their wealth is keeping up with their aspirations.
1Egri, Lajos. The Art of Dramatic Writing. Simon & Schuster. 1988.
2Murphy, Kate. “Love and Money – and How They’re Connected.” The Wall Street Journal. Nov. 21, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/love-and-moneyand-how-theyre-connected-11605917843?mod=searchresults_pos1&page=1