Friday, July 26, 2013

Don't Listen to your Heart

Back to this list.

There was one item here that stood out to me when I read it -- I think because I associated it with a phenomenon I have been discussing with my daughter a lot for the last several months.  A quality I have seen in many of her friends.  I don't know that I specifically connected it with being poor, but more with being immature and unwise . . . although both of those characteristics have also led the affected into financial struggles, from my forty-five years of experience with humanity.  Here's the item:

11. 6% of wealthy say what's on their mind vs. 69% for poor.

Isn't THAT an interesting one!

Again, there's a lot unsaid here that is important.  How do we know they speak their mind?  Is this a self-report?  Because some people like to say they are the type of person who speaks their mind when they really aren't, and vice versa.  And when they say what's on their mind, do they do it respectfully or rudely?  There's a way of stifling your inner thoughts that is neurotic and there's a way of stifling your inner thoughts that shows wisdom.

Nevertheless, when I read this, I was immediately reminded of what I've been cautioning my daughter about regarding many of her friends: they are ruled by their passions.

Now, I know some people see that as a trait to celebrate.  We are taught all of our lives to "listen to your heart". And I'm not advocating living a passionless life.  But to "listen to your heart" in the extreme sense . . . to be led by your selfish desires and impulses . . . to be ruled by your passions and not your brain . . . is absolute foolishness.  It is immature and unwise and, I have no doubt, is highly likely to contribute to a life of financial struggle.

In the teenagers I'm referring to (and usually their parents as well), this has a lot to do with "delaying gratification", an ability that mental health experts usually put in their list of characteristics of mentally healthy people.  It is part of being a grown-up and living a healthy life that you are able to put off until later something you really want and willingly take up something distasteful to you that needs to happen right now.

But it's also about living only for the present.  The List also says that the wealthy are far more likely to have a to-do list and to write down goals.  They are more likely to be thinking ahead and planning for the future. 

And this is also about impulsiveness.  I want this computer game.  It's for sale in front of me.  I have the money for it in my pocket right now.  So, I will buy it.  Forget the fact that I really need a car, and that money needs to go toward it.  I'm not thinking about my future -- I'm not willing to put off the pleasure of playing this game for the sake of improving my life situation with a car, or healthy food, or a college education -- I want the game now, so I'm buying it.

Of course, just to stave off the defenders of the undeserving poor (and I have never said there weren't undeserving poor!), I need to emphasize that not every poor person is ruled by their passions.  But I contend there are far too many people, wealthy and poor, who are.  As I said, this is about maturity and wisdom.  But there's no doubt that a lack of each can pave the way to the poor house.

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