We never really pay attention until it’s “about us.”
I heard a phrase yesterday that followed me around all day: “Perception is what we use to convince ourselves that we’re right.” We may use our perception to capture those thoughts or actions that reinforce what we already believe. And that becomes, “See, I knew that was true.” And we may use perception to filter out what inconveniently conflicts with one of our beliefs. That takes the form of “I hear that but I know it to be false.” (Thus protecting what we believe. Or want to believe.) Perception is the greatest ally of limiting beliefs. How so? And how does this affect our money? Let’s look at three scenarios. Perception Scenario #1 You need to build your business by bringing in three new clients, but you have a few doubts about the value of what you are offering. You make a pitch to a potential client. The client says, “I’m not so sure this is for me, I mean, my case is different.” You could say, “Well, everyone’s case is different, but my success rate says my system is flexible enough to solve your particular challenge, as it has for so many others.” Instead you think, “I knew what I offer isn’t what anyone needs, or she would have jumped at it.” And, instead of listening to the objections and addressing each one to be sure it is valid (which most aren’t), you say, “Okay, I’m sure you’re right.” And walk away from the sale. Perception Scenario #2 You know you need to start building up savings to supplement your Social Security for your later years, but you always find something more important to do with your spare money. You read, “Nearly 60 percent of Americans say they plan to retire by age 65, but nearly the same percentage fear they’ll never save enough to do it” (from a survey by Capital One ShareBuilder). You could say, “Well, anything I save is better than nothing.” Instead you think, “See, Capital One should know: no one can save enough, so why bother saving at all.” And, instead of finding ways of cutting back on non-essentials and letting your savings grow over the years, benefiting from compound growth, you pick up the tab the next time you and your girlfriends get together over the weekend. Perception Scenario #3 You’re bringing in more money than you did last year, and you still have trouble paying all your monthly bills. Yet your lifestyle “feels” like it’s the same lifestyle as back then. You read, “Hidden inflation is making your money worth less than last year, and not just by the 1-2% the government is admitting to officially.” You could say, “Well, my income has grown by 35% and I’m sure inflation hasn’t been that high, so where’s my money going?” Instead you think, “Oh, so it has nothing to do with anything I’m doing; it’s that darn inflation that’s eating up all the extra money I’m earning. Surely I haven’t changed my spending habits that much …” And, instead of having someone help you understand exactly where your money is going, finding the money “leakers” and establishing a spending plan where you’re in control of your money, can close each month and even save, you continue in the anxiety that comes from ignorance. The Antidote to Misusing Perception Someone once said, “Truth is universal. Perception of truth is not.” And novelist Roberto Bolaño in his apocalyptic “2666” said, “People see what they want to see and what people want to see never has anything to do with the truth.” More precisely, in “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” author Tom Robbins wrote “One has not only an ability to perceive the world but an ability to alter one’s perception of it; more simply, one can change things by the manner in which one looks at them.” So I ask: Where are we using outside opinions and myths to keep us from doing something we know we need to do in order to be on the path to financial security? It’s human nature. But that misuse of perception is keeping us in a place of anxiety that is totally unnecessary. What’s the solution? When we hear that little voice in our head saying, “See, I told you you were right …” about anything, stop and question it honestly. That’s perception, functioning conveniently to make us do (or not do) something we know down deep is good for us.