Treat yourself like a child to be more grown up
This post is about repurposing a trick that grown-ups use to manage a child's wants. You know the one. It starts with pointing at a substitute. Then, the grown-up frames one of two questions, such that the answer is always "you don't need one."
Whatever the child wants--let's call it X--the adult can always ask one of two questions:
- You've got a perfectly good X--you use it all the time! Why should I buy you a new one?
- You never use the X you've got! Why do you need a new one?
Now, I'm going to say in a minute that this is a useful way to think about things, but before I do, I want to acknowledge that grown-ups often use this structure to play what amounts to a cruel trick. Until the child learns the structure, there's the implication that the child could get his or her wants fulfilled by switching--abandoning use of something needs to be replaced in the one case, or going through the motions of using something that's not really useable in the other. This, of course, is a futile maneuver, because the adult then merely switches to the alternate question.
Still, the underlying logic is entirely valid. For pretty much anything you've got, you're either using it--which proves that you've got one that works and therefore don't need another, or else you're not using it--which proves that you certainly don't need another one.
I've had good luck in using this trick to manage my own wants. And, since I'm a grown-up, I can do it without being obliged to go on and turn it into a cruel trick.
There's all kinds of stuff I want. But, when I think of some new thing that I'd like to get, I can say to myself, "You don't need an iPhone--you've got a perfectly good cell phone." I can then let my inner child and inner adult argue for a while, with the child explaining that my old cell phone has crappy internet features and the adult pointing out that I spend plenty of time accessing the internet on my computer, so why would I need to access it on my phone as well?
As the argument rages on, I can pay attention to either (or both!) sides of the adult's trick questions: If I've got a perfectly good one that I use all the time, why do I need a new one? If I've got one that I hardly ever use, why do I think getting a new one would make me any better off?
Since I'm in charge of my own spending, I'm in a position to let myself be convinced by my arguments. After all, there are sometimes good answers, even though they don't work for children. Some things that I use all the time need to be replaced because they've worn out. Some things that I never use need to be replaced because the reason that I never use them is that I foolishly bought a crappy one that never worked well.
When I take just a minute, now and then, to treat myself like a child, I find it a little easier to make the grown-up choice.
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