For a while (until it wore off) I had an address label on my wallet that I had written on it, “why are you buying this?”
When I was at a restaurant or store, I saw several people look at it and laugh. Sure, it did serve a small purpose to make me think about whether or not I should be buying whatever it was — and it helped me save a little bit of money.
But the bigger reason was that I wanted to identify, in the moment, what story I was telling myself about that thing I was about to buy.
Before we buy anything, there is an internal negotiation and reasoning that happens as to why we are going to buy that thing. It’s related to our beliefs, what we believe to be our needs, and how we view ourselves in the world (credit to Seth Godin here).
I frequently go to the restaurant bar near my apartment between the hours of 3-6pm because of their happy hour. When I was thinking about why I was spending time and buying food there, I had reasons like, “This will be my major meal for the day” and “This is a ton of food for $5” and “I write better in this atmosphere.”
Those were all stories I tell myself about the decisions I’m making. Are they true? Well, what is true? If I believe those stories, does that make them true?
Sometimes I realized my stories didn’t make a lot of sense, they were destructive, or they were based on logic that I actually didn’t want to follow. For example, I got a lot better about not having that single beer with dinner, because the story was that “this is what you order when you’re out to dinner.”
In reality, that’s a story I didn’t need to be telling myself. The water was cheaper, much better for me, and I enjoyed it more with food anyway.
It doesn’t stop with buying, either. When you make any type of decision, you’ve already completed a line of reasoning. “I don’t have all the qualifications for this role, so I won’t apply” or “Well I haven’t heard back from this person, so they must not be interested.”
I think our stories, like the people we surround ourselves with, should serve to hold us up and empower us. I’ve been very intentional about separating myself from people who tell me stories that don’t support me, but less effective at eliminating my own.