I like the phrase “Constant Vigilance”. I think I picked it up reading Harry Potter – one of the teachers named Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody says it all the time, and is essentially paranoid of everything that happens in the world. Well I’m not paranoid, I have to constantly look out for someone who is out to get me and foil most of my long-term plans when it comes to things about my personal finance plan, my health, or other goals…Me.
I was reading an article titled “The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational” which clarified the necessity of Constant Vigilance to me, specifically, the section around “Current Moment Bias”. Current Moment Bias is my nemesis. This way of thinking puts the onus of all problems onto the shoulders of “Future Dave”, to the benefit of current Dave. Current Moment Bias is the level of thinking that talks me into eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough), because “Future Dave” will be able to easily lose the added weight associated with the 560 calorie snack (yes, I looked it up after the fact).
Rationally, I know that I would prefer to not have eaten the ice cream a couple of days later when I step on the scale. The ice cream (or whatever other unhealthy food I ram into my face) is something that makes me feel like crap, and takes me further away from achieving the level of fitness I would prefer to have, and closer to not having the ability to leave the couch.
When it comes to my plan to retire early, Current Moment Bias could really inhibit my ability to meet the goals I’ve set out. I generally limit my impulse buys to minor things such as books or meals out – say 10 or 15 dollars a purchase, maybe once a week or so. These kind of things aren’t really going to matter too much in the long run. Spending erratically too often though, could add months or years to length of time I would have to work, which in the long-run isn’t what I want at all.
So, I attempt to stay “Constantly Vigilant”, while still having some fun. I don’t fret over the minor dalliances I have with bad food, or bad spending. I just try to have my current self pull its own weight in my long-term plans – it removes a level of unnecessary stress from my life. I don’t like checking my bank balance and being $100 poorer than I thought I was with no real enjoyment to show for it, the same way I don’t like to have to work to lose 5 pounds gained eating three times as much ice-cream or pizza or Chinese food as I actually needed to have.
I’m all for solving my own problems when it comes to money or health, but I would rather they didn’t arise because of decisions that my rational self wouldn’t have made.