Finance · Lifestyle

Do Your Principles Get In The Way?

Today’s post isn’t so much about money as it is about how we tend to live our lives. I’ll tie in a financial reference but really wanted to write about this as a way to improve your life in another way.

Listen, I’m all for principles. And in an ideal world, everyone would live and interact with people in a respectful way and live each day with integrity. But it seems like we let principles get in the way of our happiness. Not sure what I mean? Here’s an example:

My commute is rather long, and with it being road construction season, it’s almost twice as long as it normally would be. This gives me a lot of time to reflect on various things, as well as observe human behavior. There’s something about Minnesota drivers that most people out-of-state don’t realize: we’re horrible at merging. The general nature of Minnesotans is to plan ahead. While this is a great quality to have, it creates confusion in construction zones, where one lane ends and the drivers need to merge into another lane.

If you live outside of Minnesota, the answer to this is obvious: zipper merge! However, it’s asking a lot of Minnesotans to do this. Most drivers know where they’re going and have already anticipated the lane ending so they’ve changed lanes at least a half mile before the lane actually ends. This causes some passive-aggressive driving, where those drivers will either start to drive in both lanes (!) or they refuse to let drivers in when the lane ends, which would be a proper zipper merge.

This behavior is fascinating to me for one simple reason: If these drivers would simply slow down to allow enough space for drivers to zipper merge, traffic would keep flowing. Instead, it causes more delays and close calls with near accidents. Better yet, all lanes should be used to reduce the slowdown in traffic even more.

Yes, ideally, drivers would all act in the way that you see fit. But this principle is getting in the way of traffic flowing in a normal manner, preventing people to get to their destination faster. This doesn’t just apply to merging, but also to any instance where someone needs to change lanes. I’ll never understand the people who don’t simply let them in. Even if you don’t agree in the way they’re going about it, keep traffic flowing by slowing down a little and just let them in.

While this may seem like a rant about driving, it’s just an illustration. Whenever we disagree with the way someone is doing something, and react in a way that is counterproductive to the best result, we’re letting our principles get in the way.

How can this relate to finances?

  • Do you resent the 1%? You should be trying to become of them instead. Or at least read this.
  • Think corporations are corrupt, preventing you from investing any money? Keep your investments basic and only invest in index funds, across the entire stock market.
  • Disagree with the tax code? Do some research to make it benefit you instead.

It’s important to have principles but don’t let them interfere with your happiness. Anytime you see yourself getting upset in your reaction to another person or event, ask yourself if your principles are getting in the way and find a more productive way to respond instead.

Remember: You can’t control another person’s behavior but you can control your reaction to it.

8 thoughts on “Do Your Principles Get In The Way?

  1. Very well said! The traffic example is a funny one; sometimes people’s behavior toward each other on the road would be unfathomable in any other situation! The financial questions are good ones. We can harbor as much resentment as we want about money, the tax code, the system, etc. — and we should advocate for change where we think it needs to happen — but we shouldn’t let those feelings be a barrier to learning and optimizing for our own financial lives.
    Matt @ The Resume Gap recently posted…Envisioning Life Without WorkMy Profile

    1. Thanks Matt! Let this be a warning to you if your road trip goes through Minnesota!

      It seems like we spend so much time worrying about other peoples’ actions that we let it get in the way of our happiness. What does the serenity prayer say? Something about changing the things we can and accepting the things we can’t? Sounds like a good way to live to me 🙂

  2. I can partially understand people not letting others in. Some #@$% people have a habit of zooming up the ending lane (even though most people have already merged) effectively cutting the line and getting in front of the patient people.

    Also, and I love this quote, ‘You’re not IN traffic, you ARE traffic’. Good way to change perspective.

    I like the point you’re getting at. There are many rules to life, and often they don’t change. Instead of complaining about them, how can you (legally) make them work to your advantage?


    1. I’ll admit that, when traffic is completely stopped and someone wants to change lanes, it drives me a little crazy. But when traffic is flowing it’s easier (and safer) to let them in.

      That’s a great quote. DOT should put that on the electric signage!

  3. Minnesotans can’t manage the zipper merge, but Minneapolis is the only place I’ve been where it’s legal to use the shoulder as a second lane during special events. Yay!!!

    As for your underlying point, yes. Being emotional is often shooting ourselves in the foot. Thanks for the reminder to pay attention to the big picture.
    Julie@ChooseBetterLife recently posted…Pretty Colors And Flashing LightsMy Profile

    1. The people in charge certainly try to keep things moving, so I give them credit for that. We just can’t seem to agree on how to do that, though.

      Thanks for commenting!

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