Symbolic Lip Service in the Form of Small, Ineffective Actions

People trying to take control of their personal finances often read personal finance blogs, and then stop. By reading about the topic they check the "I'm managing my money" task box in their head…without actually taking the necessary steps to manage their money.

It'd better if they read no personal finance blog at all and thus couldn't delude themselves that they'd actually done something.

Process-obsessed people are particularly prone to "pre-mature box-checking dissonance avoidance." They approach goals like "be smart about money" by looking for little steps they can do — read blogs, research, buy budgeting software. Results-oriented people restate the goal as "have $50,000 in savings in x years" and then then focus ruthlessly to make it happen.

Other examples: buying low-fat food at the supermarket and thinking you've taken care of the "lose weight" goal (instead of busting your butt at the gym and eating less), or paying a monthly fee to Match.com and thinking you've taken care of your dating life instead of getting out and meeting women/men.

This phenomenon is something like paying "lip service" to a goal, although it is through symbolic, ineffective action rather than talking.

And because the symbolic actions delude you into thinking you've taken meaningful action, it's worse than doing nothing at all.

(thanks to Ramit Sethi, Cal Newport, and Dave Jilk for helping brainstorm this idea and providing some of the above sentences.)

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