See if the following sounds at all familiar to you:
“Hmm, I can’t really afford this car/vacation/TV/whatever else, but I’ve been working really hard lately and haven’t done anything for myself – I DESERVE this”
If you’re like most people, you’ve had lapses in judgment like this where you justified a purchase you couldn’t afford because you deserved it.
Today we’re going to talk about just how dangerous this mentality is, and how the very word deserve is doing you a disservice and delaying your realization of your goals.
Origins Of The Word Deserve
The origin of the word deserve comes from the Latin deservire, which meant “to serve well”. The meaning later shifted to something like “to earn a rightful claim by doing something”, which later changed to the more modern understanding of “having earned a claim” to something.
Where We Go Wrong With Deserving
Let’s face it, we’re all very good at convincing ourselves that certain things are true. When it comes to convincing ourselves we should buy something, we’re all masters. The problem with using the word ‘deserve’ is that it doesn’t really mean anything.
At your job, you have an agreement to do certain tasks and in return you’ll receive a certain amount of money. Having agreed to this, we can rightfully say you deserve your income. To look at it another way, if you did your work and then your company offered you a pay cheque of half of your agreed-upon amount, you would be rightfully upset because you deserved more. That is, you had ‘earned your claim’ to your full payment.
But that’s never the situation that actually happens. What happens is that we convince ourselves that, for some vague reason, that the world owes us MORE than the agreed-upon amount.
You tell yourself you worked hard last month and you deserve that new TV to help you relax after work. Or you tell yourself you didn’t really take a vacation last year, so you deserve a spectacular one this year.
The crazy thing about this kind of thinking is that YOU are the one who’s rewarding yourself. You’re effectively giving yourself a raise for a job you did without having the money to do it.
You Don’t Deserve Anything
At least, you don’t deserve anything “just because”. No matter how hard you worked last month, you don’t deserve anything you can’t afford. Going into debt for a vacation or buying a TV on a payment plan is foolish.
Planning for a vacation and saving a portion of your income every month until you can afford it means you “deserve” that vacation. Not because your boss forced you to work overtime, but because you planned for it and saved for it.
Rewards Are Important
If you’re working hard to get out of debt, it’s important to set milestones and reward yourself. You need the encouragement and something to look forward to.
For example, if you’re currently paying $500 a month towards your debt, you might choose a time 6 months in the future where you’re only going to pay $300 that month and go out for an incredible date with your spouse to celebrate your hard work with the extra $200. By planning this kind of reward, and only doing it once certain conditions are met (i.e. actually paying that $500 a month from now until your deadline), you can truly say you deserved it and feel good about the whole thing.
Randomly deciding that you’re too lazy to cook tonight and that you can afford to pay less on your debts because you feel you deserve it is short-sighted, weak, and etymologically incorrect.
Don’t fall victim to that part of your brain that tries to talk you into doing silly things. If you hear yourself think the word deserve let that trigger an alarm bell and really think about what temptation you’re facing, then step back, plan ahead, and make sure you truly deserve it before making the purchase.