Are You Goal Setting or Just Pretending?

By Robin Trimingham

So many times in life when the going gets tough, instead of swallowing hard and getting things done, we start looking for sympathy, telling ourselves and anyone who will listen that we are “trying” or “doing our best”, or that the problem is just “too hard” to fix.

From one perspective, these statements might even appear to be true, but my question to everyone is: are you really taking effective action or are you just “pretending” to address the situation?

In other words, are you employing effective goal-setting and taking effective action or are you indulging in ineffective procrastination, disguised as “busy-ness”?

“Come on now, that’s not a real word!” you protest.

Yes, it is. I just invented it.

For the purposes of this discussion, “busy-ness” can be defined as the art of appearing to be industriously employed to cover up the fact that you are secretly avoiding doing anything.

Let me give you an example.

I once had a scholarly friend with a very untidy house in which stacks of paper could be found on just about every available surface.

Each Sunday afternoon, he would spend several hours fighting what he called the battle of the piles, shuffling from one room to the next, one pile to the next, picking up random bits of paper, studying their contents and then placing it either back on the same pile or transporting it to a pile in a completely different room.

At no point did he make any real decisions regarding what to keep or what to toss, or actually file things away in an organised manner, which would allow him to tidy his house and keep it that way.

Now let’s consider the case of a couple that I have been following on YouTube.

They have been married 12 years and are struggling to come to terms with the fact that they owe $100,000 on a combination of credit cards.

To be clear, this $100,000 figure does not include their mortgage, car payments or any luxury goods.

As far as I can tell, this astronomical figure only includes rampant spending at Big Box stores, lower-end restaurant chains and family vacations.

Their motto, until recently, seems to have been: “Let’s just charge that — we make lots of money, so we’ll just pay for it later.”

Now they do admit that they have a big problem to solve and they are following the advice of a famous “get out of debt” guru.

Well, sort of.

They are making a budget and they are making a big show of “busy-ness”, by sorting the amount of cash that they are allowed to spend in each budget category into a series of envelopes, but their rationalisations regarding what sorts of things they are still allowed to spend money on is astoundingly flawed.

They decided, for example, that their five-year-old daughter could have new shoes, balloons and a vase of flowers for Valentine’s Day, because this is significantly less than they would have spent previously.

In short, they are pretending that they are dealing with their debt, but they are not fully addressing the root cause of all this: their spending behaviour.

Far from judging these people, I find their struggle hard to watch.

When money is scarce or debts are large, it can be very hard to figure out how to create a budget that really works and then stick to it.

It can be even harder to figure out how to save money in such a way that it grows for the future.

Attending a Money Matters webinar can help. The next Butterfield Money Matters webinar will be held at 8pm on March 24. Why not check it out?

You can register online for free at

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