“Are you being lazy or are you being cheap?”
Angela’s piercing blue-green eyes and her question arrested me mid-bite of my breadstick.
I had stopped, not because the question hurt my feelings, but because it was an incredibly helpful pattern interrupt, asked in a way that I could hear it.
When it comes to certain types of decisions — especially forking over money for something that I’d like to have but don’t painfully need — my two default mental traps are being lazy or being cheap.
My laziness is normally centered on not wanting to spend hours shopping online or at a store. My cheapness is centered on getting hung on $200-300 price differences. Sometimes they work in concert: being cheap will block straightforward purchases and finding alternatives takes work, and being lazy will only surface options that are more expensive than I’d like.
If neither of the mental traps fit, I could simply say it wasn’t those two. I tried to make such a claim, only to realize that the reason I was stuck actually fell under being cheap.
Once it was clear that I was in my cheap trap, I was able to point out how being cheap was costing me more than picking one of the options and returning it if it wasn’t the right fit. And my saint-coach of a wife got herself out of 20 minutes of a feature and use conversation that she really didn’t want to be in.
We all have default mental traps.
Maybe your trip is applying high stakes to low stakes situations. Or treating reversible decisions as if they were non-reversible. Or being perfectionists about everything because we really care about certain things.
The trick is knowing what your traps are so you don’t stay trapped in them. It helps to have someone call them out for you, too.