Question the defaults

If something is a default, question why that is. Many people find defaults to be the safe choice. “Everyone is doing it, so I probably should to.”

Ever since I was young I’ve questioned defaults and common practices. The big ones being religion and spending money. These are two things I still question today. But I’ve always had that habit of going against what everyone else did, because I wanted to be different.

But, there are still many things which I didn’t question and probably should have: Going to college right after high school, needing to get straight As in middle school through college, having a prestigious job.

It’s interesting to look back on life and see all the missteps I took and how much my thinking has changed. Even just a few years ago I had a different mindset than I do now.

Stopping to question defaults is a good way to think for yourself rather than how society wants you to think.

One example for me is spending money on a big house. Most people get to a certain age and figure they’re around that time to settle down, but who says so? Then they figure the next move is to get a house. But why do they need one? They also want to get a decent-sized house and were told they could afford a $300,000 mortgage. But do they really want to be paying off that mortgage for the next 30 years?

For a lot of things, I opt out of the defaults because I’m already a bit weird. I don’t like to buy things, I am extremely frugal, I’m content having a 500 square foot house. So for me, buying a typical home with a mortgage is something I just don’t plan to do.

There are so many other defaults that should be questioned:

  • Marriage
  • Needing a car
  • Watching TV
  • Social media
  • Buying certain clothes

Something I try to think about is: Am I doing this for others or for myself? This is especially true when it comes to clothing. I rarely buy clothes unless I really need to. Many times I find myself looking at shoes or clothes in the store and thinking “Do I really need this?” and 99% of the time the answer is no. We like clothes because they make us feel good and they are a signal to others. And that’s typically why many of us want to buy new outfits. The most recent thing I bought was a pair of sneakers for a month-long trip. Did I by them to show off to others? No, I bought them to have comfortable shoes for walking around.

I find that many defaults revolve around big sums of money:

  • Going to college
  • Going to grad school or getting an MBA
  • Buying a nice car
  • Having a big wedding

These are many of the ways that people can go into debt. College is still a default for many high school students, as it was for me 8 years ago. But if you ask many of the students paying down big loans if they ever questioned going to college, the answer is probably no.

Tldr; If something seems like a default, take some time to question why that is and develop your own opinion on it.