Some Good Ideas Are Misapplied

Carl Rogers was an influential American psychologist and is noted for his contributions to the “humanist approach.”

The Rogers approach is that we use just a little of our potential. We can increase our effectiveness if we more completely recognize the idea of human potential and enhance our expectations by more fully developing our self esteem.  I cannot really argue with the idea that we could do better and that we could do that easier if we had a greater belief in ourselves.

All good ideas become summarized.  The summary of Rogers is that with more self-esteem people do better.  Some people stop thinking after they see that. It makes sense. So let’s build self esteem. If only it were that simple. Self esteem must be seen in a larger context.

Rogers published 19 propositions to describe his idea.  Self-esteem is important, but it does mean exclude everything else. Self-esteem as the paramount idea leads to more problems than it solves and Rogers knew that.

The difference is, self-esteem must be honest and it must be earned.  Undeserved self esteem limits human potential.  Sometimes introspection and growth stop.

Proposition 17.  “Under certain conditions, involving primarily complete absence of threat to the self structure, experiences which are inconsistent with it may be perceived and examined, and the structure of self revised to assimilate and include such experiences.”

Clearly review and revise is an important aspect of growth.  A person should not define themselves as being a certain way, derive great self esteem from that position and expect it to be forever accurate and accepted.

When review and revise are not part of the scheme, we see people with overdeveloped esteem leading to entitlement and self-importance.  American Idol judge Simon Cowell seemed to have a particular distaste for narcissistic contestants who were seeking adulation rather than critique.  Is that cruel or not?

Self esteem is important but it must be objective.

Now take all of those ideas and apply them to your financial plan.

Never fall in love with it.  Its details will seldom last more than a few years because things change.  Build your plan around strong principles and priorities and review and revise the implementing details regularly.

Sometimes the adviser’s role is to help you remain centered and focused on things that work.


Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

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