When “Looks Good on Paper” Feels Wrong

Have you ever had that experience where you were presented with the perfect job or person or situation or house or “whatever” and it just didn’t feel right? This is the Looks Good on Paper Fallacy and this is when we are often tempted to go with something just because it looks right even though it doesn’t feel right.

Let me give you an example – way back when I was in college I had dated a bunch of random guys who were never going to be my forever person. You know the types – not very nice, no real future, not incredibly smart, drank too much and/or habitually unfaithful. I was determined to change these men into guys who did meet my dream list which was a lost cause. You need to fall in love with someone for who they are, not who you are trying to make them become. These less than stellar gentlemen, who looked bad on paper, were definitely bad news for me (though I learned a lot about what I DID want in a relationship, so not a total waste).

This led me to attempt a change in my dating philosophy – I was going to choose men who met my dating criteria – who looked good on paper. Everyone has their own definition of what looks good on paper, but I was looking for nice, but with a strong spine; educated and intelligent (two different things); funny; and driven for “more” in his life. I dated a few of these guys and “eh”- it was alright, but not exciting. The difficulty? I had forgotten to take into account that special something that pulls two people together – call it chemistry or passion or whatever. Sometimes looking good on paper is simply not enough. It just makes it harder to explain it to ourselves and others when it doesn’t work.

Looking good on paper isn’t just about romance. Have you ever had a job that fits all your criteria – good hours, decent pay and doing something you should enjoy and you are simply underwhelmed. There is something missing. Or when you are looking to purchase or rent a home, you give your realtor a set of criteria you are looking for. They may show you place after place which meets that criteria and they just don’t “fit”. You are waiting for something to just feel right.

OK – so what is the point of all of this? It is important to remember that just because someone or something looks good on paper, doesn’t mean it is right for you. It is important to know what is important to you (your good on paper list), but also to know there is more to it for you to feel satisfied with the outcome. It is important to include your gut in your decision making process.

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