Have you ever watched kids on the beach? Armed with shovels, pails, shells and any other implement capable of moving sand, they joyously and purposefully focus on their goal—giant sandcastles, moats and tunnels—creating something magical. You hear their shrieks of delight as the tide moves in, threatening the sanctity of the walls surrounding their imaginary world. Regardless of the tide, they work with purpose, focus and applied action.
Compare this to your financial life. As adults, we know the tide is coming, yet we allow the security of our own walls to be breached because our efforts did not match our goals. We make decisions that seem to ignore the realities and hang onto our desire for current comfort and enjoyment, rather than our overall feeling of safety and security.
When financial markets are trending upward, we believe that it will always be so; and we believe the opposite when financial markets are down. Our belief tends to get stuck in the moment—that what is now, will always be. Of course, if we stop to consider and question these beliefs, we will realize that the ebbs and flow of the economy tell us that the idea of constant anything is a fiction. Where we should be seeking the middle ground of balance, unfortunately, we tend to ignore that part of our brains that could save us from the extremes of euphoria or misery that exists in our “now” existence.
Living your financial life with purpose requires an acute awareness of your values and the goals needed to achieve them. What is important enough to you that you are ready, willing and able to pick up pail and shovel and fight against the inevitable waves that will threaten to wreck your dream? Your purpose needs to have some serious weight and gravity to provide the energy necessary to sustain you when the inevitable challenges occur.
Consider whether your saving and spending decisions are prudent and well conceived or if you are making it up as you go along. If you don’t have a destination and a plan in place to get there, why would you expect success? Your money mindset reflects your beliefs about money, which translates directly into actions and habits. If you are thoughtful about your decision-making, your chances of success are greatly enhanced.
Life transitions—illness, job loss, divorce or death of a loved one—offer up huge challenges to living our purpose. We need certain tools to help us get through these tough times, to build our resilience. Think about those kids toiling joyfully while the tide floods their creation. There is no quit in them, they just dig faster, reinforcing the walls against the onslaught. We need to find those kinds of tools for ourselves; those that give us the ability to keep our focus on what is of utmost importance to our satisfaction.
The American Psychological Association (www.apa.org) offers some ideas and strategies for building resilience. Here are a few from their list:
- Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems
- Accept that change is a part of living
- Move toward your goals
- Take decisive actions
- Keep things in perspective
As you consider your values and your financial life, think about the decisions, both big and small, you make on a daily basis that impact your goals. Do your decisions move you closer to or further away from where you ultimately want to be? How do you handle setbacks? Do you fall back to old habits that bring greater stress or anxiety? Ask yourself if you are digging yourself a castle (and reinforcing the walls) or simply digging yourself into a hole.