Have you ever noticed, that no matter how much (or how little) you plan things, there is always enough time, to just about get everything done?
Very few people sail easily through every day of life (despite the impression they may give). What makes it even harder for seemingly robust people (and maybe you are one of these), is that the crash from performing for the audience (this could be workforce, employees, family or friends) to facing your woes seems far bigger and painful. Imagine having the best day ever, then the next morning you wake up and find that your world has collapsed. For some, this type of day comes along far more frequently that you might imagine.
I first met Dr James Rouse a couple of years ago (first watch this video). I was told to make sure I got to the front of the auditorium and to be as close to him as possible. Hearing from other Serenity financial life planners, I was told of the profound effect which his energy, enthusiasm and vigour had on them.
Aside from being a great speaker, incredibly fit, and full of energy, Dr James is unbelievably generous with his time. There is no ego attached, he goes about his day helping others, inspiring them, and encouraging enthusiasm. I had a great dialogue with him over the course of the conference, which meant so much to me, that a headline speaker would take the time to share his wisdom on a one to one basis.
In the video, James talks about dark days. This made me sit up suddenly, as he is probably the bounciest, happiest person I can imagine. Of course, behind what we show the world, there are frequently very different feelings. We have all heard of unhappy comedians for example.
Here are 4 particular attributes which contribute to dark days, and how to reframe how you are feeling :
- Perfectionism– when no matter what we do is good enough. The answer – to realise that we are all students in life.
- Not Enoughness– where we feel we should be better and we are winging it through life, waiting to be found out. James advocates focusing on just one thing, and doing that intentionally well.
- The Human Doing– we all live busy lives, balancing commitments, obligations and duties. We are all consumed by ‘doing’ that we forget about ‘being’. After all, we are Human Beings, so take some time to just be. Have some time for you.
- Sadness – which sometimes just hits us. We wake up feeling just sad, then wallow in that without any real reason, maybe even beating ourselves up about it. Trying to be compassionate and present with the self is a great way to be kind to that most important person – you!
I hope that you find Dr James as uplifting an inspiration as we do at Serenity.
The next time you have a major issue in your life, once you have dealt with the immediacy and handled what is essential and urgent, take a second to reflect on how you handled the situation. How did it work out for you, how well did you cope, function, and react to what was happening and what needed to be done. The chances are – that you have handled something big and meaningful far better than a less significant issue – let’s have a look…
Dealing with a minor issue
Firstly, you are putting together a piece of flat packed furniture (not IKEA, as their stuff seems to go together really well), nothing seems to fit, a few screws get put in the wrong place, you have to rebuild it several times, you stand on (and burst) that little glue packet which is never any good, and gradually the situation builds to great annoyance and frustration. Tools fly across the room and everyone else in the household wisely stand well clear. Obviously a less than useful reaction to the challenge in hand.
Dealing with a major issue
Secondly, your child is ill, they call out to you in the middle of the night to find that they have vomited all over themselves, their bed, their floor, and are in quite a poorly state. Immediately you jump into autopilot, whatever is going on can be dealt with, and nothing phases you at all – wow, what a reaction.
Surely the big reaction should go with the big problem?
Take a step back, with a rational mind for a moment, what should be the toughest situation to deal with? A bit of flat packed furniture which will not quite go together, or a room covered in vomit and an ill child? Obviously, without any emotional attachment, as a snapshot, the DIY fiasco should be the easiest to cope with, but why is it not ?
Who is this problem really about?
Stand back and ask that question – I am making this all about me?
Take the ill child, the focus is on them, helping them, easing their woes, you dedicate yourself to others, serve them, and aim to make them feel comfortable. Whilst the situation is not perhaps awfully savoury, that doesn’t seem to matter at all, you do what needs to be done.
Turning now to the DIY frustration, this is all about you, your failure, your frustration, your inability to complete the task. Anger towards the ‘useless instructions’ becomes a vent for your anger towards yourself, the annoyance also follows that path. You start to make up stories in your head, spiralling ever onwards into greater and greater anger. It is all about you, and that is where the problem lies.
Is money the same as other emotional experiences?
Yes! In exactly the same way, decisions about money, investing and planning can also affect you in different ways.
Take an investment, if you can accept that the market is the market, and that no-one can predict the future, no clever fund manager can accurately time the markets, and that the person bragging about their ‘stellar performance’ will most likely be talking about a very short snapshot in time, then your investment journey will be far more peaceful (it is about someone or something else – the market not you).
On the flip side, trying to pick stocks, when to buy, when to sell and when to hold will lead you into the DIY avenue of frustration, anger and disappointment (now it is about you and your ego). Key to success is understanding that what happens just happens (that may not sound scientific, but it is true) in the markets, and that by sticking to a well thought out plan is wisest way not to lose money through emotional decisions.
Be it DIY, ill children, investment strategies or anything else which may cause you worry and anxiety, at Serenity we understand that it is about your whole life, not just the money. So remember, take a second to ask yourself ‘who is this about’. See if you are attaching stories to your own emotions and making them spiral out of control. It’s just about you, and most of it is made up anyway.
Is financial planning just about numbers?
Anyone who has ever come into contact with a Serenity financial life planner will be more than aware of our passion for not just financial planning, but financial life planning.
Why is Financial Life Planning important?
That small four letter word ‘life’ may not seem that significant but it epitomises the whole point of all of us being here. The whole purpose of being on the planet is about life, and without that key element, perhaps there is no point, no purpose, and no logic.
In this article in Forbes, George Kinder, the founding father of Financial Life Planning explains the huge difference between financial planning and financial life planning.
What is the difference between Financial Planning and Financial Life Planning?
In short, one deals with people’s money, the other focuses on their lives and happiness first, then sets to work around the money part. In a way, it is comparing living to living life.
Surely investments and pensions matter most?
To quote one of our very great friends Andy Hart of Maven Adviser, ‘no adviser ever got a letter from a pension policy asking for help’.
Surely Financial Planning is no place for emotions
Emotion drives decisions, and decisions drive life, this is when we finally figure out that people’s emotions drive everything. To understand emotions, and ultimately our clients’ drivers through their lives, we need to listen to them, not project our opinions on how clever we think we are.
How does a Financial Life Planning relationship look?
It’s all about having a deep and meaningful relationship with our clients through their lives, not a synthetic relationship with their money for as long as it lasts. Without that deep relationship, we are just continually guessing at what may be best for our clients, guesses which may have a long term detrimental effect on their happiness.
Do you spend your days in pursuit of one commodity , in the hope it will free up more of the other. Do you work to earn more money so you can have more time (some day)?
How did your travel plans for this year work out?
Reflecting back on your recent travels, journeys and holidays, how was it for you? Was it the tranquil, pleasurable experience you had hoped for, or did you experience challenges along the way? Did you embrace the moment, or just endure aspects of it?
Were you a tourist or a traveller?
What’s the difference between a tourist and a traveller?
Travellers tend to enjoy everything, embrace the moment, experience, wonder, not over prepare or over complicate, and focus on enjoying the here and now.
Tourists however, tend to want to tick things off their lists, have to be over prepared, everything planned to perfection, collecting photos for Facebragging and deeply concerned with telling everyone else what a great time they are having – sometimes, to the detriment of their own real enjoyment.
Doing it on the cheap
Similarly, if you have planned a wonderful holiday, are you tempted to lose some of the joy by travelling there on the cheap – budget accommodation, the cheapest transit, overnight journeys or inconvenient flight times?
Why ruin the whole point of your journey or holiday by saving perhaps 5% on the whole experience?
Take a £3,000 holiday, yet you scrimp and save on getting there – maybe a slightly cheaper option to return home overnight when your travel plans suddenly change (would an over-night hotel stay left you feeling fully refreshed for your return). By saving perhaps under £100 (3% on the overall cost) you put yourself to hours of discomfort and lack a sleep – yet the point of the holiday was to relax, enjoy experiences and feel good about yourself. The whole point of the experience has been compromised.
Life is very similar to the tourist/traveller analogy.
Are you just wading through this life, collecting badges, medals, things, almost like living in Pokemon? Or, do you embrace what comes your way, taking in the moment to enjoy everything around you, feeling grounded, experiencing something different?
Is it too much to stop, embrace, reflect and make the most of what is happening around you, taking your time, adapting plans, and enjoying the moment?
Memories are made of new experiences, and being a traveller in life. It is only by exploring the why – why you want to go somewhere, that you then start to look for the real meanings and qualities of your journey, and that, is what Financial Life Planning is all about – finding the point and the purpose – not just being a tourist in life.
Life is far more than just attaining or doing – it’s about enjoying the whole experience along the way.
Do I need a bucket list?
There is far more to life than just having the traditional ‘bucket list’ – here is why…
Don’t just have a tick list of things to do
Take running a marathon, once that is done, do you stop running? Once you have had the holiday of a lifetime, do you stop holidaying, once you have built or developed the ideal house, do you become complacent about it? If you were to become a senior manager of where you worked, would the name badge be your goal? Look beyond the tangible things in life.
There are always reasons why you want to do things
Take running a marathon again, is it bragging rights you are after and to get a medal? To have a focus to keep you training to improve your overall fitness, or to push yourself to the max? Similarly, with travel, is visiting places just an opportunity to say ‘cross that one off your list Margaret’ or are the deeper experiences, memories, understanding and experiences to have? What would that ideal house give you, more than a big house to look at, but perhaps a haven a home, the space for your family to just be. Finally, achievement at work – is the name badge and title really all that matters, or is it that you inspire and lead continually, rather than just puff your chest out feeling important all of a sudden. Once you know the WHAT you want to do, ask yourself WHY you want to do it, and what if you didn’t do it.
The people in your life are also part of this
Your plan, your goals, your vision. That’s all great, focus is a wonderful thing, but not to the detriment of all of those around you. Training for a marathon requires a lot of compromise and balance with your family. The ideal holiday, has to be agreeable with everyone else, and then the key is not to lose sight that it is also their trip and experience as well. Just because it was on your list, does not mean that your view on what should happen is the only one which counts. The house – it’s again key to allow everyone to enjoy it, to find their own spaces, enjoyment, way of living. Overall it is a home, and one for people to feel safe and loved in, not just a pile of building materials. Pursuit of a career without recognition of everyone else leads to huge unhappiness in many families. Leaving home at 7am, returning at 6pm – really, what quality of life is that, and sometimes, it is easy to kid ourselves that we are doing it for everyone else. If you died today, guess what, your boss would replace you tomorrow! Always remember who will be by your bedside when you die.
The experience is fluid
It is great to have an idea, a vision of what it may be like, but remember, that is in your head – it is your reality, but not anyone else’s. A sub 4 hour marathon may need to become a 5 hour one, the holiday may be slightly, or even very different from what you had imagined, the house may not be a new one, but a renovations, a different location, anything could change – what if it is a red door instead of the blue one you had dreamed of? It’s just the portal to your haven – not the end of the world! What if you don’t become a director or senior manager of where you used to work, but rather found something very different elsewhere? Not the pin-striped suited meeting in a glass clad office, full of ego and materialism, but a real influencer, someone who made a difference – to others not just the owners bank balances? Go with the flow, like a river, the twists and turns often bring the most unexpected joy and happiness.
Ultimately, life, and your plan is an ongoing journey
Life is an ongoing development, change, adaption, and experience. Yes, of course it ends one day, but life as it is, is ongoing journey, something constantly changing. Take the marathon, maybe it is a shift to a healthier lifestyle which is the key, yes, the desire of a medal or running for 5 hours is the catalyst, but it is the shift which is the deeper aim. The travel may be to enjoy experiences, to enhance our understanding of the world, to create memories and to have happy times. Picking destinations is the catalyst. The house may be to create a safe haven a family hub, a place where you can all be together, and the career may well be to make a difference to others, which once we understand is not necessarily done with name badges, starts to release that attachment and ego. Life is not a list of achievements, it is a sense of feelings, of messages.
Life is who you are being along the way. So when you compile your bucket list, 101 places etc, start to look examine the reasons and feelings – that’s and is why working with a professional financial life planner is very different from just saying ‘cross that off your list Margaret’.