“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
Every experience in life comes down to perspective. There is always more than one way to look at any given situation; more than one way to improve it and more than one way to make it worse. Our perspective, our attitude, our experiences, our self-belief and our motivators all play a role in how we approach and deal with any situation. This is especially true when it comes to finances.
Last week I wrote about the advice I would give my 16 year-old self if I had the opportunity for a financial “do-over”. Several people commented via social media that they would have sought out more business/financial education and a number of others agreed that sometimes our most painful lessons turn out to be the most powerful.
Related article: What financial lessons would you “do-over”?
One of the greatest gifts of working as a financial advisor is the opportunities I’ve had to sit down with people of all ages and hear their life stories. Their experiences, their challenges, the smart decisions (and the not so smart ones) are like glimpses into the future; hints about which moves lead to success and which moves don’t. While we may not have the chance for a financial “do-over”, we always have an opportunity to change our financial future for the better and to improve our current situation. It’s all a question of perspective; if you look for an opportunity to change, you’re sure to find one. Here are some suggestions:
One of my money mentors is fond of the saying “I don’t want to know what you know. I want to know what you don’t know!” It’s a great perspective because it keeps his mind wide-open for new ideas, insights and opportunities. He’s very much a left-brained thinker (and a smart businessman) so it takes a decent amount of research to convince him that something is worth pursuing. However, if he decides to take on a new venture you can be pretty sure that it will turn out to be a smart move.
Related article: Do you have a money mentor?
For many people though, the idea of embarking on a new venture is scary. When it feels as though the world is constantly changing, it can be very easy to get intimidated by new ideas and new technology. The problem is that, if we choose to ignore all the resources and all the opportunities that are out there, we risk limiting our financial future. If we choose to jump into a new venture without doing our due-diligence then we also risk losing everything we’ve worked hard to build. Minimizing the risk of making a change means arming ourselves with knowledge, asking questions and seeking information from those who’ve successfully navigated the path we’re considering taking.
It’s simple math. The more wealth you build, the more opportunities there are to use that wealth to build even more. Whatever your age and your financial situation, you won’t go far wrong by eliminating your debts and boosting your assets.
Related article: Principles of saving money
It’s not enough to save though; you also have to have a plan and a purpose for your savings. The most successful people I know didn’t build wealth by tucking their money under a mattress or in a savings account; they found opportunities to put it to work.
Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) is one of my favourite mottoes and one that’s particularly apt when it comes to facing fears and charting new paths. It’s a myth that the only way to build wealth is by leaping into a get rich quick scheme. Most of the wealthiest people I know built their wealth steadily and strategically over time. This is ironic when you consider how many people spend years waiting for their “big break”; that one idea, opportunity or lucky event that will catapult them into the big leagues. The reality is there are opportunities all around us to build wealth; we just need to have the knowledge and the resources to take full advantage of them and the commitment to stay the course.
Related article: Building wealth is simple, not easy
No matter what your situation, there is always a way to improve it. One of the most rewarding things about being a financial advisor has been watching that spark of excitement ignite in someone when their perspective shifts and they see the possibility and the opportunity that exists to make their financial future stronger and more rewarding. I’ve been fortunate to meet a number of people who have challenged me to look at the world differently and, as improbable as it sounds, I’ve seen what people can achieve when they start believing in (and seeking out) the opportunities that surround them. It can be hard sometimes to shift our perspective so that we’re looking at the horizon rather than our feet (especially if we’re in a group of people who are all staring at their feet!) but at the end of the day, the only way to reach a goal is to define it, focus on it and walk towards it.
Related article: Setting goals and financial priorities
Whenever I talk to people who have achieved success in areas I want to be successful in, I usually find that, even though there is lots of common ground in the way we each view and approach life, there are certain key differences between their perspective and my own. Often it’s these differences in perspective that have helped them achieve their success and this is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about being open to seeing the world differently and learning more about how other people see the world and approach their goals.
While the idea that a change in perspective, through building, learning, and doing more could help lead to financial success, we need some tips on how to get started. I can sum up my own experiences over the past 14 years in three words: Vision, Proof, and Persistence:
When it comes to goal setting you have to have a vision of what it is you are trying to achieve and what your motivator (the reason why you want to achieve your goal) is. Part of changing your perspective is allowing yourself to envision goals that are bigger and bolder than you have set before. Walt Disney once said “if you can dream it, you can do it” and I think he was absolutely right. Having grown up in a country with a deeply ingrained class system, I had very limiting beliefs about where I “belonged” in the social hierarchy and what it was “appropriate” for me to aspire to. As I learned more about money, wealth and the principles and psychology behind building financial success, I had to abandon a lot of the ideas that I’d been raised with in order to absorb the new concepts and new opportunities I was learning about. The fact that I already had a reputation in my family for being a little impulsive didn’t help; they saw (and still see) a lot of the new concepts I was exploring as just another example of my “impractical” approach to life. I love my family dearly but I know the chances of them ever truly understanding or believing in what I’m working towards until I get there is very small. When you start to change your perspective it’s important to surround yourself with people who understand and support your vision because this helps reinforce and strengthen your new perspectives, boosts your motivation and increases your chances of success.
Strategy: Set SMART goals that are big and bold. Surround yourself with people who support and believe in your vision. Don’t take it personally if people you care about don’t totally understand/support what you’re trying to achieve. They will when you get there!
In life we find what we look for and this can be very powerful when it comes to changing perspective. Have you ever had the experience where you’re looking for a new car and as soon as you find a model you like you suddenly notice them all around you? Our brain is conditioned to look for patterns and similarities and this is just as true for new thought patterns as it is for new vehicles. When we change perspective, we have to find evidence to support our new viewpoint and also find evidence that challenges our old perspective. One of the most powerful strategies I’ve found when it comes to taking on a new perspective is to actively look for reasons that my old viewpoint was flawed. It can be a little uncomfortable (after all, who really likes to be faced with a pile of evidence that they’re “wrong”?) but it’s also a great exercise for helping you deal with naysayers because it leaves you with a strong sense of why your new perspective will better serve you and a stack of reasons why their viewpoint might also be flawed!!
Strategy: Find evidence that your new perspective is serving your goals (e.g.: people who have achieved what you’re working towards; evidence of how your life has/will improve as a result of your new perspective). Reinforce this positive information by finding evidence that your old perspective no longer serves to benefit you (e.g.: five years from now where will you be if you don’t make a change?). Write everything down – this not only helps lock the information into your subconscious, it’s also a great thing to re-read if you start to question your choices.
It takes 28 days to create a habit. Building a new perspective is no different than creating a new fitness habit. The first few days will be tough, then it will get easier, then your initial enthusiasm will wane, things will crop up that tempt you to go back to your old ways and you’ll really have to dig in to maintain your momentum and power through the first month. Once you’re past the 4 week mark, it will get easier and more natural and, before you know it, your new perspective will feel like second nature. The first 28 days are crucially important when it comes to any goal so do whatever you can to set yourself up for success.
Strategy: Remind yourself at the beginning and end of each day why this new perspective will benefit you. Revisit the evidence you found to support your new viewpoint and look for more. If you find yourself questioning what you’re doing or doubting yourself; take it as evidence that change is taking place – remember there’s no comfort in a growth zone (and no growth in a comfort zone!). Spend time with like-minded people who support you and share your insights and celebrate your successes with them. It makes the process a LOT easier!
I think Einstein had it right with his definition of insanity. If you’re not satisfied with your results, how might changing perspective benefit your financial future? Where will your focus shift this week? What steps will you take to make your goal a reality?