“It's not what happens to you, but how you respond to it that matters.” – Epictetus
So many things in life come down to a question of perspective. Someone told me a long time ago that we find what we look for; whether we expect things to go well or go badly, that’s the way that they’ll turn out. I’ve come to believe that the truth in this statement lies, not in the fact that positive people have better luck, but in the fact that when you keep your focus on the good, you always find something to lessen the impact of the negative.
Keeping a positive perspective is especially important when it comes to finances. We tend to attach a lot of emotions to money and not all of them are positive. Often our financial health is very closely connected to our emotional well-being and any kind of financial strain can very quickly impact our mood and raise our stress levels. Keeping a positive perspective when it comes to money can help you overcome periods of financial stress more easily, partly because it reduces the emotional impact of the situation and partly because it allows you to find creative solutions to resolve it. A positive perspective can also help you build wealth and create financial success because you will see money as a tool to be managed and nurtured rather than an unpleasant challenge to be wrestled with.
Over the past few months, I’ve read a number of books by or about people who have achieved great success. Every single one of them faced challenges along the way and, although the challenges were very different in nature, there were similarities in the perspective each person approached them from that I think can be applied both to finances and to life in general.
Expect the Unexpected
Life throws curves and often those curves come at a time and from a direction that you just weren’t expecting. This is just as true for positive changes as it is for negative ones, but in order to be able to ride the waves we have to be prepared to allow ourselves to be pushed in a direction we didn’t plan to go. In every scenario that I read, it was the person’s decision to accept the situation and move forward that marked the starting point of their future success. Resistance is not only futile; it can make a tough situation even tougher, especially when it comes to money. We can't control the waves but we can learn to ride them.
Each person had an unwavering belief that everything would work out in the end and this meant that, even in the middle of a crisis, they never felt complete despair. Having just the faintest glimmer of hope can be all that is needed to get you back on track or inspire you to find a new solution to an existing challenge. Belief is a critical component of setting and achieving financial goals; especially when those goals are bold enough to take you far from your current situation. If you believe in your goals you will find a way to achieve them and you’ll inspire those around you to believe in them too.
Act in Spite of Fear
Fear is the brain’s way of deterring us from doing anything unfamiliar in order to keep us safely in our comfort zone. While this warning system can do a great job of protecting us from pain, oftentimes the warning is a false alarm that keeps us from uncovering our true potential. For many successful people, fear is simply a sign that they’re moving in the right direction; if all their research and their gut instinct tells them that something is right then acting in spite of fear is what’s necessary to take them to the next level. This is absolutely true when it comes to finances. I’ve written before about the theory that everyone has a comfort zone with money and it’s this comfort zone that can put the biggest limits on our financial success. The consequences of building wealth are overwhelmingly positive but they can also be overwhelming to someone who is just at the beginning of their journey and can’t quite wrap their head around the reality of having what they are building. When we get to a point where taking the next step is intimidating, it can be tempting to stop short; to settle for something better than what we started with but less than what we are capable of. Acting in spite of fear is what takes us to our biggest goals and allows us to feel good about the journey.
When I look back on my life, it’s very clear to me that some of the events that I thought were absolutely disastrous at the time have, in the long term, actually impacted my life in a hugely positive way. It really is a question of perspective. Choosing not to focus on the negative aspects of life’s curve balls allows you to rebound from them more quickly and with a more positive outlook. It’s said that when a door closes, somewhere a window opens. The challenge is that the window is often much less obvious than the door and whether you choose to dwell on the closed door or to look for the open window is what makes the difference between staying put or moving on. This week why not spend some time considering those things that are causing you frustration, stress or pain; if you’ve been looking too long at a closed door, perhaps it’s time to look for the window?