How much of your life is in your control?
Probably a lot less than you think.
But how you respond to this uncomfortable reality can have a huge impact on your financial health.
Think for a moment about all you actually control. Did you, for example, determine the parents you have or where you would be born? Did you decide to be male or female, tall or short, bald or hairy, gregarious or shy? Did you decide your race, nationality or birth order?
Author Stephen R. Covey introduced me to the idea that all of us have aspects of our lives over which we exercise: (a) no control; (b) some control; and (c) full control.
No control. I have zero control over how long Nick Saban will coach the Alabama Crimson Tide, when or if another hurricane will hit Louisiana, or whether the stock market will rise or fall over the next twelve months If I drew a circle representing all the things over which I have no control, it would be a very large circle indeed.
Some control. I do have some control over the state of my marriage, my health, the direction of my business, the quality of my friendships, and the size of my retirement account. A circle representing the things over which I exercise partial control would be much smaller than the “no control” circle.
Notice that most of the things over which I have some control depend on me cooperating with other people. A healthy marriage calls for cooperation with my spouse (one person). A growing retirement account requires the cooperation of the financial markets over time (lots of people).
Full control. I have almost complete control over when I set my alarm, the foods I eat, the exercise I get, the efforts I give to my job, the time I spend with friends and the amount of money I set aside for retirement. A circle showing the things over which I have (almost) “full control” would be quite small.
I think you’ll agree most people spend excessive energy obsessing about things and people over which they have no control. This worrying and fussing is the stuff of social media rants. And truthfully, it’s a colossal waste of time.
However, there are those few, wise souls who remember the limited control they have in life. And rather than complain, they use that reality to turn their attention to the things they can do.
As Covey points out in his writings, when you concentrate on what you can control, you actually increase the amount of influence you have over things in your “some control” category.
Financial control means coming to terms with what is in your power and focusing on that. Think of all you can do when it comes to money. You can plan. You can pay off debt. You can save. You can invest in a disciplined manner. You can purchase adequate insurance to protect your family against life’s big risks. You can make a will.
I’ve seen it happen countless times. When clients focus their energy on the things they can control, they find more and more situations (over which they have only some control) seeming to tilt in their favor.
Markets reward regular, disciplined investors. Great financial opportunities present themselves to those who have money saved up and set aside. The person who has planned is always better equipped to adapt to life’s out-of-control surprises.
We control very little in this life.
Since that is the case, the wise thing is to devote our attention and ours actions to the things we can control.
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