Focus on what you can control

Focus on what you can control

February 03, 2022

We have just completed the first month of 2022. For those of us with resolutions or goals for the year this first month may have thrown some wrinkles into your plans. If someone just listened to all the noise from all outlets of social media and news organizations one might find their chance of achieving their goals may already be out the window. The good news is most of the content out there is designed to get your attention and a majority of it is not relevant to you and your unique situation. We believe if you take a different perspective and look through the lens of what can I control or influence; life, your finances and most goals will get much simpler. 

This brings us to the point of reminding everyone to take a breathe, step back and really think about what you can control. In working with clients for the last 22 years and being a parent for just over 11, we all know there are certainly many things in life we can't control. Often, it is always interesting when meeting with clients or talking with friends or family without fail questions will come up about the stock market, interest rates, Congress and our President at that moment in time. We know that these topics and many others like them fall under the category of items you have no control over directly. In practice we find we are not getting enough questions around things that people can control. How is my spending? Should we be saving more monthly? Should we be taking advantage of downturns in the economy? Those are things we can very easily control and we must empower people to constantly focus on the short list of items that is most relevant to them in their financial life.

When reflecting on great concepts to reinforce these thoughts we believe it is captured in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. In the book one of the chapters focus is on a concept of 4 quadrants. For those not familiar with the concept or the book there are 4 key quadrants and one that is most important for people. For our conversation today we are going to focus on Quadrant 2 (the most important), things that are important and not urgent. We understand life happens and things change but if we can work with clients and remind them to stay in this quadrant as often as possible when it comes to their thoughts and energy, we see increased confidence, clarity and calmness.

We believe the fundamentals of financial planning and investing methods used 20, 40 or even 100 years ago often still translate today. This is grounded and built around the core concept of focusing on things you can impact and control. How much are you saving, decreasing expenses and debt, building out a rainy day fund and investing systematically for the future while increasing that amount on an annual basis to name just a few. When in doubt, if we listen to 50% of the things that we download onto our children and did that, we all would be much better off. Some of these phrases may have been said or heard by a few reading this right now, “Don’t worry about other people. I don’t care what someone else is doing. Those things don’t matter, worry about yourself, put in a good effort, have a good attitude.” Once in a while when I get off kilter on a topic or two, I have a wonderful wife who sometimes will say, “Greg, I think it’s time to listen to some of your own advice.”