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The Intermediate Guide to Change

At times it can feel like life is just one big adjustment period.  One thing after another requires our attention and energy. And, most times, it seems that all we're ever doing is adapting and adjusting, rethinking and reconsidering.  You know why? Because we are. 

Because all life is, is change.  Change is all there ever was and it's all that there ever will be. 

But why is change for many of us such a "pain point?"

Mainly because change opens us to a state of "not being in control" and of things not meeting our expectations. 

Taking that on faith then there's really an immutably simple way to manage the "pain point" of change. 

First, realize that not being in control isn't necessarily bad and that not being in control is probably the most normal state of things.  If we can learn to accept the fact that we're not always going to be in control, maybe not being in control would be less painful. Reconciling in our minds that control is a shared resource would help us all a lot. Sometimes we have it and sometimes you don't. 

Second, why don't we give up on expectations?  Expectations are a story that we've told ourselves. It's how we've planned "it" out in our minds.  You know it's true, you've done it, I've done it, we probably did it today. We "walk" through in our mind how our day is going to go, or how the conversation with your boss will play out or,  what our child would tell us about how they see their future playing out.  We had it figured out in advance, we knew exactly how it was "supposed" to go. Only problem is, it didn't go that way did it? It seldom ever does. Deviations from our story are just that. Our story was in the end, only one possible outcome, not the only one. 

If we could learn to view change as opportunity, we might be farther down the road on our own solution. 

So here's the thing.......

Look at change as opportunity and get comfortable with not being in control and not knowing. Learning to live with uncertainty is a necessary part of life. 

 If all there's ever going to be is change, our adaptation to it is central to building toward a stronger future. 

The Bad Thing About Good Advice

Good advice is seldom understood or appreciated.

And, I think that there's a good reason for that. The reason is that what makes for good advice is often viewed as a "bad" thing. 

Seth Godin recently wrote about the attributes of good advice. 

I was drawn to the posting I guess, because "good advice" is what I envision that I do.  And, because I am naturally inclined to learn and I can always benefit from good advice, so I read the posting to see what the takeaway would be. 

No matter what you do, be it advisor, parent, teacher, mentor or leader, I think that this piece has in it, a few "gems" I think we can all benefit from;

  • Good advice is not what you want to hear but what you need to hear
  • It is not imaginary, but practical
  • Not based on fear, but on possibility
  • Not designed to make you feel better, designed to make you better

Those points resonated with me. 

The problem however, remains this 

  • People are prone to want to hear what they want to hear, not what they need to
  • Absent a degree of "social" or other proof, fallacy masquerades pretty well as "fact" allowing for the imaginary to crowd out the practical
  • Avoiding fear prevents a relationship with the possible
  • Feeling better is usually going to be preferred over "making you better"

I see it all the time. 

If the original blog were the reality, there'd be more people planning their lives based on what needs to done, what's practical, what's possible and what will make them better. 

There just isn't much of that going on. 

There needs to be more. 





The Natural

In a recent blog post on The Financial Underground David Allen, world renowned productivity expert and founder of Getting Things Done (GTD) talks about a "natural" decision making process in personal finance. Unfortunately, he also talks about how we use this natural model in our day-to-day lives but fail to use it when it comes to big decisions. This weeks info-graphic lays out the natural method of solving for financial progress. 

The All Too Tentative First Step

We know what it is that needs to be done. And, we know what needs to be done far more often than we give ourselves credit for. 

We stumble over roll-outs,  and we leave meetings having not said what we knew needed to be said.  Cautiously, we avoid topics, skate across conversations and drive-by decisions that should have been made. Our projects linger, our deadlines come and go and the opportunities we once had, we may have no more. 

What are we waiting for?  We're waiting for the rescue. We frequently wait for reinforcements, or “the right time” or someone else to open the door to the next step. 

My sense is that if we own the issue we own the answer. 

Read more about taking the first step no matter what options “waiting” might offer. 

Leveraging The Unexpected

I can't take credit for this weeks blog topic. It actually is a quote from Jim Collins, noted author of books such as "Good To Great" and "Built To Last."  And, his use of the phrase wasn't a title to a blog, it was a question..."what's the best way to leverage the unexpected?"

And it got me to thinking.

Let's start with a simple premise.  If you don't know what you're doing or why, or; you don't know where you are or why, the question changes doesn't it. It changes from "what's the best way to leverage the unexpected" to "how can you possibly leverage the unexpected?"  Right?

To optimize change; you need to know where you are. 

To optimize change; you need to know where you are. 

I mean, to my way of thinking, there's always this inexorable linkage in life. One task relates to one action which relates to a bigger set of actions, that relate to a goal. Leverage by design I think, pre-supposes that you've got something "in hand" that you can "multiply" in some way in the effort to create something new, bigger, better, clearer or some other positive descriptor you can use. Leveraging it appears takes two "things" a known and energy of some sort, be it thought or action, which we then apply "on" the known. 

Here's the problem though. Most people don't really know where they are (financially almost for sure) or what they're doing (not in an arrogant sense, in a pragmatic sense. I'll assume most people know what they're doing, though often not why). If that's true then the reality is that you can't really leverage the unexpected because you know not what your energy should be geared towards multiplying. And, hence the problem.

Financial advisors often talk about "controlling what you can control" as central to success and it is. My suggestion would be that one of the things that you can control is learning how to figure out where you're at, where you're headed and why.  I say that for two reasons: (a) if you don't know, any road will take you there and (b) if you don't know you can't leverage the unexpected. And, call me a fool here but I'm just about dead certain that the unexpected will show up and more times than we care to admit. 

If the only constant is change and if that constant has a "will" of it's own, then we control only a small fraction of life's changes. Which, by design, means we can leverage very little change.

So, among those things that you can control, spending, life choices, how long you work, where you live, what you own, what you save...let's throw one more thing on the list.

Your ability to adapt and prosper from the unexpected.  

All you have to do is take control of it, and there's help for that. Start with defining where you are. 

The First Step Toward Success Is Defining It.

In his post on Leadership Freak, Dan Rockwell draws some pretty stark comparisions between new beginnings and the wealth management process. I guess that's because the two are so similar. 

"Clarity instills confidence."

Questions are always more powerful than answers. What are your questions?

Questions are always more powerful than answers. What are your questions?

"Are you reacting aginst or reaching forward? Reacting seldom takes you where you want to go."

These are also quotes from Dan's blog post; "10 Questions That Give Vitality To New Beginnings."

As the realm of personal finance has come to grips with the fact that the return on the markets might not always be the thing that takes you where you need to go, they've finally latched on to the two things that can make a difference in financial success or failure, namely; controlling what you spend and planning. 

Every day it seems, more and more articles are written on why it's important to know what your future will cost, if for no other reason than if you don't know you can't ever tell if you've got the money to afford it. 

Most times, clients look at the effort of planning for their future and see the work it might take and it scares them away. What they need to see perhaps is the clarity and confidence. Most times, clients come to me to solve a problem and yet, the conversation is about reaction, not about reaching. 

If you're unwilling to do the work necessary to define success, it would appear to this observer that your chance of stumbling upon it may be harder than you think. 

And later than desired as well. 

The first step toward success will always be defining it. The next one will be measuring it.