Based on Nielsen’s Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions from January 2015, many of us would like to be more organized. But like losing weight or becoming more fit, we have a tough time doing it. That’s probably why it ranked #6 in the resolution ratings. It’s overshadowed by becoming healthier and happier, but it beats out reading more books. (Clearly, Nielsen didn’t ask us about the reading thing, lest we skew the results.)
As we emerge blinking from the holiday season, it probably doesn’t take any stretch of the imagination to feel that you’re just too busy to have time for tidy living. Fortunately, a Harvard Business Review interview of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” gives us some ideas on how to get past that stumbling block. The interview title says it all: “No One Is Too Busy to Be Creative.” But how is that so? How can we make time for creativity, in our lives in general and our financial affairs in particular?
Follow Your Curiosity
In her interview, Gilbert observes: “When people say that they feel ‘stuck’ or ‘blocked,’ they usually also mention that they’ve lost their passion.”
This sentiment applies particularly well to wealth management. Unless you’re a financial advisor – and even we have our days – it’s hard to get too jazzed up about the care and maintenance of your assets and interests. You’d rather be out spending and enjoying them, right?
Gilbert’s suggestion is to replace the tall order of passion with curiosity: “We live in a culture that says ‘passion, passion, passion’… but that can be hard to find when you’re tired and busy. Instead, ask yourself: ‘Is there anything that I’m even 1/8 of a percent curious about?’ … If you can consistently do that, not just once or twice, but every single day, and be diligent about following your curiosity wherever it leads, you’ll find that creative spark.”
So, instead of feeling like you must take on every possible financial to-do task at once, pick one or two smaller questions that spark your curiosity and connect the dots. Are you still on track to achieve a particular financial goal? Are your life insurance beneficiaries current? Is the policy itself still relevant? In satisfying your curiosity on these smaller items one after the other, “getting organized” may nearly take care of itself.
As a bit of an introvert, I can relate to the question of how Gilbert balances the time it takes to interview and collaborate with others, with the time she reserves for her writing. She describes how solitude and social engagement are like “the inhale and the exhale – they go together.” She continues: “There’s a season of collection, and then a season of reflection.”
We could make similar observations about well-organized money management. It helps to take time for the logistical details – such as gathering, inventorying and culling your paperwork – as well for reflecting on the bigger interests that define what you’re about to begin with: How do you define “wealth”? Does your approach reflect you and your lifestyle? Are you and your spouse on the same page, or close enough, with respect to your financial goals?
Be Bold … But Ask for Help
As another “Gilbert,” early 20th century theologian Gilbert K. Chesterton wisely observed, “[T]he chief object of education is not to learn things; nay, the chief object of education is to unlearn things.” In other words, before you can take on new skills, sometimes you must be open to objective critique about some of your older ones.
For that, Gilbert observes that it’s important to give yourself permission to fail. “The freedom to fail – as long as you’re failing in interesting ways – makes for tremendous success.”
With respect to your money management, we agree with that … to a point. If you need to get out of a financial-planning rut, you may have to break away, or “fail” at some less-advisable habits that you’ve been embracing so far. But to successfully fail, along the theme that Gilbert suggests, it can help to partner with an advisor who is practiced at helping families like yours envision and pursue their better financial selves. This is our aim as we seek to educate investors on what they may need to “unlearn” along the road to their financial well-being.
In an upcoming post, we’ll turn to some of our favorite tangible tips for helping you get a New Year’s leg up on organizing your financial interests. Until then, stay curious!
Sage Serendipity: In the writing world Neil Gaiman is a master of all: comic books, novels, young adult novels, film and television writing… In his blog post New Year’s Wishes and Gifts he shares some old and awesome wishes that are worth revisiting. One of my favorites — “[D]on’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”