*This post was originally published on June 25, 2018
Perspective. It’s essential to leading a happy life, and it’s most definitely essential to obtaining AND maintaining Financial Freedom. But sometimes we all need to sharpen our angle of view.
I’m not talking about perspective in the sense of having an opinion on a given topic. I’m talking about perspective in its most literal sense. The ability to position yourself in a manner that allows you to see the object (topic/situation) in question both clearly and accurately.
Perspective in that sense is a quality few people naturally possess. For the majority who do have it, it’s a skill set they’ve built and developed over time and life experience. Exposure to a broad array of lifestyles, circumstance, life events and hardship can provide an individual with the ability to take a very big step back. To bring things clearly into focus.
Not just comparative to their own individual life experiences, but in a much more global way.
A Scarce Commodity
Unfortunately this type of perspective is also a perishable skill, meaning even once you’ve built it, it requires ongoing effort to maintain, or you risk losing it entirely.
It’s why people who travel to help in impoverished locations around the world often return with a degree of calmness, and increased perspective. They now compare their day to day lives against what they’ve just seen and experienced.
Those experiences constantly remind them of just how fortunate they are, how much worse things in life could be. How a little traffic congestion really isn’t all that bad. Return to that same person a few months later, when they are back to being immersed in western culture and our day to day “needs, stresses and hardships”, and that sense of calm understanding can be hard to find.
Or the person who’s had a near brush with death. Seeing the fragility of life in an up close and personal way produces a clarity like nothing else can.
Or conversely, consider the business savvy CEO who seamlessly manages the stress of their job, guides their company through successful growth, all while multi-tasking and optimizing every available minute of their day.
Yet in retirement that same CEO experiences immense stress because his neighbours lawn isn’t being properly maintained and it’s bringing down his property value (even though he has no intention of moving).
It’s built on what you surround yourself with, and the demands that are placed upon you.
Lessen the demands, or decrease the exposure, and every single one of us is at risk of adjusting our perspective to the new “norm”.
It’s easy to have razor sharp perspective as a bystander. You have a built in degree of removal. And when you have that distance, perspective requires just an average degree of reasonableness.
To apply the same degree of logic and reasonableness to your own life, to detach yourself from your own emotions, personal biases and investments. When you are the person at the centre of the situation, that takes a whole lot of developed perspective.
And that’s exactly the kind of perspective that we should all be seeking to build on our journey to Financial Freedom.
Willingness to venture outside our own social circles, neighbourhoods, income bracket, or day to day life can bring endless opportunities to build that perspective substantially.
Managing our stress, our priorities, our needs vs. wants, if we want to do those things well, we have to mindfully develop our perspective.
We have to be aware of our inner dialogue and catch ourselves when negative self-talk or feelings begin to bubble to the surface. Feelings like self-pity, victimization, unfairness, undue hardship, disadvantage, sacrifice or simply being overwhelmed. When those feelings start to arise, it’s almost always a sure sign we are losing our perspective.
If we stop to consider that people in our very community are struggling to put food on the table for their kids, or grappling with life threatening illnesses, it makes the decision of whether or not to cut our next latte or slash our dining out budget, feel a lot less like a sacrifice, and more like a luxury that we even have the choice.
When it comes to reaching for Financial Freedom and succeeding, divorcing ourselves from negative feelings, emotional biases or knee-jerk reactions is crucial to successful decision making and the willingness to pursue and seize opportunities.
After a career in which I spent my days interacting with people experiencing the worst moments and losses of their lives, perspective was something I couldn’t help but build. But as much as my job brought me exposure to a wide array of lives, the resulting perspective wasn’t always the most balanced.
Similar to watching to much media coverage, my day to day exposure was to heavily weighted to the negative, and with it went my perspective.
When your exposure tilts heavily to one side, your perspective can go right along with it.
So just as it’s important to diversify in your investing approach, it’s equally as important to do so in your life experiences and exposure. It’s important to see the good, the bad and the ugly of the world in order to maintain a balanced perspective that retains it’s accuracy.
You don’t want to overdo it in any one category.
Losing my perspective in retirement has been an ongoing concern of mine.
My daily experiences have changed drastically, and with it my constant exposure to stress and negative experiences has diminished greatly.
I really love our new life, but I’m also acutely aware that as my stress exposure goes down, my threshold for managing stress is likely to be steadily lowering.
To combat that, I watch my self-talk closely. Particularly in times where there are added stressor’s in play. When I find those feelings of overwhelm inching upwards, I know that its time to take a couple steps back and regain sight of the bigger picture.
The Bottom Line
If you find yourself balking at cutting expenses, feeling overwhelmed by your job, resentful that your budget didn’t have room to accommodate the latest style of designer shoes, or down about staying home during a worldwide pandemic, pause for a moment.
Take a breath and a step back from the situation. Look out to the world, and what others are experiencing.
Then ask yourself if you are applying a balanced perspective to your situation. You might just find yourself looking at things through an entirely different lens.