Focus on Things That Matter and You Can Control

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it."

-Charles Swindoll

A conference just finished up on a Friday afternoon in southern California. My wife flew in and we're going to stay for the weekend. I'm looking forward to boogie boarding for the first time, and I quickly find out that 1) the Pacific Ocean is COLD, and 2) ocean waves can tumble you around for what feels like minutes and spit you out several yard down the beach. It was totally fun!

Earlier that day I just watched the keynote speaker, Simon Sinek, and couldn't get his talk out of my head. He was full of awesome information. One of the aspects of his talk was about how we react to the world around us. 

Assume positive intent. That's the message I got from him. If you're driving and someone tries to hurry up and cut in front of you, do you let that person in or do you speed up and block him? I used to be in the camp that doesn't let him in. The challenge for me is to assume positive intent. It's true, maybe the guy is a jerk, but what if he's unemployed and is late for his first job interview in months because his child got sick that morning? If someone shoves you, do you assume they were trying to intimidate you or do you assume it was a mistake and they themselves were accidentally pushed into you?

Feel free to make whatever assumptions you want, but assuming positive intent will allow you to live a life with far less stress.

This sketch was done by author Carl Richards (used here with permission). It's a great visual to help us remember to focus our time and attention in areas that actually matter. Let's break this down. 

Things That Matter...But You Can't Control

The list of things that matter but over which you have no control and can't do anything about is quite large. This is going to be things like the state of the economy, what rate of return you get in the markets, the unemployment rate, or interest rates. If could be things that impact your life specifically, like whether or not you lose your job, become disabled, or have a spouse die prematurely. If you can't do anything about these events or situations, then they aren't worthy of your attention and you have my permission to stop worrying about them.

For some of these, there are elements of them that fall into the overlap zone, such as our ability to insure for these risks and preparing ourselves for various market environments. So although we can prepare for the outcomes of some of these, we can't control whether or not the outcome occurs. 

If you can't do anything about it, you don't have to worry about it. 

Things You Can Control...But That Don't Matter

Sometimes you do have control over things, and the question to ask yourself is whether or not it matters. So somebody cut you off in traffic. Who cares!? It doesn't matter! Somebody accidentally bumped into you? Doesn't matter! 

In personal finance, you can control whether or not you pay attention to financial news outlets that are in the business of promoting fear, selling advertisements and getting you to take action. However, nothing that comes out of those channels matter to you. 

If it doesn't matter, don't worry about it. Spend your time, energy, and attention in better ways.

Things You Can't Control AND Don't Matter

Sometimes you'll hit the jackpot and stumble upon something that both doesn't matter AND over which you have no control. This is sometimes called gossip. You neighbor just brought home their third new car in four years or your friend just went on an expensive trip - I have news for you, it doesn't matter to you how they spend their time and money, and further, you can't do anything about it. 

Stop wasting your time.

Focus Where It Matters

Focus your attention, time, energy, and money on the sweet spot. You have the ability to pay attention to what matters; your personal economy. You can control your savings rate, what you spend your money on, your aspirations, when you retire, your exposure to risky investments, how much insurance to buy, and how you want to spend your time. Those things matter and are worthy of your time and attention. 

Focusing on what matters increases your confidence, and increasing your confidence increases your satisfaction.

Stop wasting your life worrying about stuff that doesn't matter and over which you have no control. Align your use of money with what you value. Live intentionally.

Read Next:

We're All Going to Die

Keeping Up with the Jones' Is Bad for Your Wealth

Avoid Lifestyle Creep

Buy Experiences, Not Stuff

Align Your Money and Your Values


Simon Sinek: eMoney Advisor Summit 2016 Keynote Speech

Carl Richards: The Behavior Gap


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© 2019 Money Health Solutions, LLC

Thanks for stopping by. I'm Derek!
I help people make smart decisions with their money and their life.
I'm a financial therapist, coach, speaker, and writer who helps people use their money to live the best life possible. My number one priority is to simplify money matters and help you get past what's getting you stuck so you can live life on purpose.

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