We’ve all heard the bad news – the next 12-18 months will be one of the toughest periods in our economic history, certainly in the last 30 years. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, let’s focus on the upside. Even in bad times there are opportunities. Perhaps the best opportunity is to use this current crisis as a reminder to return to the basics. This means focusing on the quality of our life, rather than the quantity of our investment accounts or the size of our house.
So let’s take a look at the basics that my parents taught me, updated for the new millennium and striving to “Making Life Count!®”:
1. Live within your means. Build a budget and live within it. If you are in the workforce, save money from every paycheck you earn. I made $13k annually in my first job – and saved $25 from every paycheck. It can be done. Save and invest with a purpose in mind – what do you want your money to do for you?
2. Work hard, play hard. As I was packing to head off to college, my father, who left the bulk of the “parenting” duties to my mother (fairly typical in those days) pulled me aside and gave this advice. “Get good grades, but make sure you have fun. Don’t spend all your time studying.”
Updated for our adult lives in these hectic times, this translates to work-life balance. Work-life balance has become a huge topic in our society as we try to balance careers, family, church, community, and recreational activities. My dad’s expectation started with doing your job well but also having fun along the way. So while you build a strong and successful career, it also means prioritizing your time so that you lead a well-rounded life.
In this 24×7, always-on society, we need to establish boundaries and ensure that we are living a FULL life, not just living to make a fat paycheck. One could argue that time, not money, is the most precious commodity we have. We each have 24 hours each day – that hasn’t changed.
What a great opportunity! How will you choose to use your time? Will you commit to performing your job well but in a way that allows you to enjoy life? Don’t make yourself to work 24×7. Set boundaries – by blocking out time — with those you work with and stick to it. Strive to eliminate non-productive activities in your life. Plan fun activities.
3. Be the best you can be – don’t squander your talents. If you were lucky like me, you grew up with siblings. Remember when your parents used to say “why can’t you be just like ____? ” (fill in the blank with your sibling’s name). OK, this wasn’t the lucky part. While my parents may have occasionally slipped into this language, the over-riding message I received from my parents was to be the best I could be. I wasn’t as smart as my brother or sister, nor as athletic as my other sister; yet my parents instilled in me confidence and challenged me to always do MY best – give my best effort at whatever I undertook.
This holds true for all of us throughout our lives. We all have unique talents and strengths. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others but rather to our POTENTIAL. How are you using your human capital – your unique blend of strengths, skills and experience – and are you maximizing those? That should be your benchmark. An unbiased, trained executive coach can help you in reaching your potential.
Are you the best you can be? What could you do to strengthen your skills and/ or build your experience? It is so satisfying when we know we are doing our best “work.”
4. Focus on what you can control. None of us can control Wall Street, or the overall economy or unemployment rates. So don’t waste precious time worrying about these things. Spend your time and energy on what you can control.
Growing up, I could control my behavior, how I treated others, what effort I gave at my schoolwork or sports, and how I spent my time. Hmmm, while life is more complicated now, I still control all of that, perhaps with higher expectations placed on me by family, co-workers and/or society. But as an adult, you can control:
• the effort you put into your job performance
• where and how you apply your talents, including within your career/job, community, family, and friends
• the effort you put in improving yourself and your skills (see above)
• how you treat others. Instead of being tied to your phone and texting every waking second, perhaps you should unplug and talk to people, particularly the people most important to you.
5. Do the right thing. If all the bankers and mortgage people had done the right thing, versus the greedy thing, would we be in this mess? This isn’t about what the rules say and what you can get away with within the rules. I suspect your parents, like mine, taught you what the right thing is. And this is one “new” basic that hasn’t changed at all.
So take this time of uncertainty and focus on what you can control and strive to improve your entire life in. It’s a great time to clarify what is most important to you in Making Life Count!®. We’re here to help you with that journey as you re-visit the basics.
For more information, visit our website at www.makinglifecount.com or contact Joni Lindquist – firstname.lastname@example.org, (913) 345-1881.
Photo credit: photosteve101 / Foter.com / CC BY