In a country obsessed by having to be the best, the top, the champ—where second place is no place—we discount the idea of working just to improve incrementally.
Just because we cannot all be billionaires doesn’t mean for one second that we cannot live a rich life, filled with comfort, happiness and satisfaction. The idea is to get beyond perfect and work on just getting better.
Nothing worthwhile—training to run a marathon, losing weight, taking strokes off your golf game or saving for retirement—happens by accident and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. Making changes, even small changes, begins with a decision to move out of your comfort zone towards something worthwhile.
When Jane and Tom came to see me, they shared a determined look.
“We have ignored our financial lives for the last 40 years and now we’re scared,” stated Tom.
“Ok,” I said, “tell me more. Help me understand what’s going on.”
Jane answered, “I just know that all our lives, we’ve made money and spent money and never thought too much about it. We’ve had ups and downs, but we always seemed to be able to do pretty much what we wanted.”
“The fact is, I’ve tried my best, but I really don’t know too much about making good financial decisions. While I am really good at what I do, I just don’t have the knowledge to make sure we can get there,” Tom said.
“Where’s “there”?” I asked.” Any changes you make have to be aligned with what you both care MOST about. Have you discussed what you value most?”
“Do you mean, have we actually sat down and talked about this specifically? No, we haven’t. Do people really do that?” Jane asked.
“In making potentially big changes, you both need to be in agreement about your mission. If not, failure is pretty well assured.”
In the course of this conversation Jane and Tom came to realize that there was no quick fix. But they learned that by shifting their focus onto the areas that are most important to THEM, they could start making decisions that matched their mission.
“We’re not used to talking about money and making these decisions together. What if we don’t agree?” Tom asked.
“It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it won’t be—ever. But your situation will get better and better with practice. If you don’t agree, then you both have to agree to do nothing until you find common ground. After all, the decision of one impacts both, so you both must agree to whatever ground rules you establish to make decisions based on your values. Does that make sense?”
They both nodded.
Success—whether in your money life, health, fitness or anywhere where mastery doesn’t come easy—requires you to take one step before the next. Each step towards your goal is important and necessary. It doesn’t have to be perfect—and likely won’t be. But “better” is better than nothing and brings you closer and closer to what you’re really after.
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