Things don’t get easier – we become more resilient

Life is uncharted. Maps can only be made from where we’ve been – not where we have yet to go.

The only certainty is uncertainty, and we can experience potentially life-altering choices on a daily basis. Each nebulous choice we make brings with it a unique flood of thoughts and emotions. Yet, we generally adapt well, over time, to life-changing situations. This is, in part, thanks to resilience.

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity. As much as resilience involves endurance against difficult experiences, it also empowers us to grow and improve along the way.

Resilience is learned; it involves behaviours, thoughts, and actions that we can all develop. Improving resilience takes time and intentional effort, much like building a muscle.

To increase your capacity for resilience, here are four core components on which to focus: connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning.

Connection

In the middle of challenges, connecting with empathic and understanding people may remind you that you are not alone. Concentrate on locating trustworthy and sympathetic people who can validate (or empathise with) your feelings, as this can help you develop resilience.

Wellness

Self-care may be a trendy buzzphrase, but it’s also a proven strategy for improving mental health and resilience. This is because stress is both physical and emotional. Positive lifestyle variables such as a healthy diet, adequate sleep, plenty of water, and regular exercise can help your body adapt to stress and lessen the impact of negative emotions like anxiety and sadness.

Healthy Thinking

How you think has a significant impact on how you feel and how resilient you are when confronted with challenges. Identify areas of illogical thinking, such as a tendency to catastrophise problems or a belief that the universe is conspiring against you, and replace them with more balanced and realistic thinking habits.

For example, if you’re feeling powerless in the face of difficulty, tell yourself that what occurred to you isn’t a predictor of what will happen in the future. You may not be able to affect the outcome of a highly stressful situation, but you can control how you understand and react to it. Remember, we can map out the past with amazing accuracy, but what happens in the next moment will always hold the potential for something radically new.

Meaning

You can gain a sense of purpose, promote self-worth, connect with people, and tangibly help others by volunteering at a local homeless shelter or just supporting a friend in need, all of which can empower you to build your own resilience.

Resilience is present in any aspect of our lives where we are facing adversity. Be it personal, financial or elsewhere. But the underlying principles of forging resilience are the same. Build a network of strong connections, focus on personal wellness, keep a healthy mindset, and find your meaning.

How to do it in the 4IR

“But we didn’t need it, and we turned out fine.” 

We hear this line more than we should. From tap water to technology, from diets to devices, from gender identification to genetic modification, from schooling to selecting a coach or advisor, our peers and mentors can often throw this line in our face – but we didn’t need it, and we turned out fine.

It can leave our sails windless and stall our engines before we’ve even selected a gear.

But here’s the thing: the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) poses one challenge that previous generations have never had to meet: prolific access.

Access to what? Everything.

One of the significant changes that we’ve seen in the world around us over the last two decades is the overwhelmingly enlarged access to information. Before the profuse use of mobile technology and cloud-based servers, data was stored in books and brochures, libraries and archives, making it harder to access. Now, we literally have the world (wide web) wirelessly at our fingertips. And those born this century have not known anything different.

Information is now so readily available that we have a new challenge: how do we find the valuable information that is relevant to us right now? On top of that, we have comparisons that we could never quickly draw before; like how the stock market performed last year, in 2008, 1998 and 1928. Heck, we can even compare the Bitcoin bubble to the Tulip bubble in 1636.

DIY is no longer about putting up new bookshelves in your bedroom; it’s about choosing, managing and prevailing on virtual shelves (platforms) for social engagement, investing, shopping, job hunting, learning, travel and just about anything else you’d like.

We are overwhelmed, our parents are overwhelmed, our children are overwhelmed.

The expectations are no longer what they were in 2004. Our opportunities are considerably more expansive, and the perceived consequences of ‘getting it wrong’ are infinitely more shareable. Now, the most dangerous words are: “We’ve always done it this way.”

We need to encourage each other to do things differently, to rely on experts, advisers, mentors and coaches to help us navigate this new revolution. These helpful people are not just for the wealthy or well-connected; they’re for all of us.

As our connections grow, we need to be willing to do the inner work of building our character and protecting our values. It’s not about changing fundamental truths; it’s about changing our perspectives about how big the truth really is.

Making decisions in the 4IR is no longer about extracting one choice, it’s about engaging in conversations.

If our feelings could talk

Epictetus, the Greek Stoic philosopher, was the first to say it. “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” But listening is not always about what we hear; it’s what we can begin to intuit. When it comes to our feelings, we have to learn to become more intuitive and listen to what our emotions are trying to tell us.

Our mental health is increasingly under attack, it’s hard to find the time for our own personal growth, development and rest. As our brains get tired, our emotional intelligence and physical stamina both take a knock. The global lockdowns of 2020 held a microscope over our mental and emotional health as we saw startling changes in every system, from healthcare, education, commerce and politics to social engagement restructuring, with sports clubs, gyms, and extra-curricular activities mostly grinding to a halt. 

With very little external social input (and outlet) and reduced creative engagement, we were forced to find purpose and meaning outside of everything we once considered unshakable. We were forced to look inside and discover a host of emotions that are not often talked about outside of therapy. It’s helpful to take these conversations further and find common spaces to change how we think about things that may have a negative connotation for us.

Identifying and talking about our emotions helps us think differently and enables us to act differently. How we make, spend, insure and invest our money are all actions that are strongly influenced by how we feel.

Epictetus also said that we are disturbed not by things, but by the view which we take of them. This means that changing how we think can impact how we feel. Here is a short list of common emotions and an accompanying action that we can choose to employ instead of going out and spending (blowing) money or making poor financial life decisions.

    1. Sadness might be telling me to have a good, long cry. Letting out the tears is a healthy physical release to process what we’ve lost.
    2. Loneliness might be telling me I need connection. It is not about how many ‘connections’ we have on LinkedIn or Twitter, or Facebook. It’s about establishing a conversational connection with someone I can identify with, relate to and trust.
    3. Resentment might be telling me I need to forgive. Forgiveness is more about releasing myself than the other person.
    4. Emptiness might be telling me to do something creative. Rather than going out and buying more stuff, I should take a moment to explore my creative energy.
    5. Anger might be telling me to check in with my boundaries. Checking my boundaries is a proactive way to avoid the same thing happening again.
    6. Anxiety might be telling me to breathe. Breathing slower and deeper helps me become focused on what I can control.
    7. Stress might be telling me to take it one step at a time. I don’t have to do everything at once; I can break it all down into manageable, bite-sized chunks.

Learning to listen to our feelings is an excellent skill for handling all sorts of problems, not only our financial frustrations. It is a skill that will also help us notice what others might be feeling and grow in our empathy and sympathy for them.

Me, myself and Ikigai

From the stoics to the sentimentalists, most have one question in common: What is the meaning of it all?

Searching for purpose and meaning helps us come up with a reason for living. As Aristotle always said, our ability to reason is what makes us different to other animals. This sits at the core of Ikigai, the Japanese concept that speaks to our lives’ direction, purpose, and meaning. 

Quite literally, iki means “to live”, and gai means “reason”.

Ikigai = reason to live

It’s a beautifully simple idea that becomes increasingly complex as we investigate precisely what motivates us, guides our passions and helps us make a difference within our communities. In the Western systems of life, we often follow the expected path that is conditioned into us through our education. We don’t get to ask ourselves why, and more importantly, we don’t always have the structure to know how to deeply interrogate our lives to know what will lead to fulfilment.

Ikigai offers us this structure.

Ikigai is a systematic and cyclic way to explore the abstract concepts of satisfaction, delight, fullness, comfort, excitement and wealth.

The four entry questions we can ask ourselves are:

  1. What do I love doing?
  2. What am I good at?
  3. What does my community need?
  4. What can I get paid for?

For many of us, we only really ask the fourth question even though our colleges, universities and trade schools try to answer the others. But sometimes, it’s not the answers we need, but the permission to ask the questions.

Yuval Harari said that questions we can’t answer are far better for us than answers we can’t question. All the wealth in the world cannot help provide delight, excitement and fulfilment if we aren’t able to ask ourselves what we love doing, what we’re good at and discover what our community needs.

This is where we can begin to define and differentiate our passion from our mission, our profession from our vocation and see how we can integrate them all for a purpose and reason to live. 

This integration enables us to dive deeper into our life and financial planning, giving us key pointers and motivations for our decision-making and helping us communicate with our loved ones. We can decide what is truly important to us and why!

They say that if we want to know what we truly value, we must look at where we spend our money. If this aligns with our Ikigai, then we know we’re creating a healthy structure for a meaningful life.

Discovery and discomfort

It’s nearly impossible to make it through an entire week without glancing at a blog, social media post or newsletter that reminds us about the pervasive and perpetual change in our lives. Hopefully, this blog won’t be one of those to add to the list. Instead, it will help us to identify the benefits of the challenges that we face.

Change can be sparked in so many ways, some of them are by our personal choice, and others are simply the way that life goes. When initiating change through personal choice, we can quickly feel like things should be getting better. We have chosen change that we believe will release us from unhealthy decisions and make our life easier.

But we immediately start to feel the discomfort.

Our journey of discovery, whilst exciting and new, is always accompanied by a level of discomfort. It can feel counter-intuitive. We’re making changes because of discomfort, and as we’re implementing and discovering the change, we’re exposed to further discomfort.

This feeling of discomfort is not bad.

When we’re tired and lacking energy, the discomfort can add to the overwhelming elements of life, but it’s not always a sign that we’re doing the wrong thing. As kids, learning new things is always hard. We accept that there will be a level of discomfort, from riding bikes and learning to write, to adjusting to social expectations and managing changing friendships. And through this, we learn and grow.

As adults, we should never stop embracing the discomfort of learning and growing.

Planning and preparing for change needs to include the anticipated discomfort that we will encounter to bolster our resolve to sustain the change that we want to see in our lives. When we sign up to study, we know that there will be the discomfort of writing tests and exams and presenting our ideas and research to panels of critics.

When we choose to be committed to a long-term relationship, there will be the discomfort of releasing our independence and learning to share our schedules, our hobbies, our interests, our money and our friends with someone else. The same is true of becoming a parent: we prepare for the sleepless nights, the sharing of our home and the increased financial responsibilities.

Any change that is worth the long-term benefit will have this wonderful journey of discovery and discomfort. Changing our spending behaviour, keeping to investment decisions during market volatility, and having better conversations with our family and our money all require personal journeys of discovery and discomfort. We mustn’t let the discomfort deter or distract us from continuing to learn and grow.

Bias and your bank balance

When it’s a question of money – everyone is of the same religion, or so said Voltaire. Like religion, there are many different perspectives on how it helps (or hinders) us. It’s probably one reason why people always say you should never talk about money, religion or politics at the dinner table. There are so many differing views!

It is not to say we should never discuss money; instead, it’s helpful to be selective about our timing and our company. Whilst we may all abide by the same transactional value and guidelines of currency, we will have very different cultural and emotional connections with money.

For this very reason, it’s a powerful conversation focus for relationship counselling, in the same way, that religion is. Our views on money impact every choice we make, including raising a family, spending and retirement.

But it’s not always the views we can see that influence our choices; it’s also the views that we can’t see. These are our biases. And they can profoundly affect our bank balance.

A modern, integrated religious thinker, Brian Mclaren, outlines a number of biases on his blog to understand just how complex our decision-making processes are and help us begin to ‘see what we can’t see’.

Most of us have experienced several, if not all of them, at some point in our lives. Here are a few of Mclaren’s biases.

Confirmation Bias: We judge new ideas based on the ease with which they fit in with and confirm the only standard we have: old ideas, old information, and trusted authorities. As a result, our framing story, belief system, or paradigm excludes whatever doesn’t fit.

Complexity Bias: Our brains prefer a simple falsehood to a complex truth.

Community Bias: It’s almost impossible to see what our community doesn’t, can’t, or won’t notice.

Complementarity Bias: If you are hostile to my ideas, I’ll be hostile to yours. If you are curious and respectful of my opinions, I’ll respond in kind.

Competency Bias: We don’t know how much (or little) we know because we don’t know how much (or little) others know. In other words, incompetent people assume that most other people are about as incompetent as they are. As a result, they underestimate their [own] incompetence and consider themselves at least of average competence.

Consciousness Bias: Some things simply can’t be seen from where I am right now. But if I keep growing, maturing, and developing, someday I will be able to see what is now inaccessible to me.

Comfort or Complacency Bias: I prefer not to have my comfort disturbed.

Conservative/Liberal Bias: I lean toward nurturing fairness and kindness or towards strictly enforcing purity, loyalty, liberty, and authority, as an expression of my political identity.

Catastrophe or Normalcy Bias: I remember dramatic catastrophes but don’t notice gradual decline (or improvement).

Cash Bias: It’s hard for me to see something when my way of making a living requires me not to see it.

Conspiracy Bias: Under stress or shame, our brains are attracted to stories that relieve us, pardon us, or portray us as innocent victims of malicious conspirators.

It’s a hefty list, but if we can begin to identify and observe biases that keep us stuck in unproductive behaviours and patterns, we can ask ourselves: How can I start to let go of that?

This is a journey of progress, not perfection, made richer and more rewarding by the relationships we enjoy and share. By working on our own biases, we will not only improve our bank balances, but we will enhance our relationships and have considerably less cause for indigestion at dinner time!

Win back your weekend

“Where did our weekend go?” Have you ever found yourself asking this question on a Sunday night or a few minutes after hitting snooze for the third time on a Monday morning?

If you do – you’re not alone! Studies show that many people struggle with Weekend Anxiety Syndrome (WAS) or the Sunday Scaries… there are a couple of reasons that can contribute to our stress and anxiety over weekends, and these are generally linked to two key areas: too much sleep and lack of activity.

Yes… that’s right – TOO MUCH sleep and TOO LITTLE activity. It sounds counterintuitive, but as you page through the google search results for WAS, you will find a bounty of research articles that encourage consistency of sleep patterns and positive, restorative activities.

As we slide into Friday, it’s easy to think about all the things we’d like to accomplish on the weekend or deliberately plan to do as little as possible. But as Sunday evening arrives, if we haven’t achieved Friday’s aspirations, we are left with a knot in our tummies and a pervasive sense of failure.

Dr Luke Martin, clinical psychologist and project manager at Beyondblue, says that WAS may be a side effect of modern life. “We’re so time poor, there’s a lot of pressure to get our weekends right,” he says. “On social media, everyone lives the perfect, busy life, so it’s easy to think there’s something wrong if your life doesn’t measure up. On Monday, when everyone’s comparing notes from the weekend, and you feel like yours doesn’t measure up, then your body doesn’t like that, which can cause anxiety.” (dailytelegraph.com.au)

It’s not like our weekends aren’t busy. We complete one task after another (cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking) and then poof, Monday is here! Chores expand to fill the available space, especially if we’re trying to catch a lie-in, an afternoon snooze or binge that series that everyone keeps telling us to watch.

Having read through a few blogs and articles, a few practical ideas can help us reduce our Sunday Scaries and win back our weekend.

  1. Create a weekend bucket list. Chat with those in your home and family and ask them what types of activities they’d like to do over the weekend. These could be hikes, neighbourhood walks, visits to the beach or a local nature reserve. Perhaps it’s to start learning a skill like painting or music, or maybe it’s focussed on things like gardening and crafting. Once you have this list of ideas, plan to achieve one or two every second weekend.
  2. Regulate your sleep patterns. This practice applies to both the weekend and weekdays too. Some research refers to our change in sleeping over the weekends as Social Jet Lag, likening the exhaustion that we feel on a Monday morning to a long-distance flight through several time zones. If we go to bed later and wake up later over the weekend, we will feel tired on a Monday.
  3. Stay off social media. Much of this has to do with the psychological impact of seeing what other people are busy doing. This feed of photos and emotionally engaging content makes us feel like we’re not doing as much as everyone else. It also saps precious time and energy that we could be engaging in those awesome ideas in our weekend bucket list.
  4. Plan ‘weekend’ activities for the week too. In every strategy to get more out of life, we find that balance is a crucial element. If we think that ‘fun stuff’ can only happen over the weekend, we will constantly struggle with WAS. Planning a midweek movie night, dinner with friends, an early evening walk can all fit into our weekly schedules and help us realise that we don’t have to live from Monday to Thursday, wishing it was Friday already.

We can have all the money in the world, but if our life is not fulfilling, our money will mean nothing. When it comes to financial planning, we have to include life planning so that we can make the most of what we have instead of falling into the trap of simply trying to ‘make more’.

Plan to fail

It doesn’t make sense, but we need to have a plan for when things go wrong. 

People love to say that Benjamin Franklin once said that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. It’s not a bad quote, but as the world experiences some of the most significant disruptions in recent history, we know it’s only part of the picture.

This means: we need to plan to fail. Or rather, we need to consider the eventuality of things not going according to plan.

Grounded aeroplanes and harboured cruise liners, stopped conventions and elective medical procedures have left industry behemoths searching for bailouts and financial support. Once financially and emotionally secure, families are struggling to pay increasing bills, some facing retrenchment and unemployment. On top of all of this, we have stressed and strained relationships that no one could have planned for. 

Because we always hope our plans will work out. It’s not nice to think about our plans not working out. The more we learn about our behavioural psychology, the more we learn about planning and managing situations that send our emotions spiralling. 

Sunél Veldtman, founder and CEO of Foundation Family Wealth, recently wrote this:

“Although the four-decade career has been endangered for a while, it is now becoming extinct. The idea of choosing a career in your teens, studying towards that career, and then making progress towards the top of that career ladder, must be shelved.

We should anticipate that these events become the norm, not the exception. We should accept that retrenchments and continuous learning will become part of most careers. We should change the way we plan. There is too little ‘what if’ planning. Too many plans still span four decades of uninterrupted change. If we don’t change the way we plan and think about career trajectories, we are already planning to fail. We should encourage bigger savings pools for the ‘what ifs’ right from the start, discourage straight-line thinking in the midlife and reassure fresh starts after mid-life. We should learn how to contract our spending quickly, and carefully consider commitments with long-term implications like private school education or expensive debt. Change management, continuous learning and resilience are skills that will become as key to our financial wellbeing as it is for our physical and mental health.”

Underlying all of these thoughts, we need to help each other develop a deeper sense of self-worth. Before we lose our business, we need to ask: “Who would I be if I didn’t run this company?”. Before we lose our income, we need to ask: “Who would I be if I didn’t enjoy the bank balance that I currently have?”. 

If our identity is too closely linked to one aspect of our life, we will lose everything if we lose that one thing.

We need to explore what a balanced life truly looks like in our personal context so that we can say:

“I’m not my job, and I’m not my income. I’m not my partner, my kids or my business. I’m not my house, my car or my overseas holidays. I’m all of these things and so much more.”

We’re here to help you manage your financial health, but we know that it’s not separate from your physical, emotional, relational, spiritual and mental health. If you need to have a deeper conversation and plan for when things go pear-shaped, then let’s get in touch soon.

How to make a sustainable change

All of us have moments in our life when we realise that we have to make a change. Sometimes change is something we choose, and sometimes it happens to us, forcing us to find a new way to cope.

Making a sustainable change is something that we can choose – before life forces something worse upon us. As Reinhold Niebuhr’s serenity prayer says:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

We can’t change everything in our lives, but we can change some things. However, it’s not always easy to sustain the change, and this can become a frustrating cycle of to-and-fro that leaves us with a profound lack of serenity.

Change is a process of growth; it’s not supposed to be easy and natural. It’s a process of creating a new natural, and it will eventually become second nature, but getting to that point requires intention, skills and coaching.

STATING INTENTION

For anyone familiar with the 12-Step-Programme, they will know that the first few steps to making a sustainable change involve acceptance. You need to accept that you are responsible for that change that you’d like to see. It’s powerful to articulate, verbally and written down, the changes you’d like to make in your life and accept that you are the best person (the ONLY person) who can make those changes.

This is where we create intention. Without this first step, our efforts will likely fizzle out as our commitment and persistence wane when things get tough.

CREATING A PLAN

Prepare and plan. A friend recently shared his experience of becoming a vegetarian and highlighted how much more time is needed for food preparation and planning. He never thought he could follow a diet that excluded meat, as he was the first to buy a boerewors-roll at the local Saturday market and loved to snack on meaty-leftovers.

Four years down the line, he and his family spend considerably more time planning and preparing meals, and they love it! They’re more mindful of what they’re eating and are living a choice that they’ve made for themselves.

The change was possible and sustainable because they put in the effort to plan meals and do the needed preparation. A bonus of this journey is that they can be more mindful, which is a powerful tool for keeping our head in the game. And, they are able to spend quality time together as a family when they prepare food together

Whether it’s changing your diet, your spending habits or spending less time on social media, planning and preparing your world around you to LOOK different will help you BE different.

SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT

As we look at the example above, another element of their success in embracing a different diet was that they had the support and encouragement of each other in the family. They decided to make the change together.

When it comes to your changes, you don’t necessarily have to have the support of those in your family, but it certainly helps. If your family are not on board, seek out thought leaders or influencers who have the same mindset – they’re a great source of encouragement, and they add credibility, as they most likely did the research!

People who support you help you hold onto the hope of what your changed future could look like; they hold you accountable to the goals that you’ve set for yourself and help you develop your potential.

Above all – remember this: you are not alone. You’re not the only person to want to change your debt situation, change your eating habits, your sleeping habits or bring more balance to your life. Find out, speak out, reach out and begin to see sustainable change in your life.

It’s Hue-Guh, not Hoo-Gah

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh, not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment as cosy, charming or special. This can happen whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary. It’s about how the event makes you feel, not the event itself.

From Danish cookies, cheese and pastries to their culture of simplicity, politeness, and equality – they should have a pretty good sense of how cosy-charming-special truly feels! And, when life is handing us bagfuls of lemons, it’s encouraging to know that there’s a word for how we can adopt a strategy to cope; hygge is a fresh, yet traditionally sound, system to consider.

In Danish, it means “to give courage, comfort, joy”, but in the Old Norse, it stems from the words used for “to think” and “hug”. It’s an active word that quite literally wants to embrace. It’s a word that affirms everything will be okay, that we’ve got this, and that we’re going to make it through to the other side.

Hygge helps us find and acknowledge comfort, contentment and wellbeing in the current moment, and not feel like it’s an unobtainable future feeling. It’s wise to consider this when we look at our life plans. Planning can be very future-focussed and, if we’re not careful, transport us out of the present and into a future that may or may not happen.

But joy is found in the present; it’s not something that we work towards. Joy is something we choose for today. We shouldn’t be planning to be joyful; we should be planning from a place of joy. This is how we can muster up the courage to be present and not panic about tomorrow.

Courage is resilience put to the test. We’re living in an age that is calling us to be more courageous and more vulnerable. The awareness that courage and vulnerability go hand-in-hand is so new that many large businesses are still restructuring their leadership cultures. They hope to connect on a more engaging level with their teams and find more fulfilment, more hygge, in their corporate culture.

Hygge reminds us that it’s okay to wear track pants today, to stay in those comfy old socks and work from the couch. It reminds us that comfort foods (those cookies, cheeses, pastries and pasta…) help heal our emotional and mental states. It can be as simple as lighting a candle and surrounding ourselves with people and things we love.

We don’t have to swim upstream all day, every day. We need to take rest days, personal health days and pamper days. It’s about the attitude of comfort, not the cost of conformity.

Give yourself a hug – take a Hygge-Day.