We have a friend who's a devoted fan of his university's football team. When he watches them play, he wears a team hat and hopes they win. When they lose, he puts the outcome in perspective. There's always next week. It's only a game.
But he didn't used to be this philosophical.
Several years back he was truly a fanatical fan. He was deeply invested in the outcome of each game. He disliked the opposing schools and their fans. He detested his team's longtime rivals like a personal grudge. And when his team lost, which they did regularly, he'd spend the following week under a cloud of negativity.
One day he realized he was subjecting himself to misery for no reason. Why was he investing so much energy and emotion into something over which he had no control? His yelling and arm waving had no effect on the game. Even worse, he saw that his obsession with a sport played by college students was detracting from his ability to function well in life.
Amy Morin, writing for Inc., says that many people cannot accept the brutal truth that they have no control over many things that happen in life.1 So instead of accepting that there are many things they cannot change, they try to fool themselves into thinking they have more control than they actually do over nearly everything.
"They think that if they can gain enough control over the people and situations they find themselves in," she writes, "they can prevent bad things from happening."
As an investor you don't have to look too far to find things to worry about. In your news feed is story after story of national and global situations that threaten to wipe out the market and your nest egg along with it.
Unfortunately, when your coping mechanism is to grasp for control, you often end up causing more harm than good to your long-term progress toward retirement.
The solution isn't to pretend that bad things can't happen. But instead to focus on what you can always control, and that's your response.
The great stoic philosopher Epictetus expressed it this way, "When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it. It is not the things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance. Things and people are not what we wish them to be nor are they what they seem to be. They are what they are."2
A great way to see things for what they are is to get a prudent, outside perspective. That's a role your trusted advisor is happy to fill for you.
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