The events of 2020 came fast and furious to all of us- both the external events, and for many of us, very personal internal ones. It’s not an understatement to say that most people went through some level of trauma as the world rocked. Social scientists are predicting rapid change over the next 1 to 3 years as individuals make big changes in their lives in response to the last year. Many people describe what they lived through in terms of trauma. However, that same trauma has triggered so many people to really think about their lives to determine what is most important and what needs to go. In other words, the stress of the trauma can also stimulate personal growth.
Conscious Living is a core value that is critical to good financial planning. If you don’t know why you are doing what you are doing, you are going to waste a lot of resources- money, time, relationships.
One way to live consciously is to slow down and stop to reflect on who you are, what you are doing, and why you are doing it. The rapid alteration of how we had to live last year forced most of us to do this.
But stillness and reflection aren’t comfortable for most of us. We are called human beings, but that was a marketing mistake- we probably should have been called human doings! Because of this, it is very easy to have knee jerk reactions and make expensive life changes that won’t get us any closer to what we need. But we want to just DO something! Someone may want to quit their job, move, divorce, marry, ship their kids off to military school- well, you get the point. How do you make changes that help you live more consciously versus ones that you may regret? We have a system of thought for this.
First, do nothing. We always joke with new parents that for the first year the baby is born- do nothing. Just enjoy the little person. Do what you absolutely need to at work, and at home, but you are in the midst of massive change, which means you are personally changing. Just absorb it. This is also true for ANY massive life change, not just having a baby. A death, divorce, retirement after a long career- these are all times to soak in the transformation. You’ll know when it’s time to move again if you are really paying attention to how you feel. When it feels less important to make changes, that’s when you are probably ready.
As you are still, think backwards and forwards. Thinking back, what has brought you joy in your life and why? As you think forward, what are the dreams that you have held your entire life that you still hold dear? Did you always want to live on a beach? So, what are you doing in the Midwest? Can’t leave because of the family/job/community? Then how do you get more beach time? You may only see one way- BUY A BEACH HOUSE! But the reality is, there are many ways to get more time on the beach. And maybe it’s not really the beach you want, but tranquility one gets from being on the beach. Figure out what you are really trying to solve for, not the solution- yet.
Next, evaluate what you get from what is in your life right now. What do you get from your marriage, your job, your relationships, your location? Your relationships may be stagnant, but what are the positives that each of them gives you? Where do you need to spend time, and which ones should be left on the back burner? This is a way to identify the items that are most important NOT to change. It is always tempting to throw the baby out with the bath water but going too rapidly could make you lose something critical that you still need and want (so don’t send those kids off to military school just yet).
Now it’s time to become an explorer to dig deeper into what needs to change. After evaluating yourself and your current life, it’s time to start brainstorming. You think you want to change your job. Do you also want to change your career? How about your purpose of what you give back to the world? Or the method in which you give it? The more aligned who you are is with what you do with your days and your contribution to the world the more content you will most likely be. At this stage, you can start putting ALL ideas down. You can narrow them. You can backburner ideas that are great, but don’t feel right for now. Then, you can timeline it all. Crystalize what the vision of both what changes and what stays the same at this stage.
Then, make a plan. Pull all of this together and add the details. Talk to your family and friends. Listen to those whom you trust the most as they give you input and support. Match up your finances to the new lifestyle and goals. Get the help you need. Make sure it’s doable without threatening everything else you hold dear. Stress test the changes and adapt the vision where necessary. When you have it so well defined, it may surprise you how fast and simple it begins to come together. The stars may seem to align.
Going slow, especially after a trauma, can feel wrong- especially at first. It can feel like it’s dragging out the trauma. It certainly doesn’t feel like growth. It can instead feel like stagnation. But it’s not. It’s conscious living. It helps you make sure you are not sabotaging your life plans for freedom, security, and meaning with an impulse decision. It can be a great way to stop the chain reaction that can be caused by chaos. It can put you on a stronger path than you were on before the trauma. Conscious living eventually feels strong, even though it’s a little scary when it involves change. But you deserve to live this way after all you have been through.