We’d all love to have more certainty in our choices and life in general. Unfortunately, that’s just not how the world works. Uncertainty is everywhere as we go about our daily lives. We’re only going to have so much information before a decision is necessary. So, what do we choose? Do something now, do something later, or ignore it indefinitely and maybe it goes away?
Each action or inaction has its own costs and benefits. Easy decisions are those that don’t require a ton of thought as predictable results often arrive. As the stakes increase and the costs of being wrong become more expensive, uncertainty can override our thinking. This can lead us to question our beliefs, keep us from growing, and be a distraction that drains our energy.
I believe preparation helps manage uncertainty. The act of preparing allows you to focus on inputs and steps of all sizes you can take. Preparation is personal as each of us defines what we value most. Our next steps often reinforce our habits and beliefs OR create doubt and empower the uncertainty around us. Preparation won’t remove all uncertainty, but it will increase your confidence and knowledge. How?
By doing the work before you show up, proves you’re ready. For athletes, it’s putting in the reps around diet, mobility, sleep, and perfecting their craft so everything is rehearsed. Nothing should come as a surprise. Countless hours are spent training the body and brain for their event. This creates the opportunity for great things although there are no guarantees.
For investors, preparation requires clarity of purpose and accounts, timelines, cash reserves, and patience. Achieving your financial goals will never arrive via a straight line. Following a repeatable schedule each year, then the next, then the following, allows investors to increase their clarity on what they want. Clarity leads to confidence and minimizes regret. Without a roadmap and sherpa supplying direction and feedback, you may not arrive where you intend to be.
Preparation includes thinking about decisions from various angles and even putting yourself in another’s shoes to imagine their perspectives. Reconsidering your opinions and being open to change, this is not easy. Reading books on a variety of topics and applying themes to your priorities can increase readiness and prepare you for what’s next.
All our decisions tend to build on top of each other, so the base needs to be strong. When we slow down and think about what we want, and how best to achieve it, we strengthen our preparation. Then when uncertainty increases, you can rely on your actions that have gotten you thus far. No guarantees on the outcomes, just peace of mind knowing you did the work necessary before showing up.
I’ve found November to be a great time to reflect and prepare for the new year. It’s a time to be thankful, a time for reflection, and a time to take an honest assessment of what’s working (and what’s not). Currently, I’m evaluating business and personal goals, athletic/health/wellness, and financial metrics. Spending time being grateful while desiring growth and improvement helps me manage uncertainty.
For years, I’ve looked back and completed reflections to increase my awareness and prioritize areas I need to improve in. I credit James Clear’s book Atomic Habits for clarifying the questions I’ve been asking myself for decades. He says it better than I do, specifically:
What went well this year?
What didn’t go so well this year?
What did I learn?
Spending time answering these three simple and deep questions can change you. It allows you to revisit what’s important, what’s not, and adjust your behavior so you may get closer to what you want. Setbacks and disappointments can stick with us longer than we’d like. Uncertainty would like to keep us stuck where we are and have us lean on excuses.
Preparation allows us to take control, focus on inputs, and reduce the uncertainty that surrounds us each day.
Thanks for reading and have a great Thanksgiving with friends and family!
Advisory services through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge and Flowerstone Financial are not affiliated.