Over the past sixteen months, very wealthy individuals from Wall Street to Main Street have seen their financial portfolios decimated. They have been forced to make significant lifestyle cutbacks just like everyone else. Even millionaires can get anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed in the midst of a financial earthquake. As we approach Thanksgiving, it's a good time to take stock, re-examine your ambitions and values, and give thanks for the spiritual, as opposed to material, gifts your life has provided.
The clients who come to me for therapy and coaching on a weekly basis are not just Wall Street executives. During a typical week, I work with successful lawyers, doctors, athletes, musicians, and creative types, who need some support when reality fails to measure up to their expectations for success. The funny thing I have noticed is that my very successful male and female clients were more rattled by an abrupt loss of income than my less well to do clients. Many of these individuals had experienced failure for the very first time in their careers and weren't emotionally prepared to deal with it. Equally, for the wealthiest of them, their self-worth was intricately tied up with the money they had accumulated. My less affluent clients, on the other hand, were more prepared to accept the financial drought as a momentary setback, and believed that they would survive regardless of how difficult times got.
Though few individuals like to admit it, how they think of themselves is often shaped by how much they have. When our economy was thriving, a great many successful individuals indulged in the best that life had to offer and sought after the nicest material items that money could buy. But for many, these material possessions and spending patterns ultimately became core parts of their identities. And when reaching financial and professional milestones trumps all else, other areas of an individual's life may suffer: personal growth, emotional balance, relationships with loved ones.
With this in mind, it's important to follow three simple rules going into this holiday season. They will help to insulate you against an innate inclination to overinvest in purely financial and professional pursuits.
Don't Let Success Go To Your Head: When your business returns along with your swagger and money begins flowing into your bank account, it's time to stop, think, and conserve. When money is not a problem, many individuals make the mistake of buying excessively and rationalizing their indulgence. When you are succeeding, think about creating a cushion for yourself for those times when things go bad.
Diversify: Many advisors I have treated are addicted to work. Consequently, they don't spend a great deal of time focusing on how they are feeling or on the emotional needs of their spouses or romantic partners. If you over-invest in your work and ignore the rest, you are liable to suffer for it. Be sure to pay attention to your own emotional triggers — like feeling hopeless, helpless, or out of control — your family's needs and your own health and well-being. You always tell your clients to diversify their stock portfolios and investments. You should do the same with your time. When the chips are down in one sector of your life, it is always better to focus on one or more areas that are operating at full strength. Don't put your ego into one basket!
Watch Your Expectations: Even when you think that you've reached the pinnacle of your career, your expectations may fail to match up with reality. Getting to the top is an important goal for anyone in business, but it is imperative for those who have made it to be aware of how much further they may have to fall. Take out your calculators. Happiness = Reality/ Expectations. This formula is meant to serve as a reminder that it's better to be cautiously optimistic than to be wildly so. Lowering expectations even a little bit can be difficult for Type A individuals, but it will be better for you in the long run than letting your expectations run away with you.
If you follow these guidelines for living and enjoying your life, you will be better able to weather any economic crisis in the future. You will be armed with many more buffers against stress, disappointment, and failure. Consequently, you will be emotionally able to perceive setbacks as invigorating challenges.
Dr Alden Cass is a New York City-based clinical psychologist and performance coach for Wall Street advisors, traders and bankers. For more info visit competitive-streak.com.