Bobby McFerrin has words of wisdom for us as we near the Fiscal Cliff. I think he gets it right in his song “Don’t Worry Be Happy”:
McFerrin’s song came out in 1988, after the Black Monday financial crisis of 1987, during which the Dow dropped 22% in a single day. By the end of October 1987, worldwide markets were down 23-46%. That fiscal pain was still reverberating in popular memory when McFerrin’s song debuted. I used to think the song was trite. Today I’ll guide you through the liminal dimension from worry to happiness to illuminate the wisdom of McFerrin’s words.
You financial advisors who are CFP® practitioners have the additional responsibility of adhering to a fiduciary standard of care for your financial planning clients. No matter how you arrived at this added sense of responsibility, consider these additional lessons we can learn to help us face the 2012 Fiscal Cliff:
I’d like to suggest some key lessons we can derive from Felix Baumgarter’s recent 24 mile, 4 minute 20 second free fall dive:
Baumgartner and his team knew that he had to overcome claustrophobia from confinement in a pressurized suit for five hours. Baumgartner went through psychological training to overcome that. He had trained on being “happy” even when he was confined within that suit for hours before his attempted free fall. Being happy is, in fact, a choice!
Current brain research* has demonstrated that smiling authentically actually changes our brain chemistry. Smiling initiates the release of endorphins, serotonin, and epinephrine. These neural transmitters counteract the negative effects (tension, elevated blood pressure, perspiration) of the fight-or-flight hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. You will actually feel better and create a more positive atmosphere in a client meeting if you go in “happy.” Your client will, in fact, catch your mood!
Recognize what is under your control.
Baumgartner knew that once he donned his pressurized suit, he only had control over his mind and his actions. The weather, the inflation of the helium balloon, the judgments and actions of the scores of mission control experts were outside of his control.
You can choose how you will show up in a meeting. Are you in a good mental space? You can choose how thorough and careful a job you do in developing a comprehensive plan for your client. You can choose to remind them of their past decisions and how you’ve helped them arrive at those planning and investment choices. You can choose to be proactive in reaching out to clients most susceptible to concern about the Fiscal Cliff. In truth, you can control many factors!
Acknowledge what is not under your control.
Baumgartner could have easily focused on all the potential things that could go wrong with the jump: tearing his suit, getting into an uncontrolled spin, blacking out. Instead, he focused on what he could and had to do, moment by moment, as he plummeted to earth.
Here are just a few things that you want to shut out of your mind because they are not under your control:
- what the President and Congress do (or don’t do)
- what the new tax rates will be
- what the markets do in response to the smallest sound bite
- what your clients’ reactions are to that news.
Baumgartner has a plan for life after his five-year, record-setting journey. He plans to become a helicopter rescue pilot.
At the end of the day, you also have to have a plan. What is your plan for living? How do you want to appear to others after a day at work?
*Newberg, Andrew, and Mark Robert Waldman, How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist, Ballantine Books 2010, pp.151-2
Take some time to learn about the power of the smile to unleash your best self with this Wall Street Journal video.
Share in the comments:
What gets in the way of your choosing to be happy? How can this self-knowledge help you in work with your clients?