It’s early in the New Year and already major media outlets have impinged on the peace many people felt as they gathered together for the winter holidays. The angel songs are quiet now, the families far dispersed. The lively lights are turned off. The bills are coming due and the news of the day covers issues so large that many people just feel small and out of focus. We turn on the TV or computer to see what is happening on the world stage. We feel dwarfed by global warming, brutal wars, strange weather, the endless cycle of loss.
But lingering in the realm of watching does no one any real good.
Here are seven things we can all do to maintain focus, improve our finances and enhance our mental health.
One: Stay in touch with your higher power, every day and as often as possible. Most of the world’s known religions all center on the same basic “golden rule, " according to Karen Armstrong, author of “The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions. " That rule is to treat others as you wish to be treated, first put forward by Confucius, 500 years before Christ. Armstrong also notes that all religions are “about practice, not about ideas or concepts. " Every one has gifts. The practice of gratitude expands your gifts and your life’s possibilities. Your higher power is your most precious resource, by whatever name you pray and to whom you give thanks for your daily gifts.
Two: Fight the “fear factor" that threatens to overwhelm the gifts of good people by the sheer deadening power of negative repetition. We all experience fear, but many thinkers today simply define fear as “false evidence appearing real. " When you take the initiative, you make the plan, you revise your own plan, you increase your chances of achieving what you want. Olympic athletes, artists and inventors, successful entrepreneurs and investors all overcome their exaggerated cautions and take calculated chances, using time and practice to train themselves to excel.
Three: Make your plan tight but flexible by centering it on only a few key goals. Examples could be “I will increase my giving by 1% each month this year. " “I will increase my saving by 1% each month for two years. " “I will find a creative way to enrich my mind by taking a course, or volunteering, or making a home improvement, or going regularly to the library to learn all I can about a subject that interests me by next December, " or “I will learn another language by the end of this calendar year. "
Four: Ask yourself what you would like said about yourself at the end of your life. Write down three key things. Where can you adjust your life a little each month of this year in order to get closer to your ideal epitaph?
Five: If you had a fortune right this minute, and could spend it any way you chose, what issue confronting the world would you address? What would you change about your home, neighborhood, city, state, country, the world? Why it this important to you? Write down three compelling reasons.
Six: What steps can you take this month and this year to address those compelling reasons without “a fortune" by writing, calling, hosting, inviting, challenging? Write down a few of these steps next to each month on your calendar.
Seven: Decrease the amount of time you spend “watching" the world, on TV or hand-held devices or computers. Devote the time you save to taking action to increase your savings with a part-time job, or enhance your marketability by studying, or help solve one of the problems we all face by volunteering.
If you stay in close touch with your spiritual Resource and take a few specific personal actions to improve your world and increase your material resources, in that order of priority, you will feel just fine. You’ll discover that working your plan is one of the most powerful mental and financial health tools you can apply this year-or any year.
Simone J. Nathan, author of “Going For Gold After 50: An Illustrated Guide to High Probability Investing" and co-founder of GA50, LLC, founded to improve saving sensibility and financial literacy.