Focus at the Intersection of Matter and Control

Key Takeaways

  • People who can stay focused on what really matters to them and on what they can control tend to be happier, more productive and more fulfilled.
  • If you often feel frustrated, powerless and helpless, you might be focusing too much on things that don’t matter and things you can’t control.
  • Money does not guarantee happiness, but it does help you reach your goals faster and more easily if you’re focused on what’s important and under your control.

Contact me any time to discuss life and money matters that may be causing you to feel frustrated, powerless or helpless.

Have you seen the movie “American Sniper”? It’s based on the true life story of Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper), one of the deadliest snipers in U.S. history. Cooper’s character is very conflicted because doing what really matters to him—saving the lives of fellow soldiers, Marines and sailors—requires him to extinguish the lives of many other people—enemy fighters.

The sniper’s focus is on a very small space—things that really matter to him and things that are under his control. And believe it or not, that’s the way it is for many of us. There are things in our lives that really matter to us and that we have control over—but it’s a very small area. Unfortunately, we often get distracted by the many things that don’t matter to us or that we can’t control.

What really matters to us?  

Saving money for financial independence is a good example. So is raising good children and making sure our estate is in order so we can, after we pass away, give to our heirs the way we intend.

What we can control? 

We can control saving money. We can control our tax bite to a certain extent. We can control our cash flow needs. Then there are things that we really can’t control—the markets, the media and the weather. And then there are the things that just don’t matter. Look at all the bad behavior we see on those TV reality shows. It shouldn’t matter to us and, if it does, it just takes us down a bad road.

When it comes to things that don’t matter and are out of your control, you can’t let them frustrate you or make you feel powerless or helpless. I know it’s hard. It happens to me sometimes. But, people who can stay focused on what really matters and on what’s really under their control tend to be happy, productive and fulfilled. And yes, money does matter because it helps us get to goals faster and easier.

A simple exercise for taking control of your life

Take a piece of paper and put four column headings at the top:

  1. Things You Can Control
  2. Things That Matter
  3. Things You Can’t Control
  4. Things That Don’t Matter

Write down three or four items in each column. Don’t spend more than 60 seconds on each. Now take a look at your money and your life. If you’re often feeling frustrated, powerless and helpless, you might be focusing too much on things that don’t matter or on things you can’t control. Switch to focusing on what really matters and what you can control. It will make a big difference as you go through life.

So until next time, enjoy.

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