Recently my family spent a week in Haiti together, helping brighten the day for 63 orphans. We shared Bible stories, went to the beach, and even made it snow on the Caribbean island! A trip like this helps put a lot of the things we worry about in perspective.
1) Maintain proper perspective: What I saw was consistent with what I heard recently from Dan Ariely, a Behaviorial Economist, who found that 84.4% of the world’s wealth is owned by the top 20% of the world’s people1 – most of us reading this blog fall easily in this category. In my family we are learning to identify most of our problems as “first world” – they may be irritating or require our time and attention, but they largely do not ultimately impact our long-term lives significantly!
What’s this mean for an investor? Well, many of the worries and concerns you may have when you listen to the news, read the newspaper, read your favorite blog, or just talk to a friend are “first world problems” – ones that don’t actually have much impact on your long-term financial health.
2) Small actions today can make huge impact down the road. We worked with a family that has served orphans for years. When the earthquake hit, they had 20 orphans under their care. The entire building collapsed, killing one child. Yet their family survived intact; they moved out of Port Au Prince to Jacmel, and kept reaching out to needy children. They now have 63 children living with them, with another 20-30 joining them daily at the school they started to help support their growing work.
For you and me, it’s a reminder that doing the small things today create greater opportunity and impact tomorrow. Perhaps you can save an additional $100 starting next month — or add something extra to your mortgage payment to eliminate debt sooner. Maybe you start gifting to your children or grandchildren, guiding and training them on handling wealth so they are in a position to make great choices when you pass the inheritance to them. Perhaps you start volunteering at a local charity, giving of your time and money while you are still working, preparing for a larger impact when you stop working full-time.
3) A smile costs nothing. I was amazed at how quickly my four daughters had the children smiling and laughing, despite not knowing a word of Creole! It’s been said that “a smile is the same in any language,” and we saw the truth of that statement.
Do what you can – and don’t worry about what you can’t do or can’t control. Maintain focus on your plan, keeping the “noise” in proper perspective as you faithfully execute the small steps that allow you to make steady, consistent progress toward your goals.
So, enjoy your family and friends today, maintain a grateful heart, and keep your eye on your long-term goals!
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