Do You Spend More Time Looking Back, or Looking Forward?
As we come to the end of what has been possibly the most challenging year in recent memory, it is only natural that many of us are reviewing 2020 in our minds, thinking about the sweeping changes that we experienced: personally, professionally, and as citizens of our communities and our nation. At the same time, no doubt, many of us are peering forward into 2021, wondering what the new year will hold—and probably hoping and praying that it brings better things than the year that is now ending!
It’s important to balance the two orientations, though. Too much time spent in looking backward—especially in regret—can lead to serious mental and emotional health problems, along with missed opportunities. In fact, the regret theory of psychology indicates that too much time pondering past mistakes or regrets makes it more likely that we will avoid taking positive actions leading to better results in the future. This holds true not only for investing decisions, but for many life decisions in general.
Regret can take many forms and can arise from many sources. Best-selling author Daniel Pink has constructed a website where people from around the world have logged in anonymously to leave a record of the things and circumstances they regret the most: the World Regret Survey. Here you can read what people from almost every state in the US and almost every country in the world have written about their greatest regrets in life. If you want, you can even leave your own, anonymous comments. Pink’s website lists regrets that run the gamut from failure to “be present in the moment” to “not spending more time with my children.”
No doubt, it is important to acknowledge those things in our lives that we wish we had done better or differently. But how can we move on from there toward a brighter, more positive future and better decisions? In other words, how can we learn from our regrets and then move on, instead of becoming paralyzed by them?
Life coach Lori Deschene offers several common-sense suggestions for dealing constructively with regret—using it, in fact, as a foundation for a better future. One of our favorites among the tips she offers is focusing on the things you can control. In our financial planning and investing work with clients, this phrase comes up repeatedly as we advise and urge our clients to avoid trying to predict what the markets, the economy, or other uncontrollable factors or entities will do, and instead concentrate on manageable things like asset allocation, disciplined rebalancing, understanding of one’s own risk tolerance, and adhering to a long-term strategy. Spending all our time thinking about what happened in the past places us in the position of focusing on things that are no longer in our control. But if we learn from those events and then turn our vision forward, we can use that knowledge in constructive ways for the future.
Another good tip Deschene offers is focusing on your relationships. If you think about it, this advice is good for almost any time, any place, and any situation. After all, our relationships with others are really more valuable than any asset, any investment, or any pursuit. Relationships are what make us who we are and enable us to support others and contribute meaningfully to the world. When we move our focus outward—toward the other important people in our lives—it also has the effect of moving our orientation forward, toward the future we share with those people.
As we close 2020 and move into the new year, we at Bernhardt Wealth Management (BWM) are beyond grateful for the relationships we have—both with each other, as colleagues, with our esteemed clients, and with the many friends of BWM. We believe that we have learned some important lessons in 2020—and, no doubt, acquired a few regrets—but we believe that all of this has positioned us for better things and more satisfying relationships in 2021. If you are reading this as one of our clients, please be assured of how much we value you and look forward to serving you in the New Year. And if you are not a client but would like to know more about Bernhardt Wealth Management and our uniquely personalized approach to investment and wealth management, we sincerely hope that you will contact us. If you would like to review our monthly newsletters for 2020 or receive upcoming issues, you can sign up here and click on "Subscribe to Our Newsletter."
With every bright holiday wish and hope for good things in the year to come,