The Fear Factor – Making Smart Choices in the Face of Fear
Even the most fearless among us have been faced with uneasiness over the last few months. With an unprecedented global pandemic facing the entire world, it would be nearly impossible not to consider the “what ifs” invading our senses posed by the COVID-19 virus. Right now, it’s important to remember that fear is a natural condition of our human experience. Whether you face the emotions of fear frequently or you make little room for doubts and anxieties in your life, fear exists for a reason.
How much attention should we give to fear? It depends. Have you ever tried teaching a child not to do something – for example, not to touch a hot stove – only to find out that regardless of how many times you warned them, they had to accidentally touch it to understand why they shouldn’t? Fear, brought about by the actual fear of consequences, causes us to pay attention sometimes when little else will.
Unfortunately, the problem many adults face is that as we mature and deal with more and more fear, we grow more to fear most the fear itself. We can become so afraid of feeling fear, that we stop even trying to figure out the source of that fear and the ways to move beyond it.
I’ll admit, I was triggered to think through this fear thing as a financial planner while helping clients handle their investments through this pandemic. It’s no secret that the market’s been volatile, and my team has been very busy fielding questions on how to manage finances right now. It got me thinking about the decisions we make at the height of fear, thinking we’re doing something good in the heat of the moment. It can be hard to imagine that there are times when purposely doing nothing can actually be the best choice.
I’ve had the opportunity to observe different personality types and their responses right now in the face of uncertainty. I can say with confidence that the people who do not take extreme measures with their investments as a knee-jerk reaction are seeing more favorable results. In fact, this is a key time to keep an eye on your goal. If you’re embarked on a journey to the top of a mountain and put fear in the driver’s seat, you’re more likely to make sudden reactive decisions and drive right off the cliff. Whereas staying the course, and steadying your nerves understanding the bigger plan, you are more likely to continue on confidently to enjoy the views at the peak.
I’ve always been a proponent of identifying and using your own powers of choice – and if there was any time to practice making informed choices, it’s now.
How to move through fear with perspective when facing financial threats:
- Be curious. Curiosity leads to questions, and questions lead to information. What is the threat to you? What are the levels of negative consequences you could experience? How likely are you to experience these – realistically? I’m not suggesting you minimize the threats – just gather the facts and be realistic. Then assess how to be prepared.
- Understand what you can control. Much of fear is born of uncertainty. You can’t know, or control, everything. But you can pay attention to your thoughts, actions, feelings and beliefs. The more you understand and prepare for what you fear, the more confident you will feel in yourself and your financial outlook. What more, staying calm allows you to see more clearly the opportunities that may appear – opportunities for new or continued growth.
- Stay connected. While this outbreak has created more distance between us physically, I’ve noticed more efforts to stay connected through the power of technology and other creative endeavors. We all have a LOT of questions, and we depend on others for reliable answers. Be sure to connect with those who provide you with trustworthy advice. Most everyone is just a phone call away right now.
- Take action – but do so rationally. Maybe you didn’t have 6-12 months of expense savings to rely on as furloughs swept through your workplace. Or maybe you have realized just how much you spent on daily coffees from the drive-thru now that you can’t go. It’s ok. But start making changes now to better prepare if (hopefully never) another dire situation arises. If you’ve realized you aren’t prepared for a major life or job emergency, now’s the time to talk to someone about how to change that – and then start doing it. Don’t find yourself saying, again, “I wish I had been better prepared.”
Again, the greatest asset we have in creating our financial future is the power to choose. Choosing to understand and even prepare for fear helps you to move through it more easily, making room for new and continued growth.
Until next time, I wish you health and happiness.
Securities and Advisory Services offered through Harbour Investments, Inc. Member SIPC & FINRA.
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