What You Should Focus On

October 20, 2010

What You Should Focus On (used with permission)

I recently came across this sketch by Carl Richards of BehaviorGap.com (image and text used with permission)

Carl’s work focuses on helping people to develop smart investing behavior and “how our relationship with money and what we choose to value can impact our lives.”  His website is based around hand-drawn sketches that illustrate financial truths, but every so often those financial truths strike a note of a Great Human Truth that goes well beyond financial management.  The above is one example of that, though if you explore his site you’ll find others.

Carl’s description of the above diagram :

Things You Should Focus On

“Overconfidence is a huge problem when it comes to making investment decisions. In fact, it’s a huge problem when we’re dealing with any issue that has an unknown outcome. It’s clear that we’re very bad at dealing with unknown outcomes, but the biggest problem is that we actually think we’re good at it. We think that we can control much more than we can, and we can actually forecast the future. Often we point to what we view as clear evidence and wonder how anyone that doesn’t see it the same way can be so stupid. Focusing on the things that matter and the things we can control will go a long way to avoiding investor overconfidence.”

My description of the above diagram (from a low stress weight loss perspective)

Things You Should Focus On

Overconfidence is often a problem for weight loss.  Instead of making small changes that add up to big change, a lot of us try “bootcamp” and “total lifestyle change” approaches that don’t match reality to resources – and end with abandoned efforts and a soul-crushing feeling of failing to make change again.  Because so many of us have great amounts of knowledge of what we “whould do” to lose weight, we tend to get hung up in the long list of things we think we should do to lose weight, and end up paralyzed by the thought of changing all those aspects.  We’ll then spend weeks, months, years avoiding making any changes at all because current reality is so far from this ideal “weight loss” phase, and often we’ll keep gaining rather than face what we see as a massive change.  If we do decide to change, we’ll often opt for the extreme of change – bootcamps, hard core diets, etc, and once we fall off our 7 day a week exercise schedule we end up back in the “failure” bucket.

Maybe instead of focusing on all the things you “should” do, or the “ideal” weight loss plan that will get the most weight off the fastest, we should just look for that small area of “What You Should Focus On”.

The choices that will get you to move in the right direction (the “things that matter”) and do the ones that feel manageable right now, with the life circumstances you currently have (the “things you can control”).

We often think that somehow our life will adjust and we’ll be able to do more in the future – or we think that we can control much more than we can, and we can actually forecast the future.  Focusing on the things that matter and the things we can control will go a long way to avoiding overconfidence.  Being successful at some small changes (drinking water, going for a walk, eating more green leafy vegetables, whatever) will give you confidence in your ability to make changes that work, and from there you can build in even more good habits.

Right now, I’m focusing on Regular Exercise.  What Should YOU Focus On?

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