I remember clearly when I took the CFA Level One exam. I hadn’t passed a single practice test and the exam was coming up that week. I could feel my heart breaking. I had begun to panic. I told my father that I felt as if I had failed already and wasted 300 hours of my life. He said to me, “Sara, the pursuit of knowledge is never ever a waste of time. You have only gained.”
That single comment changed the game. Yes, in fact, just the action of studying for the test had made me a better person. I ate better. I was more focused at work. It was like the pencil was sharpened to a fine point whereas before it was dull. I was thrilled to challenge myself academically and though I sometimes fell short of my goals, I felt I had grown a few more brain cells just by expanding my ability to think. And the financial skills I gained, they were going to be there with me no matter pass or fail on exam day.
In the face of challenge, I had been looking at the glass half empty rather than half full. I had lost my sense of gratitude for all the positive changes in my life that had come about as a result of this scholarly undertaking. It was my Gratitude Calculator that was broken, not my TI82 calculator.
With this refreshing outlook, I felt less pressured, more relaxed, and most of all thankful for everything the CFA program had done. And though it was a struggle, I passed the test.
So, listen up everyone out there in a rut, anyone who is stuck. Maybe you started a business and you can’t figure out how to sell your product. Perhaps you don’t get along with your boss or a coworker so you got a negative review or in trouble with HR. Or maybe you have been at the same job for years and mentally stagnated in a pit of mediocrity so your bonus got cut.
When we want to get somewhere where we think we should be and we can’t, we forget to appreciate our passion for the thing we desire and all the good we associate with it. The very reason that we were driven to this pursuit in the first place vanishes from our minds. Instead we attach negative emotion to our goal, “debit transactions” such as disappointment and embarrassment. In our moment of pain we detach and move away and think about quitting. But instead we should be doing the opposite. We should be making a “credit” transaction. We do that by taking a minute to step back and appreciate what it was that drew us to take the first step. Now isn’t that more constructive? It gives us clarity in our vision by allowing us to say, this thing I am coveting might look like a lump of coal right now but only through intense heat will it transform to diamond, so instead of throwing it away I'm going to persist through the pressure. Seen this way, a setback is only a test of our commitment to our goal.
When you're sitting there counting the bills coming due, don’t forget about the calculation you should be doing, that (if you’re like I was) you’re probably not doing. The Gratitude Calculation.
Every day when you get up, list 5 things that you are grateful for about the object of your frustration. Examples: I love that I can understand how mortgages work because I learned the time value of money. I appreciate that my business has a really cool name. I appreciate that my boss orders us all lunch on Fridays. And then read the list to yourself before bed. See, gratitude is transformational. It will inspire a positive attitude and that, my friends, will pay dividends.
Gratitude is an asset that increases our self worth and inspires us for higher greatness in all facets of business, and even in our personal lives. So fire up that Gratitude Calculator and give it a try. It might just tip the balance from debit to credit in more ways than one.
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