This was originally one exceptionally long post. I chose to split it into five pieces for readability purposes. I’ll post a segment each day this week.
As mentioned previously, I was recently leafing through a book at the library discussing Japanese martial arts (I believe it was Budo Secrets) when I came upon a sidebar that listed the ten evils that prevent people from improving themselves.
As I read through the list, I couldn’t help but see how each of these evils – or character flaws, as I would perhaps describe them – have held me back in my finances, my career, and my life in different ways.
While thinking about these ten terms, I consulted a dictionary and spent some time reflecting on how each of these has held me back – and can hold you back, too.
(I decided to highlight these evils with some wonderful Creative Commons photographs that illustrate each of these traps.)
Distrust, by Ashiful Haque
To have no assurance about the reliability of someone or something.
Distrust is poison.
Distrust is poison to one’s own skills. You doubt that you can accomplish things, so the set of things you can actually accomplish grows smaller. Your skill set shrinks and you become a less valuable part of your workplace and of society in general.
Distrust is poison to one’s ability to complete any sufficiently complex task. If you are filled with distrust for those around you, you doubt their ability to carry through with their part, thus you invest your own time and energy into shoring up the part of others, which reduces the quality of your performance and the project as a whole.
Distrust is poison to one’s ability to build relationships. If you continually doubt the reliability of your friends and partners, you make it impossible to build a truly close relationship with these people.
Distrust ruins everything.
In opposition to distrust, obviously, is trust. Trust in your own skills. Trust in the reliability of your coworkers and partners. Trust in your friends and loved ones.
Trust is not always a guarantee of success, as we’ve all had people around us that were unreliable. Trust doesn’t mean acting without care. It means believing in the reliability of those who have shown reliability to those in the past. It means focusing on your part in a project to make it the best it can be rather than making a mediocre mess of everyone’s parts.
Trusting is easy. Start by believing in the best of others. Believe that they’ll come through for you, and both tell them so and show them that you think so through your actions. Good people – and the vast majority of people are good people – thrive on the trust of others.
You should also trust in yourself. Take on the challenging tasks and don’t back down. Believe that you can pull off a great result in any area if you invest the time and effort. Don’t assume that you’re unreliable when you’re doing something challenging like defeating an addiction. Instead, move through life making wise choices and believing in your own willpower.
Trusting in yourself and trusting in others is the surest way to accomplish great things and bring about strong relationships.
Hesitant, by Mac (ammgramm)
A suspension of opinion or action.
One major part of saving for retirement is deciding which investments one is going to choose to put their retirement money into. Often, there’s a multitude of options just within one’s 401(k) plans, let alone when considering outside investments.
This abundance of investment often causes hesitation among potential investors. They want to start saving for retirement, but when they start seeing the multitude of investments, they stop. They put it off. They give up and don’t save.
This is a crucial mistate, one caused by hesitation. Once you’ve made the decision to save for retirement, you’re far better off starting now and choosing an investment completely at random (and then moving money around later if you so choose) than you are in hesitating. Decisiveness wins the day here, because the longer you save, the more you’ll save and the more time you’ll have for growth no matter what investment you choose.
In other words, the imperative to start retirement savings should trump hesitation about the actual investment type.
Hesitation always has costs, and often those costs are tremendous. Spending a day dithering about whether to help a friend can ruin a friendship. Whether the answer is yes or no, you’re far better off gathering the information you need and giving an answer quickly. The same phenomenon is immensely true in the workplace. Once you gather just a bit of information in the now, a quick decision is far more valuable than hesitation.
The opposite of hesitation is decisiveness. Decisiveness is not recklessness. Decisiveness means the ability to make a firm decision once there’s adequate information to make it. Recklessness is making the decision without adequate information.
Sometimes being decisive means not having perfect information. Yes, sometimes being decisive does mean making an imperfect choice. However, the rewards of decisiveness are great, as are the costs of hesitation.
One great tactic I’ve found to avoid unnecessary hesitation is to simply live by the rule that if I can’t state exactly why I’m not making a decision, I make a decision. It is fine to delay a decision if you have a clear reason for doing so, but if there is no clear reason, hesitation is eroding the current situation and making your options worse, not better.
Another key factor is asking yourself if the reason you’re hesitating really has any bearing on the situation at hand. The retirement issue is a great example of this. The decision as to what retirement investment you choose doesn’t have any bearing on the decision to save for retirement or not. You can put every dime of your retirement savings into your account as cash and then sit on the cash until you’re ready to decide. The key thing is that you’re saving, which is a separate decision than the precise investment choice.
Decisiveness singles you out as a doer, which means that you always have added value, whether it be to yourself or to others.