One of the hard facts of life is that many of us do NOT take action on the things that we feel most inclined to do. There are a number of reasons for this tendency. Perhaps the desire isn’t important enough or maybe it is just too difficult. Perhaps we believe that we have lots of time. Of course, this misnomer of time hits hard in the estate planning world when a person who passed away may have believed there was plenty of time to get planning done.
A great therapist friend of mine may be quoted as saying “this ain’t a dress rehearsal”. So, asking what is holding you back today, using estate planning as an example, and exploring some possible solutions is the focus of this week’s article.
Estate planning serves as a reminder that life is not a “dress rehearsal” and that we should act now on the things that are important to us.
Five common reasons for failure to commit to action concerning the the goals that are important to us are as follows:
- Limiting beliefs (a variation of fear)
- “When I, then”…thinking
- I have plenty of time…thinking
The above 5 reasons are not all inclusive as there may be many other reasons for failure to act in a certain area of life. These are simply what I believe to be the most common goal sapping, diverting, sleep inducing mental habits. Lets review each one in hope of divining some solutions.
It is a well known precept that it is not the presence of fear but how one responds that defines bravery and it is arguably more brave to act in the face of fear than without it. Without a doubt, most people feel fear are faced with the choice of how to respond. It is part of our wiring toward self preservation. Fear can protect us by alerting us to danger and activating our “fight or flight” response. However, there is a point where fear becomes debilitating. An example of this is displayed in the common aversion to focusing on estate planning due to not wanting to face one’s own mortality. Although there is no immediate threat, if one fears talking about death and mortality, it can derail them from focusing on what matters most such as creating solid plans to care for loved ones. The solution of course is to act in the face of fear and when conscious of the fear, this gets easier to do.
These are beliefs that hold us back from our highest potential in life. Perhaps we heard from a parent, siblings or peers growing up that we wouldn’t accomplish certain things or that we simply weren’t good enough. Perhaps we learned to tell ourselves this and became our own worst critic. This tendency also plays out in the estate world with the mindset of “I don’t have much of an estate”, and the erroneous belief that a modest or nominal estate is not worth protecting. The mistaken idea that small estates do not warrant planning is also a limiting belief. The solution here is to recognize how limiting and unrealistic this belief is. In or example of estate planning, the size of the estate is not as important as how the loved ones will be impacted by a death and whether there will be an orderly plan or chaos?
When I get to this point, then I’ll…thinking
This flawed thinking always looks into the future and says something like, when I…make my first million, I’ll do the estate planning. The problem with this way of thinking is that it isn’t grounded in the present and thus is not grounded in reality. It also strips us of our power, because we need to do everything we can to maximize our now and be content in the now, while also working toward our future goals. After all, if a small estate plan is created now, this sense of accomplishment can only inspire you to pursue greater levels of success.
This is the classic case of being too busy to focus on what matters most. It is so easy to forget what is important in the hectic pace of modern society. In addition, forms of entertainment such as surfing the web or television make it easy to bypass what is most important to us. Recently, I appeared with a colleague who had worked hard to schedule an estate planning update seminar. His clients, a couple, RSVP’d and told him they were on their way to the event. When they did not arrive and he called some time later, they informed him that they decided to go to breakfast instead…distractions.
I have plenty of time…thinking.
I was talking with a potential client this week who approached me with some estate planning concerns. He asked me about the best way to make sure that his wife would be taken care of. We talked for a few minutes about trust planning and I could see the concern in his eyes. Then, someone else started talking and things transitioned on to another topic. When we were leaving, I mentioned that I would be available if he wanted to talk more, and he responded that it isn’t urgent, or “at least he hoped it wasn’t”. My friend is over 70 years old and is buying into…I have plenty of time…thinking.
Of course, all of the about reasons above are applicable to any area of our lives that may be highly important to us and yet also may be ignored. It could be writing that book or taking that trip. Perhaps starting your own business or taking up a new hobby is most important. My advice is get started on it now, because it isn’t a dress rehearsal.
Steve Gibbs, Esq.