When it comes to important financial decisions, why is it that sometimes we are able to move quickly, while at other times we feel stuck, unable to take action?
To help answer this question, I’d like to share an experience I had a while back, at the doctor’s office. Dr. R., as I’ll call him, is a dermatologist. He’s a great guy and inspires confidence in his patients, but that day, when he pulled out one of his implements, I got a little nervous.
“Will this hurt?” I asked.
Dr. R’s response has always stuck with me: “Yes,” he said, “but only for a second.”
The reason why that answer has always stuck with me because it goes a long way toward answering my question about decision-making. That is because it acknowledges that many decisions involve a little bit of short-term challenge in exchange for a much greater long-term benefit. Unfortunately, though, this fear of this short-term pain often holds us back from making decisions — and ultimately holds us back from achieving more of what we want.
Let’s look at three examples:
Are you thinking of changing jobs? Do you find yourself stuck in a job that is paying the bills but lacking in any enjoyment? You’re not alone, but don’t let your fear of making a move box you in. Yes, it takes effort, and probably some rejection, to find a new position, but don’t let that stop you.
Are you holding on to an investment that has outlived its usefulness? Oftentimes people hold on to investments because they are worried about paying a tax if they sell it. Or, alternatively, they can’t stand the idea of acknowledging a loss. Either way, don’t let the prospect of short-term pain cloud your judgement. When it comes to investments, you need to look forward, not back.
Are you thinking of downsizing your home? For many people, downsizing carries practical and economic benefits, but it is fraught with emotion. You may also worry about disappointment, if you don’t get the sale price you have in mind. And you may (justifiably) worry about the work involved in moving. But again, those are all short-term considerations that shouldn’t stop you from doing what makes sense for the longer term.
In all of these cases — and many more — it is important to remember that there is often no one “right” answer. Most things in our financial lives involve trade-offs. What is most important, though, is to avoid sitting on the fence. In virtually all cases, some decision is better than no decision. Yes, there may be some choppy waters as you navigate toward your goal, but that will be temporary. As Dr. R. would say, yes, it might hurt, but only for a second.