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Common Sense: The Best New Year’s Resolution

Tobias Maag CFP BrazilBy Tobias Maag, CFP

Resolutions: one word with several possible connotations: In business, politics, law, arts, mathematical logic, our personal life and many other areas which touch the world’s and our personal development on a daily basis.

Certain dates or circumstances seem to be the perfect catalyst for us, as individuals, to set resolutions. For many who follow the Christian calendar this date happens to be New Year’s Eve.

Did you make any, hopefully good, resolutions on December 31st, 2011?

Have you thoroughly thought about the possible implications of your resolutions for others, and heard what they have to say? Have regulators, professionals, parents and other people and organizations been considering the impact of their resolutions when they act, omit, or overreact?

Interestingly enough, several of the resolutions repeat themselves each year, at least during certain periods: giving more attention to health, family and friends, achieving unachieved initiatives, education, volunteer help, resolving tasks and pending matters, losing weight, donating more, stopping smoking, earning the first million or just spending less than one earns, etc…

Resolutions are one step in the process of achieving anything, and are rather part of a process than a “eureka” moment. They are bound into a set of unrealized or developed expectations, and are often preceded by the recognition of a need, a personal “weakness,” or something brought to one’s consciousness through some other catalyst or driver.

Too often our good resolutions fail for lack of discipline and persistence, setting unrealistic, too many, or conflicting goals, or neglecting factors which might be out of our reach and of our control. Though luck and fortune play a role in attaining dreams, expectations and objectives, many expect too much from this uncontrollable variable in the composition of success stories.

Sound familiar? This is certainly a field where consultants and coaches in any field make a living: helping people keep their focus and discipline, manage expectations, rely on more than faith and luck, and to keep on trying.

How many governments, firms, families and individuals do you know, who have made the resolution to start spending less than they earn? How have you been helping them? What has been hampering your efforts?

In politics, New Year’s Resolutions are often traded in for election year promises. Those often fail, due to lack of commitment, and conflicting agendas.

A resolution with sustainable, positive impact could be to try to define and pursue realistic steps to make the world, in each moment, a little better place to be.

Improving might not have the same meaning for every one, as different people, organizations and countries have different priorities. It’s not about believing we will ever achieve a perfect world, a concept which in itself evolves and will always be the “carrot” for which we strive. Therefore, maybe understanding expectations, yours and those of people you interact with, is fundamental before making resolutions.

But what should guide us on this path? Could this be honesty of purpose, and what we used to call Common Sense? Allow me to finish this post with the copy past of a text which recently reached me through the Internet, and which some of you might already know:

An Obituary Printed in the London Times

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

–          Knowing when to come in out of the rain;

–          Why the early bird gets the worm;

–          Life isn’t always fair;

–          and maybe it was my fault.

Common Senselived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I’m A Victim

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

May our global community of personal financial planners, their clients, regulators and other stakeholders make more use of Common Sense in 2012 and onwards, than relying only on what someone else defines as right or wrong, magic formulas, self-protecting policies and other human or organizational limitations.

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