By Tom Fowler
Have you ever been lost in your life? It’s easy to end up that way if you’re not paying attention to where you are.
Sometimes, it can be literal (speaking as someone who has actually been lost in the woods) but any set of unfamiliar circumstances, or new and strange places or situations can fit the definition.
At some point in their career, a financial advisor is likely going to feel professionally lost. They’ll feel stuck, and most critically, they won’t know how to move forward. These situations can be frustrating and frightening, but with the right balance of acceptance and action, advisors in these situations can get back on track or find their way to a new professional path that will carry them forward.
Being Professionally Lost
Being really lost is finding yourself in a place where you don’t know where you are, you don’t know how you got there, you don’t know how to find your way back and you are surrounded by danger.
You’re in a place where you’re unable to control your circumstances. Even in a professional context, anyone in this position can find themselves paralyzed by fear. They can lose the ability to think rationally, making rash decisions in a frantic attempt to get out of the situation.
When this happens in the woods, it greatly increases people’s chances of injury or death and makes it harder to be found. Similarly, rushed decision making can also make it more difficult to find your way out of mental, emotional or spiritual woods.
Whether you’re lost in the wilderness or lost in life, being lost is a fight for survival – or, at least, your brain and body interpret it that way. Therefore, the same mental and emotional tools and skills you need to survive being lost in the woods are the same tools you need to survive being lost in life.
How People Lose Their Way
There are many ways to lose your way, in the woods and in life. Oftentimes, it happens when people stop paying attention to where they are and where they’re going. Life offers so many diversions, and it’s easy to fall completely into the demands and activities of daily living.
These activities are not bad, but the busyness of life can cause us to lose focus. Unfortunately, you won’t know you’re lost until you look up and realize the world has changed.
Coasting in life is another way to wind up lost. It’s easy for people to rely on themselves, their possessions, their education and past successes. We like to feel confident we can handle anything, and we like to take the easy routes. We can end up oblivious to the small changes in our attitude, our habits and our fellowship with others.
In a professional setting, an advisor might suddenly realize they work fewer hours than they used to, they have fewer prospects – or maybe none at all – and their income streams are drying up. Sometimes, this coincides with dissatisfaction in their personal life. After losing one’s bearings for so long, it usually shocks people to see their businesses, families and personal relationships disintegrate before their eyes.
This can feel like rock bottom for the people in such circumstances, but, in reality, it’s a chance to turn things around. It’s difficult to find your way once you’re lost, but it’s doable, and enough people have done it for us to know the typical steps to getting there.
How To Get Found
Once you grasp the reality that you’re really lost, you will be flooded by fear. The more fear, the more anxiety. The more anxiety, the more panic. Your mind will begin contemplating the worst possible outcome. The first thing you have to do is to get control of your emotions and calm yourself.
You can calm yourself by recalling a song, a poem, or past experiences in which you overcame adversity. You can find humor. My uncle, regardless of how bad the situation was, would say, “Well, it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.”
Once you have your emotions under control, start thinking. Get organized. Determine your next step. There is always someone willing to give you guidance and encouragement. You just have to recognize it.
If you find yourself lost in life today, follow these steps:
1. Accept the fact you’re lost. Nothing changing until you face the truth of your situation.
2. Get your emotions under control. Repel your fear and calm yourself. You already intuitively know the way to being found. Recall past victories, how you overcame difficult situations in the past. Remember the skills and tools you used or acquired to gain success in those circumstances.
3. Think, analyze, and plan. Losing focus in your goals and your plan can cause anyone to become lost. Often, just rediscovering your objectives and your plan will help lead you out of the woods.
4. Seek help and direction. There is always someone willing and able to help you. In truth, they have been where you are today, lost and afraid, probably more than once. This person might be a mentor, a friend or family member or a mental healthcare provider. If you ask for help, don’t be a “Yes, but” – someone who asks for help and then tells their mentor why the advice won’t work or why they can’t follow it. Be open-minded and willing to listen for new pieces of wisdom.
5. Take decisive action. Taking decisive action is not running blindly ahead. You need to complete steps 1-4 first. Sometimes, taking decisive action is staying put until you have completed the first four steps. Otherwise, your situation could become bleaker.
6. Celebrate your successes. Great or small, it’s important to measure progress toward your goals, lest you become discouraged in the recovery.
7. Count your blessings.
8. Never give up hope. “Success is one step past failure,” Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich.
Few moments in life spark more terror than the one when you realize you’ve lost your way. But even in this moment, you are not alone – after all, millions of other have shared that very feeling with you. And all their experience has taught us that, with the right reactions and the right times, you can ease your path out of whatever kind of woods you’re in.
About the Author
Tom Fowler, CLU, LUTCF, is President of The Fowler Financial Group and has more than 30 years of experience assisting owners of closely held corporations in business and estate planning. He is also an Investment Advisor Representative and Registered Representative with Woodbury Financial Services, Inc. Tom presided on the National Board of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors as a Trustee. He is past president of the Seattle Chapter of CLU & ChFC, as well as past president of the Washington State Association of Life Underwriters. He is a Life and Qualifying Member of MDRT, Court of the Table, and a member of the East King County Estate Planning Council.