One truth that comes from the study of financial wellbeing is that we don’t generally know what makes us happy. How can we become more aware of our own wellbeing, and what are the barriers we need to overcome?
Society’s Barriers To Happiness
Strange as it may seem, life in our Western societies are not particularly conducive to wellbeing. We spend our time comparing ourselves to others; we tend to focus on the search for wealth rather than purpose; we have advertising constantly telling us we will not be cool or fulfilled until we buy a certain product. Then there are expectations placed upon us from parents, schools, and employers which also tend to be financial in nature.
It can be pretty confusing, being a human being! Knowing what will truly make us happy is actually quite a hard thing to discover through all this noise.
Much of the research into happiness produces results that may feel counterintuitive. For example, the standard definition of success in western society is financial, and yet research shows that the value of materialism, of seeing the accumulation of wealth as an objective, is in direct conflict with happiness (see, as one example, Tim Kasser’s book Hypercapitalism, or click here to listen to him on our podcast).
The cumulative effect of what we experience in such a society is that we erect our own barriers to happiness, in the form of self limiting beliefs.
Self Limiting Beliefs
As we go through life we accrue values, which are based upon our experiences. One example from the world of money might be someone who invests in the stock market at the peak, selling out just after the crash, and as a result decides that investing in the stock market is not a good place to be investing.
Another, non financial, example is time. I play the guitar, and people often say to me “I wish I could play an instrument, but I don’t have the time.” Clearly, this is not true – it only takes ten minutes of practice a day – and yet this belief prevents many people from doing something that will give them enormous wellbeing.
The idea that the stockmarket is not a place to invest is not a fact, it is a belief – which are two very different things. And, given that such a belief may prevent a person from achieving their financial goals, it is a self limiting belief.
If we are going to break down some of the barriers to wellbeing, therefore, we must first acknowledge, and then challenge, these assumptions.
Another truism is that you cannot challenge your own assumptions. It requires a third party to help dig away some of our preconceptions about ourselves – those self limiting beliefs.
And not just any old anybody. Challenging our assumptions in order to reveal purpose and come up with new ideas and solutions needs to be handled in a skilled way. This is why coaching skills need to be learned and trained. Only ever use coach who is trained and experienced in the art of coaching.
Coaching and challenging objectives
The advice process often begins with the question “What are your objectives?” A range of answers may be given, including a date at which they should retire, or perhaps the goal of wanting to buy a house.
The answers to these questions are laden with presumption and self limiting beliefs. Ask most people when they intend to retire and they will give an answer around 60 or 65. Why have they chosen this age? Usually it is because it has some relation to the state pension age.
Seeking a person’s goals, without further challenge risks producing financial advice and financial plans based on objectives that are not geared to make somebody happy.
Only a coaching and challenging approach to setting objectives and uncovering paths to wellbeing will result in meaningful financial advice and financial plans.
It is for this reason that Robo advice, certainly in its current form, will rarely result in improving the well-being of the individual.
Likewise, an advisor who does not (and is not trained to) help their clients uncover true motivations, will not be helping their clients to become happier.