Sunday, October 11, 2009

A follow-up to: "How to break out of a slump"

Last week, I wrote about my recent slump and discussed how to break out of one. Throughout the week, I came across a couple of inspirational posts which provided further thought and introspection:

Trent at The Simple Dollar posted a question from Mark who wonders, "Is this all there is?" Mark is a 37 year old CPA in the midst of a mini mid-life crisis. Over the years he has had various goals, such as graduate college, earn his CPA license, get a great job etc. Most of them were achievable within just a few short years. His next goal is to become debt free and he’s come to the realization that it will take some time for that to happen. Beyond that, the only real goal he has for himself is retirement and that is pretty far down the road. He asks Trent "Is this all there is?"

Trent responds with:
If all of the things we’re looking forward to in life are shrouded in the far-off future, we’re left with little to look forward to in the short term. This, unsurprisingly, leads to unhappiness. We feel aimless. We wonder if this is all there is in life. And sometimes we can become depressed. (This pretty much sums up what I've been going through)

The solution, I’ve found, is to keep busy in the short term, both with short term things and with smaller projects that fit in as part of the bigger goals I have in life.

He offers these suggestions:
Develop – and accomplish – month-long projects.
Seek out smaller projects (one to three months) that fit in the context of your larger goals.
Find a personal passion or hobby to channel yourself into.

Here are some additional awesome suggestions I found in the post's comments:

Every morning, take time to review the day and see what you have to look forward to. Try to schedule something every day.

New goals are the answer.

So, this is an occasion to revisit your values and convictions first, and then move forward with your goals armed with a sense of who you are.

I think Matthew needs to define what his life is all about. I recommend writing his obituary as it would read today if he passed. Then write it again. Only the second time, write the one that he would want written. He may find something that he can focus his life on or some goals that haven’t been fulfilled.

This has nothing to do with having a far off goal. It means his goals are not satisfying his internal needs. Even if he retires wealthy, he will still have this same emptiness unless he is focused on something that drives him – his true passion.

I also think you missed the real need of the writer, Trent. He doesn’t need to break down his empty, existentially unsatisfying goals into even smaller ones. He needs a goal broad and deep enough to satisfy him. He’s not going to find it in personal finance.

So what did I learn from all of this?
I spent time thinking about my own goals, values and convictions. I liked the recommendation to write your own obituary the way you would like it to be written. My first thought was I'd like to be remembered for helping others.  I am reminded of one of my favorite blog posts of all time, Tom McMahon wrote, "Everybody wants to help Save The Earth, but nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes." I know I don't have to accomplish huge undertakings like winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but I would like my endeavors to be more helpful than encouraging my company's vendors to fill our orders despite our inability to pay for them on a timely basis.

I may not be a successful CFO or work for a major Fortune 500 company, but I am helping one little company survive this economic downturn. And I do help people every day; just by being approachable I help many of my co-workers by answering their questions, offering advice or just listening to their problems and ideas.

I have a dream of some day working for a not for profit, teaching financial literacy or possibly assisting women entrepreneurs manage their company's finances. I've never pursued these goals, thinking I don't have enough time; I need more experience or maybe even more education. What I can do to incorporate these goals into my life on a weekly or monthly basis? I could write posts pertaining to these topics each week on my blog, volunteer at agencies providing these services; attend community events, lectures and classes all with my long term goals in mind. As far as helping others, if I really look I am sure I could find numerous opportunities to help others in some small way every day.


  1. First, let me say that I'm sorry to hear that things in your world have turned upside down. We are also struggling with adjustments to our income, and it is hard - not only to make ends meet, but to keep doing what you're doing with even less of an incentive than before! For a few months I've been caught up and honestly angry about how much of my day is spent doing the parts of my job I don't enjoy. I took a week off and spent it at home, working in my art studio with two friends. I cam back refreshed and with a commitment to going into the studio for at least an hour every day, just to commit to something that matters to me outside of my job. And I do feel more in control of the rest of my day if I do it. So, that's a long way of saying - I agree with the CPA. Staying in touch with your passions outside of work can really help.

  2. Savvy,
    I just wanted to say how informative and illuminating these posts have been. We all struggle with these issues and although we don't like to see others suffering, sometimes it helps to know we are truly all in this together.

    I hope your slump ends soon. I definitely know how it feels to be in one so please know I am sending all my good wishes your way.

  3. Heidi and CR:
    Thanks for your kind comments. It really does help to know we are all in this together. Spending time working with our passions or taking a much deserved trip to England (CR) can make all the difference.