One shot at a time, you hear golfers talk about this all the time. It seems like no matter what question a reporter poses to Tiger Woods, his answer is always “I am taking it one shot at a time, focused on the process, and if I do that, the results will come”.
Golf is a sport with so much down time between shots that it is very easy to get distracted. Thinking of all the mistakes made, what you should have done differently, along with the pressure filled moments and tough holes ahead creates a lot of distracting mental noise. If this noise takes over, it is nearly impossible to be focused on the task at hand.
While on the golf course, following the mantra “one shot at a time” helps a player stay focused on what they can control, simply the next shot they face. I was lucky enough to play golf collegiately at UCLA and then professionally for 10 years, and I can confirm that saying held true. It helped me to block out the noise and clutter we all face when competing at the highest level. It was my reminder to focus on the simple things I can actually control, which in golf, are unfortunately a select few things.
Focus on what matters to improve investment results
So what does this have to do with investing, personal finance, and retirement planning? That noise a golfer encounters can be surprisingly similar to the noise investors hear.
In today’s 24 hour news cycle world, everybody has an opinion. From what the market will do next to what start up company is poised be the next amazon to what the fate of social security and our national debt is.
The truth is, attention pays, but only to the person creating it.
Most pundits are paid to have an opinion, and even more importantly, to have one that gets attention. I can tell you what doesn’t get attention, a CNBC headline that says “Nobody really knows what the markets will do next” or “investing is hard, but with time and patience it usually works out”. It’s a lot easier to sell clicks when the headline speaks of impending doom or triggers our fear of missing out when they say the bottom is in and the market will reach new all-time highs. Your attention is their goal, not your ability to achieve your personal financial goals.
The process of financial planning
So how do we increase the odds of achieving our goals?
Focus on the process. In investing, that means financial planning!
Personal finance is more personal than it is about finance. Many people have similar fears and concerns: we don’t want to run out of money, we want to maintain our quality of life in retirement, we want to understand how to create income in retirement and know how much we can safely spend, and how to protect our savings but also still be able to grow it. These are common fears, but they all come from a different place and mean different things to different people. Everybody has a unique situation, and the noise in the world can’t possibly know who you are and what is important to you, but you do!
That is where planning comes into play…What does planning look like? Actually a lot like planning for a golf shot. You analyze and understand the conditions, where you currently are, and where you want to be. In financial planning, that means taking the time to figure out what is the money for? You worked your entire life and traded your time, knowledge, and labor for it…now what? What is important to you and your family? what is your current situation, and what does a dream life look like for you? Create a plan of how to get there, what the next steps are, and what you can control. Then take that first step. Then the next step. Then the next. One shot at a time.