If you’ve ever driven in snowy weather, you know that sometimes the car does NOT respond to your steering wheel directions. Striving to achieve a goal can give you a similar experience.
If you’ve set a goal, and you’re doing all you know to steer toward it, it can be unnerving to find yourself heading towards something else instead.
Such an experience can be just as frightening as driving on the freeway in winter weather at high speeds, and hitting a patch of black ice.
When we lived in Utah, I had that experience more than once. Gratefully, I had been taught that if your car begins to spin out of control, you’re supposed to momentarily turn the steering wheel into the direction of the swerve.
In other words, if I want to drive straight, but the back of my car is skidding to the left, I should turn my steering wheel to the left, just long enough to regain traction, and then I’ll be in control again so I can straighten out. It’s not an intuitive thing to do when you’ve lost control of your car. The instinctive thing to do is to freeze and slam on your brakes. But doing so actually exacerbates the problem, and can accelerate the spin. Not only does braking make things worse, but so can putting on the gas.
Truly, there is only one smart solution: steer TOWARD the direction you wish to avoid.
Like a driver on black ice, you might be feeling like your finances are spinning out of control, and instinct might tell you to just slam on the brakes. Stop investing in yourself. Stop dreaming. Stop hoping. Stop trying. But doing these things can cause the situation to to spin out of control even faster.
Likewise, you shouldn’t just put on the gas and barrel forward, without paying attention to the indicators that say “something isn’t right”. A person who is spinning out of control financially has to take notice, so that the right response can be taken:
Steer into the swerve.
When your finances aren’t going in the direction you want them to be going, don’t ignore it. Face it. To face it is to steer into the problem for a period of time, just long enough to regain traction, and then from there you can take it where you want it to go. In real terms, to steer into the swerve means to regroup. It means to take a close and detailed look at your inflows and outflows, and rein it in if you need to. Prioritize your spending based on where you’re trying to go.
You need to come to terms with your situation, but to do that, you have to get perfectly clear on what that situation is.
If things are tough, and your finances aren’t what you want them to be, here is an opportunity. Find out exactly where you’re at, face it, let yourself feel disappointment if it’s warranted, and expect that you’ll find a way to come out on top in the long run. After you’ve come to terms with what is, you can allow yourself to find gratitude in simple things again.
This is what it means to steer into the swerve, just long enough to regain traction.
Once you’ve stopped your vehicle from spinning out of control, it’s time again to point it in the right direction and press on. Re-establish or re-commit to those goals of yours. Maybe they’ve evolved over the years a bit. Maybe you’ve discovered that certain goals don’t have the same luster they once had. This is the perfect time to look deeply at the things that bring you the greatest joy and happiness, and set some goals to achieve greater success in those areas.
A patch of black ice in life can be a great blessing if you’ll wake up and steer into the curve. As you do this, you’ll likely avoid a more devastating catastrophe, and you’ll be able to get yourself back on track all the wiser. Originally published January 28, 2009
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