Are You Having a Bad Day?
What, exactly, constitutes having a bad day?
In my experience, many of the problems or challenges we face in our everyday lives lack the proper perspective, so we end up feeling (more) frustrated with traffic, stressed about work, upset by bad service at a restaurant, concerned about money, or despaired by politics.
Don’t get me wrong, I know changing your perspective is easier said than done. Our twenty-first century lives are overloaded with to-dos, stimulation, and information, so it is no wonder we end up overreacting. No judgement. When I’m struggling with perspective, I find it helpful to take a step back and consider the trials and tribulations of others.
Empathy forces us to see that we are not the only one struggling.
In honor of Memorial Day, I’d like to share a personal experience with you that might help change your mindset.
The time is 8 AM, the date is May 13, 2016, and it is a cool, sunny day in Portsmouth, England.
I am sitting in a nice restaurant located on the upper deck stern of a ship named Normandie, set to embark on one of my Bucket List trips. My plan is to cross the English Channel by ship, and then explore the beaches of Normandy, France. The ship will navigate the English Channel from Portsmouth to Caen (Ouistreham), France. Having read books like D-Day and Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose, and watching movies like The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan, I ponder what might have been going through the minds of the young men boarding ships to make that same, fateful crossing in June 1944.
I wonder how they felt about their day?! Probably not that great.
In my studies, I learned the initial wave of soldiers who landed on the beaches of Normandy had never seen combat. This was by design, as the architects of the D-Day Invasion plan—code name Operation Overlord—knew their men were facing, perhaps, an unachievable objective. The fact that the soldiers had no prior knowledge of the battlefield limited their apprehension. Or so the theory goes. Still, jumping on a boat and waiting for the go-ahead to attack is enough to make anyone nervous.
Before departing on my ship, I had a chance to visit the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth, England. After paying my entry fee, the ticket agent informed me that the man sitting to my left was a D-Day Veteran, and he would be happy to answer any questions. I introduced myself to John, age 96, who proceeded to tell me he was a Sergeant in the British 1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment, and that he landed on Gold Beach on June 6, 1944. After listening to him talk for a few minutes, he made a comment that really struck me. He told me that May 8th—just 5 days prior—was the 71st Anniversary of V-E Day. V-E Day stands for Victory Day in Europe, and commemorates the end of WWII in Europe. I must admit, I was not aware of the date and its meaning. I had not paused to reflect on the impact those soldiers had, or how the world might be a different place if we had lost the war. Maybe I was having a bad day because of traffic, or worrying about work…
Feeling I had taken enough of John’s time, I thanked him for answering my questions, and, after pausing for a second, also thanked him for his personal sacrifice. I was deeply honored to meet John. He then rose from his chair and extended his hand to thank me for showing such interest. Even as I am writing this, I cannot help but get emotional. The magnitude of trying to comprehend what so many endured on D-Day was overwhelming, and I felt humbled—even embarrassed—to reflect on what, until this moment, I considered to be a bad day. Talk about context.
Every time I visit a war museum or historical site, I pick up a few more pieces of perspective. What strikes me with every opportunity is the number of lives lost during conflict—it is staggering. Though we feel stress and conflict today, I think it is important to consider that we are living in the most peaceful, prosperous time in history. We have resources at our disposal to reduce our burdens and increase our quality of life. We can save and invest money, and work towards financial success. Though money continues to be the leading cause of stress for 21st century Americans—ranking higher than work, family issues, and health concerns—it is something you can ask for help with. There is always a friend, family member, or financial professional willing to offer advice. On the contrary, the men on the beach at Normandy did not have the same opportunity. They had no choice about the outcome of their day!
When people have legal issues, they hire an attorney. When they have health issue, they go to the doctor. So why don’t more people seek professional financial help when they have money issues? Too often people think that financial advisors are only for the wealthy, and most people don’t know where to find help. One suggestion is to seek out a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional that will help you develop a custom financial plan to address your specific needs. Having a plan helps reduce stress and define what you really want. What an awesome opportunity! As Harvey Mackay stated: “A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and deadline.”
So, the next time you are having a bad day, focus on the things you control like spending time with family and friends, getting a little more exercise, or seeking professional guidance. Avoid 24/7 news coverage, and quit worrying about the markets. Finally, take a moment to remember that 65 million civilian and military lives were lost during WWII.
It is all about perspective.