Managing finances

Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life

By Woods Mullan

Posted 23rd Nov 2023

Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Man running with rugby ball

This statement really stood out to me from Susan David’s brilliant book, Emotional Agility. To use Susan’s exact words, “tough emotions are part of our contract for life. You don’t get a meaningful career or raise a family or leave the world a better place without stress and discomfort”. 

Throughout my whole life, I have done what I can to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself, even when some of those experiences took me to some challenging emotional states. I am somewhat introverted and appreciate nothing more than lounging around, listening to music, or watching something on the telly. But it is in these times that I gain the energy I need to front up to the next big challenge I face. Today, I want to share my most recent experience of being uncomfortable, and then to acknowledge the discomfort many people experience in discussing their own financial position.

Picking up the ball

Sport is a huge part of my life, something I have played in various formats since I could walk. I started playing rugby at four, then at age 17, I switched to football. It’s also something I have always thoroughly enjoyed watching, although Chelsea’s form over the last few years is testing that theory (talk about discomfort!!!). Sport has taught me some hard lessons: that you can’t always have things your way, can’t always get what you want and how to fail in public. It has also taught me about companionship, connection, and loyalty, pulling for a shared purpose and putting the collective’s interest above your own.

Last football season, I found I wasn’t enjoying myself, certainly not to the level that I had in previous years. I was struggling for motivation and my performances definitely reflected that. I had stagnated. In fact, I was too deep in my comfort zone and was no longer getting the fulfilment I wanted or needed.

For several years, I had toyed with the idea of returning to the sport I played throughout my whole childhood and formative years. I love football, and it will always be my number one sport, but I had grown tired and frustrated with playing. I needed a new challenge!

Following a few beers watching a game last season at my local rugby club – the club where I had spent many incredible years playing as a youngster – I made a slightly tongue-in-cheek bet with my old coach that ‘by the end of next season, I would be back playing in the first team’. Nothing like a bit of accountability to get you to act!

I really didn’t know if I would do it, or even could, but I knew that if I didn’t try, I would regret it. There would forever be a nagging ‘what if’ hanging over me. Fast forward to June this year and I was all ready for my first rugby training session in 15 years. I quite literally hadn’t touched a rugby ball since I stepped away from the sport at 17.

The day before my first session I was terrified. I was so uncomfortable that I could barely eat. I was continually running through the many potential scenarios of how bad things could turn out.

But I stuck to it, and I went, and as I have found is pretty much always the case, it was nowhere near as bad as I imagined it would be.

Fast forward five months, I have only missed one game for the first team, a team that is playing at the highest level it has ever played at (the sixth level of England men’s rugby). I can confidently say that I am currently experiencing the most enjoyable and rewarding season that I ever have. Not something I thought I would feel again as I got towards the later years of playing team sport like this, but a true testament to discomfort being the price of admission to a meaningful life!

But why am I talking about stepping out of one’s comfort zone in an email from a financial planning firm?

Step out of the financial plan comfort zone

My experience has shown me that talking about or even acknowledging their financial position, their goals, objectives, hopes and fears, is a deeply uncomfortable experience for most people, no matter the financial state they are in. I have often found that people are much more willing to disclose a terminal illness than they are to talk about any money worries/thoughts they may have. That says a huge amount about people’s level of discomfort in addressing their own financial plan.

Discussing your financial position and goals can evoke a myriad of emotions. On one hand, the topic of finances can often stir up feelings of apprehension and vulnerability. The reality of managing budgets, investments, and unforeseen expenses can be daunting, leading to moments of uncertainty and stress.

Many individuals grapple with the fear of the unknown, especially in a world where financial landscapes are dynamic and subject to change. This can lead people to do nothing, to bury their heads and say that they will address things at a later date, a date that often never comes around. As a peer recently put it, the biggest obstacle for incredibly talented and smart people in hiring a financial planner is inertia, the “do nothing” financial plan.

So, people remain in the comfort zone. A place where dreams, goals, aspirations – your true wealth – go to slowly fade away.

Addressing your financial position needn’t be all negative, far from it. It can bring excitement and optimism that comes with envisioning future milestones – whether it be buying a home, securing a comfortable retirement, or providing financial support to those you love most. These moments are marked by a huge sense of accomplishment and purpose, helping add true meaning to life. Feelings that hopefully all our clients have felt throughout their life relationships with Emery Little.

So, what can be done to help ease the discomfort when trying to get clarity of your own financial position and plan?

Firstly, I feel it’s crucial to acknowledge and address all these feelings, the positive and the negative, as they play a pivotal role in shaping one’s approach to financial decision-making. It’s these emotions that can help drive people to action.

What next? A skilled chartered financial planner, of which there are many here at Emery Little, can provide not only the necessary expertise but also a supportive environment to navigate these emotional nuances. By providing people with a safe space, free from judgement or preconceived ideas of how you should behave with your money, we help create a space where clients feel empowered to tackle financial challenges head-on, transforming anxiety into a catalyst for informed and strategic choices.

You will be listened to in a way that ignites truly great and independent thinking, thinking which will help give you clarity as to what you wish to do in your life. This will enable us to position your overall finances in a way that gives you the greatest chance of being able to achieve all that you wish.

Understanding the emotional landscape of financial discussions and the discomfort that people feel when addressing this subject is key to establishing a holistic and client centred approach. It’s not just about numbers; it’s about acknowledging and navigating the emotional terrain that accompanies financial journeys.

Taking control of your financial future requires courage and vulnerability, and a strong, lifelong commitment to understanding and managing your finances more effectively. To take the leap and step outside of your comfort zone is an incredibly brave thing to do, and everybody reading this today deserves commendation for doing just that.

We also appreciate the trust you place in us to help support your financial futures. It is a responsibility we take very seriously, and we remain committed to ensuring the best possible outcomes for you and your families.

I would strongly encourage you all to continue to embrace the discomfort of life, in whatever way you can and whatever walk of life you find yourself in. Also, if you are ever struggling for ways to help manage any emotions you may feel, I couldn’t recommend Emotional Agility by Susan David enough.