My wife Louise and I recently enjoyed an incredible few days on our honeymoon at Machu Picchu, a sacred city built atop the Andes mountains in Peru.
The breathtaking views of one of the world’s most famous man-made wonders will remain a special memory for us both. But it’s not the views I want to tell you about but instead the important lessons learnt as we hiked to the summit.
As we approached the gate for the Mt Machu Picchu climb – a further two thousand feet above the ruins – we were immediately met with the raised eyebrows of a Peruvian guide. Alvaro explained that the summit closes at 12:30pm and that our ninety minute hike would be fruitless given that it was already 11:20am. Louise and I nevertheless committed to push the pace and have a go (we haven’t yet lost the ‘bulletproof’ mentality).
Steep uneven stairs, a total lack of signage and Peru’s clear disregard for public safety made for tough going however the real challenge was mental. As we climbed, it was impossible to shake the lingering doubt that all our hard work may be in vain if we were to be turned away at the top.
By 12:15pm we wearily stumbled into clearing which allowed us to see our summit, perhaps only ten minutes away.
The shift in mindset was unmistakeable. With the finish in full view we were suddenly scrambling up the stairs with confidence and enthusiasm.
Thinking about people’s financial goals, most are unable to see the summits. Many tirelessly hike through thick forest, unsure if they’re walking the best path, often feeling concerned that they may not get to their own summit in time. I did this for an hour yesterday and didn’t enjoy it, God knows what it must feel like over 20 years.
Worse still is that many people don’t experience the mindset shift that comes from confidently working toward goals. When a Personal Trainer barks “ten more seconds!” a finish line is created. People generally find renewed energy and belief in those final moments, often achieving more in that last ten seconds than any time beforehand.
This experience reminds me that good financial advice goes far beyond numbers. Clients should be aware of where they stand in pursuit of their own goals, and offered enough leadership and direction to be truly engaged with these summits. If you’re an individual you can follow the below steps to get more direction and confidence in your own financial life:
Make a map: Understand what you’re working toward and what it’s going to take to get there. If you want to be debt free within ten years, ensure you understand what your repayments need to be. Good maps are detailed – the more specific your action plan, the easier it will be to follow. Good maps also identify the obstacles in your way. For example, saving for the debt-free scenario above may be hampered by the need to buy a new car in two years. Many people fail to do this and the result is an inaccurate map. If I’m given an inaccurate map, it goes in the bin.
Create signposts: Now that you’ve created your map, it’s time to make some checkpoints which will guide you toward your goals. Do this by breaking down your big goals into smaller goals that enable you to measure your progress and stay motivated. Instead of thinking about additional debt repayments required each year, change this to each week or fortnight. Life throws unexpected challenges at everyone so don’t be dismayed if you miss a week – just get back on the horse.
Celebrate the journey: A hike is a damn sight more enjoyable when you are able to take in the scenery. Living your life is no different. If you’ve created a good map and committable checkpoints there should be room for you to still do the things that offer real enjoyment along the way. Be proud of the things that you are working toward, afford yourself time to encourage family and the people around you. Most importantly embrace the challenges faced as you ascend the summits, these obstacles are the things that you will laugh about when posing for photos at the top!