Lay Your Foundation for Significance

by Rajen Devadason

The downtime brought by Covid-19 can be an opportunity for us to learn how to focus on what is truly important in our lives.

I can’t wait for the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic to pass. I miss travelling, I hate wearing a mask in public, and my active income sources have been hammered to a fraction of their previous levels since March 18 2020 when Malaysia began its restrictive Movement Control Order (MCO). 

Yet, even with MCO 2.0, it hasn’t been all bad news. I’ve come to appreciate the deceleration of life which has afforded me more time to read, think and plan for a brighter tomorrow. 

Back in 1997, Bob Buford wrote in his classic book Half Time – Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance:

“Saint Augustine said that asking yourself the question of your own legacy – What do I wish to be remembered for? – is the beginning of adulthood.”

Most of us are too busy for our own good.

Week in, week out, we live with the simmering realisation we don’t have enough time to accomplish everything we aspire to, and we don’t have enough money to pay for everything we covet.

We have grown too busy for our own good because in filling our calendars and setting our daily, weekly, and monthly priorities, we often fail to identify our ‘posteriorities’, what the late management guru Peter Drucker referred to as activities we should proactively eliminate to make space for more important things. 

If we don’t identify posteriorities and excise them from our schedules, we will become overwhelmed. In 2003 I wrote about this in my ebook 5 Steps to a Saner Life – How to Escape a Lousy Life for an Awesome Future. Here’s an edited excerpt:

Each of us has 24 hours a day to do our living in. Time is the ultimate non-renewable resource. Even though the whole vista of time seems to spread out before us into infinity, the amount of time each of us has on this old Earth is finite. 

Therefore, we can’t do it all. But we can do what matters, if we avoid over-extending ourselves.

Professional over-extension manifests itself in the way we keep adding things to our plate without taking anything off it! The hidden assumption we don’t even verbalise to ourselves is that we’ll borrow time from tomorrow to get it all done. 

But like the broke old gambler who reckoned the worst thing that happened in his life was playing his first game of poker as a young man and unfortunately winning, the danger of borrowing time from tomorrow is that such a strategy works – for a while!

Before, that is, it leads to stress and ineffectual frustration. 

The only viable solution, short of cloning copies of yourself, is to ‘steal’ time from (Stephen Covey’s famously defined) Quadrants 3 and 4 and dedicate it to pure Quadrant 2 activities. 

(Note: In Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he divides all tasks into four groups that fall into these quadrants):

Quadrant 1 – Things that are both urgent and important

Quadrant 2 – Things that are not urgent but important

Quadrant 3 – Things that are urgent but not important

Quadrant 4 – The ‘rubbish quadrant’ filled with things that are neither urgent nor important.)

Even though Quadrant 1 is where all urgent and important matters reside, the more time you spend on important but not yet urgent Quadrant 2 tasks, the more control you will exercise upon your future and, therefore, your destiny.

That’s because you will be heading off future crises at the pass, so to speak, and stopping them from erupting with their usual scary frequency.

PERSONAL CHOICE IN PERSONAL FINANCE

The validity of this principle of favouring what is important over what is merely urgent extends to personal finance.

What I call ‘financial hyperextension’ is rooted in the rising conviction among many of us that the future will always be better than the past. That optimism, in and of itself, is not a bad thing; indeed, it is a good thing most of the time. 

But when over-idealistic Pollyanna-type thinking results in us conning ourselves into borrowing money to buy pure consumption goods unnecessarily in anticipation of raises and bonuses that may not materialise, we have a problem. 

It used to be if we ‘could afford’ a car, it meant we had the money to pay for it in full. Nowadays, such thinking is either non-existent or ridiculed. Our modern definition of affording something means we ‘can afford’ the monthly payments!

So, I think it would be wise for us to revamp our worldview to enable us to choose what is truly important to us, perhaps achieving financial freedom or a great retirement, over what only seems urgent, like keeping up with the Joneses (or the Alis and Ah Chongs) by buying a brand-new BMW, speedboat or Rolex watch. 

In many cases, the only way to afford such pretty baubles is through time payments. And the reality is that with each instalment on a so-called ‘asset’ that loses value over time, the interest portion is also permanently lost. 

There is a popular saying containing enormous truth: We spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t want, to impress people we don’t like!

That’s the best description of lunacy I’ve come across.

So, if you are serious about laying claim to a great future, it is vital you make better time and money choices. 

For Christians, the best gift we can give ourselves for the rest of our lives is an enhanced capacity to make excellent choices.

So, what should we choose? Again, for Christians, our top choice is obvious: To CHOOSE to spend intimate time with Jesus each day in prayerful meditation and voracious Bible reading. 

If done regularly, we can trust God to guide our thoughts in the numerous decisions we make every day. A series of thoughts – be they good or bad – will lead to actions, which become habits that ultimately form our destiny. So, make no mistake – our time and money decisions today will determine our destination and legacy tomorrow. 

For me, that’s why I’ve chosen during this pandemic to pivot a portion of my work to pro bono public education through free webinars on financial planning and retirement planning. (Details: https://learn.rajendevadason.com

Would you also consider refocusing a portion of your work time away from for-profit activities and freely offering your expertise to help others? 

In this crisis, many of us have woken up to the profound truth of Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

One way to build our lives on a foundation of granite is to co-opt Augustine’s question as our own:

What do I wish to be remembered for?

About Rajen Devadason

Rajen Devadason, CFP, is a Licensed Financial Planner, professional speaker, and author. Read his free articles at www.FreeCoolArticles.com; he may be connected with on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajendevadason, or via rajen@RajenDevadason.com You may also follow him on Twitter @Rajen Devadason.

© 2003-2021 Rajen Devadason