Written by: Deborah Cartisser
I am a financial advisor, although I prefer to describe myself as a financial guide for women. I get to know my client by asking them to describe their visions for the future. What’s important to them? What are their core values? Who are their important people? Where do they want to steer their life? What are their dreams? When I get beyond values to talk about their dreams, I’m usually met with silence. At first I assumed I wasn’t asking the right questions to elicit their creative vision. After all, if I am to do my job well, I need to know where my client wants to go so I can determine how their finances are meant to serve them. After some consideration and research, I noticed that the majority of women in middle age or beyond aren’t able to clearly articulate their personal dreams for the future. Is this really a thing? Do women really stop dreaming? When did the dreams slip away? When did we stop devoting time to this?
We all started out with loads of dreams for our futures, even different versions of what we would do or who we would become. When we were young, we devoted time to thinking about careers, where we would go to school, the things we would do differently from our parents. We had plans, lots of plans. They may have been altered multiple times, but we spent time thinking about what we wanted to create. So what happened? Where did that way of thinking go?
There are lots of hypotheses about what happens to women and why they are different from men in this regard. Research points to men being naturally more self-confident than women, which may be a factor. After all, men apply to jobs where they meet 60% of the criteria, whereas women apply when they meet 100% of the criteria. Do we simply get worn out after slogging through the battles of life? Is it that we are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what life has thrown at us? Do anxiety or fear of failure factor in? Is it the glass ceilings and soul-less jobs many of us face? Have we been drained by failure? Is it that we spend our adult lives taking care of our families, managing our careers and caretaking for our parents that leaves us with nothing left for ourselves? I believe all of these are contributing factors.
According to the Global Dreams Index Survey, half of all women around the world give up on their dreams and are unsatisfied with their lives. Half of all women is a startling statistic! I suppose at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why this has happened. It simply matters that we are noticing. The question becomes, not why, but what shall we do about it?
With life moving at an epic pace, and society as we know it having been recently rearranged by the pandemic, what can we do differently? My advice to my clients – start small. Start to ask yourself, what do you love? Most of us could recite a list of what the people in our lives love and want, yet we come up empty when asked about ourselves. It can start by simply noticing our propensity to put everyone and everything else first. Be first. Make a list of 3 small things you love that you want to incorporate into your life and then set about making them happen. Then pick 3 more and add them into your life. Start small and let it be fun. This isn’t another item on your to do list but rather, a way to enrich yourself. These are little morsels meant to inspire a smile or a moment of peace or pleasure.
When I was at a low point in my life with a child who required a decade of intensive medical intervention, I couldn’t dream any farther than a great cup of tea and some fuzzy socks. I was so depleted I didn’t have anything to offer in the way of creativity. I was in survival mode. Looking back I can see just how spent I was, but at the time I was annoyed that I couldn’t figure out what I loved and wanted to add to my day. So, I got myself some fancy teas and a couple of pairs of soft, cozy socks. That was all I could do and that was enough because when I took a moment to drink my tea, I knew I could expand this exercise. In the midst of this turmoil, I managed to write a dream sheet of 5 things I wanted to happen in the near future. I shoved this in my bedside table where it stayed for a year, unnoticed. When I stumbled upon it I was amazed that they had all happened. How? I wasn’t sure and it didn’t matter. I realized that recording the dreams was the clarion call.
The simple act of thinking of what you want to incorporate into your life is an expanding experience. Ask yourself the question, when were you happiest in your life? What were you doing? Who were you with? What made that time or experience so special? Now what facets of that would you like to replicate? Do what my friend does, and start each new year or birthday with a list of things you want to create or do in the year ahead. Then look out farther and add bigger dreams to your list. The list will change as circumstances change and that’s the fun of the process.
So why does a financial advisor care about dreams? It’s the driver behind all I do for a client. It tells me what their money needs to do for them. Money is simply a tool and my job is to determine how it is to be used in the most effective way. Without a client’s dreams to serve as guidance, it’s like setting out on a voyage without a destination. The symbol for my practice is a dandelion in its seed stage. Remember when we were children and blew on a dandelion to spread the seeds of our wish? We could easily create a wish for every dandelion we saw in a vast field. We need to take a page from our past and live as we did as children, where wishes were as plentiful as dandelion seeds in spring. Dare to dream. Your life will be better, more deliberate and richer for it.
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