7/12/12- Good Habits

Posted by Brad McMillan, CFA, CAIA, MAI

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This entry was posted on Jul 12, 2012 6:58:44 AM

and tagged Economics Lessons, On My Bookshelf

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This post will be a bit different—I am writing it on the road, so I don’t have access to many of my usual resources and tools. I am therefore going to take the chance to talk about something nonquantitative that I find helpful in both an investment and a noninvestment context.

One of the significant perks of my position at Commonwealth is the ability to talk with a wide range of experts in a wide range of fields. A couple of years ago, at our Chairman’s Retreat, we had a speaker who was an expert in the field of happiness.

I have to admit, I was skeptical. Yet when he spoke, he talked about happiness in the context of what to actually do to make yourself happier and what that means for your life. The idea is to focus on small changes that are not only easy to implement but also capable of making measurable and significant improvements in your life and career. Very powerful stuff, which I now use on a daily basis. The gentleman’s name is Shawn Achor and the book is The Happiness Advantage, which I highly recommend.

I don’t want to recap his book, but there are a couple of points worth mentioning. The first is the power of habit. Since hearing his presentation and reading his book, I have made it a point to develop good habits over time. Exercise is one; meditation is another. The most powerful, though, is doing daily gratitudes. Every morning, I write down at least three things I am grateful for.

Achor has evidence that this can lead to significant performance increases. In my case, while I believe it has done that, it has also definitely made me more focused and more content with my life. Another approach, suggested by Kol Birke, who is a colleague and friend of mine and an expert on things like this, is to look at what is going right. After talking with him, I added a going right list to my morning routine as well, and I think that will also prove valuable over time.

In an economic and investment context, these exercises can enable a bigger-picture view, with less obsession over the day to day. I will soon write a post concerning the difficulty of planning and maintaining focus over an extended time frame and how to overcome the difficulties. There are some specific tools that we will discuss in that post, but from a general mental preparation standpoint, Achor’s tools are well worth a look.

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