Ross Levin: See opportunity through 'tripod of reflection'

  • Updated: July 26, 2014 - 7:56 PM

Raising children creates a constant tug of war between disparate states.

Our girls are going to be seniors in college, and we want them to be independent and we want them to follow our ground rules. If we are too rigid or too loose, we won’t create any form of linkage with them.

Ultimately, to succeed as parents, we have to integrate these seemingly ­competing factors.

Financial planning is also about this linkage. We recently received a note from a client who is trying to integrate geopolitical concerns with a desire for stock market returns.

Essentially, this is a battle between security and risk.

But taken too far, an overemphasis on not losing money creates a rigidity around which it is difficult to navigate; a desire to push returns without regard to risk will result in chaos. In order to somehow align these opposing factors, we need to integrate them.

In his book “Mindsight,’’ Dr. Daniel Siegel speaks of the “tripod of reflection: openness, observation, objectivity.”

By working on these three areas, we lose attachment to how things should be, pay close attention to how we are responding to what is going on and recognize when a thought or feeling is simply that — rather than a call to action.

Too often, though, we are swept along by the currents of what’s current. We immediately react to issues rather than absorb them. In an effort to gain control, we lose it.

A client was trying to work through her job issues and was pulled by the opposing forces of being comfortable in her position and wanting to be ­challenged.

She had been performing her job at a high level for a long time and was wondering whether she should change companies or even careers. That may not even be the right question.

If she could integrate these two extremes, she may be able to remain doing what she enjoys and also stretch herself. Being open to how she could manage her job differently, observing what she liked and what was distasteful to her, and discerning how her feelings should be acted upon led her to changing responsibilities within the same firm.

We often see rigidity occur with our physician clients. Many doctors love their work and would continue into a ripe old age if they didn’t have to continue “taking call” — those middle-of-the-night and once-a-month weekend work requirements that result in little sleep and several days of physical catch-up.

They might work longer if they gave up call, but they are unwilling to take too large of an income hit to relinquish it. If they used the tripod of reflection, they could see that their quality of life would improve and they could continue doing what they enjoy for a longer period of time.

If our money decisions are not integrated with the other aspects of our lives, we will find ourselves bouncing between being inflexible or being unstructured. We know that doesn’t work very well with kids, and it doesn’t work too well with our finances.

Spend your life wisely.

Ross Levin is the founding principal of Accredited Investors Inc. in Edina. His Gains & Losses column appears on the last Sunday of the month. His e-mail is ross@accredited.com.

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