In the face of so much uncertainty, the time is right to focus on gearing up for as positive a start to 2017 as possible
I do not think I am alone in feeling a sense of relief that 2016 is nearly over. We have had Brexit, the US election, conflict abroad and, of course, England’s unexpected football exit against the mighty Iceland in the Euros. I am not sure if we can take much more uncertainty.
But try as we may to anticipate what 2017 will bring, I have a sense we have entered a new era of exactly that uncertainty. The economic outlook, a long period of Brexit negotiations and a lack of consumer confidence point to a difficult few years ahead. The expression ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’ comes to mind.
Of course, this uncertainty may give long-term investors some opportunities. For the majority, however, we will need to draw on our flexibility and determination to manage such times as best we can.
One of the best ways to mitigate uncertainty is to be clear about goals and be willing to reset them when external factors dictate. This requires both patience and stamina.
No time like the present
As we work through the final weeks of the year, the time is right to focus on gearing up for as positive a start to 2017 as possible. Of course, the temptation is to wind down for the seasonal break. However, the more we take control of our activity and performance now, the more we will see the results we want in the early part of next year.
At risk of sounding like a micro-manager, my advice would be this: be aware of what you choose to do every day. With better awareness of how you spend your time, you will make better choices. And when you make better choices, you will see better results.
We are all surrounded by challenges and noise. Speculation in this market is constant and competition is intense. However, by looking in the right places, the future is there for each of us to create. There are no prizes for waiting or worrying.
Look at Andy Murray’s extraordinary performance at the recent tennis ATP World Tour Finals. It was clear he had set himself the goal to be number one and, no matter what blindsided him (namely, the gruelling three-hour semi-final against Milos Raonic just 24 hours before the showdown with his nemesis, Novak Djokovic), he was not going to be deterred from reaching it.
In my opinion, what has led Murray to the top – apart from his incredible stamina, both mental and physical – is his ability to change to a more flexible mindset where he adapts to the challenges he is set. We can all learn from his journey.
So, how do we achieve this? Each person will have their own methods but the following story, passed down through generations of the Cherokee people in North America, struck a chord with me:
One evening, an old Cherokee chief was talking to his grandson about the battle that goes on inside the head of all people, even the bravest warriors.
He said: “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside all of us. One is called Fear. It carries anxiety, concern, uncertainty, hesitancy, indecision and inaction. The other is called Faith. It brings calm, conviction, confidence, enthusiasm, decisiveness, excitement and action.”
The little boy thought for a moment and then asked: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee replied calmly: “The one you feed.”
There is a lesson in there for all of us: with the right mindset, much more is possible than you may think.
Peter Curran is managing director at Countrywide Financial Services