The power of perspective


A resilience-building strategy from Kamal Sarma*. Find out how to focus on the things that matter today and stop stressing about the rest.

“Nothing endures but change.” Heraclitus, Greek philosopher.

As a financial advice professional, part of your role involves helping clients evaluate and manage risks and returns. In many ways, you’re there to help create as much certainty as possible in what is an uncertain world. This means looking beyond the short term at the longer-term implications of clients’ decisions.

Now that might be entirely appropriate under the circumstances but an increasing focus on the future in our personal lives, to the point where it becomes a preoccupation, means we risk losing perspective and stop living in the present. And to stop living in the present means we overlook the beauty of what we are experiencing now, while we wait for tomorrow’s next big thing which, let’s face it, may never eventuate.

The reality is our life can change in a heartbeat. Death is probably the most obvious example, yet we don’t really give it much thought. In our modern world, it’s sanitised and hidden. So we tend to ignore or forget just how fragile we all are.

The ancient Greek and Roman philosophers had the paradoxical idea that in order to thrive in life, you must remember that life could change (or even end) at any moment.

They believed that acknowledging the continual flux of life allows us to savour the moment more. They also gave us some strategies, one of which is shared below, to help us appreciate what we have in our lives, who we have in our lives and how to thrive in the time we have available to us. These strategies serve as a reminder of how unrealistic our expectations are that our lives will stay the same tomorrow as they are today.

Strategy: Create perspective

This strategy is called ‘momento mori’, meaning ‘remember that you will die’. To help those that might find this all a bit too ‘dark’, I’ve found you can achieve much the same result by shifting your focus slightly…think less about one’s inevitable passing and more about how much time you have available to truly thrive.

  1. Start with how many years you think you have to live (and be optimistic!).
  2. Subtract your age in years then multiply by 365 to convert to days. So, if you expect to live to 100 and you’re 45 now:
    (100-45) x 365 = 20,075 days to make the most of.
  3. If you feel like you just live for weekends, then multiply by 52 instead, and you’ll realise you have 2,860 weekends to enjoy.

I’ve found that when people shift their focus and do the exercise as described above, even though it can still be confronting (especially if they use the average life span of an Australian male or female), it can force them to create perspective and prompt them to focus on the things that matter today and stop wasting their time stressing about the rest.

Find out more

For more strategies, insights and information from Kamal Sarma on building resilience, read his ‘Five to thrive’, brought to you by BT.

* About Kamal Sarma. Living in a monastery, Kamal Sarma trained as a monk for 6 years before gaining postgraduate qualifications and excelling in senior corporate positions in organisations such as McKinsey & Company. He is the founder and CEO of Rezilium, a strategic leadership firm that delivers customised resilience programs to a range of organisations including Google, Facebook and PWC. He is currently Chairman of the R U OK Conversations think tank, which takes research and turns it into practical tools. Kamal is also the co-founder of a not-for-profit venture, Captivate the Future, which aims to build confidence, resilience and self-esteem in high school students through public speaking, and is the author of 3 books. 

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Important Information

The content for this article is prepared by Kamal Sarma, CEO Rezilium. Information is current as at 20 March 2020. The views expressed in this article are those of Kamal Sarma alone unless otherwise quoted, and do not reflect the views or policy of any company in the Westpac Group. This article is for adviser use only. Any case study or example contained in this article is for illustrative purposes only, and is not to be construed as an indication or prediction of future performance or results. While the information contained in this article may contain or be based on information obtained from sources believed to be reliable, it may not have been independently verified. Where information contained in this article contains material provided directly by third parties it is given in good faith and has been derived from sources believed to be accurate at its issue date. While such material is published with necessary permission, no company in the Westpac Group accepts any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of, or endorses any such material. Except where contrary to law, we intend by this notice to exclude liability for this material. This article may also contain links to websites operated by third parties (‘Third Parties’) who are not related to the Westpac Group (‘Third Party Web Sites’). These links are provided for convenience only and do not represent any endorsement or approval by the Westpac Group of those Third Parties or the information, products or services displayed or offered on the Third Party Web Sites.