Focus On What You Can Control

If you’re like me, you know it can be difficult to maintain focus.  It’s even harder to maintain focus on what matters.  I find it a constant struggle, but it’s something I believe will have benefits if I can improve.

You’ve probably heard of The Serenity Prayer (full version)…

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

It’s a common teaching within Alcoholic Anonymous and many 12 step programs.  While it’s true in all aspects of life, it is particularly relevant to our financial lives.  We’re constantly pushed in different directions by both our monkey brains and the continuous barrage of media.  It takes both wisdom and work to keep our focus on the area of overlap.

Things that matter:

  • Stock Market Performance
  • Tax Rates and Rules
  • Recession Timing
  • Name Your Topic Talked About on CNBC

Unfortunately, none of these are within our control.  So while we should plan for and understand them, trying to change them shouldn’t be our focus.

Things we can control (that also matter):

  • Our reaction to both positive and negative events
  • How much we save and invest
  • What we invest in
  • How much risk we take and how we diversify
  • Having a plan that fits our situation that we’re able to stick to

This is not easy.  It takes constant practice.  But, it’s important and probably the best use of our time.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into focus and our control, check out Stoic philosophy.  Our focus, what we pay attention to, and how we react are part of the underpinnings of Stoic philosophy.  Ryan Holiday has several books including The Daily Stoic:  366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living and he also runs a website called the Daily Stoic.


  • Mike Hunsberger, ChFC®, CFP®, CCFC

    Mike Hunsberger, ChFC®, CFP®, CCFC is the owner of Next Mission Financial Planning located in Saint Charles, Missouri serving clients across the US and wherever the military takes them. After 25 years in the Air Force he started his firm to support military, former military, and retirees through values-based financial planning enabling clients to live their best lives.