Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…. Or is it? Some people have a hard time making space for the people and leisure activities they love most. By contrast, others positively wallow in their passions.
At this time of year, when nature seems to encourage us to take it easy and enjoy ourselves, it may be a good idea to think about where the “pleasure principle” fits into your life. Do you embrace it? Chase it? Or try to erase it?
An awareness of the role of pleasure in life can help you and your clients align your priorities and clarify your dreams and goals. Here are some examples.
Quite a while ago, I promised my wife and kids that I’d take time off so we could go on a family vacation out West. However, my practice has just begun to pick up after a dry spell, and I’m afraid of losing this momentum if I leave now. My family is very upset with me. What should I do? You’re unlikely to serve either your family or your clients well by deferring a vacation indefinitely. If you push yourself to keep working when you’re truly in need of recharging, you risk burnout, which could damage client relationships and your practice more than a few weeks out of the office.
That said, you may want to put extra effort into setting the stage for your absence. For example, consider conducting review sessions with your most demanding clients to reassure them that their financial affairs will run smoothly while you’re gone. Unless an assistant will be holding down the fort in your absence, you might promise to respond to any urgent e-mail or voice-mail messages during a half-hour window each weekday. You could also arrange to have your next client newsletter mailed out or posted on your Web site while you’re away.
Well-earned rest and recuperation is something you deserve, not a luxury to be indulged in only after you’ve run out of reasons to keep your nose to the grindstone. Give yourself permission to enjoy this upcoming pleasure with your family, once you’ve prepared your business for it.
My husband accuses me of refusing to take time to relax and have fun. But when I do something that ought to be enjoyable, I feel guilty and keep thinking about the responsibilities I should be attending to. Why do I feel this way, and is there anything I can do about it? The cause of this sense of guilt may lie somewhere in your past. Did you have a family history of unrelenting hard work, or a parent who judged play and pleasure to be a waste of time? Were you influenced by a belief that it’s necessary to suffer in order to earn a place in heaven? Were you made to feel ashamed anytime you opted for “being” instead of constantly “doing”?
Even if your adult mind no longer believes these old messages, they may continue to control your emotions. So rather than trying to change your behavior all at once, undergoing a massive guilt attack, and contracting back to your habitual patterns, you may need to stretch your capacity for rest and pleasure little by little.
Set aside some R&R time every week–perhaps an hour or two to begin with. During this time, give yourself full permission to do something you truly enjoy, with no guilty feelings allowed to intrude. Afterward, write down how you feel.
If you want to have a satisfying, intimate marriage, this process should include time spent relaxing and having fun with your husband. “Quality time” dates twice a week will help both of you store currency in your emotional bank. Gradually increase these periods of fun with your spouse, with friends, or by yourself, until you’ve achieved a balance between work and play that feels right for you and, ideally, for your relationship as well.
My newly-divorced client seems bent on spending her entire settlement on herself: spa vacations, cosmetic surgery, hair styling, and so on. Whenever I warn her about her shrinking assets, she says I sound just like her stingy, domineering ex-husband. How should I handle this? Kudos to you for trying to save this client’s financial life! Don’t be intimidated by her accusations and anger; spenders almost always have tantrums of rebellion against perceived limit-setters. To reach her, I think you’re going to have to take on more of a counselor’s role. (Hopefully, you’re comfortable with that.)
Begin by asking about her marital history and the divorce. Who left whom? Is she feeling a lot of pain and anger directed at her ex-spouse? Her self-indulgence now may be a way of getting even with him for having controlled her spending so rigidly.
After empathizing with her feelings, point out that her new freedom can allow her to fulfill her deeper needs and longings. Assure her that you have no desire to control her or criticize her for spending money on things that make her feel good. You simply want to help her see that protecting her financial security is also a way to nurture herself. She doesn’t need to give up all of her present-day pleasures, but by planning her spending more carefully, she may be able to meet her longer-range need for financial peace of mind.