For those seeking a user manual for life (and financial decisions), this Venn diagram about where to focus sums it up elegantly.

The simplicity of this diagram is profound.  The world around us is complex and full of “noise,” both statistical and theatrical (e.g. TV news, etc.).  The senses are bombarded with eye and ear-catching attempts to grab your attention.  The challenge is to remain focused on what counts.

A lack of focus leads to distraction and ineffectiveness.  The future and financial markets are uncertain, yet people crave order and certainty in order to feel secure in the short-run, sometimes at the expense of long-run progress.  To the extent you lose focus, you lose direction and can jeopardize your future.

Financial results matter.  However, it is not possible to control markets.  Low but rising interest rates, stock market peaks and valleys, geopolitical events and government fiscal cliffs, sequestrations and shutdowns create volatility, uncertainty and news.  While specific events are unpredictable, the long-term strategic planning process expects a certain level of the unexpected.

The answer is to remain focused on what matters that you can control: behavior.  Discipline and focus are what create the positive outcome you want:  The achievement of life goals and/or fiduciary goals.

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Graphic provided with permission from Behavior Gap ©.