Willingness vs Ability

Welcome to 2013. On behalf of Investors Direct, I wish you a very prosperous New Year.

In this month’s newsletter, I would like to discuss an irritating topic many of us face regularly. That is, being criticised by our loved ones and work colleagues because, according to them we are not willing to do something, which in reality, has little to do with our willingness. If we don’t get this simple fact, we can be in for more misery, whether it is with investments, relationships or other situations. Let me explain.

I have looked into all the situations I have come across on the subject of “someone not willing to do something”. On closer examination I find I can loosely put them into two categories:

Other people around you being not willing to do the things that you are already good at. For example:

  • You are very good at learning new things, and you find other people around you are not willing to learn;
  • You are very organised, and you find other people around you are not willing to be organised;
  • You are a good salesperson, and you find other people around you are not willing to sell;
  • You are a good saver, and you find other people around you are not willing to save;
  • You are a good listener, and you find other people around you are not willing to listen;
  • You are a good risk taker, and you find other people around you are not willing to take risk.

Other people around you are not willing to do the things that you want done but are not good at. For example:

  • You want to manage your money properly but you are not good at doing it yourself, so you often find that your spouse is not willing to do that either;
  • You want to manage a team properly but you are not good at doing it yourself, so you often find that your business partner is not willing to do that either;
  • You want your spouse to understand you better but you are not good at understanding your spouse yourself, so you often find that your spouse is not willing to understand you either;
  • You want to make more money but you are not good at doing it yourself, so you often find that your spouse is not willing to do that either.

When we talk about someone being unwilling to do something, we often imply that they have an attitude problem. Over the years I have found this view is not very productive most of the time as most people are unwilling to accept that they are unwilling! ☺

What if we change the context from attitude to ability? If we do, is it then possible for the two above categories to become something like this:

  • Other people around you are not willing to do the things that you are already good at. This could mean you have the ability, but you are unable to see that others around you may not have the same ability as you, hence you blame them for their unwillingness (with the assumption that they have your ability, which they may not).
  • Other people around you are not willing to do the things that you want done but not good at. This could mean that neither you nor others around you have the ability to do the things that you want done, but you blame others around you for their unwillingness (with the assumption that they may have the ability that you don’t have, which of course they may not).

I have often seen business partners, spouses, work colleagues, etc blame each other for their unwillingness to do something. This is not the most constructive way to achieve common goals. Because most people are unwilling to accept that they are unwilling, the best solution is to address their ability rather than blame it on their ‘attitude’. I may even go so far as to assume that most people are actually willing to do anything, as long as they have the ability, so focusing on improving someone’s ability may actually improve their willingness.

Summary

So whenever you find people around you not willing to do the things you want done, try finding ways to improve their ability in that area. Most people can improve their ability in any area simply by becoming more educated in it and having some experience with it. For example:

  • For those who are not willing to eat healthy, first try putting them through a healthy diet education program and let them start trying out different healthy foods themselves;
  • For those who are not willing to communicate, trying putting them through a communication program or course and help them start experimenting with new ways to communicate with others;
  • For those who are not willing to manage money at home, try putting them through a money management education program and let them start learning how to better manage their money slowly;
  • For those who are not willing to make more money, put them through an investment education program and let them start investing with small steps from the start.

With improved ability, most people will start improving their willingness.

Until next month, happy investing.

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