The confluence of the pandemic and the spreading resurgence of the Black Lives Matter conversation has created an astonishing opening in our country to reconsider the status quo. Many people are understandably stressed about how to handle the changes that fighting the virus demands, and are uncertain about how to see structural racism at work in their own lives.

Catalysts for change can also be very personal — the birth of a child, a move to a new community for a job opportunity, retirement, the death of a parent. In these instances, the status quo of our life has already changed, and we need to catch up, to make sense of the impact, to develop a framework for moving forward with confidence.

The pandemic has given us all a common denominator of worry, and led to extensive press coverage of how it is impacting people in different circumstances. We now have a view into others’ lives; we are paying closer attention, and can envision it impacting us. In turn, this experience readied us for the current conversation about racial equity that is like a river overflowing its banks. We are open to hearing about the impacts, listening for the grief and the rage, allowing consideration of what that means for others’ life experiences. We are genuinely curious, and we are yearning for better connection with one another.

An Open Mind for an Open Moment

A thin wedge of curiosity can open up mental and emotional space for positive change. In our work with clients, we collaborate with them to articulate what isn’t working, what they are hopeful for, what they want to make happen. Perhaps they can’t make progress saving for retirement, or they need help getting traction on an estate plan that includes children with different needs and circumstances. It might be a relationship with a parent, judgment about career choice, spending habits, or being lost emotionally and financially after a divorce.

Whatever the stress, whatever the desire, curiosity can propel change. In voicing frustration or fear or compassion you can move forward. Each instance can bring more clarity about your own behavior, and an understanding of your motivations; you are more conscious and open for change.

To be curious about your own desires, and understand the obstacles you put in your own path, isn’t always easy. Admitting you are uncomfortable making an investment decision. Recognizing that a sibling is upset with your work on your parent’s estate, and you don’t know how to repair the relationship. Curiosity means you get to ask; and you get to find out that the answer isn’t what you expected. You weren’t wrong, and now you have a broader view and a wider perspective ahead of you.

Magical Thinking

It’s easy to think there is a “right” answer to a question, or a single solution to a problem, and most of us desperately want to find it. We want others to know we did our best, that we are on their side, that we are responsible and loving and smart. But our desire to know the answer leads us to want a shortcut; we miss the reality of the problem, and gloss over openings for deeper resolution. We miss the more productive path of indulging our curiosity to expose a richer, more expansive version of the truth.

A simple example in personal finance is understanding how you spend money. Most people, in our experience, want a technical fix to make their budget work, and prefer to ignore the detail of their spending. This doesn’t work. Dipping into your own curiosity about the choices you’ve made with your money lets you get to know yourself better — including some pangs of guilt or fear of judgment — and it allows you to open your eyes in a way that allows you to reframe your passions. Once you are curious about the “why” of your spending, and the corollary benefits to your sense of identity and relationships with others, you have a truer sense of your priorities and can start to enjoy your spending decisions.

Your Own Private Blueprint

It may seem incongruous to discuss personal resistance to budgeting together with a desire to engage more fully with how racial inequity exists in our lives — or how we’ve ignored it. Both are opportunities, though, to be taken up with curiosity if you are ready to recognize what’s stopped you in the past. Beginning a conversation with a friend or family member about race doesn’t have to devolve into an argument or overwhelm you with embarrassment — if you let your curiosity lead. Many black activists are excited to see whites not only coming out to march, but speaking up, and trying to find a more enduring involvement.

How do we frame our own narratives? Why do we fail to act on our beliefs? If we are silent or still from a sense of fear, is that fear likely to be borne out? If you begin to answer these questions, slowly you will find your voice. What will you say? That’s part of the excitement of creating new space for yourself, bringing in new information, rearranging assumptions and expectations, and ultimately allowing you to take different actions.

Dialogue with friends; they can use your perspective as much as you can use theirs. Dialogue with strangers — again, they are bound to have had different experiences and to see things differently than you. Create your own confidence to engage with the broader conversation, and be open for change.

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Disclaimer: This commentary on this website reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints, and analyses of the North Berkeley Wealth Management (“North Berkeley”) employees providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by North Berkeley or performance returns of any North Berkeley client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing on this website constitutes investment advice, performance data, or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. North Berkeley manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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