The phrase “past performance doesn’t guarantee future results” is ubiquitous in financial sales literature. It has to be; it’s the law.
Having encountered that phrase hundreds or thousands of times so far in my reading over the years, it’s become almost a mantra too.
But as I occupy myself not just with how to help people become more financially free, but also to help people become more actionable and successful in their desired goals, the phrase seems especially relevant.
So forget the money, or at least the money specifically, and let’s think about the phrase in a new way: how it applies to you.
Your past performance
Let’s face it, it’s hard to look backwards. Shame and embarrassment at one’s past actions and mistakes are a bitter cocktail to swallow.
“I can’t believe I said that.”
“I wish I would have followed through on that.”
“I had an opportunity and I blew it.”
Feel free to insert your own narrative here. I’m just citing examples. (Not from my own life or anything. Nope. No sir. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Hypotheticals only here folks. Move along now.)
It’s very easy to take these individual statements about individual situations and turn them into a larger narrative:
“My time has come and gone.”
“It’s too late for me.”
“I’ll never be successful.”
“That’s just my lot in life.”
Have you ever heard yourself say or think any of these statements? I bet you have.
We have a natural inclination to take events and then construct narratives about them, whether or not they are directly correlated. It’s how we make sense of the world. It’s how we cope.
Unfortunately, this impulse doesn’t serve us when it comes to our narrative about ourselves.
Yes, the events of the past are unchanging, but our connection to the past is ever changing, and will always be.
This is good.
Your future results
Luckily for us, we sit at the intersection of what happened in the past, and what has yet to come. And the only connector of these two branches of our timeline is us in our current state right now.
I’ve said before in the context of financial planning that every month is another chance to get things right. Blew up your budget by accident last month? That’s last month. This month just started.
And as they say in sports, “on opening day, everyone is undefeated.”
Today is opening day. So is tomorrow. So is the next day.
Just because you screwed things up royally (or so you think), just because you didn’t grab that opportunity when you had it, just because you didn’t have the courage to say something, none of that implies anything about you. It doesn’t imply that you’ll never get opportunities like that again, and it doesn’t imply that if those opportunities do arise, that you’ll let them slip away again.
You may have been once “bad” with money. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be that way.
You may have once treated people unfairly. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be that way.
You may have once not been moved enough to action. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be that way.
Your past performance is no guarantee of your future results. And we should all be grateful for that.