How Am I Doing?
Let’s change gears this month by focusing on the value of your personal stock. Last year I discussed the topic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by evaluating the choices you make that may have an effect on your body and ability to successfully enjoy your retirement. All of us realize we are in a high-stress career. Along the way, we find various methods to manage our stress — some are healthy, while others may be questionable. Similar to our military members and their tours of duty, we have a tour of duty that lasts from 20 to 30 years that all the while takes a toll on our emotional and physical well-being. Hence, “How Am I Doing?” this time around does not pertain to your financial portfolio but, rather, your emotional portfolio.
During the early to middle portions of your tour is the perfect time to reflect on how you are managing your emotional portfolio. Nonetheless, if you have gone past the midpoint in your career, don’t think it’s time to throw in the towel; you still have plenty of reflection time. Be mindful that most of us will look at ourselves and quickly determine that “I’m doing fine.” This is why in the financial world there are checks and balances. At the end of the fiscal year, we look at the numbers and say it was a great year (or maybe not). However, the buck does not stop there. We turn our books over to the auditors and have an independent review to determine where we may have made mistakes or to identify areas where improvements can be made.
Now, you have the opportunity to turn the books over and conduct your own audit. Begin with your family and then move on to your close friends. This should provide you with a clear picture of the status of your personal portfolio and “how you are doing.” Remind your family and friends to be bold and honest in their evaluations of you. You may learn that you have made some wise and poor decisions in your personal investment choices. Fortunately for you, your family and friends are a whole lot more forgiving and supportive than the investment world and willing to help you along in the process toward reconciling your books and achieving your goals.
The audit process is a perfect start toward making positive changes in your emotional account, especially if your family and friends feel that you are not making strides in managing your stress, which, in turn, will increase theirs. Lately there have been numerous reports on secondhand stress and the negative effects it has on our family and friends. Depending on how your personal portfolio is doing, there are remedies out there to improve your situation. Even if you are operating in the positive zone, it does not hurt to have an advisor provide you with some detailed guidelines to keep you on the right track.
Take some time to review your agency’s employee assistance program (EAP) or medical insurance coverage for how to get professional advice in diversifying your emotional portfolio. If not for yourself, then you have a resource to offer your partners should you realize that they are in need. It is incumbent on all of us to not only back our fellow officers in times of danger, but also in times of emotional need.
Here is a short list of some reading material to help you gather more insight on this very important topic.
- Force Under Pressure: How Cops Live and Why They Die by Dr. Lawrence Blum
- Stoning the Keepers at the Gate: Society’s Relationship With Law Enforcement by Dr. Lawrence Blum
- Visions of Courage: The Bobby Smith Story by Dr. Bobby Smith
- The Will to Survive by Dr. Bobby Smith
- Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin
I close with retired Lieutenant Marty Van Lierop’s words: “Remember two things. First, you can’t control the direction of the wind. But, you can adjust your sails! And remember your goal. Live long enough and healthy enough to draw retirement benefits for at least the same number of years of service you put into the system!”
Be safe and have fun.