How Am I Doing?
We are changing 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 your ability to successfully retire. All of us realize that we are in a high-stress career. Along the way, we find various methods to manage our stress — some healthy and others questionable. Similar to our military and their tours of duty, we have a tour of duty that lasts from 20 to 30 years, all the while taking a toll on our emotional and physical well-being. Hence, “How Am I Doing?” However, this does not pertain to your financial portfolio but your emotional portfolio.
I recall what Lieutenant John Moore says to his troops prior to heading out into the streets: “Pace yourself, kid. It’s a long career.” The early to middle portions of your tour are the perfect time to reflect on how you are managing your emotional portfolio. Nonetheless, if you have passed 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 would look at ourselves and fairly quickly admit to “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), but the buck does not stop there. We turn our books over to the auditors and have an independent review to determine where we could have made mistakes or to identify areas of possible improvement.
Now you have the opportunity to turn the books over and conduct your own audit. Begin with your family and then move to your close friends. This should provide you with a clear picture as to the status of your personal portfolio and how you are doing. Remind your family and friends to be bold and honest with their evaluations of you. You may learn that you have made some wise and some poor decisions on your investment choices. Fortunately for you, your family and friends are a whole lot more forgiving and supportive than the investment world, and are willing to help you along in the process of 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 you are not taking positive strides in working on 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 Policy (EAP) or medical insurance coverage for getting professional advice on diversifying your emotional portfolio. If you do not need it for yourself, you have a resource to offer your partners should you realize that they need it. It is incumbent on all of us to back our fellow officers not only down the valley of the shadow of death, but also in their time 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, by Dr. Bobby Smith
- The Will to Survive: A Mental and Emotional Guide for Law Enforcement Professionals and the People Who Love Them, 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.