More specifically, here are three areas where, in our experience, adopting a more spiritual approach works:
Factors to be taken into consideration
1. Dealing with clutter
Our manic obsession with buying things we don’t need has cluttered our physical spaces with useless items. And mentally, we’re no better off, with the clutter of distractions from cat videos to checking our social media when we know we have a one-hour deadline. And finally, there’s the clutter of fruitless relationships and the time we spend with people that drawdown our energy reserves. The more you pack into your life/day, the greater the risk that you suffer from cognitive overload; your intellectual abilities are then compromised.
The spiritual approach to this is to place greater value on the well-being of our inner self, prioritizing those possessions and relationships that truly matter to you. It’s a philosophy that has been espoused by many over the ages. The writer Chuck Palahniuk famously wrote, “The things you own ending up owning you”. Stoicism, a school of Ancient Greek philosophy, speaks of frugality. And there’s even scientific evidence to wake us up to meaningful relationships.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development is one of the world’s longest studies of adult life, spanning nearly 80 years. The study’s findings are startling. Robert Waldinger, director of the study, summarises these findings as follows: “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships have a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”
2. Dealing with emotions
“Men are not afraid of things, but of how they view them,” the Greek philosopher Epictetus said centuries ago. We have to deal with our fears and our anxieties in a constructive, practical, clear-headed manner. For example, if as an equity analyst, Anupam is anxious about his firm’s exposure to the pharma sector, he needs to get to the bottom of his anxiety. Is it because he doesn’t understand the science behind these companies? Or is it simply because he hasn’t invested time and effort in understanding the industry properly?
Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates—one of the largest hedge funds in the world—says in his book Principles: Life and Work that “The most valuable habit I’ve acquired is using pain to trigger quality reflections. If you can acquire this habit, you will learn what causes you pain and what you can do about it, and it will have an enormous effect on your effectiveness.”
And the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote: “If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”
3. Achieving a deep focus
Achieving peak performance is pure joy; it also involves deep, almost extreme focus and overcoming huge challenges (and hence the pain). From intense physical training to long hours of focused work, almost any goal that’s worth achieving will require inhuman effort.
In the end, hitting this peak is immensely rewarding. In our experience, the work we put into researching a company requires deep focus—and it is not always rewarding. While we spend hours toiling away analyzing annual reports and traveling to gather primary data, the market might just not care for our effort.
For many years, the stock price of that company might not go anywhere. This is the pain and self-doubt that we have to endure. But when one of our many bets finally proves us right, our reward is more than just the profits we make—it’s also the emotional payoff that comes from having weathered the pain and reaching our goal.