Wise Thinking #7: Plasticity v CSAT

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“I need to take a withdrawal.” At some point, every phone rep in the retirement business gets that call. Withdrawal calls aren’t unusual—we are there to provide income—but that call is the one that brings out the parent in you. It’s the one which makes you wish you could refuse service in order to truly serve.

Several years ago, I took that call from the sweetest lady. Three years earlier, she’d invested in a product which would provide a very healthy income for her lifetime. The first year, the value grew. She retired, and the second year, she began taking the amount we’d promised. Then her daughter needed $500. Then $3000. Then $7000. Her daughter was having trouble finding a job. Her daughter got a boyfriend who also didn’t work. They moved in. This sweet woman drained $80,000 from her account in a year and a half, believing that’s what mothers are supposed to do.

When you make room for others by knocking down walls, everyone’s hurt when the roof falls.

Her agent talked to her. She was insistent, and she was competent, so there wasn’t much he could do. Within another year, she handed her daughter the last of her life savings.

Companies everywhere strive for high CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) scores. In a competitive market, the voice of the customer is your best advertisement. It’s painful when your great service only speeds the client’s self- destruction. There are protections for vulnerable clients in the finance industry, but you can’t just keep the money someone has earned and saved.

Customer Satisfaction can be dangerous in finance, but it can be deadly in healthcare. Since the 1970s, hospitals and doctor’s offices have increasingly used patient pain ratings to determine their treatment. When patients are numb, satisfaction scores are high. Patients are poor judges of their own needs, although allowing them to drive medicine ensures repeat business. From 1999 to 2010, sales of prescription pain relievers quadrupled. One in four people with such a prescription struggles with addiction, and emergency rooms see 1,000 patients each day for misusing opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone.

We’re grown-ups. We’re pretty smart, but as a society, we’ve developed a low tolerance for financial and physical discomfort. Our financial advisors and doctors warn us about overspending and overdosing, but ultimately we alone have the power to protect ourselves. What helps?

Elasticity makes our bodies last. Our joints and muscles want to be used. If you spend much of your day in the same position, take 5-10 minutes every hour to move. Stretch, walk, take a flight of stairs. Insert longer periods of exercise several times a week. Try yoga for your back, water aerobics for your joints and reduce your dependency on the doctor. Increase your body’s elasticity and make it last longer without injury. Plus, cardio is an endorphin-booster. After 20-30 minutes of making your heart pump, pain is diminished and your cheeks feel lighter. Look in the mirror and whoa—you’re smiling!

Rigidity keeps our plans intact. Savings don’t bounce back as quickly as ligaments. If you’re already retired, protect your budget. If your kids can’t support themselves, they certainly won’t be able to support you. If you’re not yet retired, make that savings account your favorite place to shop. When we tithe 10%, God takes care of us, but He still expects us to be wise. If you take another 10% out of your paycheck and stash it, then it can compound for awhile before you retire. Remember, that 10% will need to replace the 80% you’re used to spending, so it will need time to build. Saving is like learning to walk—you fall down a few times at first. Keep trying until you reach the point where taking money from your retirement fund seems as ridiculous as knocking a hole in your house. As you get older, save more. Pretend it’s a luxury purchase, every time you transfer money from your paycheck into savings. Pamper yourself with a future!

Pamper yourself with a future!

Plasticity relieves pain. When we’re feeling depressed, resentful, fearful and insecure, we’re more likely to experience pain. We collect tension in our muscles, and our minds search for more data to justify feeling awful. Globalized negativity—deciding that everything sucks—feels easier than pinpointing what’s really happening, but it turns us into blobs of misery. Plasticity means we can mold our own brains. Think about cookie dough. When shaping sugar cookies, a chip of eggshell or a lump of unsifted baking soda can wreck a whole cookie. When you feel that lump, you pinch it with your fingers until you determine what it is. Ignoring pain or depression doesn’t make it go away—we have to identify what’s going on. Then, like the eggshell or soda, we either remove it or blend the dough more thoroughly. Resentment and unforgiveness require removal. Insecurity and depression may need to be sifted into smaller grains, until the flavors of gratitude and generosity are all we taste.

If you have a chronic condition, you are more important than your pain. Tell it, “You might be riding along for now, but you are not driving my life.” Find or make reasons to be grateful. Connect with people and talk about other things. Brighten someone else’s day. If your ability is limited, do what you can and don’t give in to guilt or shame over not doing “enough.”  EMDR or biblical meditation can help put you back into the driver’s seat.

Painkillers lose their effectiveness and cause side effects that keep us going downhill. Money runs out.  Our brains grow more effective and capable as we use them. Every time we choose wisdom, we feel stronger. Every time we choose gratitude, we relax.  Every time we repeat our good choices, they get easier. Go, go, Plasticity!

I hope you’re enjoying this series. I find that knowledge helps, but wisdom is built by devoting time each day to my mental and spiritual health. If you’d like to be happy, wise and at peace, order my book and journal set, Wisdom – Better than Wishing.





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Michael Bridges

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