You have a ton of things you want to accomplish in your life - both professionally and in your personal life. And you want to focus on what's most important and not get distracted by the small things. But that focus is really difficult! Often the biggest challenge is getting clear about what is really most important to you. That's what we're talking about this week!
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If you've checked out last week's post, you know that I believe the greatest risk you face in life you not not leading the life that you feel called to live. That risk applies to everything - your financial plan, your life plan and even how you spent an ordinary Thursday!
Creating a meaningful and fulfilling life might sound like an odd thing for a financial planner to be focused on. But actually, any good financial planner NEEDS to be focused on helping clients answer this question. There is literally no point in doing any work on your financial life if it doesn't make your life better. That's what financial planning is all about: making your experience of life better and supporting you living the life you feel truly called to lead.
That probably all sounds great, but how do you know what to focus on? There are probably a lot of things you want to do with your life, and the reality is that none of us have the time, energy or resources to do everything. We have to prioritize. But how?
In this post, I'll walk you through three powerful questions which will help you prioritize what truly matters to you in your life.
These questions are part of a larger Life Planning process which I use in my financial planning practice. The method of Life Planning I practice was developed by George Kinder and is overseen by the Kinder Life Planning Institute. The text of each of these three questions is from materials developed by George Kinder and maintained by the Kinder Institute of Life Planning. In fact, they are known in the financial planning community as Kinder's Three Questions.
You can conduct the Life Planning process for yourself and there is a great community of Registered Life Planners who can facilitate the process for you. See the end of this post for more details.
Answering the Three Questions
Each of the three questions presented below are asked in three distinct and hypothetical worlds. These exercises are most powerful if you set aside some time to sit down and really reflect on these answers.
My favorite way to approach the questions is to sit down and write out my responses. I have answered these questions several times, and I always seem to learn something new. Sometimes I have typed out my answers. Other times I've written out my responses longhand. I don't think one is better than the other, but you may find different things come up for you and in different ways. Experiment and play around with the way you respond to them.
One final pointer would be to really sit with your emotional response to each question. Often our cognitive mind will jump into gear and supply a bunch of answers. And that's ok. And I'd invite you to go deeper. Really feel what it would be like to experience and be in the scenario presented in the question. What would that world feel like? What different signals are you receiving about what's truly important to you? What sensations do you notice in your body?
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#1: What would you do if you had complete financial security?
I want you to imagine that you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. The question is...how would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back on your dreams. Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.
Question One invites you to dream big. If you no longer had to work to ensure your financial security? How would you spend your time? What would your focus on? What would that freedom feel like?
#2: What would be important if you had only five or ten years?
This time you visit your doctor who tells you that you have only 5 - 10 years left to live. The good part is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live? Will you change your life and how will you do it?
This question makes things a bit more urgent. If you had only five to ten years left to lead your life, what comes forward for you? Really pause and sit with what emotions and sensations arise for you when you contemplate your mortality on the not-too-distant horizon. What feels most important for you to spend your limited time doing? What does your heart really call for you to focus on?
In the world of question two, you sadly no longer have the financial resources you had in question one. All aspects of your life are identical to how they actually are, including your financial circumstances. The only change is that you know with certainty you only have five to ten years left. Remember the good news is that you won't every feel - you'll continue to feel as capable and healthy as you do today.
#3: What would you miss if the curtain came down tomorrow?
This time your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What did I miss? Who did I not get to be? What did I not get to do?
Question three is certainly the heaviest question. And for many people it can also be the most powerful. This question is not asking you to consider what you would do in the last twenty four hours of life. Nor is it asking you to focus on any regrets you might hold.
Rather, it asks you to contemplate what lays ahead for you. What's happening in your life that, in this hypothetical scenario, you will no longer get to do. What are those really important things for you? What have you not yet gotten to do, or accomplish? Is there someone who you haven't yet become? Is there a way of living that you aspire to and haven't yet fully achieved?
Pause and really feel what it would be like to suddenly and unexpectedly come face-to-face with your own, inevitable mortality. What really comes forward for you? What really matters? Don't censor yourself. Don't factor in what you think should matter most. Answer from your heart. Answer intuitively. Answer from the core of your being. What path are you on that you really want to see through to the end?
Reflecting on Your Responses to the Three Questions
After you've completed these writing exercises, set them aside for a day, or even two. Then come back to them and notice what themes emerge. What seems most important to you as you review and reflect on what you've written. Are there topics that show up in more than one question?
Sometimes, the most important life goals are found in the response to Question Three. But this isn't always the case. There is no right or wrong way to look at these answers. Just reflect on what you notice and what you feel when reviewing your responses.
These three questions can often help you create a short list of life goals that feel most important and resonant. But these questions won't necessarily give you a neat, tidy answer to the question of how you should focus your life. They may simply highlight that you have some additional areas to explore. Regardless, I've found that these questions have a way to stripping away the less important and giving you a clear direction in which to progress - even if the final destination remains a bit unclear.
Further Life Planning Resources
As I mentioned above, the three questions are just one element of a more comprehensive Life Planning process. I think these questions can be very powerful on their own. And I believe they can be much more powerful when used as part of the larger Life Planning process.
Is this something you can do yourself? Absolutely! You might find the book Life Planning for You helpful in that regard. You might also consider completing this process with a trusted friend or family member. And of course, if you'd like the guidance of a professional training in this process, there is a whole community of Registered Life Planners out there as well. I am one, and you can find many other qualified Life Planners on the Kinder Institute's website.
That's a Wrap 🎬
That's it for this week's post! I hope you found it helpful and maybe even inspiring. And please let me know what you think! What made sense, and what points were confusing? What else would you like to hear about? Give me a shout and lemme know!
And if this all feels a bit much to navigate on your own, give me a shout! I work one-on-one with therapists from all over the country. There are a three different ways to work with me, all of which I describe on my services page. One is sure to meet your needs and fit your budget!
The Life Planning process described here, and materials used during the process, were developed by George Kinder and the Kinder Institute of Life Planning. It is part of a program of trainings that lead to the Registered Life Planner® designation. Used by permission of George Kinder © 1999, 2017.
Turning Point is a registered investment advisor in the state of California. Please visit turningpointhq.com for important information and additional disclosures. This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes financial, legal or tax advice; a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security; or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Read the full Disclaimer here.