Take steps to move toward your ideal life

thinkbigIf you suddenly received $10 million and the diagnosis that you had only 10 years to live, what would you start doing? What would you stop doing?

The specific dollar amount that triggers your personal feeling of financial release may be higher (or lower) than $10 million. But the power of these twin questions comes not from the specific number, but from conceptually removing one common restraint on living an authentic life (“I need more money before I …”), while highlighting the other restraint we all share: that our time on earth is limited.

Common answers to these questions are: “I would start spending more time with my family, traveling and volunteering,” and “I would quit worrying, working, and doing things or being around people that don’t bring me joy.”

This, of course, begs the obvious follow-up question: What’s stopping you from living that bigger life right now?

It seems that, increasingly, time is the constraint that keeps us from living bigger. For many of us, we feel we don’t have the time (or choose not to spend the time) to challenge ourselves to figure out what, exactly, it is that we really want. This is understandable. Self-reflection is hard work and can require us to acknowledge that we may have made some less-than-optimal choices in the past. However, like most difficult steps, there can be a big payoff at the end.

“What’s stopping you from living that bigger life right now?”

And it can be easier than you think. Neuroscientists have shown that once an intrinsic goal is identified, our “reticular activating system” starts working on the problem and, “seemingly miraculously,” solutions can start to appear. Behavioral experts have found that taking small, regular steps in pursuit of a seemingly large and impossible goal can help us achieve what once seemed inconceivable. Studies from multiple fields show that one of the most common traits of “successful” people is grit and a willingness to try, fail and try again. These findings show that the keys to having a bigger life are within us all.

This fall, take some time to ask yourself what things you would change in order to move from your current life to your ideal life. It can be helpful to have someone act as a sounding board in this exercise, and we would be happy to help. In addition, these questions make an excellent framework for reviewing your financial plan to make sure it is designed to support your personal life goals.