In discussion with retirement planning clients, I’m often reminded that the best outcomes to challenges and opportunities are generally realized after asking the right questions.
And since we all only have one shot at living a great life, there’s a fair amount of responsibility I feel in learning how to ask great questions, which hopefully lead to better outcomes. With that in mind, I wonder if you’ve ever considered asking this simple, yet foundational question of yourself when you’re making financial and general life decisions. The question is: “What do you really want?” I’ll ask it again, but with the proper emphasis: “What is it that you REALLY want to have happen?”
When people are choosing among options, whether they be which the college you’ll attend, the career you’ll commit to, the lifestyle you’ll lead, or the family life you’ll experience, I find that our most desired outcome is generally not the one we eventually pursue. In other words, the choices we make are most often clouded by influences that are not of our own choosing. So again, what is it that you REALLY want to have happen?
In a Netflix documentary special from a few years ago featuring John Mellencamp, called ‘Plainly Spoken’ (which I highly recommend), he sums up his 65 years of life and 40 years as a performer with this statement: “There is no reward in this world for settling for something you don’t want.” He’s so adamant that he actually repeats it three times. And I began to wonder how often you and I are willing to settle for something that is a far cry from what it is that we really want to have happen.
In terms of financial matters, I often hear people say that they want to retire early. “How early?” I ask. Then what I generally hear next is a heavily-censored version of what they really want. The forces that exist around us almost immediately begin attacking the response that’s authentic, resulting in a desire that’s just a shadow of the real dream. “Well, I suppose 62 or maybe 65, because health insurance costs, and inflation, and…” To the contrary, I think what they really want to have happen is something more like this: “I don’t want to retire to the beach yet because I do love to work, but be in a position where we no longer need to work full time for money. This would allow us to do work we really love and not have to worry about money when doing it.” See the difference?
So why do we censor ourselves and settle for less than what we really want? While I’m not a psychiatrist or a counselor, I have to believe the factors range from fear of failure, to family upbringing, to peer pressure, or any number of other outside forces. Sure, there are realities that need to be contended with, but the fact is that most people are choosing to live lives that are full of needless comprise and regret because nobody is asking us to question what it is that we really want.
So I’ll ask it again. What is it that you really want to have happen in your life? And consequently, what is it costing you to settle for less than that? A life of vitality is a life lived fully, with rich relationships, meaningful work, some level of financial security, and belief in something that’s bigger than who we are today. So consider asking yourself some tough questions and see what happens when you dare to answer.
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