Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Big Picture: What is My Purpose in Life?


A few months ago I attended a Chamber of Commerce meeting and got to hear our wonderful mayor (he really is terrific!) chat about the plans he has for our lovely city for the next 10 years. It was a sterling speech and a great vision. He did a marvelous job outlining what aspects of our city need to stay the same for historical and nostalgic reasons and what parts of the city need to change to keep pace with the technology, as well as the growth and needs of new businesses. After the talk many of us were standing around chatting about the plans and what our views were on the topic. What was absolutely amazing to me was the amount of consensus in the room. Everyone seemed to agree with the Vision. Where the differences popped up was in the details of implementing the vision. However, as far as all were concerned, the vision was just fine.
Interesting.
I think the reason so many folks have problems with their finances is that they have no definite purpose or vision for their future. They spend so much time trying to buy happiness that they loose sight of their primary purpose for being on the planet. I know I have talked about this topic before, but this is THE primary stumbling block for most folks.
A real sense of purpose is what calms the emotional seas of money and allows you to sail to the shore of financial stability. Most folks have no idea what they want out of life, or what they want to “be” when they grow up, or what their passion is. I have hit all of these points in past postings. What I haven’t yet discussed with you are the finer points to deciding what your life is going to be “about” or how you wish to live.
It doesn’t matter if your credit cards are maxed out and you have no idea where the next payment is coming from. It doesn’t matter if you have no credit card debt, $10,000 in the bank and no IRA. It doesn’t matter if you are financially stable and investing.
If you don’t know where you want to go with your finances, you will simply be a leaf floating in the wind of life.
You need purpose. You need a sense of action. The reason the Mayor’s talk went over so well with such a variety of people (and did we ever have diversity -- used car salesmen to multi-million-dollar venture capitalists) was due to his incredible sense of vision. He was able to communicate it well with the rest of us.
If you create a strong vision for yourself, you’ll be able to steady the emotional waves that money has on you. What is your vision for yourself? What is the one passion you have in your life? Let’s go even broader … if you had all the money in the world, what is the one thing you would change or do? Here’s another way to find your purpose in life. Think of the one person who is your hero. This person is so wonderful in your opinion that you want to model your life after him/her. Now put that person squarely in your mind. What single attribute of this hero is your favorite? Was it her total devotion to her liege lord? Was it his complete compassion for struggling humanity? Was it the fearlessness that he used to conquer his ego? What single characteristic makes you look up to this individual? Have you got the answer in your head? Okay, read on. Believe me or not, this is YOUR mission. This is what YOU want most to do with your life. Now the details may be totally fuzzy in your mind. You may have NO idea how you will ever heal all the sick of the world. Or maybe you were most impressed by Mother Teresa because she took time with each individual she touched. What is important here is that you now have a target. You now have a characteristic to strive to perfect in your own life.
How does this help your finances?
Well, now that you have a clear idea of what you want to do with yourself, you get to sit down with pen and paper and work out a list of things you can do right now, today. You will be surprised to find how many things you can do to move toward your target that don’t take a bit of money. For example, I gave this exercise to one of my college students. She told me her hero was Joan of Arc because of Joan’s unswerving dedication and never-give-up attitude. My student discussed how impressed she was that no matter the obstacles or difficulties Joan of Arc continued on with total faith that everything would work out fine. When I told her this was also her mission, my student had no idea how to put this vision into reality. “Easy,” I told her. “What you do is give this same strength of purpose to others. It is the quality of the person that you admire. Don’t you see that everyone in your life has this same ability to strengthen others if they would just believe in themselves?” She replied, “Yes, I see everyone as being a genius in one form or another. They just give up too soon.”
My conclusion was this: “Then you get to be a cheerleader to all those folks in your life who have given up on a dream!” How does this help her finances? She will now start making choices on where to spend her money that are in line with her life’s true purpose. She was thinking of going to law school, but now she is studying psychology. She wants to help single moms achieve their dreams. Notice that what we are doing here is giving you a target, one that you can pursue with abandon. You want a point in space at which to aim your energy and time so that you can move forward with things that really matter to you. Why?
Because once you are doing things that you think are important, your finances fall into line to help them actually happen.
What is needed now is for you to start setting some financial goals for yourself considering this new knowledge of purpose. At first when you do this exercise you will have no idea how to implement the mission you have for yourself or how it will affect your financial outlook. The object is this: once you know what you are seeking you can then start making choices that will guide you toward your goal.
What you do after you have figured out your purpose is to sit down and come to terms with a few basic questions:
• How much money do I owe other people? (credit cards, mortgage, car loans, loans from family, medical bills)
• How much money do I bring home a month?
• How much money do I have saved? How much do I want to save?
• How much money do I need per month to just scrape by?
These questions are scary when looked at alone, but you have been running long enough. It is time for you to stare down your financial tiger and the only way to do it is to have a strong sense of purpose -- with the knowledge that with this purpose you will find a way out of your current situation.
There is hope and you can do this! I have had clients come away from this exercise totally defeated by their finances, but within a few minutes with pen and paper they realized they could make it. Example. One client was $270 short per month to cover her expenses. After doing the exercises above we figured her best bet was to get a second job. She started her own cleaning business while working for a local bank. She had Wednesdays and Sundays off so she cleans on those days. She now has enough money coming in to cover her unexpected medical bills as well as save a bit each month. This was impossible before. What happened to her along the way was she stopped spending as much on eating out because her mission was to get into health of some kind. She started making her own meals and bagging her lunch to work. The weekly dinner out with her friends became a weekly dinner at her house where everyone came to her place to cook together. All this because she found out what she really wanted for herself.
When it comes to knowing what you want to be or what character trait you wish to express in every area of your life, you then have taken steps to gain control.
First, know what you want. Then step out with strength knowing that you will get what you want if you just keep plugging away at it one day at a time.
Go get 'em, tiger!

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