❝Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.❞ -Steve Jobs
It's sunny as you stand next to the Boston Public Library. It’s late morning, and your friend has qualified for and is running in the Boston Marathon. You're standing at the finish line, waiting to cheer for her as she finishes.
Before long, you hear the roar of the crowd from up the street. The first place runner is coming down Boylston Street. It’s been barely two hours since the marathon started. It’s exciting to see the winner of the race across the finish line.
It's going to be at least two more hours until your friend crosses the finish line. Until that time comes, you get to watch hundreds of people cross the finish line. one by one, people cross the finish line as they throw their hands up in the air celebrating their finish. This is peculiar, you think, because this race has already been won. What could they possibly be celebrating?
Then it dawns on you that not everybody running this marathon is playing the same game. True, some people were trying to win the race. But, you realize some people were excited to finish the marathon that they worked so hard to qualify for. Some people were trying to beat their personal record. Others were racing their running nemesis, and still others were running just for fun because they like the course.
Life is like running a marathon; not everybody's playing the same game. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you get to play your own game and live your own life.
(I originally heard the marathon simile from Charles Ellis)
Others' Financial Values...aka "The Wrong Way"
Many of us have not taken the time to think about the game that we want to play. In other words, we have not decided what kind of life we want or what's important to us. Without spending this time, we are liable to live our lives through the lens of other people's values. We end up playing their game.
We try to win the marathon and beat ourselves up when we cross the finish line two hours after the race was won.
What Are Your Financial Values?
Most people never design their life. They're too busy dealing with what's on their plate right now. They float through life from circumstance to circumstance. Effectively, they let life happen to them.
We only get one shot at life. Putting off our well-being, our happiness, or our satisfaction is not a good long-term strategy. We don't want to look back on life and realize that we've mislived.
Determining Your Financial Values
It pays to learn what's important to you. To try this, you can download this values sheet. This gives you an idea of many different values that you may have. Print it out and circle the ones that are most important to you. Alternatively, you can cut them out into squares and lay them into three piles. One pile for your most important values, one pile for the values that are not important to you, and one pile for values you don't really care about.
Then you can prioritize those in your most important stack.