"Happiness is achieved through living a meaningful life."
-Joshua Fields Millburn
It's 2017, and Frank is moving into his new office. It feels good because he just accepted a director role with a firm that comes with a high salary, opportunities to expand his network, and the potential for an ownership stake in this firm.
This new job should make him happy. On paper, it has everything. Frank's life right now is close to the exact opposite of life growing up. With this new role, he doesn't have to worry about money, he'll never be behind on bills, and he can afford essentially anything that he wants. But he's miserable.
Despite accomplishing everything that he thought mattered, he's pretty far from happy. The owner of the new company is a micromanager, and being micromanaged is the opposite of autonomy - his top personal value. After accepting the job, he found out that there is an expectation of working weekends and well into the evenings. He also gets very few vacation days, so the job doesn't satisfy another of his top values, adventure. Since everybody is expected to work so much, there is little time for reading and learning, making it very difficult to fulfill his values of curiosity and learning. It turns out this new job satisfies none of his values.
He ended up living a life where most of his time was not aligned with what was important to him. He never spent any time to figure out what mattered to him and thus was drawn to what he thought he was supposed to do.
Different Things Matter To Different People
It sounds obvious. Different people value different things. Different things matter to different people. Everyone has a different purpose. However, we don't act like it's obvious.
It's easy to get caught up in what we think we're supposed to be doing, or what we think we're supposed to find important. This is especially true if we haven't done the work to figure out what's important to us and the kind of person we want to be. Without considering what we want out of life, we're likely to live a reactionary life rather than an intentional life. It's easier to float around from circumstance to circumstance, letting life happen to us.
Determine What Matters To You
Finding meaning or purpose in your life does not have to be some grand exercise. You can find local purpose. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What are the most important things you want to accomplish during your time on Earth? What kind of person will you be proud to look back on from your deathbed?
When you get clear about what matters to you, it's easier to let go of the things that don't matter to you.
Values and Life Aspirations
Finding out what matters to you may be intuitive, but not necessarily. Determining what will bring you meaning and understanding your purpose comes down to self-reflection. What is important to you? These are your most important personal values. For example, do you value family, outdoors, fast cars, recognition, or reading? What do you hold dear?
It's also important to think about the kind of person you want to be. You want to be something. I called these your life aspirations. For example, if you value outdoors and family, you may have a life aspiration to be a camping family, or hiking family.
Imagine yourself on your deathbed many years from now. As you look back on the life you've lived, what are you the proudest of? What regrets do you have? The good thing about a deathbed contemplation like this is that you have time to become the person you would be proud to look back on. You have time to prevent any future regret. You have time to make amends for any remorse you feel.
Define the kind of person you want to be, and you can design your life around that.
Designing Your Life
If you're like most people, and most people are like most people, you have a very busy life, and you spend most of that life reacting to things. You don't really plan for the future outside of maybe a couple of goals here and there. It's rare to find a person who has thought about what they want out of their short time on Earth. Thinking about what kind of life you want gives you something to aim at. It gives you purpose.
Defining who you want to be and designing a life around that helps you find meaning and purpose in your life. It answers the question for you, “what is the money for?”
Focus (and Refocus) On What Matters
Once you know what your money is for and what you want out of life, you will have a sort of financial compass. Having a purpose for your money and knowing what matters to you becomes the lens through which you view your financial life. When you find yourself getting distracted, spending money in ways that don't support the kind of person you want to be, you can direct your financial life back to your financial purpose. Getting clear about what matters to you and setting up your financial life around that can act as kind of your North Star. It helps you navigate your life.
Taking the time to determine what matters to you is time well spent. It gives you permission to align your life in a way that would bring you the most satisfaction. It also gives you permission to let go of things that don't matter to you, even if they seem to matter to other people.
You only have one life. Live intentionally.
Do you want to print this or view it offline? Download the PDF version.
Related Money Health® Reading
References and Influences
Ben-Shahar, Tal: Choose the Life You Want
Boniwell, Ilona: Positive Psychology in a Nutshell
Delucca, Gina, & Jamie Goldstein: Positive Psychology in Practice
Frankl, Viktor: Man's Search for Meaning
Hagen, Derek: Money's Purpose in Your Life
Hagen, Derek: Your Money, Your Values, and Your Life
Haidt, Jonathan: The Happiness Hypothesis
Hefferon, Kate, & Ilona Boniwell: Positive Psychology
Ivtzan, Itai, T. Lomas, K. Hefferon, & P. Worth: Second Wave Positive Psychology
Kinder, George, & Mary Rowland: Life Planning for You
Lindsay, James: Life in Light of Death
Manson, Mark: Everything is F*ucked
Manson, Mark: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Millburn, Joshua Fields, & Ryan Nicodemus: Essential
Richards, Carl: The One-Page Financial Plan
Seligman, Martin: Flourish
Sinek, Simon: Start With Why
Note: Above is a list of references that I intentionally looked at while writing this post. It is not meant to be a definitive list of everything that influenced by thinking and writing. It's very likely that I left something out. If you notice something that you think I left out, please let me know; I will be happy to update the list.
If you like this post, consider joining the Money Health community. There is no spam, just an email every Thursday when new posts come out.