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Bridging The Gap Between Fantasy, Reality, and Regret

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by Paul Kindzia in Happiness, Personal Finance
May 29, 2018

Achievement is often compared to what our potential was in an activity or endeavor.  We all have unique skills, qualities, and abilities that lend themselves to certain things better than others.  It’s often suspected that we may not know what we could have been really good at because we don’t have enough time to try every activity or job out there to see what we naturally excelled at.

Success is different than raw achievement.  Success is something that is felt internally, not just externally.  We can have a successful life if we live a happy life that is an enjoyable experience.  A happy life may not require a million dollar bank account, a Nobel Prize, or worldwide fame.

What do we shoot for then?  What is that delicate balance between living up to our potential, achieving success, and enjoying the experience along the way?  Specific to wealth, how much money do we have to earn and accumulate to increase the odds that we have a good overall life?

If you struggle with this, you’re not alone.  There isn’t a perfect answer, a specific dollar amount, or an absolute finish line that lets you know definitively when you crossed it.  Life is a journey that keeps moving as you continue exploring your surroundings.

As a tool to keep you guided on the right path (your path, not your neighbors) here are three questions to consider in guiding you along your wealth journey;

  1. If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would your “FANTASY” life be like? Imagine winning a lottery.  The lottery prize could be any amount that gives you ultimate comfort.  It could be enough to give you a lifetime income of $100,000 a year or $5,000,000 a year.  That’s for you to decide.  If you had that guaranteed income coming in the door, what would you do with yourself?  What would you like to buy?  You may find yourself starting out with a new house and car(s).  Great, what will you buy the next year, and the next?  Will your life just revolve around moving into new houses and cars every six months?  Would that bring you happiness?  Would you build a mansion just to invite friends over to party?  Would they keep coming every Saturday night year after year and would that make you happy?  What exactly would you do with your time?  Many times we discover that we actually didn’t need millions and millions of dollars to live the life of our dreams.  Maybe you just wanted to read and write books, take hikes, and go on a few ski trips every year.  That doesn’t take $20 million dollars.  But this is the time to discover what your “FANTASY” life would look like.
  2. If you only had 10 years left to work before you became disabled or died, what would you want to accomplish during those 10 years? Would you still chase your FANTASY goals or would you bring it down a level or two?  How much money would you want to make and how much work would you be willing to put into making that money?  What would you do with your time during those 10 years?  What would you like to experience?  What would give you a good shot at calling yourself a success and being happy?  This is what I would describe as your “REALITY” life objectives.  It makes sure you are focused on things that you can actually accomplish if you put your mind and effort to it.  You wouldn’t get too distracted chasing down too many things because you knew you only had 10 years to make something happen.
  3. If you only had 5 days left to reflect on your life, what would be your biggest “REGRETS”? Would you wish you had put more effort into making more money?  Would you regret not spending more time with your family or friends?  Would you have taken more risks or less risks?  Would you have traveled more?  What would you “REGRET”?

If we take the time to really think about answering these three questions honestly, we’ll be much more confident that we are either on the right path in life or on the wrong path.  We’ll often discover that we may be doing things not because it really was important to us but rather we thought we should be doing it because everybody else seemed to be doing it.

An example of an item that is personal is travel.  For some, if they were asked, “What would you do if you had unlimited funds?” they would respond, “I’d travel around the world.”  If asked what they would do over the next 10 years to make themselves happy, they would respond, “I’d travel.”  And if you asked some if they had any regrets, they often respond, “I never went anywhere.  I should have traveled more.”

But for others, they don’t enjoy traveling if they do honest soul searching.  If they had unlimited financial resources, they would rather have a beach house or mountain retreat that they could enjoy.  They don’t really want to go anywhere.  They would rather be in a familiar and very comfortable place with people that they know in a culture that fits them with good food, activities, security and books.  People that are traveling sales professionals may have regrets by saying, “I wish I wasn’t on the road all the time and could have made a life for myself in a community that mattered to me.”

What we are attempting to do is figure out what matters to us, assess how much that really costs in financial terms, and then determine if we can work towards that without having regrets down the road.  This type of exercise will keep us focused on what motivates us personally and what we define as “success” or “happiness” (not what someone else is telling us success and happiness is.)  It also helps us avoid working to extremes just for the sake of working hard out of habit.

It would not be uncommon if you discovered that your path requires more than a few hundred thousand dollars but does not require tens of millions to live a successful and happy life.  It may be less than you think but we don’t know until we think about the options and figure it out for ourselves.

Good habits lead to good behaviors.  Good behaviors lead to good decisions.  Good decisions lead to a good life.  Live by principles and choose wisely.

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