Happy blogiversary! Twelve years ago today, I launched a humble little blog about personal finance — this blog, Get Rich Slowly. It was meant as a way for me to share the things I was learning as I dug out of debt. It turned into so much more.
For the next couple of weeks, I'm on the road in the southeastern U.S., speaking to people about personal finance and meeting with readers.
This morning, for instance, I spoke to the 76 people attending Camp FI in Spring Grove, Virginia. My topic? No surprise: The importance of having purpose in your life. As you can see, I am a PowerPoint genius…
If you've spent any time reading my material, you know that I believe purpose is the foundation on which all plans — financial and otherwise — ought to be built. Purpose is a compass. It helps you set big goals, sure, but it also acts as a guide when times get tough. Your mother died? Your wife left? Your husband lost his job? If you know what your primary purpose is in life, these stressful events are much easier to deal with.
For this presentation, I added a new twist. You see, a lot of folks who are interested in money tend to pick things like “getting out of debt” and “becoming financially independent” as their purpose or mission. But I think these are poor choices.
I've seen far too many folks make debt elimination a goal — then fall right back into debt once they've achieved it. And there are plenty of people who reach FI (or retire early) only to find they no longer know what to do. (It's like aiming to reach a certain weight instead of choosing to make lasting lifestyle changes that lead to weight reduction.)
Instead, I think it's important to recognize that your financial situation should be side effect of pursuing some greater purpose. Financial independence ought not be your aim; it's merely a means to an end.
When I speak about purpose (which is often), I tend to fall back to the George Kinder/Alan Lakein personal mission statement exercise. I feel like it's one of the best available tools for helping people find focus. But it's not the only tool.
Today, to celebrate this site's twelfth birthday, I want to present twelve alternative exercises for discovering your purpose and passion. If you've tried one (or more) of these without success, try another. One of them is sure to be useful for you.
Note: I've done my best to credit sources for these exercises. (Many come from Barbara Sher's excellent book Wishcraft, which is all about crafting the life you really want.) At the end of this article, I'll give you a list of recommended reading — and tell you what I think is the single best book for discovering passion and purpose.
Your One-Hundred Word Philosophy
The first exercise is one I created myself. It's based on CrossFit's “world-class fitness in 100 words” statement. There's no time limit for this exercise, but it could take a while so be prepared.
Your aim is to write out your life philosophy in exactly one hundred words — no more and no less. This can take any form you want, from a statement of values to a list of instructions. Begin by writing down your core beliefs and values. It might also be helpful to think about books that have had a big impact on your life or powerful advice you've received in the past. Based on your experience and beliefs, what is your life philosophy?
As an example, here's my own hundred-word philosophy, which I've written as instructions to myself:
Some of those admonitions are my own invention. Some come from books like The Four Agreements and The Power of Now. “Refuse to let fear guide your decision-making process,” was advice from my girlfriend. “Create your own luck” is based on my friend Michelle's advice to “create your own certainty”.
Again: Target one hundred words exactly. It'll force you to spend time thinking and editing and being introspective.
As you can see, I paid an artist friend to create a pretty letterpress poster of my 100-word philosophy, which I've hung on the wall here at home. I look at it every day. Obviously, you don't have to go that far.