What’s your why? The importance of finding meaning in your life

J.D. is on vacation. This article was written by Jeremy Martin.

You’ve heard the phrase, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” I’ve often wondered about that — should we really settle for half the return just to have a sure thing right now? It could be argued, and convincingly, that our love of immediate gratification is why so many people have so much debt now.

Of course, what are those “two birds”, so elusive off in the bush compared to something concrete in your hand now? How do you know you’ll get them? In other words, as you’re looking at that new LCD HDTV, what is competing for your money in your head? Without a solid goal, a vision of the future, there is no reason not to buy that latest toy with your credit card. What else are you going to use the money for?

The Power of Why

This is why each of us needs a convincing ‘Why’. We need to have a vision of the future so compelling that we can see it even more clearly than the new toys in front of us.

My Why is passive income that can support travel. My mantra is: “Financial Freedom is the ability to travel for a year and come back in a better financial situation than when I left.” That means I could travel another year and implies repeatability. It conjures visions of African safaris, Thai beaches, SCUBA diving, and hiking around the UK hand-in-hand with my family.

This knowledge helps to guide my financial choices. I assume that I could earn 12% on invested money. This means that every $100 I invest could bring $12 a year, or $1 a month. When I look at a $700 TV set, I think, “That could be $7 a month for the rest of my life.” I repeat my mantra — remember my Why — and I don’t buy.

[J.D.’s note: Jeremy assumes a 12% investment return. I assume a 7% return. Your assumption may be different.]

Developing a Why

What’s your Why? What compels you to get up and go to work each day, to do things you don’t want to, and to put up with your boss? Everyone needs some motivation to keep on track, and it has to be a strong image. What is yours?

If you can’t close your eyes and see your Why in detail, now is a good time to get clarity. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where have you been happiest?
  • What were you doing?
  • When you close your eyes and picture yourself incredibly happy, what do you see?
  • What makes you forget yourself for hours on end?
  • When do you feel best about yourself and your surroundings?
  • What do you talk about excitedly?

Desires can be subtle. Maybe you have fond memories of staying somewhere. But it might actually be the time with friends that made the place special. What aspect really touches you?

Find some quiet time to get clear on what moves you, and then visualize it until you can see this compelling future as clearly as your car. You’ll know this is working when you look at something you thought you needed and instead see your Why.

The Next Step

This is a demanding, complicated world. It takes a lot of work to get good at something, or to get something you really want. Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else!” Why work hard when you could just watch TV? Why save for some undetermined future when you could watch it on a bigger TV?

Most successful people have spent thousands of hours perfecting what they do. They have a vision of the future and their place in it. Otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered with all the work it took to get there. Yet most successful people would tell you that they loved the process — the challenge, the passion, the fun! They’ve found a vision of the future that compels and excites them, and that’s the difference. That’s why they are where they are.

In fact, that’s why we all are where we are — our previous beliefs and vision of the future. Do what you’ve always done, and you’ll have what you’ve always had. Create a vision that moves you to do things you’ve never done before, and you’ll find yourself in new, wonderful places. Once you have a Why, no matter how unlikely, the How becomes a lot easier and more enjoyable.

What’s your Why? What do you visualize in the morning to get yourself going? What motivates you to do everything you do?

Photo by René Ehrhardt, who has many amazing images on Flickr.

More about...Planning, Psychology

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