The recently published book, The Good Life, written by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, delves into the concept of happiness. It is based on the findings of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest longitudinal studies, started in 1938 and still going today, that studies what makes people thrive. At the core of its findings is that connections are the single biggest driver of happiness, whether personal, family, friends, community church, civic organizations or work relationships.
As financial planners, we are focused on helping people attain their goals. So a book talking about how to reach the goal of The Good Life certainly catches our attention. As we look at how we prompt people to set goals and discuss what is most meaningful to them, we want to make sure we are truly guiding people to examine their path to the good life.
When people in their early twenties are interviewed about what their goals are, it typically focuses around a good job and making lots of money. Focus on the pursuit of material wealth can help you achieve many things. But when the pursuit of financial goals is linked to one’s core personal beliefs, it become more than just the pursuit of money. It can become the pursuit of happiness.
One of the key findings of The Good Life is that happiness and fulfillment come from a combination of personal, professional and spiritual fulfillment. People who focus solely on financial success find that they are left unfulfilled and unhappy, even if they achieved financial independence. On the other hand, if that independence allows for a person to develop a sense of purpose, create a supportive community and develop meaningful relationships, the person is more likely to experience lasting happiness.
By linking your financial goals to one’s personal values and beliefs, people can find a sense of purpose and meaning in their financial journey. Another finding of The Good Life is that people who have a strong sense of purpose and meaning in their lives are more likely to be successful in achieving their financial goals. When people have a clear sense of what they want to achieve and why, they are more motivated and committed to reaching their goals. This is because they are not just pursuing wealth for its own sake, but for the purpose of fulfilling their values and beliefs. People who have a clear sense of purpose are more resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks. They are able to bounce back from adversity and continue working toward their goals, even when things get tough.
Is it time to step back and reassess your goals? The goals of your early twenties have likely evolved through life. Have you taken note of the changes? While it happens slowly day-to-day, when you stop and look at a photo of yourself right out of college, you can see the difference. Alright, I can see the difference in me; you have not aged a day. At least your clothing choices have likely changed with the times. Just like our clothing style choices have evolved, our core values and beliefs have evolved over time. Have you stopped and thought about them lately? Do your financial goals align with your goals and beliefs as well as they did when you first set them? It is definitely worth some thought and re-evaluation to see if something may need to be tweaked.
So often we go through each day, each month, even each year focused on the doing. It is easy to lose sight of the why, the goal, in the process of getting through the to-do list. As financial planners, we want to bring intentionality to the financial decisions you make. We want to ensure that the financial steps lead you to reach your financial goals. We want the financial goals to work toward your personal goals. And we want your personal goals to bring you happiness, not just in the future, but each day. We are happy to revisit these topics with you, to ensure you are focused on the good life.
As much as I have focused on the goal setting, I want to leave you with this quote from the conclusion of The Good Life about the journey of life. “How do you move further along on your own path toward a good life? First by recognizing that the good life is not a destination. It is the path itself, and the people who are walking it with you. As you walk, second by second you can decide to whom and what you give your attention. Week by week you can prioritize your relationships and choose to be with the people who matter. Year by year you can find purpose and meaning through the lives that you enrich with your relationships that you cultivate. By developing your curiosity and reaching out to others – family, loved ones, coworkers, friends, acquaintances, even strangers, - with one thoughtful question at a time, one moment devoted, authentic attention at a time, you strengthen the foundation of a good life.”