One of the most useful decision-making strategies I know of when helping my clients is challenging them to think about what they want their future self to be like and then encouraging them to make decisions in support of that image.
It’s easy to fall into ruts. Time goes by but nothing changes or improves. Keeping a picture of how we want our future self to be can help provide motivation to make ongoing improvements. These small changes add up over time to improve our health, finances, relationships, etc. Let me provide two examples:
Recently a client shared with me that the least satisfying part of his life was his physical health. He said he was 20 pounds overweight and his endurance was poor. I asked what he believes would happen if he kept doing what he’s doing today everyday for the next 10 years. He replied with, “I’ll probably be 30-40 pounds overweight by then.” This wasn’t a shocking realization for him, but by confronting the blunt reality that the path he was on would only get worse, he made a choice to alter his course. We made the decision for him to start working a bit less (because his financial situation looked great and didn’t need all his current income) to free up time to dedicate toward exercising and healthy meal prep. Eating a few hundred less calories per day and exercising a couple more times per week won’t make a big difference in a week or a month, but over a few years the change will be significant.
“I feel so far behind” is something many new clients say to me. This could be in reference to consumer debt, massive student loans, or a delayed start on retirement funding. After hearing this I like to ask a few introspective questions to get a client thinking about where they want to be 10 years from now. Once we have an idea about their ideal life 10 years from now, we can work backwards with small steps. I can’t stress this next point enough.
It might be increasing the monthly debt repayment by $100 or starting a small automatic contribution to a retirement account. The small, almost inconsequential improvement in the short term frustrates many people because they want big results and they want them fast. However, just like diet and exercise, these first few financial steps are incredibly important as they get the momentum started. The compounding effect of these decisions can’t be underestimated.
What do you think? If the path you are on today were to continue unchanged for the next 10 years, would you be proud of your future self? If not, let’s figure out how to get you started down a new path.
2065879 / DOFU 03-2018