We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t wait for a crisis in your life to motivate you to prioritize and do what you really want to do.”

It would be great if it didn’t take a crisis to get us to think and prioritize differently.

For me, one of those crisis events occurred when my mother got sick and passed away at the very young age of 57 when I was 20 years old.

After dealing with the reality of losing my mother (unfortunately, she was terminally ill for 19 months), the lesson for me was to never wait to do anything because you never know when it can all be taken away from you.

I would certainly have preferred that it didn’t take losing my mother for me to learn that lesson and prioritize a little better.

Progressing Toward Something

One of the great advantages of “retirement” and financial independence is you are free of the day-to-day pressures you had to face at work. However, without the deadlines and structure that work provides, some people feel lost.

That’s why it is so important, whether you’re still working or have already stopped, to give significant thought to what you want most out of life and then get busy doing it.

As you consciously and objectively observe all the people you come into contact with, something becomes clear: small numbers of individuals appear happier and more successful than others.

Not only that, but in stark contrast to people whose optimism fades with age, these same individuals are more energetic, enthusiastic, and confident.

There are many explanations for this, but one potential reason is the loss of momentum that comes from a lack of prioritizing and goal setting. Without it, one can lose their sense of direction and confidence.

Instead of being excited about what lies ahead, individuals can become increasingly nostalgic about their youthful years and the “good old days.”

However, those who continuously clarify and act on their priorities and dreams are more likely to benefit from the law of compound interest. Just like with money, the more you invest in visualizing and working toward a better future, the better your future can become.

One of the most exciting parts of life is knowing that you’re progressing toward something. That’s why it’s so important to have written goals every year, not just weakly stated ones like New Year’s resolutions that can quickly turn sour.

My Recommendation to You

Take a moment to step back and think with no distractions. Clarify and prioritize what’s most important to you without it taking a crisis to motivate you to do so.

Lock the doors, turn off the television and your computer, silence your iPhone, pull out a pad of paper and a pen, and sit in a comfortable chair in your favorite spot in your home.

Tell everyone to give you some “quiet” time.

While you’re in that spot, relax and think ahead 20 years, 10 years, or even three years from now.

Ask yourself this question:

“If I were sitting here three years from today, and I was looking back over those three years to today, what would have to have happened for me to feel happy with my progress?”

Now, I’m not just talking about your financial life. I’m talking about your entire life.

Put yourself out there and look back to today. Looking back over those years:

What would you like to say you did?

What opportunities did you take advantage of?

What did you eliminate in order to pull this off?

Where did you spend your time?

And, most importantly, who did you spend most of your time with?

If you’re having a difficult time answering this question, begin with this: What’s most important to me in (my life, my relationships, my health, etc.)?

Then, what has to happen in order for me to experience (whatever it is that is most important to you)?
Take money out of the equation for now. Don’t let perceived financial limitations govern your thought process. Remember, money is only a means to get you what you really want. It’s not the end.

Allow your mind to wander a little, and just write down everything that comes to mind.

Once you’ve compiled your list, prioritize it in order of importance to you personally. Ask yourself, “What steps do I have to take right now to make this happen,” and “Who might be able to help me?”

Keep the list visible in your home so you see it on a daily basis. Share your list with people who are close to you and those who share your zest for life.

Warning: Be careful not to share this process with those who will drain your energy from you. We all have energy drainers in our lives. We refer to them as “Batteries Not Included,” and your time with them has to be strictly limited or eliminated.

Soak It All Up

You have the opportunity to clean the slate and consciously and strategically organize your time doing what you want, when you want, where you want, and with whomever you choose.

However, that doesn’t just fall into place without careful thought and action. To get what you really want, you have to plan and act constantly.

Life can be short. Don’t wait for a crisis in your life to realize this.

Get out there and soak it all up. Be busy! Be exhausted!

Author Jack Phelps Financial Advisor / Managing Director

Jack has been involved in the financial services industry since 1989. He is the author of "The Relaxing Retirement Formula: For the Confidence to Liberate What You’ve Saved and Start Living the Life You’ve Earned."

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