Often in life the simple things are the most important, what we do day to day enjoying our lives surrounded by the people and things we love. One would never go to their life’s end regretting smelling the flowers, hugging often, laughing loudly, and stopping to ponder the existence of a beautiful butterfly. Things we “would” have done more had we made time to do so.
Then there are the harder things. We would also never regret having closed the loop of things unsaid or taking back things that ought not to have been said. Saying sorry and I love you. Saying “you bring me joy” and “could I please have more time with you.” Things we “should” have done more but either never worked up the courage or thought we had enough time to do.
Lastly are the larger things which enrich us and can bring us a deeper understanding of the world around us. Visiting other countries or corners of our own. Stepping foot on hallowed ground, places of deep meaning or of historical significance. Finding experiences which challenge our understanding or push our boundaries, exploring new ideas by ingratiating ourselves in the company of far-off others, people who have divergent opinions, culture, or religion. Stretching the boundaries of our own minds with experiences we “could” have done.
Broadly these three categories are the things we wish we had done when approaching the end of our lives. Looking back on the span of our existence and either appreciating the deep richness we see or lamenting the lack thereof.
The spectrum of – woulda shoulda coulda – things our clients express are as rich as the people themselves. Sometimes we delay some of the woulda because we think we are too busy and lack the time. Sometimes we delay the shoulda out of fear. And sometimes we delay the things we coulda done because we think we lack the money to do them.
Tomorrow may never come. We too feel like we have lots of time to worry about it. Truth is, that is a foolish notion. Today is the day to “woulda shoulda coulda” rock the world out of your life. We had heard of a Buddhist monk tradition of turning over their drinking mug on the end table at night because they don’t know if they will need it in the morning. Simply put, tomorrow may not come.
Inevitably we will die with some items left undone, the more we do the longer a list may get. But isn’t it better to have a long list accomplished and unaccomplished than it is to have a shorter list the same? The richness of our lives can greatly depend on the depth of our experiences. Some of you have heard me say, the only goal in my life is when the end is at hand and my life flashes before my eyes, I don’t want to be bored with myself or have regrets.
Don’t spend time dwelling on when to get started, start today. For the bigger things let us know and let’s build a financial plan around doing them. Many times, adventures begin by simply buying a ticket or signing up. Commit to the action and then worry about the logistics and details.
Say you’re sorry now, say I love you often, plan for tomorrow, but also stop today and take your time. Spending life hiding, or inversely so busy one can’t stop, may only lead down a path we might regret. Money is no measure of success, never stopping does not mean we are spiritually or emotionally rich, and being safe is not a measure of prudence.
Financial planning is about you. Life is about others. And being successful is not defined by you in the now, but judged by you in the end. Make sure it counts, whatever definition you choose.
From the desk of Erik Lawrence CFP®