The process of uncovering your true goals is not always easy and may not be right for everyone. It involves asking yourself deep, meaningful questions and thinking about how you really want your future to look. If you struggle with this, then please do seek some outside help; there are numerous types of coaches, books and online resources that can help with this. The focus is on the questions you ask of yourself and each other, how deeply you think about the answers, and whether or not you are truly honest with yourself in the responses given.

It is important to trust the process, not to be hard on yourself, and to have some fun with this. It is very likely that your answers will change over time and that is fine. Just go with the flow and see what comes up.

 

What are your objectives?

If you have engaged a CFP™ to help with this process, then at this stage they will be asking some probing and challenging questions of you. The purpose being so that you can both gain a much greater understanding of what is important to you and what your objectives are in the short, medium and long-term.

The definitions of short, medium and long-term goals are, of course, different for everyone depending on their circumstances and age. For a 90-year-old, long term maybe 3 years; for a 20-something just starting out in life, long term may be 45 years or so away. Similarly, for someone who may be terminally ill, long-term may be about the legacy they are leaving for their children or grandchildren or even the likely lifetime of a charity they want to establish.

 

Think big, think long-term

It has been said that people often overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in three years. Just imagine, then, what is possible over a lifetime. True Lifestyle Financial Planning is a lifetime process; do not be afraid of thinking in terms of 25 years plus. Think big!

If you are in a long-term relationship with shared finances, your partner should also go through this exercise with you.

This isn’t a quick-win process. It involves a great deal of thought about both the practical and emotional components of your dreams.

There are people who resist this process and do not want to have that deep, meaningful conversation, who may see it as “mumbo jumbo” or some “way out there” introverted self-help therapy. And that’s fine. That’s their life choice. Some CFPs™ are more practised in the coaching aspects than others; some will refer to Life Planning* as a separate discipline, some will refer to Values-Based Financial Planning**.

 

Our process

When we see our Clients, we insist on seeing them in our offices rather than going to their place of business or their home. This is because it takes them outside their usual environment and forces them to stop and think more objectively. It avoids distractions like children, telephones, neighbours knocking. It is about having that secure and relaxed environment in which to be still, to think, to explore and to discuss.

Our meeting room encourages this process with light pastel colours, comfy chairs, fresh flowers and plenty of water and snacks. We request that Clients do some preparation before they come in. Some will and some won’t. This in itself gives us an indication of where that person is at and how seriously they are going to take the process.

I would strongly recommend that if you go through this activity yourselves that you too find somewhere away from distractions. Somewhere where you can relax, take your time and just talk. This will very rarely be your home or even a local pub or restaurant. Personally, I find I do some great thinking and reading when I am away on holiday. Why not make a weekend of this and go away somewhere? How about a spa weekend? Or spending  some time undertaking your favourite activity? Get into the right frame of mind to relax and think about what you truly want.

Take some of the recommended resources with you and work through some of the suggested exercises, leave them to go and do something different and then come back to them. Allow your unconscious mind to do its stuff. You may be very surprised at what comes up.

 

Work with a planner who truly listens

If you are using a CFP™ or other facilitator or even if you are doing this just on your own as a couple, it is vitally important that this person (or your significant other) just asks the relevant questions and then LISTENS. They must not interrupt, express an opinion, or jump in with a follow-up comment unless this is solely for the purpose of eliciting further information. They must listen, and I mean truly listen, to what is being said and the meaning and emotion behind the words.

Proper, active listening is a skill; one that can be learned and practiced but very rarely is in this day and age. If your advisor, financial planner or facilitator is not listening, then sack them and find one who will.

 

Where do I start?

All of us have things that we would like to achieve in our lives. It could be two, five or ten years down the line. Perhaps we may want to leave a legacy of some kind. To realise these dreams, we need to be both focused and financially organised. This is the essence of True Lifestyle Financial Planning

It’s with this lesson in mind that I set out to write my book, Live Life With Purpose: A Guide to Getting a Life Plan and Sticking With It. This book will help you take the steps to live life with purpose. It will help you gain clarity. It will show you how to implement the six steps needed to create a sound Life and Financial Plan so you can ultimately achieve your goals.

We’re offering free copies of Live Life With Purpose to anybody who feels they would benefit from it. Simply go to this page, tell us where to send it, and we’ll pop a copy in the post for you.

I hope you enjoy reading the book and putting into practice some or all of the lessons it contains. Even if just one idea sparks you into taking some action, then I have achieved what I set out to do.

 


 

*Life Planning is a style developed by The George Kinder Institute in the USA. There are only a handful of Kinder Certified Life Planners in the UK, but many other CFPs™ will adopt a similar coaching approach and methodology.

**Values-Based Financial Planning is a process developed by Bill Bachrach. It takes a coaching style using specific tools developed for the purpose. Find out more at www.billbachrach.com