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Answering the hardest question of all: What do I want?

Daniel Marsh22 March 2019

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

My mum, who has run her own interior design company with her business partner for the last five years or so, has this quote from George Eliot written in huge letters on the wall of her office, for all to see.

Whether it was the size or the sentiment I’m not sure, but it’s been lodged in my memory since the first time I saw it. When I recently met her for dinner I asked her why she chose that particular quote.

“Well, I thought it was a useful reminder to keep at it when you feel like giving up – and that if you want something, you should go out and get it.”

She makes a pretty good point. It speaks to the power of focus, and the peril of distraction. I think we can all appreciate just how easy it is to get sidetracked by the day-to-day, and to lose sight of longer-term hopes and dreams.

And it also sums up what, for me, is a fairly core human philosophy: that, all things being equal, with dedication, belief and hard work, we can all achieve great things. It’s this philosophy that allows people to dream big and achieve their professional and personal goals.

But here’s the rub. How many of us actually have clearly articulated goals? To put it another way, how many of us take the time to work out what we actually want from life?

The million dollar question

It’s something I’ve wrestled with for a long time. I found it easy to come up with some relatively superficial goals (‘see more of my friends’ or ‘stay healthier’), but these always seemed more like New Years’ resolutions than meaningful long-term guides. And, try as I might, they never left me jumping out of bed in the morning, or awake at night with excitement.

Let’s face it, coming up with meaningful goals is really hard. You have to open up, self-examine and challenge yourself – a process that takes some courage and vulnerability.

I thought it might help to talk it through with friends, but (true to British form) I found that a little awkward, too – like I was being somehow self-important or foolish.

In the end, it helped to focus down on a scenario. If money wasn’t an issue, how would I be spending my time? And if my time were up tomorrow, what regrets would I leave behind?

Still tough questions to answer, but they help to lend a powerful sense of perspective, cutting through the daily grind to identify what it really is that you draw energy from in life.

Putting the life into financial planning

Here at Octopus Wealth, we have this sort of conversation all the time with our clients. In fact, it’s probably the most important one we have.

As wealth managers and financial planners, most people probably think that we’re interested only in someone’s assets. But while understanding and managing our clients’ financial affairs is certainly pretty integral to the day job, most of the work we do early on is actually focused on understanding who you are and what’s driving you.

Money’s only ever an enabler or a blocker to the life you want. It’s only by knowing what’s really important to you that we can plan your finances in a way that’ll help you hit your goals. And once you’ve reached one, we help you think of the next, and the one after that…

Because after all, it’s never too late to be what you might have been.

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