Imagine the possibilities

Believe it or not, I met with my financial planner yesterday. For those of you who read my post called Inertia, you know that’s a big deal for me. I think we actually made some progress, too; that probably surprised both of us. Besides leaving her office with a basic financial road map, I also left with a half-formed blog post in my head.

At one point during the meeting, my planner tried to help me overcome some of my mental barriers to letting go–of my money, of control. She encouraged me to focus on the outcome, but not from a numbers perspective. She wanted me to imagine how it would feel when I took my son to college for the first time, and she asked me to describe it.

Now, I’ve always been one of those parents who rejoices in each milestone. I didn’t cry when my kids learned to walk because they had been so cute as crawlers. I thought instead of all the things walking would allow them to do. I wasn’t sad when they started school because the excitement in their eyes mirrored my own. So when I described taking my son to college, I got excited about the adventures I imagined for him. I talked animatedly about setting up his dorm room, buying his books, exploring campus. My planner quietly observed that suddenly, I was transformed. I had a smile on my face.

She brought the conversation back around to financial planning by asking me to associate every contribution to my kids’ college funds, every form I had to sign, with that feeling. That is the result we are trying to achieve, not simply accumulating a pile of money. I want my kids to have this experience, and I don’t want it to be limited by my lack of planning.

That’s powerful stuff. Often, the only way to quantify success seems to be via financial indicators. Whether at home or in business, we get stuck on the measurements and forget to look at the real objectives. Ultimately, savings account balances, shelf space, website visits, or even earnings per share aren’t the goal. Those are simply indicators of whether we’re on the right track because they may have shown some historical correlation to a goal and because they are measurable. In the end, though, what really, truly counts is whether I offered my kid a college experience full of possibilities, whether I gave my customers a product they liked and would recommend to others, whether I was proud of what I accomplished–at home or at work.

The numbers won’t get you there. You have to imagine the possibilities. I’m still chewing on that.

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