If you only had five years left to live, what would you do differently in your life? What would you change? How would you live? Where would you live? What would you want to accomplish with the time you have left? Who would you want to be in the time you have left?
These are big questions, but important ones. We all live like we have forever, yet we don’t. We were all born with an expiration date.
In both my investment management business and my coaching practice I ask new clients three questions. This question, if you only had five years left to live what would you change, is one of those questions. These questions were first asked of me in a workshop I took many years ago run by George Kinder, CFP®, who is a colleague, a mentor, and known as the father of the financial life planning movement.
After exploring these questions in this workshop, I came home and asked my husband to ponder these questions for himself. I found that rather than just ponder, mind mapping the answers to these questions was very powerful so both my husband and I sat at the kitchen table, separately creating mind maps of our answers and then sharing our results with each other.
While someone observing our efforts might think we were simply drawing at the kitchen table, what emerged were topics for some very deep conversations.
To make a long story short (or shorter), our answers to the question “if you only had five years left to live, what would you do differently in your life” led to us moving to New Mexico from where we were currently living in Wisconsin.
I was born and raised in Illinois. My husband was born and raised in Iowa. Through a long series of events, we both ended up in Wisconsin where we met, married, built a home and thought we’d live happily ever after.
But during our married years we traveled to other parts of our beautiful country and absolutely fell in love with New Mexico. I would go as far as to say that I felt called to live there. It felt like I belonged there. So each year, for four years, we traveled in our RV and spent as much as a month at a time in Santa Fe. From Santa Fe we explored the state which is far more diverse than I imagined. We found everything from sparse, flat deserts to gorgeous, mountainous regions containing lakes and rivers and huge, dense forests.
During our visits we often talked of living in New Mexico. At first we thought we might winter there. But then, after revising our “five years” question we realized we really wanted to live there. All year.
The conversation then shifted to retirement. But soon we thought, “what are we waiting for?” If we only had five years left to live, we didn’t want to spend them in Wisconsin.
We moved to New Mexico in October of 2015. It was hard leaving behind our friends and family. My parents were approaching 90 years old which got me more than a few eye rolls when I told people there we were moving away. One woman even said, “how can you leave your parents at their age?” With great reluctance, that’s how. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m very fortunately that my parents have always loved me. They want me to be happy. And it helps a lot that they are both in great health and very well could live another 20 years. (They will tell you they won’t, but they said that 20 years ago.)
We all have things in our lives that could prevent us from living the life we were meant to live if we let them. But we forget. Life can be short. And sometimes shorter than we think.
A very wise woman told me when I was 25 years old not to live our “shoulds”. I should keep my job I hate because it provides me security. I should stay married because if I divorce I will disappoint so many people. I should stay in Wisconsin because my parents might get sick one day.
What kind of life would that be?
To some, this may sound selfish. But it’s not. It’s caring enough about yourself to be honest, truly honest with yourself. And listening to the urging of your soul.
All of us want to live a life with no regrets. One of the ways you get there is to live life on your terms. Not for others. Not because of someone else’s expectations. Not because someone along the way said this is how you “should’ live your life.
How do you want to live your life? What is your soul whispering to you?
What does a life with no regrets look like to you?
And now the big question — what are you waiting for?
After all, what if you only have five years left?