The ancient Greeks understood that the purpose of life is to achieve happiness. From the Greek perspective, all things have a perfect end. The perfect end of an acorn is an oak tree. Anything that interferes with the perfect end is bad, while everything that promotes the perfect end is good. In order to find our own perfect end, we need to visualize what that end is. Do you find yourself saying “toward that end” when discussing the implementation of a plan? Great! You intuitively understand that we can never achieve a goal by moving away from something, but by moving toward something. Poor goal setting often comes from the desire to move from something. I want to move out of my parents’ house. I want to get out of this job, city, marriage. All of these things may be motivators, but they are not goals and they are not perfect ends. A thing or an object is never an end.
The best example or moving towards something instead of from something is retirement planning. Doing the math is straightforward, especially with financial-planning software. Yet, most people have very vague ideas about retirement. Mostly, people only think about the from part. The closer the retirement date, the more people “can’t wait to get out of here.” For people who lead focused lives, a typical characteristic of successful people, retirement from something rarely works. After a few months of golf and fishing, we find ourselves volunteering at the hospital, the museum, or doing consulting work for the company we retired from. This is fine, but more time spent considering what we are retiring to increases the likelihood that we will achieve our perfect ends.
When we are in the process of creating a financial plan, we need to gather information about all sorts of things that are not ends, such as income, assets, debts, and personal data. While essential, data gathering and financial calculations are essential process goals, not outcome goals. I shall discuss in future posts how financial planning aids us in building the three steps that get us to our perfect ends.