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What Is Your Why?

What is your reason for seeking financial well-being and independence?

This seems on its face like such a simple and kind of ridiculous question. Of course we want to have our finances in order. Of course we want to be financially independent.

Isn’t that reason enough?

The problem with this logic, in my opinion, is that one day you may reach your goals. You’ll become financial well and potentially independent. And then what?

If you haven’t sorted out the why of doing this, the end can actually seem pretty hollow. Sure, you’re financially set, but what do you do now that you no longer have to chase this carrot?

In my eyes, money (without the why) truly doesn’t buy happiness.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a problem that a lot of people wouldn’t mind having. But it’s important to remember that the goal of financial well-being is to enhance your life, your happiness, and your overall personal well-being. For this to happen, we have to align our financial goals with our life goals.

In her excellent book Grit, Angela Duckworth identifies passion and purpose as two components of grit, a personality trait that is common (even more so than intelligence) in high achievers.

When we identify and feed our passions and know our purpose, we are more likely to persevere and follow through with our aligned goals.

Therefore, I strongly believe that figuring out our why (aka our passion(s) and purpose) is the first step toward sustainably working on our financial well-being.

Let me lay out the steps:

  1. Think about and establish your why
  2. Align your financial goals to your why
  3. Develop your plan to reaching those financial goals
  4. Pursue your financial goals

It seems straight forward enough, but most people don’t do these steps in that order.

Most people start with step #4.

If they are unsuccessful, they fall back onto limiting beliefs like “The odds are just stacked up against me” or “It’s not fair” and they stop trying.

If they are successful, more likely than not, the seeming end point is met with a profound lack of purpose. Either of these scenarios leads to unhappiness in my mind. 

However, by starting with step #1, we begin realizing that money for money’s sake is not what we are after. We are after other things that can come with financial well-being. Things like absence of finance-related stress, work on our terms, more time with family and friends, more travelling, etc. The list goes on and on.

But a common theme emerges.

It seems that most people are looking to buy time with their money. And this makes absolute sense. Time is a completely limited resource while money is not.

Trading money for time is a winning trade; trading time for money is a losing one.

Back to the main point though, everyone’s why will be different and it is the hardest step for sure, but doing it first will step you off on the right foot to financial freedom.

Further, when you have an all-important why in your back pocket, when you come up to those road blocks in your journey, you will have a reason to persevere and push through without stopping or getting off track. All to often, without a why, people get off track or just give up. It’s easy to think “Wait a second, this is hard. What is the point of doing this?” That question doesn’t even come to mind if you have a why because, that’s the answer right there!

It took a very long time for me to establish my why. It actually began when I was figuring out the type of job that I wanted after my plastic surgery training. I found it incredibly difficult to decide among the options that I had and the reason was that I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted my life to look and be like. Because of this, I didn’t know which option would give me the best opportunity to build that life. Once I figured that why out, the decision was pretty straight-forward.

For me, I am seeking financial well-being to buy more time.

I love what I do and have no intentions of stopping soon (heck…I’ve barely got started). But I do want to work on my own terms. Doing something because I am choosing to do it feels very different to me and most people than doing something because I have to.

I want more time with my family and friends. My wife and I have not done much travelling due to time limitations from our educations and training. We want to make that up. I want to focus more time on hobbies of mine, such as this blog, that have been neglected during my training when my sole focus was (intentionally) on becoming the best surgeon that I could.

I also want to conserve the time and mental energy that I otherwise would spend worrying about my finances. I know what I certainly do not want – I do not want to be idle. I need to have continued purpose as I easily become restless and bored. My why helps ensure that won’t happen.

Lastly, why’s can change all the time. That’s absolutely ok.

We may find new passions that uncover a new purpose. As long as we recalibrate and keep our eyes on the real prize – our why and not money – then we still have our goals aligned and are improving our well-being, both in a financial and overall sense.

It is easy to lose sight of why we are pursuing the things that we are pursuing. It’s easier to keep our head down and keep going rather than to look up and realize we are not where we want to be.

But to get there, to our why, we have to take this first step of looking up. The rest will follow.

– Jordan

Have you thought about why you are pursuing financial well-being? What is your why? Has it changed at all from when you started? Leave a comment below and please share with your friends and family!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected]

    3 thoughts on “What Is Your Why?”

    1. I agree, it’s time to get intentional about enjoying life, once we’ve scaled the mountain of training. If we aren’t, people will always be happy when we work more and sacrifice more. That’s why my mantra is save lives, enjoy your own!!

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