Updated: Mar 18, 2019
I work with a lot of couples in my independent, advice-based financial planning business. In fact, I always insist on meeting with both the husband and wife in the case of married couples because I believe that all decisions need to be made together regarding finances. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that many couples have not taken the time to identify their purpose—both individually and as a couple. This is a bit like sailing a ship without a rudder—you might make many of the right decisions, but without an underlying guide, it’s unlikely you’ll ever reach your goal. I believe it’s vital for couples to figure out as early as possible in their relationship what their purpose is so they can use this to guide them on the rest of their life’s journey.
What is My Life’s Purpose?
Having a certain amount of emotional agility is one of the keys to fulfillment as life is all about change. However, there should also be some constants in your life, and one of the most important constants is your personal life purpose. Before you can see how your purpose dovetails with your spouse’s, you first have to develop it individually.
Part of identifying your life purpose is knowing your core values. If you have not yet established your values and made sure they are consistently practiced in every facet of your life—including investing—now is the time to do so. What really matters to you? What makes you feel alive? There are no right or wrong answers here as each person will have their own unique values. Talking it out with a valued mentor like your financial advisor can be incredibly helpful in digging down to those two or three core values that define you as a person.
Now take these values and apply them to your purpose. If family is one of your core values, your purpose may be to raise strong, compassionate children who will add value to the world. Again, don’t focus on what your life purpose should be, focus instead on what you feel gives your life meaning.
What is Our Purpose as a Couple?
You and your spouse may argue about many things from where to vacation next year to who you choose as a financial planner. The one thing you must agree on, though, is your overarching purpose as a couple. Once you both have identified your individual values and purposes, it’s time to figure out what your shared purpose is. Raising a good family is usually high up on the list for those couples who have kids, but your purpose could also be making a difference in the community, leaving a legacy for others in your field of work, or something else altogether.
Tips on Figuring Out Your Purpose
Take Time I don’t mean to make the process of identifying your purpose simplistic. This is a very intense question and not one that should be answered lightly. It’s important that both you and your spouse take the time to really ponder your purpose and do some soul-searching—especially if it’s not something you’ve put a lot of thought into before. You may want to take a vacation and view it as a retreat. Instead of filling the days with trying new restaurants or visiting landmarks, spend the time in contemplation. This will help you filter out distractions and really focus on your mission.
Talk Through Being able to talk without fighting—especially about money—as a couple is incredibly important. There’s just no way you and your spouse can identify your purpose if you don’t do a lot of effective communicating. That means treating each other with respect—especially if you disagree—and really listening. The worst thing you can do is have one spouse make all the decisions while the other keeps his or her mouth shut so as not to start an argument. This needs to be a mutual decision and the only way to come to one that is satisfying for both parties is to talk. Having someone mediate and help you work through disagreements is also helpful. I’ve done this for many of my couple clients and seen how effective a few words or encouragement or insights from a third party can clarify a conversation and get it going in the right direction.
Ask Yourself the Tough Question
I’ve found that boiling everything down to one important question can be incredibly helpful in identifying purpose—especially if you get stuck somewhere in the process. I encourage my clients to ask themselves this: If today was the last day of my life, what would be the three best things I ever did in my life? What are the three things I wish I would have done? When both you and your spouse answer this question, you may get some valuable insights that could very well lead you to an ‘ah ha!’ moment regarding your purpose.
Identifying your purpose as a couple is not an easy task, but it is one that is vital as it should be your guiding light throughout the rest of your life.
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Have questions or comments on how you can identify your purpose? Please let me know!