Living an Intentional Life: The Three Kinder Questions

People are sometimes confused about why I combine wealth and wellness on The Physician Philosopher.  Why do I spend time writing about designing an intentional life.  Can’t he JUST write about finances? 

Nope.

Set for Life InsuranceIn my mind, these concepts are intrinsically linked.  It is pretty challenging to even have one exist without the other.

For example, a person who has all the wealth in the world, but yet has no one to share it with will ultimately live a pretty joyless life.  On the other hand, a person who is trying to live an intentional life with those they love will have a tough time doing so without at least having a secure financial situation.

Financial stress is a very real threat to our wellness.  Once we have achieved financial independence – or we, at least, have a plan that has a very high likelihood of getting us there –  we are given the keys to the kingdom.  At this point, we can start to design the life that we want to live.

However, this sometimes creates a problem for us and prevents us from taking part in the most important aspects of our lives.

Earn More, Save More

The design to getting to financial independence is pretty simple.  You can earn more, save more, or (ideally) both.  Getting to financial independence quickly is 1/3 earning capacity, 1/3 frugality and 1/3 high savings rate.

Of course, the money that is saved should be invested in the market.

The trouble is that a large part of that 3-part design (earning more) often leads to people burning the wick at both ends to help produce a high income.  Sometimes this occurs through picking up more shifts, another side hustle, or additional responsibilities.

For people that do this, the hope is that the increased income will allow them to reach financial independence sooner.

But, what’s the cost?

Unfortunately, the cost can be quite high sometimes.  While we work, work, work to earn more… we often ignore other critical aspects of our lives.

Don’t worry.  The pot is calling the kettle black today.  This has been a constant struggle for me over the past few years.

The Three Kinder Questions

We need to enjoy today while we prepare for tomorrow.

After all, the ultimate commodity that we are seeking is not money.  It is time.  Time to live the life that we find most satisfying and full of purpose.

A great tool that many financial advisors use to help people sort all of this stuff out – and to make a specific financial plan – involves the Three Kinder Questions.  If you haven’t gone through this exercise, I’d highly encourage it.

It’s a great thing to do on a date with your significant other, actually!

Here are the three questions:

Question 1: Design Your Life

I want you to imagine that you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. The question is, how would you live your life? What would you do with the money? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back your dreams. Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.

Of course, the purpose here is to figure out what matters to you in life.  This has been my struggle lately as I have spent an inordinate amount of time on things that don’t matter much to my “intentional life.”

When my wife started back full-time and kicked my work-life balance in the teeth, this forced the issue.  Having all of the same responsibilities at work while I doubled my daddy-day-care responsibilities for our three kids seemed impossible.

I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been a struggle.

Since that time, I have started saying “no” to anything that I am not extremely passionate about.  Why?  Because, in the end, I need to be wildly passionate about my wife and my kids.

I cannot choose to do everything anymore, and so I chose my family.

Question 2: You have less time 

This time, you visit your doctor who tells you that you have five to ten years left to live. The good part is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live? Will you change your life, and how will you do it?

What if life sped the clock up?  You had a plan to reach financial independence in 12 years, but now you only have 5 to 10 years left on this earth.  How does this change things for you?

For me, it placed a higher importance on today.  Waiting to “live the good life someday” is no longer acceptable when our timeline no longer extends to what “someday” was supposed to be.

Take note. This is not an excuse for hedonism. Don’t go out and buy all that stuff you hoped you could have someday.  Hollow spending will not make you happy.

I encourage you to sit down and to figure out what your ideal life looks like now so that you can take steps toward pursuing it today.  All the while, the hope is that you are creating a financial plan that allows you to continue to live it every day from here on out.

Question 3: Today’s the day

This time, your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What dreams will be left unfulfilled? What do I wish I had finished or had been? What do I wish I had done?  [Did I miss anything]?

Are your priorities where they need to be right now? Is your time reflective of what you supposedly care about?  What do your financial habits say that you value?  What “bucket list items” have you missed?

Having seen the end of life issues that often arise in medicine, I have spent some time writing about what truly matters to most people in the end.

Typically, people do not say that they wish they had earned more money, worked one more shift, or had one more side hustle.

Most often, they wish they had spent more time with family, had more experiences with those that they love, and made sure that those they left behind would be taken care of once they were gone.

If today was your last day, what have you left unfinished?  Of those things, what would bother you the most?

Good, now go chase after it and stop making excuses for why you aren’t doing it right now.

Take Home

Don’t forget that – while we talk about investments, budgeting, and financial independence – these things are ultimately less important than many of the other people and things in our life.

If you haven’t done so, use the three Kinder questions to help you create an intentionally designed life.

Take time to invest in your friends, family, and true passions.  Design the life you want to live and take steps everyday to start living it right now.

Have you spent time thinking about these questions or questions like these? Did you find it helpful? What are you not doing today that you realize you should?  Leave comments below.

TPP

13 thoughts on “Living an Intentional Life: The Three Kinder Questions

  1. Agreed. I just turned down a terrific locum tenens opportunity (in addition to my regular job) because it would suck away what little free time I have. Just one week a month would have significantly accelerated my trajectory towards FIRE. But that would be one week away from home and my newborn baby vs. paying down the mortgage. In all three of your scenarios above, the newborn wins each time!

  2. I love this, TPP.

    “What if life sped the clock up? You had a plan to reach financial independence in 12 years, but now you only have 5 to 10 years left on this earth. How does this change things for you?”

    This question, in particular, is on my mind right now…and I think everyone should ask themselves what they might do differently if they were in this situation.

    We are within a few years of FI, but I have a health issue that could easily interfere with our planned path. Though it hasn’t changed the fact that we continue to save, it has definitely shifted our focus – away from reaching FI ASAP and toward being more cognizant of not sacrificing our time today to get there faster.

  3. From time to time, I ask myself these Kinder questions and the answers shape my decision-making. I can get carried away and work more and make more, but to what end? Time is the most precious commodity because you can’t make more of it. Once time passes, it’s used up and gone. These questions are valuable because they block out all the noise and distractions and focus your mind to answer the ‘why’ question. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. It seems everything changes when we have to face mortality. These questions are a good way to remind you that some things can’t be put off indefinitely or how somethings needs to be prioritized or you will live an unfulfilled life.

  5. Great post TPP. You hit upon something that has always concerned me about those pursuing FIRE. When that pursuit keeps us from living for today, not so much financially, but with the things, as you say, that really matter, it’s a dangerous path IMO.

    One of the most important things that is often left out of the FIRE discussion is estate planning. If we ask ourselves what we would do if we only have a few years left, would we get our affairs in order to take care of our families? I hope so. But I wonder. It’s something too many people ignore or put off.

    Thank you for challenging us with this post.

  6. This reminds me of Wait But Why’s The Tail End and a little bit of DocG’s recent appearance on Choose FI where he shared the 5 Regrets of the Dying.

    Even though it feels like we have more than enough time to spend with our families and loved ones, in reality the time is finite and short.

    Things left unfulfilled? For me the tragedy of an early demise would be my son not having a dad.

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