What’s Your Life’s Purpose? A Thousand Year Plan
“What matters is to find a purpose…to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.” — Søren Kierkegaard, 1835
When I was nearing the tail end of high school my uncle asked me, “What’s your five year plan?” I was totally stumped by the question. “I don’t know, go to college I guess? Get a job?” My uncle responded that it’s crucial to have a five year plan. Otherwise, in five years how will you know what you have achieved?
After that day I have always had a five year plan. The benefits of thinking about my life years in the future is that it clarifies my priorities. It forces me to ask the big question: what is the purpose of my life? It’s a question that each of us have to answer for ourselves.
Living purposefully is essential to living a happy, healthy, and wealthy life. These days, I don’t think that a five year plan is enough. When you ask people what they hope to achieve in five years or ten years they often respond with answers like “I want to be married and have a child” or “I want to be a manager at my company and own a house.”
These are acceptable goals, but they don’t really qualify as a philosophy of life or a purpose for living. These goals don’t answer the question ‘why?’ Why do I want to get married? Is it just expected of me? Is it good for me? Is it compatible with my values? What does marriage mean to me?
That’s why I think it’s important to broaden the five year plan to ask: what is my one hundred year plan (or my lifetime plan)? And even more important, what is my one thousand year plan?
The one thousand year plan doesn’t make sense at first. I’m not even going to live a meaningful fraction of one thousand years. But the question puts my priorities in perspective. What meaningful impact will my life have in one thousand years? What can I do with my short amount of time that will have the greatest and most lasting impact on the world?
The Benefits of Living Purposefully for Your Wallet
This is a personal finance blog, so regardless of whether we write about big ideas or small ideas, readers will want to know how to profit from them today.
Having a one thousand year plan is not essential to becoming wealthy, but it is essential to staying wealthy. If you resolve to become a multimillionaire ten years from now and you succeed, you and your family will never want for anything (as long as you remain financially responsible).
But wealth has a way of destroying itself over time. Despite Americans’ increasing worry that the rich are rent-seeking — that they want to increase wealth inequality to preserve their high status — 90 percent of wealthy families’ fortunes are lost by the third generation.
Self-made millionaires often don’t successfully pass on their financial educations to their children or grandchildren. Trust fund babies, like many of us, live for today and take their blessings for granted. They don’t develop a purpose — a philosophy of life. And they certainly don’t have a thousand year plan.
By establishing a thousand year plan for your money, you can better ensure that your life will continue to have a positive impact long after you’re gone, or even remembered. You can plan ahead to build a financial portfolio and, more importantly, a financial philosophy that you can proselytize within your family so that the next generation can plan to have its own positive impact, too.
If you want to have an even greater impact, you can plan to build a portfolio that will bring the most desperate people on earth out of poverty for generations to come. I learned a hard lesson myself this past year when I chose to give to charity without thinking purposefully.
I donated to public radio and solving local problems. Charity begins at home, right? Well, no, not for me. I realized that my values urged me to put my charity dollars where they would have the highest impact. That place was not Washington, DC.
The Benefits of Living Purposefully for Your Life
It’s unlikely that public school or college will ever teach classes on how to live purposefully or develop a thousand year plan, but in my opinion, this skill is essential to living a good life. I haven’t yet thought of a better question than “how can I live the best life possible with the time I have?”
The most successful companies have a specific and understandable mission statement that answers the question for every employee: What should I be doing right now? Each of us, I think, should write a mission statement that answers this question for ourselves.
Creating a thousand year plan can help us avoid procrastination by highlighting how little time we have to work with. It can help us distinguish clearly between what is essential and what is not. It can help us resist peer pressure and the madness of the crowd by establishing clear guidelines for decision-making.
What’s your thousand year plan? What’s your philosophy of life? Share with us in the comments so that we can all start living more purposefully!
Alejandro is a financial planner with Monte Largo Financial Advisors LLC.