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drawing of life in perspective

❝The joy of life is that we're living it right now.❞ -Simon Sinek

It's hot out. It feels nice under the shade of the trees as we walk up the trail. We're getting close to the lake where we plan to have lunch when we encounter another hiker coming the other way with her dog. Her dog runs up to our dog, Bingo, and then their play session started. They chased each other around the stream and through the woods. They were having so much fun.

One way I can experience this would be to let my mind wander about where we might find a place to have our lunch, how difficult it's going to be to drive back down from the trailhead, or whether that restaurant we want to check out is going to be open by the time we get there.

Another way I can experience this would be to actually enjoy watching our dogs play.

Which one is better? The answer seems obvious, but just because it's better doesn't mean that's how we experience the world. Think about how your mind works. Are you constantly lost in thought? Do you take in the good of your experiences?

If you're like I was, and most people are, you are lost in thought for most of your day. This prevents us from actually enjoying our experiences. What if I use a framework to help me experience my experiences?

We love hiking with our dog, Bingo.

drawing of stick figure dog

Bingo is over ten years old and probably has just a couple more years left of hiking. We go on about eight long hikes per year with Bingo.

Using that assumption, this is the maximum number of hikes we'll experience with her.

drawing of total number of dog walks

Of course, we've already gone on several of these hikes.

Doing the math, we've got about 16 hikes left with Bingo. That knowledge helps me be present when I'm hiking.

Oh, and it also applies to more than just hiking with dogs...

drawing of number of dog walks left


Here's an uncomfortable thought: life is short and finite. Many of us have a deep fear of death, sometimes to the point where we do our best to not even think about it.

If you can change your mindset, you can start to realize that the fact that you will die means that it's more important to enjoy your time here while you can.

Many people look back on their lives from their deathbeds with regret and remorse. They realize they cared about the wrong things, and caring about the wrong things means that they wasted their time.

You don't have to be on your deathbed to realize that our time is limited, and everyone else's time is limited, too. We have limited time, but we get to choose how to spend that time.

drawing of life is finite


Knowing that your time (and your loved one's time) is limited, think about how you want to spend your limited days. What kind of relationships would you cultivate? What hobbies would you pursue? What is important to you? What kind of person do you want to be? What do you want to learn?

Choosing the kind of life you want and using your money to support that kind of life can give you more meaning in life. Align your money and your values.

drawing of intentional living

The Death Attitude Profile assesses your attitudes toward death and dying. It's based on the belief that people's attitudes toward death play an important role in their overall psychological well-being and quality of life. It measures five different dimensions of death attitudes: fear of death, death avoidance, neutral acceptance, approach acceptance, and escape acceptance.


Living intentionally means making your financial decisions with purpose and, more importantly, not making them unconsciously. Simple, right?

That, while being true, can sound a little theoretical and not very practical.

Let's make it practical. Do the math.

Think about the things you like to do and the people you like to be with. This could be any experience.

drawing of experience

Think about what experiences matter to you. Here are some examples:

drawing of experience examples

Then think about how often to get to spend your time with your loved ones and how often to do the things you like to do. Follow this framework:

  1. Think about what you like to do and who you like spending your time with.

  2. Determine how many times per year you have the experiences you enjoy.

  3. Figure out how many times it's possible to do it.

What you'll end up with is a list of all possible experiences.

drawing of total number of experiences


  1. Recognize you've already done some of these. Cross those out.

  2. Notice how many times are left.

drawing of some experiences are in the past

Using these estimates, what's left unchecked is about what you have left of that experience.

Let's use some examples. If you see your 78-year-old father six times per year, and he is likely to live until 80, you have two years left to spend with him. Seeing him six times a year for two years means you get to see him 12 more times (6 x 2). What do you want to do with that information?

If your kids are 12 and 10, you take one family vacation per year, and you think you'll do that until the youngest graduates college, then you have about 12 family vacations left (22 - 10). Of those 12 trips, only six of them will be before they are adults, and probably only three or four before they want to do their own thing on these trips.

What will you do with that information?

drawing of experiences we have left

Think of each of your experiences as a chip - like a poker chip - that allows you to exchange the chip for the experience.

drawing of experience chip

By doing the math, you'll see how many "chips" you have left. This stack of chips is the number of times you get to have left to live the experience.

drawing of tall stack of experience chips

Over time, of course, as you use more of your chips, you'll find that your stack starts to dwindle.

drawing of short stack of experience chips

This visual might help you appreciate your experiences more.

Not only does it aid you in not wasting your chips by being more present, it also keeps you from "leaving money on the table" so to speak.

The stack represents the experiences you have possible, not necessarily the actual number of times you get the experience. You still have to turn in the chip.

drawing of someone wanting to waste time

drawing of someone being reminded they have a finite amount of experiences left

drawing of using our experiences wisely


There are some times when you know what you want to do but information isn't' enough. Knowing what to do doesn't help us if we are unable to get ourselves to do it.

In that case, you have an extra step; you need to do some work to determine what is in between you and where you want to be. Often this is because we have limiting beliefs about money. Exploring your money story is a good first step toward identifying what's in your way.

Whether there's something in your way or not, understanding that your time is limited can help you decide how to spend your time.

Time is a limited resource, meaning you don't get unlimited time. There is a maximum amount of time that we get. It's like getting a pie with all the time you have. We can't go back for more.

Time is also a nonrenewable resource. Time spent doing one thing can't be spent doing something else. Once you spend it, there is no more.

Every minute you spend on social media is a minute you aren't spending with your kids. Every minute you spend glued to cable news is a minute you don't get to spend with your friends. Every minute you spend arguing with your partner is a minute you don't get to spend laughing together.

Once your time is gone, there is no more. That should change how you use your limited time and think about your life.

drawing of don't waste your remaining life

Doing the math helps you realize that your moments and experiences are finite and that it's really up to you to determine how to spend it.

Spend it wisely.

You get one life; live intentionally.


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Barker, Dan: Life Driven Purpose Becker, Joshua: Things That Matter Burkeman, Oliver: Four Thousand Weeks Ellis, Linda: "The Dash" Frankl, Viktor: Man’s Search for Meaning Hagen, Derek: Your Money, Your Values, and Your Life Haidt, Jonathan: The Happiness Hypothesis Hanson, Rick: Hardwiring Happiness Harris, Sam: Death and the Present Moment

Harris, Sam: Waking Up Klontz, Ted: The Labyrinth: Birth and Death

Lindsay, James: Life in Light of Death McKay, Matthew, John Forsyth, and Georg Eifert: Your Life on Purpose Peterson, Jordan: 12 Rules for Life Sinek, Simon, David Mead & Peter Docker: Find Your Why Sivers, Derek: How to Live Urban, Tim: Putting Time in Perspective

Urban, Tim: The Tail End Urban, Tim: Your Life in Weeks

Ware, Bronnie: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying



About the Author

Derek Hagen, CFA, CFP, FBS, CFT-I, CIPM is a speaker, writer, and coach specializing in financial psychology, meaning and valued living, resilience, and mindfulness.


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