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Why You Should Play Your Own Game

it's more important to live life through your own financial values
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.❞ -Steve Jobs

It's sunny as you stand next to the Boston Public Library. It’s late morning, and your friend has qualified for and is running in the Boston Marathon. You're standing at the finish line, waiting to cheer for her as she finishes.

Before long, you hear the roar of the crowd from up the street. The first-place runner is coming down Boylston Street. It’s been barely two hours since the marathon started. It’s exciting to see the winner of the race across the finish line.

It's going to be at least two more hours until your friend crosses the finish line. Until that time comes, you get to watch hundreds of people cross the finish line. One by one, people cross the finish line as they throw their hands up in the air celebrating their finish. This is peculiar, you think, because this race has already been won. What could they possibly be celebrating?

Then it dawns on you that not everybody running this marathon is playing the same game. True, some people were trying to win the race. But, you realize some people were excited to finish the marathon that they worked so hard to qualify for. Some people were trying to beat their personal record. Others were racing their running nemesis, and still others were running just for fun because they like the course.

Life is like running a marathon; not everybody's playing the same game. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you get to play your own game and live your own life.

(I originally heard the marathon simile from Charles Ellis)


Many of us have not taken the time to think about the game that we want to play. In other words, we have not decided what kind of life we want or what's important to us. Without spending this time, we are liable to live our lives through the lens of other people's values. We end up playing their game.

We try to win the marathon and beat ourselves up when we cross the finish line two hours after the race was won.

living life through others' financial values leads to stress


Most people never design their life. They're too busy dealing with what's on their plate right now. They float through life from circumstance to circumstance. Effectively, they let life happen to them.

We only get one shot at life. Putting off our well-being, our happiness, or our satisfaction is not a good long-term strategy. We don't want to look back on life and realize that we've mislived.

life is short - learn your financial values


It pays to learn what's important to you. To try this, you can download this values sheet or fill out this form. This gives you an idea of many different values that you may have. Print it out and circle the ones that are most important to you. Alternatively, you can cut them out into squares and lay them into three piles. One pile for your most important values, one pile for the values that are not important to you, and one pile for values you don't really care about.

Then you can prioritize those in your most important stack.

determine your financial values


What did you find was most important to you? Were there any surprises? Are there any areas of your life where your behavior and these values are not in alignment?

Taking some time to align your use of money with what's important to you will help you live a life with more intention.

play your own game and live life according to your own financial values

In other words, you can win your own game.

You get one life. Live intentionally.

If you know someone else who would benefit from reading this, please share it with them. Spread the word, if you think there's a word to spread.

Related Money Health® Reading
References and Influences

Ben-Shahar, Tal: Being Happy

Haidt, Jonathan: The Happiness Hypothesis

Housel, Morgan: The Psychology of Money

Lindsay, James: Life in Light of Death

McKay, Matthew, John Forsyth, and Georg Eifert: Your Life on Purpose

McKeown, Greg: Essentialism

Millburn, Joshua Fields & Ryan Nicodemus: Essential

Peterson, Jordan: 12 Rules for Life

Sinek, Simon: Start With Why

Sinek, Simon, David Mead & Peter Docker: Find Your Why

Vos, Joel: Meaning in Life

Whelan, Christine: The Big Picture

Note: Above is a list of references that I intentionally looked at while writing this post. It is not meant to be a definitive list of everything that influenced by thinking and writing. It's very likely that I left something out. If you notice something that you think I left out, please let me know; I will be happy to update the list.



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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