In today’s edition of personal finance links I included a quote from a piece in the New York Times by Paul Sullivan, author of The Thin Green Line: The Money Secrets of the Super Wealthy, from Joe Duran, CEO of United Capital, who said:

“Every single financial decision is either moving you toward or away from your ideal life,” he said. “To me, that’s a fascinating idea. People said, ‘Am I going to do the things that I want to make me happy, or am I going to go after money?’ Your ideal self and your financial self are often at war.”

That is a profound statement that may very well reflect what is going on in many lives. Carl Richards in his forthcoming, The One-Page Financial Plan: A Simple Way to Be Smart About Your Money, notes the importance of asking “why” before we ever put pen to paper in designing a financial plan. Asking yourself how you spend your time (and money) provide us with big clues on who we are and what we aspire to. The challenge is when those two are at odds.

Back to the New York Times piece, there are two choice quotes from Barnaby B. Reidel that illustrate the challenge we have in aligning our values and financial/professional lives.

“The traditional model says a financial life is about saving and investing, but when people talk about their financial lives they talk about working and spending,” he said. “It accounted for 90 percent of what we heard. Working and spending provide the drama of our lives…The big ‘aha!’ moment for us was that a financial life really isn’t about money,” Mr. Riedel said. “It’s about people struggling to be the best version of themselves, to live a life they can feel proud to have led. Sometimes that involves making a hard decision to make less money.”

Ben Carlson at A Wealth of Common Sense noted that oftentimes career goals oftentimes require sacrifices that many of us are unwilling to to take. The fact is that everyone’s goals are different and can change through time. Carlson writes:

Like most things in life, there’s no perfect answer with these types of choices and decisions. Life is full of trade-offs. There are certain people who have figured out how to manage their time and create that work-life balance that is so elusive to others. Some people spend their entire working years searching for their passion while others fall into their dream job by chance.

The important lesson from this is that is only by chance that people are able to harmoniously balance their authentic selves with their professional and financial lives. For the rest of us it requires a conscious effort to identify what is important and formulate our lives to get us to those goals. In all likelihood these hard questions are going to require some thought and sacrifice.

Seth Godin in a recent post asked: “How long is your long term?” That is a common question when it comes to the financial markets, but has more poignancy when applied to our broader lives. Godin writes in response to his question:

A simple question with an answer that’s difficult to embrace.

What are you willing to give up today in exchange for something better tomorrow? Next week? In ten years?

Your long term is not the sum of your short terms.

The most relevant long term goals are a reflection of our best selves. The challenge in obtaining a “better tomorrow” is identifying the changes we need to make along the way to make those goals a reality.