meaningBefore you can put your money where your meaning is, you must determine your higher calling and clarify who and what matters most to you. The answer to those questions may shift over time, so use today as your starting point for an exercise you may want to revisit every year. I do.

Start by listing ten things that are very important to you, keeping in mind that those things may not be things. They may be people, projects, problems, causes, concepts, entire geographic regions, or the divine, as you define it. This list may take you a few minutes or a few hours to complete. If you quickly list twenty things, pare them in half; if you have a hard time coming up with more than one, keep at it till you have ten. Be patient but disciplined with yourself. The search for meaning can be an arduous task.

Once you’ve listed your top ten, identify the three things on that list that mean the most to you. Draw a circle around each of them.

Finally, look for a unifying theme between your three most-important items, and write down that theme. It may not be readily apparent, but I guarantee you’ll find a connection if you look long and hard enough. To start, describe each of the three most-important things separately, whether in a paragraph or a single word. Then, as you identify the connection, distill this unifying theme into a single, crystal-clear sentence. This sentence is the “meaningful purpose” that describes your life’s higher calling.

This is also the same “meaningful purpose” that you will use to guide your entire financial plan.

Write it on an index card or a sticky note and keep it someplace where you will see it every single day. I keep mine in my wallet!