The Kinder Questions

A lot of us have trouble filtering out the noise and really getting focused on what matters in our lives. How we spend our assets – our time and our money – should depend on what we believe is truly important in life. But if we can’t get to the truth of what we believe, how can we understand how we should be spending our lives?

There are three questions that George Kinder, Certified Financial Planner, uses with his clients to discern what their life goals are.  This, in turns, drives the decisions they make about money.  I think these three questions are just as useful to help you decide how to spend your time.  Remember, money is a renewable resource, but time is not.  We should be even more careful with planning our use of time!

Here are the three questions.  Sit down with a pad of paper and a block of uninterrupted time, and really get to know yourself and your values:

  1. Imagine you are financially secure, and that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future.  How would you live your life?  Would you change anything?  Let yourself go.  Don’t hold back on your dreams.  Describe a life that is complete and richly yours.
  2. Now imagine that your doctor tells you that you have only 5-10 years to live.  You won’t ever feel sick, but you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining?  Will you change your life and how will you do it?
  3. Finally, imagine that your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 24 hours to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality.  Ask yourself: What did you miss?  Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do?

These questions are not a one-and-done exercise.  Make a habit of checking in with yourself yearly and determining if your goals have shifted.  Also be sure the write down the answers rather than just answer them in your head – the act of writing them down and then looking at them will help your brain see the flaws, the gaps, and the inconsistencies in your thinking.  Really spend quality time on this exercise, and it will really multiply your results.  You will likely find some surprises in your answers – pay attention to them – that is where you will truly get value that will change how you spend your days and years.

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Anusha Streubel

about the author

My name is Anusha Streubel, MD, MPH, and I am a certified life coach. I help clients with the more mundane aspects of organizing your life: Time management tools, how to clear the clutter from your mind and your environment, and self-care to create more physical energy.

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