It was a 10k race, but at the 9k mark, I was gasping for air. My lungs were on fire. My legs were screaming at me to quit.
Except that I had only one more hill to go. If I could climb it—honestly, it looked like Everest—I’d be close to the final turn where the race had started—and where we were to finish.
I chugged and churned up that hill, rounded the final corner, and nearly stopped in my tracks. Someone had moved the finish line!
Apparently the race organizers had been “off” in mapping out our original course. To make the course exactly 10 kilometers, they’d added another quarter mile. Somehow, I didn’t get the memo!
Talk about disheartening!
It wasn’t that I couldn’t run an extra 400 yards. It was the shock of it—the fact that the race had been “lengthened” at the last minute. Suddenly, I was being asked to summon energy I had already expended.
In a weekend fun run, a moved finish line is no fun. But in life, a shifting finish line can be completely disorienting—even devastating.
So many surprises in life feel like “someone just moved the finish line on me.” Ask anyone who’s lost a job, suffered a major illness or disability, been in an accident, battled addiction, been through a divorce, or buried a loved one.
Finish lines DO move. Or they get moved. So what can we do about this unpleasant reality?
I counsel my clients to prepare for moving finish lines, to count on them. They’re going to happen.
That isn’t pessimism. It’s realism. So many people are shocked when things go wrong in life. Somehow they’ve bought into the fallacy that life will always go smoothly for them. Then, when they face the jarring reality of a finish line moving, they respond like I did in my 10k race.
They stop in discouraged disbelief. They think, “How dare they move the finish line on me!”
There’s a better way to respond. It’s to prepare for the inevitable moving of finish lines by making sure you have three things:
1. Margin. You need some margin in your life, financially, personally and relationally.
Financially, margin is known as savings. For the average Joe (or Jo), that means keeping six months of income in a readily available E&O account (emergencies and opportunities).
Personally, margin is known as rest. You are a physical, emotional, and spiritual being. Caring for each of those aspects of you is important.
Relationally, margin is known as friendship. When life moves the finish line on you, who can you call on for unconditional support? Those are your true friends.
2. Mobility. Think of an athlete or a dancer. Thanks to physical mobility they can move in a variety of directions easily.
Financially, mobility is being able to change directions without losing ground. If you lost your job or changed careers, is your financial life configured in such a way that it could survive such a diversion?
3. Mission. This is the finish line you’re trying to get to. Perhaps someone or some situation has moved it. Yes, that’s hard. It’s a challenge to deal with—but it’s still the finish line. If, like most people, you want the option of retiring one day, that remains the finish line…even if events force you to wait and work a bit longer to reach that goal.
I have many clients tell me they want to leave their children better off than they had been left. That desire is part of their mission.
What’s your mission? It may be multi-faceted, but it is still your mission.
Create some margin. Be mobile. Get clear on your mission.
Then stay focused on reaching your goal—wherever the finish line ends up being.
One great way to make sure you have margin, mobility and mission in your financial life is by reading my free e-book book “How to Put Financial Worries in Your Rear View Mirror.” You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request your free copy. There’s no cost or obligation.
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