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How Thinking in Decades Can Help You Live Your Best Life

Updated: Jun 26

Several months ago, I attended an online mastermind about goal-setting for 2024. During a Q&A round with some insightful authors and business owners, the host asked one of the panelists (a new mom, and a CEO of a multi-million dollar company that had just undergone a major rebrand) what she was focusing on each day in her new-looking roles. Her response was not the cliché, albeit relatable answer I was expecting (about prioritizing time with her baby, trying to be present with her family, delegating more in her business, etc.). Instead, she shared that rather than trying to figure out what she needs to be prioritizing each day, week, or month, she starts by sitting back to think about her life at a higher level. For her, this meant dividing her life into decades to determine what she wanted each decade to mean.

I sat with this concept for a few days before using it myself. It occurred to me that this year would be a very defining year in my life. It's the year that our family is moving to our paradise- a place where Ryan and I have wanted to live together since we started dating, and eventually became the place where we envisioned raising our children. But it's not just a physical move we're making; it's a realization of our financial dreams, and the life we've designed together over the past 14 years.

Two children and two dogs all sharing a bed in a cozy mudroom.
Our four babies- two who grew old, two who grew to be- in the home we're leaving (2019).

In the last couple of months, as we've prepared for our move, I've reflected on the decades that brought us here. After college, I began my decade of establishing my own adult identity, which included working hard to find and keep a good job, exploring and indulging in a social network and a plethora of hobbies, starting to build a financial foundation of saving and contributing to a 401(k), and eventually buying a house. During this decade, my dreams were rooted in a future that had lots of travel and adventure, time off of work, and visits with family. It was fun and relaxed, and when I think back on it, I cringe about the missed opportunities and mistakes I made.

My 30s was more focused. I've shared before about the way things picked up in our rental business when we really stated our goal of replacing one of our salaries with our rental cash flow. I was grinding through my 30s, determined to keep our expenses reasonably low while building up my W2 salary and growing a rental portfolio. I started ultra running and won the first 50K and 50mile race I ah entered. I was carefully charting my goals and felt like I was hitting them. But I was also exhausted, and felt this way even as we started growing a family in 2016. I invested so much time and effort creating the financial life I thought I needed, but very little time asking myself what kind of life I desired and person I wanted to be. This decade was a whirlwind and I was setting (and hitting) fast and furious goals without taking time for reflection, introspection, and questioning.

Now, freshly into my 40s, I'm seeing my path shift. I'm out of the fog of raising babies, and indulging my entrepreneurial dreams. I'm more intentional about allocating my time in a way that nurtures me, and my biggest priorities. I'm diving into change with more bravery and optimism than I've ever felt. In two months, we will no longer call home the backyard where Ryan and I said our vows in front of friends and family, the garden where our beloved dogs are buried, the kitchen door we walked through the for the first time as parents, or the office/nursery/guest room where I rocked and nursed two infants to sleep for more than 1,000 nights and countless hours. We will leave behind our cherished village of friends who have supported us in indescribable ways. We will do this to dig our roots into a new town, with the promise of new friendship, adventure, simplicity, challenge, opportunity, beauty, and excitement.

Sharing a glass of wine on the deck in a new home.
Toasting a new home, in our paradise.

It is hard to plan what each day, week, and month will look like in my new home. But I know that I plan for this next decade to be my phase of exploration and taking chances. I am prioritizing my biggest values and threading them into my daily life. I'll continue modeling the life I want my children to see is possible for them, and imploring them to keep taking risks, making changes, hearing NO, persevering, and appreciating all of life's opportunities- big and tiny.

My financial goals for this next decade are aligned with the life I'm designing; I want to change up my investment strategy by being much more aggressive with my impact goals. I want to seek out opportunities that create returns for me, as well as for groups that rarely benefit from private capital. Specifically, this means I'll grow my investments in angel investing, CDFI loan funds, as well as public equity that has a high level of shareholder accountability when it comes to providing solutions and stakeholder benefits in the sustainable development goals (SDGs) that matter most to me. I'll continue to hold my real estate portfolio, but I expect my current assets to shift somewhat as I lean further into this new decade of my investing.

Planning in decades not only allows me to appreciate the changing themes in my life over previous decades; it encourages me to be more intentional in my short-term planning, acknowledge that I can be patient, and to continue to reinvent myself. I have a lot more confidence and energy when it comes to defining my near-term goals, now that I've charted out my desires for the next decade.

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