<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=3003101069777853&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

How to design a meaningful life while you (and your loved ones) can

By Sam Instone - May 28, 2024

How to design a meaningful life while you (and your loved ones) can

Mike and Emily wanted to take a long trip together to visit wine country. They thought about it and planned it for years. They could never quite get themselves to go, though. It never seemed to be the right time.

Then Mike suddenly passed away from a heart attack. Emily is no longer able to take that trip with her best friend and husband.

Chris and Jessica enjoy motorcycle trips and wanted to take their motorcycles on the open road to explore all the national parks in the lower 48 states. They saved up for it. They planned their route. And much like Mike and Emily, they never got around to it.

Now, Chris is unable to go, suffering from early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Even if he could, Jessica doesn't have the physical ability to ride for that long.

Considering both the time you and your loved ones have left, as well as the quality of that time, will help you design your life to live meaningfully while you - and your loved ones - can.

Life is finite: Your lifeline

Something that everyone knows but few people like to think about is that our lives are finite. We were born, and one day we must die.

This is your lifeline.

Birth and death

Of course, you've already lived some of your life, so your actual lifeline looks something like this (yours may look different than the middle-aged sketch here).

Your actual lifeline

Said another way, of the total life you have - or may have - some of that has already been lived. Take a moment to ponder that. Any thoughts or feelings come up as you think about your experience in this world?

Life already lived

What remains is the rest of your life, assuming everything goes well.

Now, take a moment to think about that. Any thoughts or feelings come up as you think about the life you have left? What future aspirations do you have?

More often than not, the goals I hear sound something like, “I want to pay for my kids’ education, retire a bit early, do whatever I want after that, and not have to worry about money.”

Of course, this is a gross oversimplification because we can't actually know how much time is left. You don't know how many more moments you'll have with yourself or with others.

Unknown life

Everyone has a different lifeline

Speaking of others, here's another fact that you already know, but may spend a lot of energy to avoid thinking about. Not only do you have a lifeline, but everyone you love also has a lifeline.

And they cover different spans of time!

For example, your lifeline and your spouse's or partner's lifeline might look something like this when compared to each other.

You and spouse lifeline

If your parents are still with us, yours and theirs might look something like this.

Your parents' lifeline

If you have kids, they have their own lifelines too.

Your kids' lifeline

Everyone has a different lifeline, even your dog (or cat, if you prefer)! That makes it important to think about your relationships and the experiences you wish to have with your loved ones.

Everyone has a different lifeline


Considering 'healthlines'

If we just thought about lifelines and how to best use the time we have life in connection with the time our loved ones have left, that would be a good start.

Yet time alone isn't the whole story. We might consider thinking about the health we have left along with the life we have left.

Your healthline

And not all years are created equal.

Over time, our physical abilities and our cognitive abilities decline. In other words, one year when I'm 55 is not the same as one year when I'm 85 (if I get to live to 85).

Health vs time

Thus, in addition to our own lifeline, we now add a 'healthline'. And just like with the lifeline, everyone's healthline is different.  For example, working with many top lawyers, business owners and management consultants I often see them sacrifice health and family time through a short but high-earning wealth accumulation window by grinding out many hours to gain financial independence before realising there is more to life than financial security. 


Everyone's healthline is different

Consider time and quality

Considering both your lifeline and healthline, along with others' healthline and lifeline, can help you live more meaningfully by allowing you to invest your time, energy, and even money in experiences with the people most important to you.

Consider you and your spouse or partner, if you have one. There will come a time when one of you dies before the other. There'll also be a time when your partner can't do all the things they used to do and vice versa.

You and your spouse healthlines

Considering time left is important.

Mike and Emily, who wanted to take a long trip together to wine country, never got a chance to because they ran out of time.

Running out of time

Chris and Jessica, who wanted to take a long motorcycle journey together, missed out on the opportunity because the quality of their health declined.

Health declining

It's not just romantic partners. How much time do you have left with your parents? How much ability do they have to enjoy time with you? I covered time with loved ones in a LinkedIn carousel

Time with parents

It goes the other way, too. How much time will your kids have with you while you are mentally and physically healthy?

How much time do you have left with your dog or cat?

Time with your dog

Thinking about your life this way gives you the opportunity to think about how you want to spend your time, energy, and money while you and your loved ones are healthy enough to experience life together.

When it comes to wealth, your goal likely shouldn’t be just 'to make more money'. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common answers we hear when talking to people about their wealth. ‘More‘ is not definable. It’s also unachievable, as there will always be ’more'.

You’ll end up spending your life as a slave to your money when in reality, your money should be working for YOU.

‘Enough’ is a better place to start.

As American educator and professor Randy Pausch said,

"We don't beat the reaper by living longer, we beat the reaper by living well and living fully."

Thank you to Meaningful Money for the great drawings.