These dreams may remain unrequited for their entire lives. Is there some way we, as advisers, can facilitate their dreams without promising them a pie in the sky?
It’s best to start by asking ourselves, who's “impossible dream” is it? Our filters, tied to budgets and personal experiences, can prevent us from allowing our clients to dream their best lives.
Often when we aspire to dreams that are unbelievably humongous, we deliver our greatness into the world, so let’s challenge the notion that any dream is impossible to deliver.
Life planning offers advisers a method for guiding clients to achieve clarity toward what would be most meaningful to accomplish in their lives.
In the EVOKE® process, V stands for Vision and refers to the meeting where the planner gathers the elements of a fulfilling life using a variety of inspirational exercises, including my famous Three Questions.
Imagine that you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs. How would you live your life? Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.
Your doctor tells you that you have 5-10 years left 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?
Your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What did I miss? Who did I not get to be? What did I not get to do?
These questions are about profound meaning, not money. The third is usually the one that we build a Life Plan around, sprinkling in elements from questions one and two.
It's rare that a client’s response to the Third Question is financially impossible. More likely, a client might share longings for things that are impossible because someone has died, or a relationship has ended.
What seems impossible is often emotionally malleable and presents the possibility of transformation. The life planner is there to listen and encourage so that a new vision arises, and obstacles to a fulfilling life are overcome. The client will often come up with ways to honour what was lost, allowing them to move forward with inspiration.
After gathering the elements of a client’s desires, the life planner crafts a vision; I call it “lighting the torch,” where they present the client with a future scenario of having achieved everything they desire. The client experiences what it feels like to have what they so desperately want. It’s not something close to the dream, it’s the whole (impossible) dream.
Next, during the Obstacles meeting, the client works out how to realise the dream for themselves. They know what is possible, and feeling your support and enthusiasm, they have the confidence to unleash their creativity, often outlining a unique path forward.
If your client shares with you a crazy dream, ask yourself who’s “crazy” is it? Give your client an inspiring torch where they are clearly on the path to their dream, then, presenting them with the facts of their financial situation, ask them how they can deliver their dream. Help them come as close to their dream as possible.
The traditional adviser who is focused on money cannot deliver the impossible dream. Moving a client toward their life of freedom is the privilege and responsibility of the financial life planner.
George Kinder, CFP, RLP, is the founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning and designer of training for client-adviser relationship skills.