That’s a life well-lived. Those were my thoughts as I sat listening to retired show jumping champion David Broome accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Equestrian Writers’ Association luncheon in London last month. During his speech, he struck me as someone who truly has lived his passion and has had success doing something he loves. How lucky is that?

Let’s get this out of the way: money is very important. We all have financial obligations; a mortgage, car payments, a family and animals that depend on us, leisure activities that we enjoy. There’s a minimum we need to ‘live life’ content. But then on top of that we pile up unnecessary expenses and obligations, things we believe we need but could perfectly do without, that get us stuck on the hamster wheel.

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Financial clutter insidiously seeps in, both in our business and personal lives. We want to keep up with the Joneses or we misidentify what truly matters and invest our time and money in the wrong things. We convince ourselves that X, Y, Z will bring success and fulfilment while all they do is create more stress and lead us on an endless pursuit of the wrong goals. We focus our resources on that and miss out on what we should rightfully be doing.

Assess.

Like those old shirts you haven’t worn in five years but keep in your closet, it’s easy to cling on to ‘clutter’. It’s the path of least resistance. But there are moments in your life where you have to get off the hamster wheel, stop hiding behind ‘being busy’ and ask yourself: Bottom line, what truly matters? What do I want out of my work/life? Is this project/relationship helping me achieve that? Then depending on the answers, recalibrate.

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Recalibrate.

Success is not linear. Sometimes you need to take a step back or a detour, make difficult decisions or simply press pause. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It’s easy to feel alone when things don’t go our way but everyone – even the smiliest, most successful person on the planet – goes through ups and downs. They just don’t send ‘Life sucks right now’ press releases.

Simplify.

Money is an important metric but not the only measure of success. Happiness, self-fulfillment, the impact we make in the world, can also be part of the equation.

North American culture puts a lot of emphasis on “more, bigger, better” and the accumulation of wealth through material possessions, but when you travel, you get exposed to other cultures with different value systems. I’m not saying to go live like a monk, but if you find yourself constantly stressed out and unhappy, it might be time to reassess your priorities.

You have dreams, aspirations. Go chase them. Don’t let unnecessary clutter get in the way. This New Year, take a step forward towards a life well-lived.

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