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Assessing Inputs: A Holistic Exercise For A Healthy Financial LifeSystem

Try this unique exercise to assess how you spend your time and energy.
Original Artwork: Rosie Bowker 

Original Artwork: Rosie Bowker 

I hold a gritty passion for integrated, financial thought because it reveals the often incalculable inputs which manifest into observable results or outputs. I designed an input assessment to help people think holistically, question intentionally, and calculate (or make visible) the often incalculable (invisible) elements that actually fuel a financial existence.

Consider the definition of “input” according to freedictionary.com: something put into a system or expended in its operation to achieve output or a result.

A common example of input is gas in a car. Fuel is needed to achieve the desired result of operating. Now, draw the same parallel with your own LifeSystem. The lesson is transferable: your LifeSystem needs input to operate.

To calculate the infinite inputs that fuel your financial life, read the composite scenario below, a blended collection of stories. (Instead of using an identifying name, I will refer to the subject of the story as the LifeSystem.)

The LifeSystem arises early to allow for the 20-minute drive to daycare and another 20 minutes to work. Rarely is there enough time for breakfast. Food is quickly grabbed at a drive-thru establishment. Then, after eight hours of “labor” comes the after-work commute, followed by after school activities, homework, dinner, and bedtime routines. In the midst of this, the early morning intention of cooking dinner is snuffed out with the cascading reality of a busy day that extinguishes all hopes and dreams. Instead, the now-familiar delivered pizza and grab-and-go sandwiches represent the weekly nourishment. The result (or output) is a life filled with disconnection, hollowness, and endless expense.

The first step in an assessment is to identify how the main elements of life are being expended.

  • Life Energy: Life Energy is expended in getting up early, commuting and transitioning to multiple locations. Energy is necessary to maintain the LifeSystem’s operational equilibrium. The current input/output ratio is not ideal. Life Energy contracts instead of expands, resulting in disconnection, expense and hollowness.

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  • Time: The LifeSystem spends two to three hours per day, five days per week, on the road. This equates to 10 to 15 hours per week of commuting time, or 520-780 hours per year. When annualized, commuting hours are the equivalent of one month each year! (Approximately 22 workable days per month x 24 hours/day = 528 hours.)
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Once we’ve taken an honest look at inputs, the second step is to cultivate new awareness. New awareness only happens when the LifeSystem’s state of being temporarily switches out of survival mode, or at least is put on hold, so that existing patterns can be looked at objectively and creatively. To intentionally put survival mode on hold, other scenarios need to be manifested: schedule time with a friend, sit somewhere quiet for a lengthy period of time, invest in a consultant, take a day off work, or access nature (hike, ski, etc). Survival mode is death to the creative process, so a temporary respite from the daily grind will foster a fresh space for ideas and catalytic energy to flow.

  • Analyze energy usage: What would infuse more energy into the LifeSystem? For example, if the LifeSystem loves to cook, then eliminating some after-school activities in service of home cooked meals – which also expand to leftovers – not only increases energy, but eliminates the financial expense of eating out. Win. Win. Win.
  • Annualize all time expenditures: We determined that the LifeSystem’s annualized commuting time is 520-780 hours per year. Could these hours be better utilized somewhere else? What is the real per hour salary of the LifeSystem’s job when adding one month of commuting time? Are there job opportunities in closer proximity to the children’s school or home that would effectively pay the same rate if the commute was eliminated or reduced?
  • Foster dreams and desires: Address what the LifeSystem loves to do! What brings the LifeSystem energy? A daily existence that requires high inputs to produce a hollow, disconnected result (output) eliminates all fertile space for expansion of dreams and desires.

If you do not see your own LifeSystem as a compilation of energy usage, time expenditure, and dreams/desires, an input assessment will significantly raise consciousness.

September is often called the new January. I encourage you to ride the shift in nature. The energy of the month invites you to set new resolutions for the final quarter. Dig deep to plant new seeds that will bud in the future. Take some time to question the blend of your inputs that connect directly to your financial health (or lack thereof). The closer you look, the better you will be able to calculate what often seems incalculable. The change in awareness is a bold, courageous step toward a newly patterned and intentional existence.

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