Two Years to Live: An Exercise in Meaningful Goal-Setting

In Cashing In on the American Dream, Paul Terhorst suggests that we take the two-year test. He writes,

…consider that the rest of your life is two years. Would you change anything? If you had only two years to live, would you continue to work where you work? Live where you live? Treat your spouse and kids the way you treat them now? See your friends as often as you do now? Travel about as much as you do now? If you answer yes to those questions, change nothing. All you have to do is retake the two-year test in six months or so.

If you answer no to any of those questions — if you’d do something differently if you knew you were to die in two years — you need to reflect a bit. What has happened in your life that makes you want to change? What alternatives do you see? How can you get started in a new direction?”

Just the right amount of time

Consider that the rest of your life is two years. Would you change anything?Two years is far enough away to require actual planning, but not so far off that it seems like there’s plenty of time left to plan later. (When things seem very far away, it’s tempting to take care of immediate needs and wants instead. Witness the number of people who don’t save enough for retirement or their children’s college.)

Taking the two-year test at regular intervals can be a good way to make sure your life is headed in the desired direction. Have you ever done anything like that? If not, it’s a helpful exercise.

Six months at a time

I’ve been reflecting on the “two-year test” questions about every 6 months now, beginning around 2009. When I first did so, there were a few things I intended to change. The biggest one was wanting to work for myself (and make lots of money doing so) instead of working for an employer.

That seemed huge, mainly because for me it involved becoming debt free first. (You can read our story here.) But I tackled it the way I do most things: one step at a time, and persisting and adjusting as I went.

I’m still working on the “make lots of money doing so” part, but I AM now working for myself. (And loving it.)

Another goal was to travel more often, which I’ve done. I want to be able to do so for longer periods of time as well. There’s a lot of world out there to explore.

For the future

What’s next for the future? My goals now are to make more money in my business so my husband can quit his job too, to continue traveling regularly, and to continue spending time with my family. Of course I always want to be nicer to my husband and son, and I work on that every day too.

What’s next for you?