Living a Coherent Life

A Coherent LifeIf you’d rather listen than read, click the link:

Living a  Coherent Life

For Fred, the toughest part of losing his job was that he had also lost a part of his self definition.  Who was he today?  What was his role in his family?  How would he fill each day after checking online for jobs, sending out resumes and making calls to acquaintances who might know of something?  But those questions just scratched the surface …

Over the years, working at the same company, his salary had ratcheted up gently.  And the little perks made life pretty darn comfortable.  He and Margie didn’t deny themselves much.  The years had lulled them into a false sense of security:  they never thought about whether the gravy train would ever end.

Margie had a part-time job, but mostly just to keep busy since the kids were grown and out of the house.  Now, after 11 months with no income other than her earnings, there is no way to avoid the truth.  The 401k’s are drawing down rapidly and their savings are vanishing even faster.  The value of their new house has tumbled so there is no equity to draw on; in fact, they are upside down on their mortgage.

Seven months passed before they even admitted to each other that their original lifestyle was no longer affordable.  No matter how much they tightened their belts, Margie’s income barely put a dent in the monthly bills.  But they had savings …

By then, Fred and Margie had run out of excuses of why they couldn’t keep up with the dinners and regular weekend trips with their friends.  Fred had hoped he’d find something before they could no longer hide that they were almost broke.

One morning recently, Fred woke up with a nasty, empty feeling in his chest.  He realized that he had been living a lie.  And that lie was pulling him further and further from his original role in his adult life:  as the person responsible for keeping his loved ones safe and away from harm.

As he dug down to find the values that had been driving him for years, at first he had a hard time defining them.  And then he felt no pride in what he found.

He had been living an incoherent life.  A life out of balance with his original beliefs and values.

An Incoherent Life

After 2008, the economic turmoil and slowdown resulted in lost jobs, shuttered industries, upside-down mortgages, foreclosed houses, anemic portfolios and decimated retirement accounts.

At first there was a feeling of “community,” as the repercussions spread throughout a large part of the population.  (Remember, misery loves company.)  Some people were impacted quickly, others gradually.

Today, some have rebounded.  Some have redesigned their lives to reflect their reality.  Others are still trying to touch bottom with their tip-toes.

And still others are trying to figure out why their lives feel so out of balance.

Those are the ones for whom the band-aid has been ripped off of the make-believe lives they were leading … and who haven’t been willing to revisit what’s important and what’s not.  They’re probably still living the lie Fred was.

A Coherent Life

The greatest lesson to be learned from the events of the past five years is that no one is immune from having “life” shake things up.

The question is how fast and how effectively we can tear away what we had perceived as reality and get back to our real values and beliefs.  And how fast we can get our lives in alignment with those values … leaving behind false pride, self-recrimination and judgment.

The journey back to reality has marked many people permanently.  Many have chosen to maintain a simpler life … a less material life … a more purposeful life … even if finances no longer require it.  These are the people who have come out the richest of all, the most free of all:  those who are truly living their life choices.

What about you?  Have any life reversals led you to revisit your priorities?  Are you living your deepest values?  Are you living a coherent life?

Let us know in the Comments section below what the phrase “A Coherent Life” means to you.


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers are shared in her tell-it-like-it-is posts and articles. Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve … if they’re willing to do what it takes!

  • Sharon, this post speaks to the core of much of our self-imposed misery. So much of what you say here is similar to my personal journey to becoming genuine. When we are not living “on purpose” or making the choices that line up with our core beliefs…we can end up far away from where we thought we were going. A coherent life brings freedom and joy.

    • What makes for “a coherent life” is so individual, Beverly. In fact, it often flies in the face of what we hear defined externally as “success.” The trick is to dig down to what makes each of us tick, thrive, fly. That’s where the freedom and joy come from, as you say!

  • Sharon, you have such a talent for painting a picture with each story you spin. Yes, I know what you mean by living a life beyond one’s means. In fact, I thought that I had figured that out by last week, and Friday a fortnight ago life sent me yet another loop in the form of an elderly parent who took a fall, and now seems to =have completely lost her mobility. Well, that will impact me, but more than anything, it reminds me of what it means to lead a life of devotion, but in the end, to have to count on others. So beyond the financial questions that you validly raise, I urge all readers to think about what is the most meaningful way to spend the precious time we have on this earth.

    • Diane, I started the dialog this week about “a coherent life” by focusing on someone’s financial “incoherence,” but I too find it’s a subject that is far deeper than that. The dialog has been triggered by the remarkable number of friends (and/or their loved ones) whose lives have been disrupted in ways that have led to a major reassessment. Your comments exemplify that disruption precisely; thank you for sharing it with us …

  • It’s important to have the right priorities. But I think another thing we should not forget is that we work to live and not to live to work.

    • Tereza, that becomes one of the values or beliefs we identify. Living “a coherent life” is not just about money. It’s about all our other decisions and allocations as well.

  • I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t been affected by the economic crisis and for many it has been a huge wake up call. When I moved from city to the countryside it wasn’t just a geographical change, it was a whole new way of life. It helped me priortise what is important in my life and this has reflected in how we manage our finances.
    Thanks for your thought provoking post Sharon!

    • You’re so welcome, Carolyn! Once those priorities are reflected in how you manage your finances, didn’t you also revisit every other aspect of your life … and simplify that as well?

  • Hi Sharon, thanks for the little reminders to live with in our means and be true to our self with friends and family.

    • I realized, Marveena, that many people who are the happiest have gone through that thought process, regardless of how much money they have. Living a coherent life is the key!

  • Teresa Delosh

    here from linky love

  • Barbara Becker

    Thank you Sharon for a great article about living your life authentically, with integrity and from the heart, instead of false illusions and old programs.

  • Gertraud Walters

    Too many of us “have been keeping up with the Jones’s” and are still doing it. What I’ve learned through these last few tumultuous years is that unless we live a transparent life at all times, we’ll never make it. Thanks Sharon.

    • That’s the formula for long term survival … and more … Gertraud. Our priorities can be shifted so that life continues to be joyous, but we reduce the fixed “nut” each month … which gives us flexibility in how and how much we spend. Brava!

  • There are no certainties in this life save death and taxes!!! I so totally relate to your story because it’s what I’m living right now. As I move forward I know I will plan better for a more solid financial future. I owe myself that much in order to live with less stress. Here’s to better planning and living life on purpose. Thanks Sharon!

    • The goal really is peace of mind, Marvia. All the rest is “gravy” … 😉 Here’s to you building that solid foundation to get you there as soon as possible!

  • Yetunde Daramola

    Thanks for this. Working on building a more positive financial future. It is always good to be true o one’s self and admit when things go wrong. It s more like finding a diagnosis before embarking on a treatment.

    • Yetunde, so few of us are given the opportunity early on to be aware of what our financial lives are all about, or how we “build one.” So as adults we find ourselves on a journey of discovery. The good news is that it’s all pretty straightforward … and doable!

  • Susan Schiller

    I love how you end this thought-provoking story… about how the happiest people are those who have simplified their lives, living less materialistically, and more in line with their values and goals. I feel like this is what I discovered, too, after a recent shaking… What I really like about your writing, Sharon, is that it’s filled with hope. It’s like you flip on a switch into the dark places and show us the steps to emerge from the brokenness. And you make the steps gradual and small enough that every single one of us can grasp your hand up and make our way out. Thanks, thanks, thanks so much!

    • The journey to financial control and peace of mind is exactly that, Sue: I’m just shining a light to show people the steps to take on that path. I’m so glad you find my musings helpful!

      • Susan Schiller

        I’m wishing you the best in your business and communications this week. I heard about the hard-drive meltdown and all the rest of the communications maladies, and WOW! It almost seems like there’s going to be upcoming message about this – the silver lining. Anyway, I’m praying for the silver lining to manifest!

        • Sue, I’m convinced you’re right. “Something” is ready to shift. I just don’t know what it is yet 😉

  • Sue Glashower

    Life can certainly be shaken up sometimes! We recently experienced this personally. My husband is the owner of a construction business and he hurt his back and after months of therapy and doctor visits he ended up needing surgery. It was not only difficult financially for our family but also for him not knowing if he would be able to do the physical work again. It actually taught us a lot about adjusting and making due with what we had. Thankfully he is recovering pretty well and is back working without too much pain!

    • Sue, I’m sorry your family had to go through that. On the other hand, unlike many families faced with the challenges, how enriching that you’ve all absorbed and integrated the life lessons. That means the financial reconstruction will be on a firmer foundation. Kudos!

  • Sharon I love how you tell the story in a way that catches the heart – a way the reminds us we are not alone in our money struggles now. I’m in that place now, but my feet are touching bottom. It’s been a rough journey, but I have a different view of what I need and what I want. This post prompts me to think carefully what is really needed in life and live on less while saving more and getting debt free!

    • Marvia, you’ve captured exactly what my goal is: to think carefully of what’s best and most nurturing for YOU as you make decisions, especially now that your toes can feel the bottom. Here’s to a prompt push upward to where you do want to be!

  • Fabulous wake up call to assess wants & needs, values & aspirations. I always had a thought that ran my life & decisions, “there for the grace of God go I”, but it was not left in Gods hands but mine. I was filled with compassion for others & wisdom for myself.

    • Roz, I feel that leading a “coherent life” rarely happens by chance. It’s far more a case of conscious thought … “wants & needs, values & aspirations” as you say. That creates the framework on which we “drape” the rest of our decisions!