I recently wrapped up a four month long leadership development program that has changed the way I view things in such a profound way.  As a young leader in my company, my household and in my community, I am regularly looking for a way to make a difference.  But sometimes, even I get “stuck” in life, because let’s face it, it can get complicated!

I would like to share one of the many takeaways I had from this class.  It is about choices.  We make them every day, sometimes not even aware that we are making them.  The choices we make can have an impact on ourselves, the people we work with, our communities, etc.

This reminds me of a client, who unknowingly had a big choice to make.  Due to some health concerns, this client was only able to work a fraction of what they used to work, causing this entrepreneur to miss out on a lot of potential income.  The health concerns were also creating additional expenses, which in turn was creating unneeded stress during this already difficult time.

I asked this client to revisit their budget to compile a list of expenses from the past year, including all medical expenses, household costs, entertainment, travel, etc.  After reviewing the expenses, other “opportunities” came to the surface.  Due to the health issues, my client could no longer perform much of the maintenance on their house as they used to.  Their maintenance and upkeep costs had skyrocketed.  The home was over 3,000 sq. ft. and was approximately 60 years old.  There was a large yard, many old trees and even lake frontage to maintain.  Repair expenses were hitting all at once and many service providers were hired to do more regular maintenance items than normal.

I quickly saw that the increased health expenses were real, but the management of this house was potentially a bigger issue, creating additional stress and magnifying the health issues.  Was the cost of maintaining this house weighing on my clients conscience?

I knew the right financial outcome for this situation, but there is a difference between providing advice (change your investment allocation to x) versus providing choices (you can decide on either of these paths and we will show the impact of each choice).

I was well aware of the sensitivity around this discussion and what I was about to communicate to my client was not going to be easy to hear.  The house that they were in love with and very committed to was creating a financially unstable outlook for them.  I had to find a way to show them this without providing advice or telling them what to do.  I felt that they needed to make this realization themselves, in hopes that they would feel enough empowerment to do something that they in the past had chosen not to consider.

The first choice I provided showed a continuation of the current scenario (lower income, high health expenses and high home maintenance costs).  The result was that they would continue to spend down their assets PRIOR to retirement, putting the rest of their financial future in peril.  If they were committed to this house, they needed to realize that this was a choice they were making!

The second choice showed the same information, except I illustrated the impact of selling the house, replacing it with a smaller, less expensive condo with much lower maintenance costs.  The outcome was quite different and the updated financial projections showed a very promising future.  Choice #2 was clear to me, but was the client willing to trade the house full of memories for financial security?

The client returned home after our discussion and immediately began to interview realtors.  The house was sold within two months and they purchased a condo.  To add icing to the cake, the client’s health had improved so much that they are now back to working full-time!  The client later confessed that they knew that the house was a problem, but they were unable to grasp the big picture and the consequences of holding on to this house any longer.  In other words, “the answer was already in the room” and they just needed a gentle reminder.

Which gets me back to my takeaway.  The choices we make have a huge impact on our everyday realities.  Each choice we make leads us down a path to another set of choices.  But the key to remember is that we have a choice!

So the next time you are at a fork in the road, will you choose certainty and comfort?  Or might you be in the state of mind to take a leap and explore other possibilities that used to seem out of reach or impossible?  The choice is yours.