The Endless Immensity of You

Allure motivates us far more than thought or logic. Abstract ideas just don’t change our behavior like longings and desires do.

In his book You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith says, “We adopt ways of life that are indexed to such visions of the good life, not usually because we ‘think through’ our options, but rather because some picture captures our imagination.” He uses an excerpt from Exupéry’s The Little Prince to illustrate:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

“We aren’t really motivated by abstract ideas or pushed by rules and duties. Instead some panoramic tableau of what looks like flourishing has an alluring power that attracts us, drawing us toward it, and we thus live and work toward that goal. We get pulled into a way of life that seems to be the way to arrive in that world” Smith points out.

Whether with intentional or with blithe indifference, we are all headed somewhere. And as Smith illustrates, it is our longings, desires and cravings that orient the direction of our journey, and to a large extent, defines who we are. As Smith puts it “You are what you love because you live toward what you want.”

Based on these truths, it is fair to say that for a financial life plan to motivate and align our behavior in the direction we should go, it must be alluring. It should inspire the way we live and the choices we make today as we work toward the vision we have for our future. An arbitrary set of metrics of time and money required to meet certain relatively abstract or intangible goals do not inspire us and can quickly become ineffective.

By comparison, a plan that captures the ‘loves and desires’ of our hearts, as well as our must do’s, will hold our attention and better keep us on a path that leads to what we have defined as flourishing. If the plan is sufficiently alluring, we gladly take on and strengthen the practices it prescribes because we desire the good we hope for in the future. With practice, these processes replace our old and misguided habits with better ones. We become more naturally inclined to make good decisions that are aligned with our plan.

But, as creatures guided by our desires and cravings more easily than our intellects, we occasionally allow stray desires to override our habitual choices and take us off course. And because “our desires are caught more than taught” as Smith puts it, we need periodic visits with our advisor and plan to determine how far we’ve drifted and make course corrections to get us back on track.

More importantly though, it is a time to ‘re calibrate’ our hearts, the internal compass that points us toward our life’s goals. Here we re-examine our goals for any changes required and we re-commit to them, eliminating bad habits and reinforcing good ones. When the plan’s goals are alluring, we are much more inclined to drop the bad habits that draw us off course and strengthen the good ones that ensure the outcomes we desire.

If you are allured by the prospect of a more abundant and purposeful life, please give us a call. We are here because we love the ‘endless immensity’ of you.


Author’s note: The full title to James K.A. Smith’s Book is You are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. As the name implies, it is a book about spiritual formation, but the concepts are practically applicable as well.