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Defining your True North

As a real estate investor, it is EASY to get caught in the “fray.” I mean really easy. It’s easy to be in the middle of a terrible tenant situation and start blaming your spouse, because this real estate thing was “their idea.” Right?   It’s also easy to have a super-hard year in real estate (hello Alberta) and say, “Forget this racket, I’m selling everything.” So, who are the people that are able to hold on and be resilient? And who are the people that throw in the towel and run the other way?

At Real Estate Investment Network meetings, we often talk about our personal “Belize.” Your Belize is the end game or end goal that you’re pushing to reach ¾ your true “why” for all this real estate craziness. I think we all call it something different: some members call it a vacation home, some members call it financial freedom for their children, while others want to leave a legacy. It’s a very individual choice. I’ve spent a lot thinking about this over my years as a real estate investor, and I like to call it my “True North.”

I personally believe that finding a “True North” that we connect with and strive to reach is an in-depth exercise. I don’t believe it’s as easy as saying, “I want a cottage” or “I want a Porsche.” Finding your True North involves a lot of reflection and soul searching (that many of us never take the time to do).

Finding your True North involves a lot of reflection and soul searching (that many of us never take the time to do).

Through this article I’m going to explore a little bit about WHY I call it my True North and the exercises that I worked through to get there.

Why True North?

I think that if we set a “personal Belize” as a goal, such as “I want a fancy car,” then we’re at danger of falling into the “never enough, never satisfied” vortex. Why? Because if our real estate investments allow us to buy that fancy car … then what? Are we done? Are we satisfied? Do we feel like we’ve “made it?” Probably not.

Consider this: maybe that fancy car is just part of a bigger True North, such as “I want to live an exhilarating life full of adventure.” See the difference?   An exhilarating life full of adventure might mean buying real estate to increase cash flow and allow you more time to travel, to take up a new hobby, and find new friends to share the adventure. That is a True North; the “car” is just a milestone along the way.

My husband, Michael, and I devoted a number of years to figuring out the True North for our family. Here it is:

We want to spend more time outside with the people we love.

This “True North” has guided our real estate journey in so many different ways. First, we purchased a cabin in the mountains (the cash flow from our Real Estate pays the mortgage payment there). Next, we restructured my work schedule to make sure that I’ve got the time we need to spend with the kids and support our family while Mike is downtown.

Then, as the next year progressed, I kept purchasing real estate. We were swamped, and I mean SWAMPED. I was managing all the properties, raising capital, book keeping and had no extra time at all.

FULL STOP! That’s when the True North comes into play. We asked ourselves, “Why are we doing this?” Why are we up until 11 p.m. arguing about who is going to take the kids to their activities tomorrow and who is going to drive to Edmonton? Our True North helped us to make the decision two years ago that we needed to hire property managers. It helped us decide that we needed to hire a bookkeeper and that we were going to slow down our real estate purchases for a little while.

Our True North has helped us make decisions about our health, fitness, careers, children, parents, family holidays, spending habits, gift giving, etc. It’s also kept our marriage headed in the right direction. Mike and I rarely argue because we’re always able to bring our discussions back to the basics, does this align with our True North, or doesn’t it?

Some Ideas for Finding Your True North

Off the top of your head:

  1. Write down three things that you love more than anything.
  2. Write down three things that you can’t stand.

Think about those three things a little bit. Why do you feel so strongly about them? Is there a life experience that leads you to feel that way? Write it down. (Really, get your pencil out.)

Next, think about three life experiences where you were feeling AMAZING. My dear friend Lisa Jones, at Spark for Life Coaching often asks, “What are your three peak experiences?”

Write down these peak experiences. Use details! Where were you? Who were you with? What were you doing? What was the weather like?

Take a minute and make sure you’ve got all the hard details about those experiences and now start reflecting on how you were feeling during these experiences? Were you feeling exhilarated? Relaxed? Free?

Were you honouring the things most important to you? Were you showing up for a friend in a way that you’re proud of? Were you being kind to yourself? Really dig into those questions and write down every word that comes to mind.

Read this list, re-read it and try to find the underlying themes and similarities. It’s not going to happen in five minutes, it might take weeks or months of asking those questions and reflecting.

Have your spouse complete this exercise. Ask your kids questions about the times they were most happy! Try to come up with a True North that you can post on the fridge, that guides you through thick and thin and allows you to come together as a family when it get hard or that allows you to celebrate successes along the way!

Once you’ve come up with this “True North,” share it with me! You know where to find me!

Epic photo by @being_malayali