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The first big step in financial planning is examining your clients’ passions and pursuits. Passions are the interests they feel deeply about, such as taking a month out of every year to travel or having more time to spend with family. Pursuits are their particular goals or endeavors, such as paying for their child’s college education, or saving for the down payment on a house. Passions represent the big picture of one’s ideal life; pursuits are the individual, concrete components of that life. Considering those two elements kicks off the process of comprehensive exploration and analysis of your clients’ current situation and desired future.

Both passions and pursuits are fundamental to having goal clarity. Not having that goal clarity is the first derailment for female executives. After all, if you don’t know what you’re planning for, you can’t make good plans. By contrast, when those passions and pursuits are clearly articulated, they determine the direction you are aiming for as you set your course. Capturing the key elements of your clients’ ideal life drives your entire planning process forward.

Everyone is an individual; passions and pursuits will differ accordingly. Moreover, passions and pursuits have a tendency to shift over time. Any changes in a client’s life could mean that their ideal life is taking a new shape. In order to achieve it, we need to always be clear on what their goals are and make sure their plan is on track.

For example, one of my clients announced to me that she was getting married. This was great news, and I was very happy for her, but I also had to let her know that this new goal would change the shape of her financial plan and all the other goals it contained. Adding in a spouse meant that we needed to consider his goals, his financial situation, and how they would combine these goals and resources to live life together. The couple also had to balance their overall quality-of-life goals against their goals for the wedding they were planning.

This conversation was a crucial part of helping my client ensure her happiness going into marriage. By talking about this specific goal ahead of time, she could make decisions that aligned well with her other life goals and contributed to her overall vision for her future.