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For most people, fulfillment is the mountaintop. It’s the magical moment when your physical, social, emotional, professional, educational, financial, philanthropic and spiritual needs are realized. The “meaning of life”—in your terms—is achieved.

If fulfillment is the mountaintop, confidence is the gut sense that you’re climbing in the right direction, you’re making progress, and someday you’ll reach your mountaintop.

Anxiety then is the opposite—the gut sense that your choices or inaction are holding you back. It’s the sense that your dream—your mountaintop—is getting away from you. And for many, it is getting away. Confidence is waning, and financial anxiety is on the rise in America, according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2017 Planning & Progress Study. Today, less than half (48 percent) of U.S. adults say the American Dream is still attainable, compared to 58 percent in 2009.

I know so many people who are struggling with financial anxiety. They’re not sure if their choices are the right choices for long-term success. Or, worse, they know that they’re making the wrong choices and aren’t sure what to do.

American Dream or American Anxiety?

A colleague of mine recently shared a story with me about his neighbor—a successful local physical therapist. He has a private practice, steady clients and consistent income. He also has a wife and kids and a home. He’s living the American Dream—but he’s living it with anxiety.

As a PT in private practice, he knows that if he gets hurt, he’ll be unable to see clients. If he’s unable to see clients, he can’t earn a living. But he’s decided to allocate his money elsewhere. He believes that disability income insurance would put too much pressure on his pocketbook. He feels better saving more money but knows that all that savings could be gone in an instant if he gets hurt. It weighs on him. He’s cautious about things like playing sports with friends. He is not living confidently because he hasn’t addressed his full financial need.

Less Anxiety, More Confidence

So much of life is spent attempting to feel confident in one’s own skin. And a big contributor to confidence is financial confidence. My colleague’s neighbor is exactly why we believe you can’t invest your way to financial confidence.

At Northwestern Mutual, we believe that financial planning involves growing your wealth for the future and protecting yourself and your family from the things that can go wrong. We believe that when you protect and grow, you’ll have more confidence to enjoy life—to get into that pickup football game in the backyard without worrying about getting hurt. That’s because you’ll know that even if you do, your family will still be able to get to the mountaintop.

Take time to consider the things you could do today to put yourself on a path to confidence today and fulfillment tomorrow.