Mentoring Questions: Be-Have-Do

I wanted to create a new series to help you DIY your own money mentoring process with these Peer Mentoring Tools.

How to do money mentoring with a friend

It all starts with good questions. Most great mentors are great because 1. They “show up” in a meaningful way (focused on your goals, your situation, to help encourage you to make progress). And 2. They ask good questions that enable you to dig out your own answers.

I have a very specific process I use for creating actionable, trajectory changing plans…..but it all starts with finding the answers to the most important questions. Because how will we know which path to take if we aren’t clear on the destination we want to arrive at?

The goal of this series is to help with the good questions.


Mentoring Exercise: Be-Have-Do

So this is a fun one. It’s the first one I recommend if you have never done these kinds of questions, and aren’t really sure how to even start. This is really intuitive for most people. Unlike the other questions, this one is better approached as an exercise.

What you need:

life planning exersise

I added a cup of tea for good measure!

Start with 3 stacks of different colored Post-it notes


Flat surface or poster board to organize the Post-it notes on.


Step 1: Brainstorm


Take 20-30 minutes to brainstorm on your own. Write down each idea you come up with on a sticky note. It can be one word or a short phrase. You can bounce between each idea, just write them down as they come.

What do you want to BE: Write down each idea you come up with on a sticky note. It can be one word or a short phrase.

Focus on things that are central to your identity. Things that would finish the sentence “I am a …”

Maybe you want to be a great chef. Or a writer. Maybe you want to be a great father. Well traveled. Interesting. Generous.

Write everything you think of on one of the colors of Post-it notes. Write as many as you can think of, as fast as you think of them.

What do you want to HAVE?

For most people, this is the easiest question to answer. We can think of lots of things we want to have, because marketing is constantly putting this idea in front of us. But it’s an important question. Because our lives are filled with possessions. Which possessions do we really want to have?

Maybe it’s a classic car or motorcycle. A vacation cabin. A camper. A lovely garden. Downhill skis. A collection of Polish pottery. A comfy bed. Chickens in the backyard.  If it pops in your head, write that word(s) down on the second color of Post-it notes.

What do you want to DO?

These can be big or small things. But what do you really want to do?

RV around the US. Garden in the summer. Run half marathons. Weekend adventures. Volunteer at the homeless teen shelter. Exercises 3 times a week.  Read a book each week. Visit 30 countries. Do stand up comedy. Write a book. Create a product to sell at craft fairs. Host a dinner party each month. Take grandkids fishing.

Write each one down on the third color of sticky note. Make sure you think about the present but also the future.

life planning exersise

Step 2 Organize:

During step 1, you will write all 3 areas down as they come to you. You can do step one side by side with a partner (spouse, best friend, etc.) or alone, but it is a solo task. Each person has to write down their own answers.

In step two you will organize each Post-it note. If you are using a poster board, write a large BE-HAVE-DO at the top of the board. If you are just using a table top, create a label with a sticky note of that color. You can start to organize the Post-it notes under their label.

If you are working with a partner, find the ones that match up and put them side by side. Take time to talk about each one as you find it’s spot on the board.

BE HAVE DO life planning exersise

The Magic in this Question:

Our Be-Have-Do list requires 3 things to turn into reality.

  1. Time
  2. Money
  3. Commitment

All three are in limited supply. We simply don’t have the time, money and commitment for 1000 different things. And we can’t do them all at the same time.

On each Post-it note, I mark them with a $, T (for TIME), or C/P (for commitment or Process, as in I would have to commit to the process of doing this for a long time, ie., saving a million dollars or becoming an amazing pastry chef). Perhaps a combination of 2 or 3.

Then I think of them in terms of

  1. Habit
  2. Seasons

Somethings I can build habits around, like reading every day, having weekend adventures with my kids, eating healthy food, or spending time outside each day.

Other things are put into my decades of life. I use to plan to accomplish 3 big things each decade of my life. I focused in on seeing significant progress on 3 things. I figured if I had my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s to knock out my biggest goals, that would give me time to do 15 big things in my life. So I sorted out our Be-Have-Do by what would fit best in each decade. Then started taking ground on those items.

My 20’s list:

  1. Pay off $50,000 in debt PLUS pay cash for a house.
  2. Sort through my personal baggage
  3. Travel the world
  4. Adopt

The best part of financial independence is I can run faster and take more ground. Without most of my time, money and commitments going towards a 9-5 job or having to pay bills, it’s freed up those resources. Now I am looking at tackling 5-10 big things a decade. With out the 9-5 jobs, I think I can tackle most big things in 1-2 years instead of 3-4 years.

So the magic in this question: it sets you up to focus your most valuable resources on the things you want to Be-Have-Do.

 If something didn’t make it on a Post-it note,

why are you spending so much of your time, money or commitments on it?

In the mentoring process, when we go to create your custom road map, we compile the answers to all these questions into a framework that plots out your long term goals. Then we find the actions and habits that you need to focus on this year and month to start taking ground.

Road Blocks to watch out for:

With each good question, there is often a road block or challenges that trip us up. Here is one that I see happen in this question:

Confusing BE with HAVE or DO

It’s challenging at times to separate who we are in our identity from what we own or the things we do. Sometimes our identity is tied into the way we earn money, but not necessarily. Other times we don’t have the “DO” piece yet, but are actively building the “BE.” You can “BE” an artist before having sold your art. You can “BE” a connector of people before you create a group/event/fb page. Actually, it’s necessary to “BE” those things in your mind long before you see the outward markers of success. Similarly, “HAVE”ing things doesn’t create your “BE” or even your “DO”. You can have trekking poles and not be adventurous or fit. You can have great BBQ grill and not host amazing get together’s for friends.

 Tempered, or unspoken answers

“If it’s not a for sure thing, I don’t want to write it down.” “It’s silly, I shouldn’t want that.” “If I write it down, I’ll just feel sad it can’t happen.” “I’m not good enough/important enough to want to be that.”

There are so many reasons we don’t write down the things we actually want. Fear, embarrassment, inadequacy. Listen, it takes courage to write things on paper.

But if you can’t find the courage to write it down,  

the dream is dead in the water. 

Here is a painful truth: you need to muster the courage to write it down, or you need to let it go. Just move on.

Don’t let your dreams feel like unspoken regrets hanging over your life. 

Start with small dreams if you can’t muster the vision for bigger ones yet. Maybe you can’t write down, “Publish 10 books.” Or “Travel to 50 countries.” Then you need to at least write down “Write a book.” and “Travel to 3 new countries.” And after you do those things, it will fill you with the courage to dream even bigger dreams. Seth Godin has published 18 books, a few of them New York Times bestsellers. I can almost guarantee he started by writing that first one.

Sign up here to get the full Be-Have-Do Conversation Starter outline plus two more bonus money mentoring outlines.

Who am I to be-have-do that?

As a millennial, I’ve come to learn the hard way, we were sold a half truth. Most of us heard “Your special and gifted and can change the world.” Which is true. The part most people forgot to mention was “And it’ll be hard as hell. It’ll take years of dedication, struggle, and work before you see the fruit.” So at the first bump in the road, our courage and belief was shaken. Now the promise feels true for others, but not for us personally.

Yes, it’s going to be hard. I know hard. We paid off $50,000 of debt and then went on to save $100,000 by the time I turned 24. I adopted a special needs 12-year-old when I was 22. I paid cash for my first house. I added 3 kids from foster care to our family all at once. I’ve had to bury a child.

Hard doesn’t matter if you are doing something worth doing.

Hard won’t crush you if you are doing your most important work. 

Hard is the price of admission.

All the people I am blown away by– who have done amazing, important, inspiring things– they paid for the admission ticket with hard. Don’t live in fear of the price of admission.

Maybe you feel “less-than”

You grew up poor, or from a bad part of town, or with drug addicted parents, or your dad ran out on you, or you were harassed and looked down on because of one of a hundred possible reasons. Or you had someone in your life that tried to fill your head with limiting negative beliefs: “No one from here ever amounts to anything, so I don’t know why you think you’re so special.” “You think you’re too good for real, honest work?” Or one that still haunts me, “Reading is just for lazy people who don’t want to work.”

Listen, as your friend, as your virtual mentor, can you lean in for a moment? If any of those things are something you carry, can I speak a new word to you?

I wish I could chat with each and every one of you. Look you in the eyes, and untangle the lies you took on as your own. Because that isn’t you. Your dead beat father, the number on the scale, the way foolish and cruel people treated you, your grades in school, the part of town you grew up in, not finishing high school, a failed business, teenage pregnancy or being raped. That was someone else’s mistake: in judging what that situation said about you, in the way they treated you, in their own screwed up lives. And you don’t have to own their mistake. Their error doesn’t dictate your value. So, friend, write down your own Be-Have-Do. Don’t let people who lack true vision write it for you.

“What does this say about me?”

Absolutely nothing. I’m not saying this just to be nice. It’s unequivocally false that any of those things make you less-than. Complete and total bullshit. Let’s just call it was it is. Some of the most talented, amazing people I know are obese. Some of the most successful, inspirational folks I call friends have grown up poor, or with addicted parents or with a parent they never saw or was in prison. Some of the kindest, thoughtful, capable, strong people I know were raped, or cheated on or run out on by a spouse. But here is the thing–these people aren’t the exceptions to the rule. They are just the ones who figured out that it’s bullshit to let someone else write the rest of their story and wrongly measure their worth. 

If you write down your Be-Have-D0 and are terrified to share it with anyone, for fear of their unsupportive, unhelpful comments, send it to me! I’ll be your biggest cheerleader. I’m in your corner. Not to be all braggy, but my vision is 20/20. Other people might have had poor vision for your life, but mine is damn good.

Don’t be afraid to be a little feisty. Someone once told me that only lazy people read books. Well, you know what? I read 50 books a year now! I’ve read well over 500 books. And I boldly added to by BE column, “well read.” Take that!

Can I just say one more thing? If you have done really screwed things up, like just straight up bad choices in the past: you don’t have to take that into your future. Leave it in the past. Resolve, make amends, try to fix what was broken, redeem it and do better next time. Don’t drag your broken past into your future. Some of us opt to learn every lesson the hard way. But we learned them, so let’s use that to our advantage now.

Here’s how to spot Road Blocks:

If something pops into your head and you hesitate to write it down….just write it down. This isn’t about finding the most reasonable, middle of the road, safe stuff. It’s about stretching. It’s about surprising yourself. It’s about writing down the things that have only been a passing thought.


How to DIY this money mentoring question:

  1. You can do this exercise alone or side by side with a friend/spouse/partner. Brainstorm all three at once. Do the brainstorm quietly and after you have written every single thing you can think of, chat about those as you organize them into categories.
  2. Figure out which resources each item would require. Decide if it’s something you can incorporate into a habit or needs to go into a certain decade of life.
  3. After you get it all organized and sorted, take a picture. Keep the image on your phone, print it out or as a screensaver. This is an exercise you need to come back to every 1-3 years. Situations change and we change. Make sure you allow your dreams to change along with that.

Follow up questions:

Often our truest answers are a few questions deep. We need mentors to help us dig and get at the core of the issue. So follow up questions are key. Here are a few

  1. Now, after writing everything down and organizing it, is there anything you want to take off the table? It just doesn’t measure up compared to the others?
  2. If you can only pick 3 things for this decade, what seems to fit best now?
  3. Are there things not on this list that are taking a good deal of your time, money and commitments? Any you could downsize or eliminate to free up those resources.
  4. Anything that caught you off guard in yourself or your partner?


You can check out more of my mentoring process HERE.

Good luck as you DIY this with people in your life!


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20 thoughts on “Mentoring Questions: Be-Have-Do

  1. Oh wow, thank you for sharing. Reading through this exercise, I can see how profoundly impactful working through the be-have-do framework could be in my life. Out of curiosity, do you update/complete this exercise periodically?

    • Yes! I thought I put it in there, but I go through these about every 1-3 years depending on how quickly life is shifting. We need to allow ourselves to learn new things, grow and dream new dreams. Often bigger dreams. =) This exercise really helps refocus me, and make sure I’m giving my Post-it note stuff the bulk of my time, money and commitments. And there is always that “doh!” moment when you realize there is something big that is really important and it currently getting 0 of your resources. No time, no commitment to lay a foundation and no money. Good luck as you work through it. Reach out if you need any help!

  2. This works perfectly with something I read the other day.. Dont hold on to something/someone that isn’t right for you just because you’ve already invested your love and time. Give it up before you invest more of those precious resources. I am currently working on letting go in a few areas of my life and this exercise will definitely help. 🙂

    • I think it will help too. After I did it quickly so I would have some example images for the post, I found myself thinking about everything that didn’t make the short list. Why am I giving so much time, money and energy towards those things? These kinds of exercises have really helped me move towards more minimalism also. If it would never make a list, why do I keep cleaning, sorting and storing it?

  3. “Don’t let people who lack true vision write it for you.” This is, by far, one of the most profound insights I have read about goal-setting in a long time. The context you’ve provided makes it so clear that mindset is everything to personal success. We really can get bogged down by a life-imposed mindset. Thank you for this post!!

    • Sometimes we don’t notice it, because these things can float in the background like white noise. Until you are brainstorming, and an idea pops in your mind, and I see people freeze. They hesitate. It’s SO scary to write it down. Because something along the way got tangled into who they are called to be, and the impact they could have. If they can confront it head on, that terrifying thing sounds so silly. Because there is ZERO correlation. We need to be able to apply the obvious advice we would give to others to ourselves.

  4. This is awesome. We’ve sat down and done this, a long time ago. My husband realized how much he wanted to learn how to cook from this process. And together, this was our first step towards the dream of a business together. I think that this reminder of this mentoring question may mean a night spent doing all this.
    And I think you’re so right. When we hesitate, or feel stupid for wanting to write something down, those are the dreams that mean something. And we are too scared to even attempt to speak them aloud. Your transparency is so amazing and encouraging! Thank you for that!

    • It’s also a great question to go out for coffee or dinner for! A money, life planning date. My geeky self finds those the MOST romantic. =)

      And you are totally right that those ARE the dreams that mean something. Because we have no big feelings if it’s something that isn’t buried in our heart somewhere. If someone asked me, “How would you feel about becoming an astronaut?” Um, yeah that’s cool…maybe. I have no feelings about it. But ask me about the things I am terrified to say out loud, and my heart will race. And the moment I really give it 5 seconds of hope, dozens of silly, irrelevant road blocks flood my mind.

      Level two of these is snap a picture of the biggest craziest things map it out with my mentoring road map, and send it to someone! That will make you want to throw up! Ask them to encourage and follow up. Like these aren’t just a pipe dream, but you are actually going to start taking ground. I’ve done this, and it takes so much courage. But it’s the first step. Because most big things are going to take a whole heaping pile of courage.

      • Wow. Level 2 sounds so scary! Something to think about though. We have so many big dreams, and we are too scared to even share them with family. So that idea of sending it to someone makes my stomach clench Btw those are basically how all our dates go! Deep, nerdy conversation! ?

        • Send them my way, girl! I promise not to share. =) (Which I have sworn everyone to that I have shared mine with!)

          But it’s worth it. If you can make that leap, and learn that it didn’t kill you, you can start taking other leaps. Keep an eye out for my next mentoring question in August. After you get that one done, you will have all the info you need between the questions to start filling out your road map. Setting the right benchmarks, knowing which dreams fit where, and narrowing it down to the actions and habits you need to make progress this month.

  5. Hard is the price of admission. Best line I’ve heard this month.

    Man this self-growth thingy is intense, isn’t it? But you have to be intense to get that it’s intense. And most of us reading your blog are very intense. I think that’s something we need to accept in the “being” part. When I was younger I wished I wasn’t so intense. Now it’s like – yeah, so what. What are you going to do with that?

    Great work, Jillian.

    • I think that “hard is the price of admission” is a really important message. Because there are two paths if you understand this. You decided you are ok living and average, boring, no impact life because you only want things to be easy. Just bid your time on this hunk of dirt till you die. Ok, that’s option one.

      Option 2: you lean in. And as you start to take ground on the important things, and it gets hard (because it will!) you know you are still on the right path. So many people quit when things get hard because they thought if it’s something they were supposed to do, it ought to be easy. Or they mistake that is easy for others. It’s not. They are paying with hard, just like everyone else.

      Taking in 3 kids from foster care is really freaking hard! It’s hard for a 100 different reasons. There is no way around it. If people give up when it gets hard, they will never make it to the good parts. We need to create a shift in culture that says “just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. In fact you are probably on EXACTLY the right path.”

      • Hi, Ms. Montana. I recently read a book about this that 100% has changed my life. It’s “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. It’s a stoic perspective on handling the challenges that life throws at all of us sooner or later. If you haven’t already read it, I hope you’re able to. Based on your other reading recommendations, I think you’d really enjoy it and find it valuable. I’m slowing working through the Be Have Do exercise. Thank you for making me think!

  6. This is a much more powerful exercise than I expected. I usually hate anything that involves notecards or post-its because life is much more complicated than paper products, but this was really helpful. Thanks for sharing! I hope I can get Rob to give it a try (he hates this kind of thing even more than I do).

    • Ha! “Life is much more complicated than paper products.” That cracked me up! Because it’s very true. But in this case, I think having a small paper product is useful. Sometimes we need to take the big and complicated things and boil them down to the simple. =)

      I’m so glad you took the leap and tried it out! It’s probably the easiest and most intuitive of all the mentoring questions. But it always gives me some clarity. On my budget, time, energy and what I should focus on this month or year.

  7. I strive to live my life strategically, intentionally but sometimes I get off course. Thanks for the push to get back on course! I just completed the Be, Have, Do questions and I am feeling more energized and back on track. Thank you!

    • That’s awesome! I do those questions every year or two. I’m actually going to be putting together a full course to focus on the life planning and intentional living.