Life. That’s what happened to me this year. I realize that if it didn’t I wouldn’t be here to write about it, but the life I experienced this year stretched me in some very remarkable ways.
My cup was constantly full. So full, that at times I worried about it overflowing. I didn’t want to be left without the capacity to enjoy the meaningful moments, but life kept happening at a breakneck pace.
There never was enough time or money. I struggled to maintain my energy and my faith. Even my ability to love felt limited.
But I kept moving.
I made the time and the money. I leaned upon my faith. I pushed aside my fears and I opened wide my heart. The trials, and the triumphs gave me valuable insights; but they taxed me.
As this year draws to a close, I am filled with one scary thought: What’s next?
I can’t avoid it. Life won’t let me.
I am alive. I must experience new highs and even some new lows. The spectrum beckons and calls me to grow. I am a willing participant. I am ready to recalibrate and renew my efforts in the game of life.
What Did I Learn?
If you want to live a well-spent life, then you must be intentional about the way you invest your time and energy.
The conflicts we face are rarely between what is good and what is bad. Instead, we are regularly forced to choose between two good alternatives.
For example: Tonight, I can either dine with an important client, or attend the winter social with my daughter at her school.
Neither one of these is bad. Both are important to me.
I don’t want to fret about which one is more important. That doesn’t help me manage the decision, nor does it help me feel whole or complete.
The truth is, these types of opportunities collide on a regular basis, and I must always choose between two good things. That is how life works.
Living at the speed of life requires constant focus. There will always be multiple demands from different value centers pushing and pulling. This is precisely why we must become intentional investors of our time and energy.
An investment is an action that hopes for a future benefit. Sometimes we forget this concept and expect immediate value. We want to enjoy the return now. It doesn’t usually happen that way
The good life calls us to make a complete investment every single day. This means that each important part of life gets some of our regular attention. Most of us understand this, yet we are often lulled into neglecting some of what we value most, by what we deem to be urgent and special circumstances in another area of concern. Our carelessness eventually affects our sense of balance.
When we feel the imbalance, we usually try to equilibrate ourselves by making major contributions in the areas we have ignored. This “go big or go home” strategy gives birth to a vicious cycle that fosters fatigue. Our hope is that by doing the biggest thing we can think of we will catch up faster and settle back into a normal routine, but this hyper-attention usually causes us to neglect some other important area, causing our entry into another cruel and crazy cycle.
Thankfully, there is a counterintuitive exit to the madness.
Instead of thinking big, think small.
There is a question I use to facilitate this type of thinking. It is a question that conserves energy, keeps me focused, and empowers sustained action. I use this question to make sure that I am making intentional investments without depleting my resources. Here is the question:
What is the smallest action I can take that will create the biggest impact?
The biggest impact where?
I ask this question about each important relationship, about my physical, mental and emotional fitness, about my career and educational pursuits, and about the development of my spiritual intelligence.
A well-spent life requires us to do many things that result in little or no short-term benefits. Intentional investments are designed to pay huge long-term dividends. They never seem big in the moment, which is why we feel comfortable neglecting some very important actions, but they always add up to significant future gains. When we fail to take these types of purpose driven actions we are guaranteed to experience moments of regret when we realize we can no longer act.
Happy New Year!
The holidays are here and they will be gone before you know it. Now is the time to plan for 2015. Annual planning is not a one-night-stand so please don’t wait until December 31st.
Who do you want to be? What must you do to become that person? What are the smallest actions you can take that will help you live into your most desired aspirations?
When I think in these terms, I am no longer frightened by “what’s next?” Instead I am energized by the opportunity to explore a bright and vibrant future.
I invite you to take some time this weekend to ask yourself these questions. Make sure you turn off your phone, and get away from any and all distractions. It has probably been a while since you last did this, so be prepared for the struggle that always accompanies the journey toward self-discovery. I promise you that if you stick with it, the path will appear. It is possible that you may need to take a few steps before you see it clearly so I bless you with the faith you will need to make wise and intentional investments. The kind that will bless you, and those you love.
Finally, there is no need for you to be a stranger. We are connected by some very meaningful experiences. I pray often for your well-being. I am here when, and if, you need me. I love you!
Live Today! Love Today!