What is the meaning of life? This is a question people have been asking themselves for ages.
Meaningless. Meaningless. Chasing after the wind.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2
Too many of us go after things in life that really are meaningless. When we step back and look at it from a different perspective, we realize that we had our ladder leaned up against the wrong wall, and we’ve been climbing to the top only to realize that we were climbing against the wrong wall.
This week I received some tough news that reminded me that this life is fleeting – it’s short. And we will endure problems, trials, and illnesses, and we will eventually come to a realization that a lot of the things we are pursuing in life really don’t matter when it comes down to it.
I don’t know about you, but I want my life to mean something. I want to pursue things that matter. I don’t want to waste my time doing things that won’t add up to a hill of beans. I want to be intentional with how I live my life – on a day by day basis and on a moment by moment basis.
Our perspective changes as we go through life. We see things through different lenses along the way, and sometimes I think that we go through trials in life to re-calibrate us – to reset our vision. I think this might be happening through my experience this week – in the tough circumstances that I’m wrestling with in my own mind.
What are your priorities and what are you doing about them? Do you know them? Have you stopped long enough to pay attention – to really process the priorities that you have in your life?
Is it work? Is it achievement? Is it notoriety? Is it fame? Is it your family? Is it your faith? Is it financial freedom?
All these things are okay, but are they really your priorities? Have you stopped long enough to really analyze what matters most in life?
Once you know your priorities, it’s important to map out how you’re going to get there.
What are you going to do? How are you going to change your life to live in light of those priorities?
I cannot answer that question for you. This is a question you need to answer for yourself.
I just finished listening to a new book, Living Forward, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, and they challenge readers to consider writing their own eulogy.
What would you want people to stay at your funeral? If this is what you want people to say, how are you living your life to prepare for this?
I don’t know how everything is going to work out with the situation I’m facing, but I do know I have the opportunity to really analyze my priorities and shift some of my perspectives. And just maybe I will come down from the ladder that I was climbing on to make sure I have it positioned against the correct wall.
This is the challenge I leave you with today: Is your ladder leaning against the correct wall, or are you chasing things that are meaningless?
Pursue your priorities. Carefully consider your priorities. Gain new perspective, and live your life with intention.
More importantly, what I’m learning through this experience is the importance of relationships. You can pursue all kinds of achievement and accolades and everything, but the reality is the relationships that you have with others matters so much more than those career positions and promotions, those super-large portfolios, and those trophies. Take time today to connect with those who matter most in your life. And then repeat every day for the rest of your life.
If you want to find meaning in your life:
People talk about wanting to live a balanced life.
We all want balance in our lives, but is that really the right goal or are we really even defining a balanced life correctly? This is something I’ve been thinking about lately. I know for a fact that I am very busy. I’m on the go all the time. My calendar is full of things to do, and I’m always busy.
Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m living a balanced life.
I’m pretty sure we often get the whole definition of balance wrong.
When I think of balance I think of chemistry class in college. In the lab portion of the class, we used to measure chemicals with a balance. We put a desired weight on one side of the balance. This weight was measured against a standard. Then we put the chemical we were measuring on the other side of the balance. We would add a little more chemical or remove a little of the chemical until we got the right amount of chemical. We knew that we were right – that we had the right amount of chemical, because the balance was balanced. One side wasn’t higher than the other. One side wasn’t lower than the other.
This seems to be what people want to do with their schedules. They want to put so many things into their life that they are well-rounded in every area, but sometimes I wonder if that’s really the correct approach. My guess is that we are measuring the balance of our lives against an incorrect standard.
We all have different priorities, and we all have things that should be higher on our priority list. If you make a list of how you spend your time and you compare it with your list of life priorities, I wonder if they would match.
I know that my work is one of my priorities. I know that my fitness is one of my priorities. I know my family is one of my priorities. I know my friends are one of my priorities. I know my writing and speaking are one of my priorities, and I know that serving others is one of my priorities. I have a lot of priorities. The question is which ones are the top ones and are they getting the attention – the time and energy – they deserve
My top priority is God and my faith, but the reality is I’m not sure I give Him the balance of time and energy that I should. If God really is a priority in my life, you would think I would spend a lot of time working on this priority. The reality is I get distracted, I get confused, and I get misdirected towards other things that are much lower on my priority list. And I’m guessing I’m not alone.
How do I go about reshaping and re-evaluating my calendar and my life in light of my desired priorities, so I really can live a balanced life? Here are some ideas:
If you want additional help in this are, be sure to check out the 7 Week Stretch Challenge. Sign up below.
I had the best of intentions.
I had every thought of writing a nice, new “STRETCHY” post last night for you today, and then my plans kind of got derailed.
There have been a few things going on in my world the past few days that have caused a little higher amplitude to the normally steady, manageable waves I’m used to experiences. Sometimes, life causes us to experience fear, anger, anxiety, disappointment, and fatigue. I think I’ve felt a little bit of each of these things over the past few days.
Instead of writing a nice, new “STRETCHY” post, I’m left writing something with more rawness. I hope you don’t mind.
I wish I could fix things.
I wish I could mend relationships.
I wish I could tear down walls.
I wish I could heal wounds.
I wish I could make scars vanish.
I wish I could snap click my heals together three times and be home.
I wish I could sleep soundly.
I wish I could just make it all better.
But I can’t. I can’t do any of these things. I wish it wasn’t so, but there are times when I need these reminders. I need to be reminded that I can’t do it all.
But I know the One who can.
I know the One who can fix things (even if I don’t understand the remedy).
I know the One who can repair relationships.
I know the One who can tear down walls.
I know the One who can heal all wounds.
I know the One who provides the security of home we are all looking for.
I know the One who provides perfect rest.
I know the One who can make it all better.
And it’s this knowledge – it’s this One – that keeps me from being swallowed up by the giant waves of life. And this is right where I need to be right now.
The nice, new “STRETCHY” post will have to wait for another day, because this is all I have for now.
In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Psalm 18:6
If you were paying attention last week, you may have noticed that I made a mistake.
Yes. I am not perfect.
Last Sunday morning, I was working on my Monday morning post (How to Respond When You Feel Buried). After working on the post for nearly an hour, I put the final touches on the post by working the a graphic to go with what I had written. I picked my background using Pixabay.com (a site offering beautiful, free graphics). I found a house buried in snow. Perfect. I downloaded the file, and moved over to Canva.com where I do my final graphic editing. I cropped the photo. I added my text elements. I saved the graphic, and I pasted it into my post.
As I was inspecting my post, I noticed I spelled a key word on the graphic incorrectly. Instead of writing FEEL on my graphic, I wrote FELL. I quickly made the changes, and I thought for sure I saved everything correctly as I scheduled the post for the next day.
Monday morning came, and my post went live at 5AM EST. I was mortified a couple of hours later when I received a Facebook message from one of my friends pointing out the spelling error on my graphic.
I quickly went back into the post. I made the necessary correction, and I updated the post. Then I responded to my friend to thank her and to let her know of the fix.
I tried to let the mistake go, but I continued to be haunted by my error as people promoted the post on Twitter. For some reason, the uncorrected graphic showed up on my Tweets.
How we respond to mistakes is what really matters.
Here are five keys to responding when mistakes happen:
Don’t forget to sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge. You can sign up right here:
When I looked it up on Google, this is what I found:
Pursuit is “the action of following or pursuing someone or something.”
Synonyms include: striving toward, quest after/for, search for
What are you pursuing?
Better yet, are you pursuing anything?
People pursue happiness, success, and wealth. They pursue the American Dream. Or they pursue inner peace. Are these the right things to pursue? I suppose you could argue either way.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a note to myself in my journal:
If I’m honest, I pursue safety, and this has been my pursuit most of my life.
When I was a little kid, I was the cautious one. My brother and my best friend (both named David) were the adventurous ones. They were willing to go off the high dive. They were willing to swim to the bottom of the pool. They weren’t afraid to do anything. Me on the other hand, I was chicken. I remember crying when my swim teacher tried to get me to go off the low diving board. I was absolutely terrified I would drown in the deep end of the swimming pool.
Sometimes I wonder if my childhood tendencies to avoid danger traveled with me down the road into adulthood.
I still seek the safe choice more often than I take a chance on doing something that might be dangerous.
I pick the safe choice when it comes to my investments, my career steps, and in other areas of my life.
Am I missing out because of this tendency – this desire – to stay safe?
I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life that matters. I want to make a difference, and I want to bring glory to God by the choices I make and the actions I take each and every day.
On this day when we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., I thinks it’s safe to say that MLK did not pursue safety, and he lived a life that matters.
The only place we will really find safety is when we are in the arms of God and when we are following Him.
Chuck Swindoll said it well, “The world has changed and it’s going to keep changing, but God never changes; so we are safe when we cling to Him.”
Finding safety in God doesn’t mean we were meant to avoid taking risks. In fact, I think there is a certain aspect to risk taking that gives us the opportunity to fulfill our purpose. I’ve mentioned it here before, and it’s worth mentioning again. Several years ago, sociologist Tony Campolo responded to a survey taken by people in their nineties. Campolo concluded that the survey respondents which they had taken time to reflect more, to risk more, and to take actions that would leave a legacy.
I’m not in my nineties yet. There is still time for me to live differently. I want to make a difference even if it means doing something a little dangerous.
In his commencement speech to the class of 2014 at Maharishi University of Management, Jim Carrey challenged graduates to take a risk:
“Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.
So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it — please! (applause) And if it doesn’t happen for you right away, it’s only because the universe is so busy fulfilling my order. It’s party size! (laughter)
My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.
I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
I love these words. If you’re like me, your fear of failure is keeping you on the safe path. Perhaps, it’s time to take a leap of faith so you can do something that matters.
(One thing worth noting, pursuit implies going after something or someone with all you have. Whatever you are pursuing won’t just be handed to you. You have to go get it!)
Don’t forget to sign-up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge. You can sign up right here:
Winston Churchill said, late in his life, that he had always “wanted to make a difference” in the world. Any student of history would have to say that Winston Churchill made a difference. He kept the free world from folding as England resisted the determined aggression of Germany in World War II. He buoyed the spirits of the English people at a time when rational thought would have concluded it was time to give up. He became, as much as anyone, the symbol of our refusal to let freedom be traded for fascism.
The interesting thing is, almost everyone has a desire to make a difference in the world. Even when it has not surfaced in that formulation, no one wants to see their life as “meaningless.” On the one hand, it seems so futile to live and die without impact. One the other hand, it changes the very nature of our life to be involved in something of transcendent value.
There are nearly as many ways to make a difference as there are people in the world. We certainly don’t have to make a difference in the same way our neighbor does, or our brother, or our best friend from high school. How we choose to make a difference has a great deal to do with where our most important priorities lie.
There is a couple living in my home town who discovered they would not be able to have children. But they wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. There were a lot of things they could have done to achieve that goal. They chose to adopt an orphan from Viet Nam, left homeless at the end of that tragic war. Then they adopted a child from Korea. Then one from Brazil. And so on. At this point, they are past retirement age, and still have teenagers in their home. They have adopted 21 children, many from desperate situations in foreign countries. Their choices have brought them great pain and great joy. However, no matter how you view the situation, it is clear that they have made a huge difference in the world, especially to those 21 children.
Your efforts don’t have to be heroic to bring you happiness. Sometime simply helping the elderly in your area have companionship they would otherwise lack will do the trick. Or you may find satisfaction in the Big Brother program, or in helping bring cultural experiences to youth who would otherwise never experience them. Or you may make a difference by helping your neighborhood come together in friendship and uplifting association.
How do you know you are making a difference? Other than the obvious fruits of your efforts, you know because you are happier when it happens. You spend less time dwelling on what you lack, and more time enjoying what you do. There is no single secret to happiness in this life. But I am assured that whatever formula you suggest will have “making a difference” as an integral part. It changes an existence into a life.
Hyrum Smith is a distinguished author, speaker, and businessman. He is the co-founder and former CEO of FranklinCovey®. For three decades, he has empowered people to effectively govern their personal and professional lives. Hyrum’s books and presentations have been acclaimed by American and international audiences. He combines wit and enthusiasm with a gift for communicating compelling principles that incite lasting personal change. You can visit him on the web at www.3gaps.com.
You can read my review of Hyrum’s new book by clicking here.
How do you stay on track with the goals and healthy habits in your life?
Is there someone in your life who holds you accountable to stay on track?
Do you have regular check-ins which keep you focused on your goal?
Two of my appointments this week reminded me of the importance of regular accountability.
First on Monday night, I had an appointment with my nutritionist. I visited her back in September for the first time, and I haven’t been back since. She gave me great advice in September. She explained how to change my eating and my exercise to achieve some goals I have to live a healthier life. She recommended I use MyFitnessPal to track my eating and exercise. I did great with tracking all of this for about four weeks. I lost several pounds. I started converting fat to muscle. And I was starting to feel a lot more energy throughout the day.
And then my second appointment kept getting postponed for one reason or another. Over time, I stopped tracking my eating. I thought I was eating fairly well still, and I still tracked my exercise. But I stopped dropping weight. I was a little discouraged, but I didn’t have enough accountability going to keep me on track.
Late last week, my wife reminded me of my appointment with my nutritionist this week. Friday, I started tracking my food intake again. After all, I didn’t want to show up at my appointment without some information. On Monday night, my results indicated I was doing okay, but I probably missed out on the opportunity to make larger strides towards my goals because I stopped tracking. My times of accountability were not close enough to each other to keep me focused (this coming from Mr. Discipline).
I got another reminder on Tuesday morning when I arrived at my dentist appointment. Just like I had fallen off track with tracking my eating, I had fallen off track with my flossing. I initially do well for the first couple of weeks after my dentist appointment, and I do well right before my next dentist appointment, but I am terrible in the flossing department the rest of the time. Tuesday, I had the “privilege” of having a deep-cleaning because I hadn’t flossed and I was growing plaque barnacles on the bottoms of my teeth. To prevent bone loss and gum deterioration, my dental hygienist numbed my mouth a scraped my teeth for an hour.
We need regular accountability in our lives.
This is why I meet with a mastermind group every other week. This is why I meet with my men’s group every Friday morning at 6AM. This is why I go to church every week. I need these check-ins to keep me on track.
Share your thoughts in the comments. Let’s learn from each other!
I spend my “free time” in the car or on the treadmill listening to podcasts, so I can learn more. On my nightstand, I have a few leadership books. I listen to 150 podcasts every week, and I read through (or skim through) over 330 blogs whenever there is a new post.
I stand by the saying “Leaders are readers.”
But I think I sometimes take it too far.
When I say I want to do the right thing, I mean this:
I don’t want to mess up when it comes to these areas of my life (and other areas). I’m a perfectionist. Unfortunately, I get it wrong if these are my pursuits.
I want to be a great Christ-follower. If I can get this right, the other things should take care of themselves. If I’m serious about this proclamation – if I’m serious about wanting to be a great Christ-follower, I should do what God says.
What is the number one way to do what God says?
If you want to do what God says, you have to know what God says.
“But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:25
“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:9-11
If I want to follow Christ, I have to start by digesting God’s Word. Spending time in God’s Word does not happen with a closed, dust-covered Bible on the coffee table. It happens when I open it up, when I study it, and when I take time to chew on it. Only then can I truly do what God says.
If you want to do the right thing, start with God’s Word.
Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.
(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas. If you have an idea, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)
Too often, we lose our zeal for life as we allow the pulls and pressures of life to weigh us down. This week’s Stretched Ice Breaker is meant to re-inject some energy back into your life.
My Answer: The best way for me to answer this question is to create a list. Here are some of the things that get me excited about life:
Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!
Thursday night, I once again experienced the blessing of friendship after I received a call from my wife as I was leaving work:
“You’re not going to like this news, but the basement is full of water.”
While I was driving home, I quickly called a friend who drove over with a Shop Vac, a flash light, and his son. When I arrived home, my friend was already running the Shop Vac, and I sent out a text message to the men I meet with on Friday mornings. Soon two other friends arrived with more Shop Vacs and more helping hands. Then another friend dropped off several fans. Several other guys from my group offered to come over late Thursday night to help out as well.
I missed out on Meet the Teacher Night at the high school (which was scheduled for Thursday night), but I had the blessing of experiencing the unbelievable sacrifice of friends.
I am blessed. Stuff is temporary, but friendship is forever. (Meanwhile, my basement is drying out.)