Wednesday, March 3, 2021

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: Enough for Everyone

 

ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE

 

“A man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses."  St. Luke 12:15

 

 

The question of “enough” permeates our culture. My generation came of age with Mick Jagger’s raspy voice telling us (wink, wink) that you can’t get no satisfaction from “how white your shirts can be,” by smoking “the same cigarettes as me,” or by getting plenty of “girlie action.”

Sadly, that message encouraged lots of Baby Boomers to seek fulfillment the Rolling Stones’ way. Eventually, though, they discovered that even if you catch it, you won’t find satisfaction if you’re chasing the wrong scent in the pursuit of happiness. It just won’t be “enough.” They learned too late that there is never “enough” in the accumulation of transitory pleasures or material possessions. The truth is that “you can never get enough of what you don’t need, because what you don’t need won’t satisfy you.” Dallin Oaks.

It’s never been about how much we own. The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus summed it up eloquently: “Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.” A few years ago, Sheryl Crow translated this centuries-old wisdom into clever rock and roll lyrics.

I don't have digital;

I don't have diddly squat.

It's not having what you want;

It's wanting what you've got.

In a similar way, many of my generation have found by sad experience that we don’t find “enough” by competing with and comparing ourselves to others. Comparing another’s possessions, another’s relationships, even another’s life, with ours invariably gets in the way of enjoying and appreciating our own.

As long as the focus is comparative and the answer is relative, we will never have enough. There will always be another with more. There will always be someone with a bigger, a faster, a newer, a more expensive, a more glamorous, a more exotic . . . whatever.

When it comes to what’s most important, life is not a zero-sum game. There are no quotas or limits to the things that matter most. My joy and happiness do not take away from yours, and your joy and happiness do not take away from mine. Whatever wisdom and understanding I may have does not limit yours.  My peace and contentment do not diminish yours, nor do yours diminish mine.

No people on the face of the planet or in the history of the world have ever come close to having as much as do we 21st Century Americans.  One of the dangers of our unprecedented technology and material wealth is that it can blind us to the real abundance in our lives. Too much “stuff” gets in the way of recognizing and enjoying greater treasures.

I have learned that when we are able to see further than physical possessions and earthly advantages, we can comprehend that our abundance is truly beyond measure and potentially infinite. We have enough, and to spare.

Michael Beckwith once spoke of a virus even more insidious than Covid-19:

"There is a lie that acts like a virus within the mind of humanity. And that lie is, ‘There’s not enough good to go around. There’s lack and there’s limitation and there’s just not enough.’ The truth is that there’s more than enough good to go around. There are more than enough creative ideas.  . . . There is more than enough love. There’s more than enough joy. There is enough for everyone."

May we be inoculated against this virus, and thus recognize the abundance that surrounds us. May we see that, indeed, we have “enough.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: Too Much on Your To-Do List?

  

TOO MUCH ON YOUR TO-DO LIST?

“Checking items off a to-do list doesn't determine progress; focusing on your priorities is what counts.” Frank Sonnenberg



 

Sometimes simpler is better. Here’s a case in point:

I have a friend who you would think has a to-do list a mile long. Her life could be very complicated, if she allowed it to be.

She’s a wife; the mother of three young children; a loving daughter who looks out for her older parents; a full-time high school special-ed teacher with responsibilities for many extra-curricular activities at her school; a part-time instructor for an online university program; the leader of her church’s youth program for teenage girls; a thoughtful and attentive neighbor; and an active community volunteer. If anyone would have a million things to get done every day, it would be her.

But her attitude regarding to-do lists is wise, effective, and refreshing. And seemingly counterintuitive.

Her to-do-list mantra is simple and blunt:  NO MORE THAN FOUR.

She believes a too-long list is counterproductive. In her view, when you have dozens of things on your list, the natural tendency is to work on the easiest things first, because it feels good to scratch them off. Unfortunately, however, the easiest things are usually not the most important things. If your focus is on “scratching items off your list,” you end up giving your attention to the “stuff” and leaving unattended the things that matter most.

NO MORE THAN FOUR.

But when you limit your list to only four things, she says, you force yourself to identify what are truly your highest priorities, the critical to-dos that absolutely MUST get done. Those four things make your list. Very often, those things are about relationships and not about tasks. Then, as you go through your day, every time you glance at your list, the TOP FOUR are in your face. As a result, they’re the things you do. 

NO MORE THAN FOUR.

After you complete those four high-priority items, you are then free to tackle other matters, if you wish to. You may have time and energy for other things, or you may not. But even if you don’t accomplish anything else the rest of the day, you’ve conquered YOUR TOP FOUR. The rest is gravy.

NO MORE THAN FOUR.

Then you repeat this process each day. I can guarantee you that, if each day you get your four most important matters done, in almost no time you can change your life. Think of it: by the end of a week, 28 high-priority objectives are complete! That’s a boatload of accomplishment. Some things will come back up again, but so what? Just put them back on the list again; you already know how to handle them.

NO MORE THAN FOUR.

I like her system a lot. The best thing about it is its simplicity. You don’t spend tons of time and energy creating the ideal list and then end up being captive to it.  Over the years, I’ve been guilty of spending more effort designing the perfect tool for getting things done than actually doing what’s on the list. It’s kind of like the tail wagging the dog.

Often, simpler is better. Here’s all it takes: Grab a 3x5 card, a notes page on your phone, or any slip of paper, and write on it what you most want to accomplish today. No more than four. From time to time, review your list during the day. Then go get ‘em done. 

It happens, almost magically.

Repeat tomorrow.

Then the next day.

It’s that simple.

NO MORE THAN FOUR.

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: Where Are You Headed?

 
WHERE ARE YOU HEADED?


“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go.” Dr. Seuss

Nothing is more disheartening on a road trip than getting lost. I can clearly recall the frustration of becoming disoriented or “turned around” in some places, and how vulnerable and stupid I felt in those moments. Nothing seemed to make sense and every move I made appeared to create more confusion.

Being bewildered or flummoxed in the journey of life is like that. On those occasions when I felt I had lost my sense of direction and purpose, the world seemed gray and every turn seemed to take me nowhere. I felt insecure and I worried that others could easily take advantage of me. Until I regained my bearings, life was a blur and all progress stopped.

When it comes to road trips, and to living with joy and fulfillment, an average compass is far more valuable than a superior speedometer. As long as we are moving forward on the right road it is seldom helpful to fret about the pace. I must admit that I have spoiled many a family trip over the years by obsessing over how quickly we were “getting there.” 

  • “No, we can’t stop and see that. If we do, we’ll never get there.”
  • “Yes, I’m sure that would be interesting, but it’s a bit out of the way.”
  • “I know you’re hungry, but we have just a couple of hours before we get to our hotel.”

At this stage of my life, I am trying to remember that worrying over velocity is a happiness-inhibitor. That’s because the joy is in the journey, not in “arriving” and absolutely NOT in arriving sooner

The truth is we never do arrive — at least not in this life. Happiness is in a direction, not a place. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. observed, “The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.” 

Thus, while speed doesn’t matter, movement does. The essence of life is movement. Nehru said, “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

One of the keys to a successful life is getting clear about where we are and where we should be going. “Sharing a clear and concise vision spawns a sense of purpose and direction.” Farshad Asl. 

Thereafter, we need to check our compass periodically and, if necessary, adjust our path. From time to time, we need to take our bearings and confirm that the way we are going is taking us toward our vision and dreams. Otherwise, as Lao Tzu warned, “if you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

As we journey through life, we will reach meaningful milestones from time to time. Reaching them and acknowledging them re-energizes us and helps us appreciate our progress. We should celebrate those moments, but we must resist the temptation to abandon the journey there, thinking we’ve reached the end of the road. The minute we throw away our compass and decide that life holds no further adventure for us, we are doomed by our own self-fulfilling prophecy. We condemn ourselves to a dull and lifeless existence. “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal.” Paulo Coelho.

As for myself, I intend to enjoy the journey and relish the adventure. I aim to love my fellow travelers and help them along the way. I plan to consult my compass from time to time and move steadily in the direction of my dreams. I am determined to stay alive my entire life, hopefully preparing for the great adventure that lies beyond.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: We Can Choose

 

WE CAN CHOOSE

 

"There is a tendency among many shallow thinkers of our day to teach that every human act is a reflex, over which we do not exercise human control. They would rate a generous deed as no more praiseworthy than a wink, a crime as no more voluntary than a sneeze.  Such a philosophy undercuts all human dignity.  All of us have the power of choice in action at every moment of our lives.”  Fulton J. Sheen 

 

 

As we travel our life journey, we make choices, and then we live with the consequences of those choices. “Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor E. Frankl.

Life does not consist of only a few major “left turn or right turn” decisions, but of millions of judgments. Some of those choices are seemingly of little significance, while others are clearly enormous. But small or large, each decision leads on to the next and the next after that. In The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost brilliantly captured the principle that “way leads on to way” and our available options down the road are defined in sizeable measure by our previous decisions.  

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

And yet, while we are not likely to backtrack and return to where the “roads diverged in a yellow wood,” I rejoice in the fact that we CAN go back — if we so choose — and from there choose a different path. Previous choices are direction, but they are NOT destiny. Previous choices have consequences, but those consequences are NOT immutable. Just as we have the power to choose, we have the power to CHOOSE AGAIN and to CHOOSE DIFFERENTLY. We can repent, rebuild, return to love, make restitution, and move on.

In addition, we have the power to create or reimagine different options that are not naturally presented to us. In other words, using Robert Frost’s metaphor, we are free not only to choose one road or another, but we are also free to forge our own path, to push cross-country through the woods where no road previously existed. Sometimes the “road less traveled by” is not a road at all, but merely a break in the underbrush or a game trail that leads to . . . who knows where.

Where it inevitably leads, from my own experience, is to some grand adventure. And as Helen Keller put it, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

The power to take responsibility for our choices and the resulting consequences — Stephen R. Covey calls it being “response-able” — is to me the essence of being alive, fully alive. I am grateful to understand that I am free to act and not merely to be acted upon. It is THAT knowledge that has made all the difference in my life.