As we proceed through life, many of us struggle with endless clashes between the tactical and strategic aspects of human existence.
The tactical problems begin with food, water, shelter and education.
The strategic begin with where one wants to live and what job to take, whom to marry, how many children to have.
Most people rarely distinguish between strategic and tactical perspectives in utilizing their time and focusing their energy. Consequently, the general human life process is to move forward one step at a time, adjusting, if at all, as best one can going along. That is frequently accompanied by the often mistaken instinct to favor the urgent over what may be more important.
What is the measure of a life well spent? How do you know whether you are wasting your life or investing it in the things that really matter?
In America we have several yardsticks by which we measure a life. One is usefulness. We are pragmatists at heart. We feel that if a person does something useful for society, whether it is a profession or a trade, he or she spends his or her life well.
Another yardstick we use is busyness or sheer activity. Our lifestyles reflect our values here—we’re all extremely busy people. Our weekly calendars are full to the brim. We have the notion that if you just sit around, you’re wasting your life.
We also gauge our lives by adventure and excitement. If we can’t get it firsthand, we pick it up vicariously on TV or at sporting events. Our heroes lead exciting lives, either through romance or life-and-death risk taking. We read magazines like People that tell us about the rich and famous, secretly wishing that our lives could be like theirs. We generally think that a person who dies rich and famous has achieved success.
Personally, I believe the more people ultimately know about their options, the more likely they are to choose and make the effort to take advantage of their lives’ vast opportunities.
I wonder how many people ever have a five-year plan, much less a 20-year plan. If they never think about the arc of their lives, they inevitably forego opportunities to bend that arc to seek their dreams.
How many people make pros and cons lists as they encounter crossroads in their lives? When they get to the fork in the road, they simply take it.
Some people spend two weeks researching prices and customer satisfaction and performance data about a possible new car. But rarely, or never, do people spend even a minute thinking about what their neighbors might say about their life when they are gone, because they have been taught to believe it is nobody’s business.
There is indeed a growing base of research out there which shows that choosing to spend time engaging in activities that facilitate a strong sense of purpose; that provide opportunities to contribute to the well-being of future generations (especially outside our own families); and that allow you to feel like you really matter have a profoundly beneficial impact on your mental and physical health….BUT although we tend to be more drawn to jobs, volunteering, or care giving opportunities that benefit future generations as we get older, we can and should consider how we are living our lives NOW, and how we matter to others well before we reach old age or experience a life-threatening condition.
I offer you one – How will you spend your years, however many are left, mattering to others?
I chose the path of empowering millions of people financially through the Financial Policy Council and the dozens of other charities I have embraced throughout my life.
Money and Education for me are not only about “freedom” but are also the “glue” cementing all if used properly.
What have you chosen to do?
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