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June 5, 2018

3 Things to Measure Your Life Against

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“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

I was out on a sailboat, a substantial distance from shore, and found myself wondering about getting back in the dark. It gets pitch black out there on the water.

I casually brought up the subject to the captain, and he pointed out three lights. “If I line my boat up against those three lights, they lead me straight home.” One light was a large buoy anchored off shore, another was the tip of the shore, and the last one was a light near the harbor dock. And they didn’t move. Like Tom Hanks described here:

Line yourself up against those three lights and you’re in good shape.

The same concept holds true for life. Line your life up against the right guides and they’ll guide you home. Three of the guides I use to line up against are satisfaction, leverage, and maturity. Let me tell you why.

Satisfaction
How satisfied am I with my life and its outcomes? Would my closest friends brand me as a man who has discovered the secret to living “a satisfied life”? Or am I constantly grasping for more and more, basically professing that nothing ever makes me happy and satisfied?

Let’s face it: no achievement, possession, or experience is enough. Research keeps showing that intelligent, high-achieving people are no happier (and maybe even less happier) than anyone else.

The Bible talks about King Solomon, who took stock of his life and said, So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24)

Well, that certainly makes me feel better about my eating and drinking habits, but it also pushes me to think about my work from a different angle. The big “aha” for me is that wise King Solomon says enjoyment and satisfaction are the bottom line of life rather than an achievement. You don’t go out and achieve satisfaction; you receive it as a gift.

  1. Am I looking to my relationship with God to bring my deepest satisfaction regarding life, or am I looking to other ventures and achievements?
  2. If I had to rank all the activity plates spinning in my world against a “satisfaction scorecard,” how would things size up? (Literally, list all the assignments and activities connected to life and give them a 1-10 satisfaction score.)

Leverage
An investment that gives multiple bottom line returns, a purchase that is useful and helps the environment, a player that can be a point guard and a power forward and a marketable superstar.

The word leverage simply means using one thing to get disproportionate results. Or said differently, it is investing a dollar and getting back five dollars. Jesus talked about this concept by telling the story of three employees who were each given a loan. Two of them did fine with the money they were given, but one just hid his money and didn’t use it at all. He didn’t leverage his assets.

The investor George Soros said, “It is much easier to put existing resources to better use than to develop resources where they do not exist.” I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about spiritual things, but the principle is consistent with what Jesus said. Instead of spending time imagining the good you’ll do someday when you have more resources, do good now with the resources you have.

What about you? Are you leveraging what you’ve got?

  1. Who is the best example I can think of regarding someone who is leveraging his or her assets for huge influence?
  2. What are my three greatest assets that could be “leveraged”? (My assets could include my reputation, experience, relationships, money, real-estate holdings, education, family name, job, creativity, strategy, speaking skills, problem-solving ability, talents, etc.)

Maturity
When we got our dog Lola as a puppy, she was really annoying. She got up too early in the morning for my wife. She went psycho when the doorbell rang or when someone came to the front door. I missed the old dog, the outside dog, Duke.

Our friends, the dog experts, all told us to relax. “She’ll grow out of it,” they said.

It didn’t happen. Lola still loses it whenever somebody rings the doorbell.

But I’d argue that people are the same way. The Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig said, “Avoiding maturity is, for many men, not just a cute hobby but a life’s work.”

We don’t magically mature when we hit 21 or 30 or 40 or 65. Maturity takes looking into the mirror and realizing there is an immature behavior that really needs to be changed. It requires some level of resolve in my own soul to make a change and the understanding that the more ingrained an immature habit is, the more difficult it will be to transform.

  1. Have I matured equally in all the big areas of life: social, mental, emotional, spiritual, physical? Rank them best to worst.
  2. What childish bad habits am I still carrying, years into adulthood?

Don’t measure yourself against body fat or number of direct reports or 401(k) size or social media followers. Measure your life against stuff that really matters: satisfaction, leverage, and maturity.

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