For all sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these,
'It might have been'.
-John Greenleaf Whittier
It is said that hind-sight is 20/20. Whether we like it or not time always keeps moving forward. We could wake up one day with our plans all lined up and our lives ahead of us, ready to conquer the world, only to get in a car accident (possibly of no fault of our own), and have our earthly lives end in the blink of an eye. As much as we sometimes get caught up in looking ahead to the future, in all reality tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us.
OK, but what does that mean for us in terms of how we approach our lives, and each day/moment therein?
I will answer a question by asking another question: What do you want to accomplish in your life that up until this point you have not done yet? Whether it be something tangible like getting that invention you have been working on out onto the market, or something less clear-cut like spending more quality time with your family – either way, almost every person has something that they want to accomplish that they have not yet achieved.
Remember, in this life that timer isn’t going to ever flip over to put more sand (time) into the future portion of your life. If there is something you want to achieve/improve/change/etc. in your life, the time to find a way to do that is...
“I’ll do it tomorrow”
“We will do that once the kids are a little older”
“Once we pay off these bills we can realistically look into doing that”
“I’ll start exercising again once the weather improves”
I get it. I live in this busy, stressful, dog-eat-dog world too. But, the next question we must ask ourselves is “how important is it to me”. When things that we deem important in our lives take place we make time for them. When a loved one is sick or dying, we make sure we get out to see them. When we get offered an interview for a job that we want, we clear whatever was on our schedule to make time for the interview. When a loved one gets married, we find a way to make it to the wedding. When we make sure that we are present for these important life events we are demonstrating that those moments, those things, those people, are extremely important to us.
So, once again, I ask: how important is this current “it” to you? Is this going to be something that if you don’t do it you will look back at your life with that 20/20 hindsight and wish that things would have gone differently? Will you be wishing that there was more sand in your hour glass?
There is only one way to ensure that you are living your life with no regrets, or looking back on the past longing to change it with your futuristic 20/20 viewpoint. Put your money where your mouth is! If you are sincere when you say that something is important to you (“family is my top priority”, “I don’t know where I would be without my wife”, “that is on my bucket list”, etc.) then make those things a priority in your life. It is that simple. I know, I know, “but it’s not that simple, I need to work”. Again, I get it. But, let me challenge you in your thinking about the word “need”, and about what is essential to living.
Did the Native Americans who roamed the countryside with their tribes live a happy/fulfilled existence? How about inhabitants of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, or even the present day residents of Costa Rica? In many regards those people live much simpler/slower paced lifestyles than the present day citizens of the United States. But, their “needs” were attended to and they survived as a thriving population.
The recent rankings of “happiest people in the world” by Time points to some interesting information. For one, the residents of Costa Rica were rated as “happier” than the residents of the United States. Of course this can be extremely subjective, as the quality of living for one family in the United States can be completely different than the quality of living for another family in the United States. Likewise, the quality of living for one family in Costa Rica is likely a different experience than the quality of life for another family in that country (or even a next door neighbor for that matter). With that qualifier, it is still interesting to note that Time found the residents of Costa Rica are a happier bunch than the residents of the United States despite the fact that the per capita GDP is approximately one-fifth of that in the US.
Money doesn’t buy happiness. When we choose to make our jobs our top priority are we doing so in order to provide for our “needs” (there’s that word again) – oxygen, water, food, shelter, sleep? Not found on this needs list are such things as multiple cars, a 3,000sq/ft home, vacation property, Netflix, a closet full of clothes, etc. Please don’t get me wrong. Working hard and applying yourself to your craft is good, noble, and pleasing to God as He takes pleasure in seeing us using the gifts that He has blessed us with. Providing for our families is essential, and a major responsibility (the greatest responsibility), but the point I am trying to make is that in other civilizations people are able to accomplish providing the essentials for their families with much less stress and sacrifice in their quality of living.
What’s more important to you; a leisurely lunch on a porch with a view on a sunny day where you are able to catch up with a friend over a glass of wine, or straining through lunch at your computer by yourself trying to cram 20 more minutes of stressed/rushed work time into your already over booked day? No judgements here, as I’ve said I’ve been there. But, please take some time to reflect on these questions and what they might mean to you in your life.
When that last day on earth comes for you, and eventually it will come for all of us, what legacy do you want to leave behind? Is enjoying a lunch on a sunny patio with a friend over a glass of wine more valuable to you as an experience, memory, shared bond/relationship, or is that extra bit of money that you might earn while working through lunch more your style? What will you think of those options while you lay on your death bed someday?
What about spending quality time with your family, as opposed to being there physically with your family but having your mind on work and checking your phone/email every five minutes. Will you be like the Adam Sandler character in “Click” where you fast forward through the heavy work parts of your life so that you can get to a point where you think everything will be “perfect”, with the plan to THEN start really living? Be careful of skipping over parts of your life as you struggle to get to a perfect place because, as Sandler’s character found out, the parts of your life that you were fast forwarding also included things like your children's birthday parties, school plays, first lost tooth, graduation, etc.
Let me reiterate, in raising these questions I am not passing judgement, or telling you what you should do or what you should prioritize in your life. I have my own opinions and my own preferred lifestyle, and you have yours - and I respect that. All I wish to accomplish is to stimulate your thinking about these philosophical questions, and let you know that if you do seek change in your life it is right there within your reach – and it is there for the taking! Remember, the race is long and in the end it’s only with yourself. What do you want your story to be? Whatever you want it to be, my friend, please don’t let it end with “it might have been”.
God’s blessings to you today, and every day, as you choose your path for your journey here on earth!
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