In pursuit of a life well-lived

Before racing off into the night.
“The easiest way to live a short, unimportant life is to consume the world around you rather than contribute to it.” James Clear

Last night, as I hurdled down a dark trail with a group. my lungs and legs wanting me to slow down, I felt fully alive. The nine of us, including five still in their twenties, had only our headlights between us and the dark night. Later, when we returned, we looked up and talked about the bright moon, flanked by Venus and Mars. At times like these, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I know who I am, why I’m here, and what is my mission.

Other people need to define for themselves the life they want to live. Their objective may not be yours. Perhaps they define winning and success as money, security, comfort, luxury and power. While these are understandable goals, I believe when people come to the end of their lives, this will not be the measure of a life well-lived.

The things which have made me most thankful have come without monetary cost. A brief list might include:

A marriage in which we’ve grown closer as we’ve changed.

Celebrating 30 Christmases with my family.

Spending 25 years at my company, working with others in a noble pursuit to help our customers.

The satisfaction of working my way through school for my college degrees (and being the first from my family to graduate)

Running marathons, relays, and studying martial arts.

Feeling loved by a God I’ve known since I was too young to know much else.

I recognize that I am privileged in many ways. I cannot take credit for some of these things, and I have been helped all along the way. In particular, I am surrounded by role models of caring, compassion, and empathy. If ever I lost perspective, I could look around at the social workers, teachers, doctors, health care professionals, parents, coaches and more who have made a living helping others. In addition, many friends choose to use their discretionary time to volunteer with terrific organizations.

Persistence, faith, and kindness have been the virtues I’ve found most rewarding, and which have led to the list above.

In considering this post, I asked myself, “What is the point of what you’re trying to say?” I think it’s this: the message we get from those in power, from celebrity media, and from advertising, is that to be happy, we need comfort, security, convenience, and physical beauty. These are good things, but I’m not buying into the notion that this will make the difference. (Remember that 40 years ago, television and magazines ads tried to convince us that that we would be happy by smoking a particular brand of cigarettes.)

In essence, the way to leave a legacy is to give — of yourself, your talents, and your time. As C. S. Lewis said, “Nothing you have not given away will ever really be yours.”