Monday, June 28, 2010

Defining Moments

A defining moment is an instant so significant that life changes -- in a blink. According to writers of popular culture, sports teams, television shows and politicians can all have defining moments. Dr. Phil even has a quiz to help you identify yours. Yet, the reality is, that a person cannot be defined by a particular incident any more than Moby Dick can be fully understood by reading page 371.

What defines you? A house? A car? An occupation? Talent, abilities, accomplishments? You could answer that by determining what you value. Take inventory of the suitcase of values you carry with you. Some stuff was there to start with, kind of like a cosmic travel kit. Talents, intellect, physical attributes like good looks or athleticism; everyone is given a random sampling of the basics. Other valuables are received or attained by us through a series of exchanges. If we value a nice car we will exchange liquid assets to have one. If we value companionship (and regular sex) we will exchange independence for marriage. Ultimately, you define your life by what you decide you will not trade out of your valise of values.

Awhile back I was contemplating an out-of-state move for a new job. In talks with the new employer benefits and perks were discussed. Some were negotiable, some were not. Time off at Thanksgiving and Christmas to go home was not negotiable. I had the realization that if I was going to live that far away from my elderly parents, the time that I had left to spend with them was down to days. Time with my mother and father was so important to me that I would not exchange it.

If I say I value my health, every time I drive through a fast food line, I make an exchange for instant gratification. If I say I value my family and day after day, week after week, I work from very early to very late, leaving them no good part of me to talk to or interact with, I’ve exchanged the joys of family life for prestige or money or whatever payoff the business world gives me. If I say I value faith and spirituality and do not spend time developing my inner life with prayer and quiet reflection and the study of those disciplines, I have traded the eternal for the temporary. The age-old question is, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?”

The challenge is this: find the top ten things that you will not trade away. Spend some time actually determining what the non-negotiables are. We think we know ourselves but without a little purposeful thought, life usually just happens to us and we drift off course. Then, write them down. Put them on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Let your life be defined by them. Be the man or woman who has an unfaltering grip on what is important to you and let nothing take it away from you. Whether it is the lure of abundance or the struggle of hardship that tempts you to exchange it for the immediate, keep what you value with all diligence. And after awhile, if you find that you have exchanged something you thought you valued, be honest with yourself. Reevaluate. And if necessary, make another exchange to get it back. It’s worth it to work at this thing called life. So get your suitcase and let’s make TODAY COUNT.