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Finishing Faithfully 6.0: What to Do with All My Options

What to Do with All My Options

Finishing Faithfully 6.0

 

Peter Drucker mentions that the biggest social changes in the last century have not been technology or e-commerce, but instead the greatest changes have been the amazing freedom to choose careers and the increased longevity of working life span.

At the beginning of the 20th century, farmers, carpenters, blacksmiths, weavers, cheese makers, and butchers usually learned and practiced a trade, based on the resources available and the needs around them. What’s more, for someone living in 1900, the expected work life span was approximately 20 years.

Today, career choices are not so tied to geographical location or to craftsmanship passed down from grandparents. Additionally, we might have a work life span today of close to 60 years, if one counts professional work years and the continuing contributions made after retirement.

With more choice and greater longevity of productive work life, social scientists find that several things happen: 1) eventually people tire of simply “making a living” and start thinking in terms of “making a contribution,” and 2) people come to the realization that the overload of options creates the need to prioritize and say “no” to good things that might get in the way of best things.

One doesn’t have to be rich to think in terms of making a contribution. In his book, Finishing Well, Bob Buford says “I define significance as using your knowledge and experience to add value to the lives of others.” (p. 65) It’s merely using what we have, right where we are to bless others, even as we are taking care of our own responsibilities and families. Maybe it’s the lending of a book or a listening ear. Maybe it’s taking someone along to a seminar or sharing a meal. Not difficult, just widening our thinking to the benefits we might share with others.

But perhaps saying “no” might be a more difficult discipline in our over-stimulated society! No matter how much we strategize to have balance in our lives, we are continually presented with new stimuli and promising opportunities that ultimately don’t matter long-term, but that tie up our most precious asset of time. Time that we would rather spend fulfilling our professional responsibilities and investing in relationships with those we love and those we are serving.

But how do we slow down the flow of options and turn off the beautiful distractions? For some people it’s writing the three top priorities for the day on a sticky note and posting it where they will see it, jogging their brains throughout the day to get back on task. For others, it might be recognizing their most effective time of day (biologically) and strategizing to use those hours for important projects, allowing phone calls, digital interfaces, and routine tasks to filter in before or after their high productivity time.

When trying to decide how to spend their day, others say they try to visualize themselves years down the road, watching their current self go through this day. Even with slightly longer life spans, our time on earth is not unlimited. Given that no one knows how many years he or she has left, these wise folks ask, “Will I be happy with how I spent my time today?”

A great question to ask as we think about our plethora of choices and our opportunities to contribute! No matter how many years we have left on this earth, if we are living and breathing today, we have time to spend ourselves in behalf of what is good, right, and true. A hefty thought for our 21st century! (Today is the first day of the rest of our lives!)