“This is your life. Are you who you want to be?” - Jonathan Foreman
Our lives are, by definition, made up of finite resources. Each of us has a limited amount of minutes, dollars, and units of energy with which to live our lives. And every passing day presents an opportunity to trade our lives for something else.
Unfortunately, most of our lives are unintentionally traded down… lived in exchange for a return of limited or temporal value. We never set out to purposefully trade our lives for things of limited value; but in a culture surrounded by similar pursuits, our lives conform too easily.
At the very beginning, we trade our lives for…
Security – We invest in our knowledge and skill as a means to earn a living. We choose the lives we will live. We seek the right people to place around us. And we trade our time and talents for a steady paycheck with which to purchase shelter, clothing, food… security – the baseline of our existence. Make no mistake, this is not an unwise trade. Security lays the foundation upon which many of our life’s choices can be built. And I’m all for it.
But it seems, after achieving security, most of us begin pursuing…
Comfort – The essential elements of security: roof, meals, clothing are rarely enough. We pursue comfort to be added to our baseline of security. So we begin trading our time and our paychecks for a bigger home in a nicer neighborhood, a softer couch surrounded by entertainment choices, a nicer car with more features, and trendier clothing that makes us feel a bit more fashionable among our peers. Sometimes we intentionally seek comfort; but most often we do because society makes it appear so attractive.
Luxury – After achieving security and comfort, luxury lurks not so far in the distance. We can see it. We can taste it. It appears overwhelmingly satisfying. And we know what it asks of us: just a few more hours each week at work, a little more research to get it right, and a few more dollars spent at the store. Soon, we begin trading the finite resources of our lives for the luxurious offerings of this world.
Victory – Our minds create a ranking system for the world that we desire to climb. We seek more money, more power, more prestige, more fame than our neighbor, our siblings, our friends, or those we read about in the news. We attempt to prove our worth to ourselves and others by beating out others in this self-constructed competition of life. And before we know it, we’ve soon traded our entire lives to win a competition we have invented in our own minds.
Of course, none of these pursuits exist in a vacuum. Each of them thrive in our hearts alongside a steady stream of pride, greed, fear, and selfishness. These emotions reinforce our decision to pursue comfort, luxury, and victory. As a result, we seek them more desperately. And our lives’ most valuable resources are traded for them.
But the trade is a foolish one.
Our lives hold far greater potential than the comfort and luxury most of us trade them for. After all, these are temporal pursuits that can never be fully achieved. They move and shift rapidly with the world around us. They never fully satisfy. They are completely self-centered. And our lives can be traded for things far greater.
Our lives can be traded for significance, social justice, or spiritual pursuits. We can invest our lives into creating a more sustainable planet, beautiful art, moments of joy for others, or causes we believe in. We can help others overcome fear, heartache, or significant obstacles to joy. We can trade our finite resources for the desires and values held deep within each of our hearts – the purest passions unspoiled by the culture around us.
We were created to live for pursuits far greater than comfort, luxury, and competition. We were created to trade our lives up, not down.