“Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it.” —Harold Kushner
Deep down, we’re not all that different.
We strive for security. We long for love. We hunger for happiness. And we desire lives of significance. We want to know our lives counted for something—something bigger than ourselves.
Our lives are, by definition, finite in nature composed of limited resources. Each of us have a limited number of minutes, dollars, and amounts of energy with which to fulfill our purpose. And every passing day represents another opportunity to trade them 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 lesser worth; we desire more.
But in a culture surrounded by similar pursuits, our lives conform too quickly.
At first, we work for security—a worthy and important pursuit.
We invest in our knowledge and skill as a means to earn a living. When possible, we choose work that aligns with our talents. We place the right people around us. We trade our time and talents for a steady paycheck with which to purchase shelter, clothing, and food—security, the baseline of our existence.
This is not an unwise trade. Security lays the foundation upon which many of our life’s choices can be built. It is essential for all other pursuits. And I’m all for it.
But, after achieving security, we invest many of our resources (time and money, energy and focus) into other pursuits.
Usually, we pursue comfort. For most, the essential elements of security—roof, meals, and clothing—are rarely adequate. And so we pursue comfort as an important addition to our baseline of security.
We pursue a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood, a softer couch surrounded by upgraded entertainment choices, a nicer car with more features, and trendier clothing that makes us feel more accepted among our peers.
Society makes comfort appear both attractive and deserved. Sometimes we intentionally seek it out; but often times, the pursuit is so common, we don’t even notice how much of our resources we have begun allocating toward it.
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 few more dollars spent at the store, and a little more research to get it right. We are so close to luxury… why not reach out and take hold? And almost without warning, we begin trading the most precious resources of our lives for the luxurious offerings of this world.
Subtly, about that same time, alongside the acquisition of comfort and luxury, our minds create a ranking system to climb. We seek more money, more power, more prestige, and a more exciting lifestyle than our neighbor. And we attempt to prove our worth by beating out others in this entirely self-constructed competition of life.
Before we know it, we have traded our most worthy pursuits to win a competition that we have invented in our own minds.
But this trade is a foolish one.
Our lives hold far greater potential than the comfort and luxury most of us trade them for.
Our hearts cry out for love and happiness, fulfillment, and significance.
Our resources can be invested into beautiful art, moments of joy, and causes we believe in. We can help others overcome fear, heartache, or significant obstacles to their own fulfillment. 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 are designed to live for pursuits greater than comfort, luxury, and competition.
We are designed to live lives that count for something greater than ourselves. We are designed to craft a life that matters. This is where both happiness and fulfillment is found.