I’d like you to take a moment and try a brief exercise. Close your eyes, take about 30 seconds and think about what you believe other people say about you when you're not around. Not what they used to say, or what they say to your face, or what you’re afraid they say, but what you really believe they say when you’re not there to hear. Does that make you feel good, or do you prefer not to think about it?
Now for the next 20 seconds, I want you to think about yourself. Specifically, how do you feel about yourself when you’re alone at night behind closed doors. Do you feel lonely? Bitter? Frustrated? Or maybe you feel something positive, like peace, gratitude, or excitement for tomorrow.
Finally, I want you to take another 15 seconds and imagine yourself at the end of your life. Imagine what that would look like if things continued to go the way they’re going right now. Try to be as honest with yourself as possible about this, even though it can be an uncomfortable experience.
Here’s my point: when you think about being a person of substance, what do you mean by “substance?” During these little thought exercises, what parts of your life seemed to matter most? Was it your circumstances? Your career? The little daily cares of life? More likely, when you imagined the end of your life, whether you felt good or bad about it, you thought about relationships, about friends and family and loved ones, dreams that you fulfilled—or didn’t. If you take another 15 to 20 seconds to imagine yourself living as a person of true substance, what do you see? Most likely you see qualities in yourself, not circumstances surrounding you. Things like integrity, honor, sincerity, as well as peace, fulfillment, and a love for your everyday life.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time working with the elderly, and I like to ask them—if I had a magic wand that could send them back to an earlier time in their life and start over from there if they would do it. The response never ceased to amaze me. About 9 out of 10 would start weeping before they ever said a word. They would give anything to be able to do that because they know that they did not prioritize living out their own vision of a person of substance.
A few of you out there are living out the person you want to be, but extrapolating from those I've worked within the past, 9 out of 10 of you probably feel that something is missing. Of course, there is no magic wand, but you absolutely can start from where you are and heal any memories that might be holding you back. We tend to prioritize our physical needs and desires, regardless of the values we really want to live for, but the reality is that we have to choose one or the other to be our “North”—either physical circumstances or personal values. Eventually, they always conflict with each other.
My radar for keeping track of this is anger. If you experience things in the anger family (resentment, frustration, bitterness, rage, etc.) only once a year or a few times a year, you’re probably on the love path. If it happens several times a day, you’re probably too focused on the physical.
Sometimes, a single event can make all the difference in how your life. A near-death experience usually does this, as well as what I call a transformational “Aha!” For me, Hope kicking me out of the house led to one of these, and I now think of it as one of the best things to ever happen to me. But for most people, it’s a slower change. Ultimately, it’s a choice you have to make every day, and you’re making it whether you’re aware of doing so or not.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!