Retirement is the one time in our life when we are forced to decide what is important to us. When we worked, we managed to do things that at least someone in the universe thought was important. We either went along with it or agreed that what we were doing was important enough to grab our attention. But when we retire all that changed. We no longer did things that someone else thought were important. Now we are forced to decide for ourselves what is important to us. So how do we work that out? What exactly are we here on earth to do?
Pastor Rick Warren once said “the Bible teaches very clearly that God has never made anything without a purpose. Proverbs 16:4 says “The Lord has made everything for His own purpose.” Therefor there is a purpose for everything He creates. That means if you’re alive, if your heart is still beating, you are not an accident.” So it’s true that God has a plan for your life. Yet so many people get to retirement age after dreaming about it for years, and find their life falls apart because they were driven by a purpose that doesn’t exist any more.
Now Rick continues that we all live life, at one of three basic levels.
The Survival Level
This is the lowest level is what you call the survival level. Many people live in the survival mode. They’re not really living, they’re just existing. These people get by through the week and live for the weekend. Many people got through their entire working life like this.
The Success Level.
Most of us, live in the second level, the success level. You have a home. You have possessions. You have a certain amount of prestige. You have pleasures in your life. You’re at the success level. But lots of people say, “I don’t understand it. If I’m so successful, why do I feel so unfulfilled? Why is there still a hole in my heart? Why do I still feel empty?”
The answer is, because success never satisfies. It too is temporary. It takes more than success to live a full life. There’s been a many books and website published that talk about the dark side of success. The Success Trap, Beyond Success, Coping With the Fast Track Blues. Just Google “Dark Side of Success.” The problem is most unsuccessful people (like me) can never imagine how lonely and frustrating success can be. Read the stories – they are all out there!
All these sites and books say the same thing. It takes more than success to satisfy you! But even all the self – help books and all the success motivation books in the world will not bring you ultimate satisfaction because you have to go to the next level of life which is, Significance.
The Significance Level
Significance is when you know why you’re here on earth! This is the only thing that can give you real meaning in your life. At this level you have discovered your purpose for your life. You know your life matters. You know there is meaning behind what’s going on in your life. People who enjoy significance, know why they’re on earth!
The tragedy is that many people – in fact most people – have no idea what their purpose in life is. Beneath the facade many, if not most successful people, still feel insignificant. This is especially true when they retire!!! The success they had in their work life no longer propels them forward and they feel lost!
So which level are you living life at now? Are you just getting by each day or are you satisfied with the amount of stuff you have but still feel empty inside? And if that’s so, how can you move to the significance level?
Four things you must do:
1. You must choose where you get advice from.
2. You must work out what’s important.
3. You must change what you do to match what you think is really important.
4. You must ensure every day that you’re lining up with what you say is important in life.
Choose Your Advice.
I must decide where I’m going to get information on what’s important in life. This is very important because the source of my values will determine the quality of my decisions.
Some of our values we picked up from our parents and family. Some we pick up from our friends. We can also pick up values from magazines, websites and books we read, and some we can get from the music we listen to. Another way we pick up our values is through the media. In fact, I believe the media, is the greatest teacher of values today. If you’re an average Australian you watch about 700 hours of television a year. The statistics tell us Americans watch even more than that! That means, if you’re average, by the time you’re 65 you will have watched 5 years TV. That must effect the way you see the world.
Now if your a church attender, you may think the church is the main source of your values. Well consider this: if you went to church once a week for your entire life, that would only equal four months of values teaching – if every time you went there they said something about your values in life. Four months compared to 5 years from the media – so what has the most influence?
Yet the bible says “Don’t love the world’s ways – the lust for physical pleasure, the ambition to buy everything that appeals to you and the pride that comes from wealth and importance – these are not from God but from the world.”
It’s saying the source for your values should be the bible not the world. This was written about 2000 years ago but it’s still relevant today. Even though we live in an age of technology, our values are still vital to all of us. The world’s values have not changed either. The world has always had three basic values in life. They are…
The Three Basic Values.
Pleasure. If you ask most people, “What do you want out of life?” They’ll say, ” I just want to be happy … or I want to feel good.” That’s different ways of saying pleasure is a high value in my life.
Possessions. Someone once said “Society is consumed with consuming”. The constant talk about the economy tells us we need to buy stuff. Dave Ramsey put it this way “we buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like!”
Prestige. In our society image is everything. We want people to think we’re important and successful and we have value.
The problem is this – the media so bombards us with these values – pleasure, possession, prestige – over and over that we get sucked in by it. We think like everybody else, that those are the ultimate values of life. The problem is they may lead you to the feeling of significance but it won’t last.
Clarify What’s Important
Now the first step in building a life of significance is to look at the important things in your life. So we need to ask “what are my values now?”
So why not begin by making a list of your values. Make a list of what you consider to be the most important things in life. Write them down so that they’re not vague. This will take you a while but it will be worth it in the end. If you need some guidance, have a look at this website.
You may discover most of the values that you have, you didn’t choose. You just picked them up somewhere without thinking. You picked them up from people all around you. Some of them you got were good and some of them weren’t so good.
Another reason you should write down your values, is because we rarely think about our values, until we have a crisis and we hit the wall or we end up in some ethically challenging situation. Then, all of a sudden, we get interested in, “What’s important in life?”
When you’re cruising through the world, and everything’s going well, you usually don’t stop and ask the tough questions. You don’t stop and say things like, “What are my values?” and “Where are they leading me?” and “What’s going to be the end result of these values?” You don’t ask yourself those things.
When you hit the wall.
So you wait until a crisis occurs and one day you hit the wall and you go bankrupt or you go through a divorce or a spouse is unfaithful to you or you get fired or you face a major illness or crisis or a loved one dies or you retire. Then, all of a sudden, you start asking questions like, “What is really the purpose of life?” and “Are my values really leading me in the right direction?”
There is a book you can get quite cheaply that is a best seller. It’s called “the Purpose Driven Life”. It’s designed to be read over 40 days so each chapter is only about 10 pages. But it involves homework assignment for you every day. By the end of the book you will have a written out life plan and better discover why God put you on this earth in the first place.
So clarify your current values.
Get alone with a pen and paper and ask yourself these questions and then make a list of your values then choose the ten most important values that you want to build your life on.
Why is that important? Because if you don’t come up with a personal definition of success, other people will define it for you. And that’s a big mistake. Don’t ever let anybody else define significance for you. Real significance is the feeling I get when I live out my values. That’s what significance really is. It is not a destination. It’s not a goal, an achievement. It’s a journey, a progression.
So real significance is when you decide what values are really important to you in life and bring your life in harmony with them. When you have a personal definition of significance based on your own values then nobody can ever take that feeling away from you and, you can be successful at any stage of life. You don’t have to say, “Once I get to 60 or 70 or retirement, then I’ll be successful.” You can be successful at any stage of life as long as your values are being lived out in your life and you feel the satisfaction of that.
So after you have written down the values you currently have, come back next time to find out the next step in our journey together.