The entrepreneur sat down at my table—poised, impeccably groomed, articulate, the picture of confidence. It was his first visit to the monthly meeting of Christian business executives and other professionals who came to connect with peers and gain wisdom for dealing with their daily challenges. I was a table facilitator.
We went around the table and, to get acquainted, everyone shared the equivalent of a personal elevator speech.
The entrepreneur recapped his dazzling resume: married, four kids, three academic degrees, owner of four thriving businesses, board member for a couple of non-profits. He had not yet turned 40.
I asked him what he didn’t have. Quietly he said, “A life.” Despite all his drive, intelligence and considerable accomplishments, success still eluded him when it came to finding breathing room and managing the pace of his life.
Over the years as I’ve coached people, I’ve learned there can be lots of reasons for an unmanageable or unsatisfying life. If it’s simply a time management issue, I work with them on tactics like tracking the way they spend their time, so they can identify time leaks, or showing them how to create priority “trees.” Or I might share productivity tips from experts like Brian Tracy. One of my favorites is from his book, Eat That Frog. “Before you eat the frog,” he says, “set the table.” In other words, be clear what you really want before you tackle an unpleasant challenge.
Other times, I’ve found it’s a people problem—for example, how to keep others from controlling your schedule. So I suggest ways to consolidate or fast track meetings or how to return phone calls in one block of time at the end of the day or how to delegate differently.
Tactics can help. But rearranging external behavior may not be enough. What we do, how we act and the choices we make are all driven by what we believe. If life isn’t working, it may signal an inner battle between what we say matters most to us and how we’re actually living our lives. Or it may mean the values we’ve chosen to live by aren’t delivering on the satisfaction they promised.
Either way, our heart knows it, but our head doesn’t want to change. More importantly, it means the battle is not with time or people or circumstances. It’s over our values–what matters most to us and the choices we need the courage to make to restore harmony between our head and heart–choices like where we live, how we live, who we live with, what work we choose, whose opinion about us matters.
King Solomon, one of the wisest men in the Bible, struggled, like the businessman at my table, to understand why his life wasn’t satisfying. He, too, was no slouch in the accomplishments department. He was successful by every measure and people from all over the then-known world sought his counsel. But he was a very unhappy man.
“All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool?”
In other words, Solomon says, our hearts are calibrated to function optimally when our values are aligned with God’s eternal values. We can disregard that eternity microchip He planted in our hearts, to remind us to whom we belong, but the result is a faux satisfaction that’s hollow and fleeting. Meaningless.
It’s like trying to dance a samba to waltz music. You can do it, but it’s frustrating, it wears you out and you look pathetic! Improving your samba technique won’t help. You were created to dance the waltz. Learn to waltz!
God invites us to invest as much time getting to know Him as we spend obsessing over the circumstances of our lives. If we realign our values with His, from the inside out, the courage to change will follow…and so will satisfaction.
Brian Tracy’s frog analogy may make you a more productive worker bee, but God is the only one who can help you create a more satisfying life.