Everyone wants to realize a successful career, have a happy family, and enjoy the good things of life. Many are blessed to have all three of these. However, the sad fact is that many do not. Henry David Thoreau once said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Many do not achieve complete success in life and, as they look back on their lives, admit that the reason can probably be traced to one or more key decisions.
Our lives are measured not by the company we keep, but by the decisions we make. A decision is, in effect, an exchange. We trade one thing or path for another. We give up one thing we can readily grasp within our hands for something completely different. We shift from one direction to a completely different one. We forfeit one thing that is replaced by a new thing. Decisions… exchanges… define our lives.
So, what are those key decisions we make in our lives that define us? Is it really possible to understand what those key decisions might be even before we come face-to-face with them? Can we really decide to decide? My belief is that there is always hope that we can change for the better. Even when we’ve blown it in the past, we can still reverse ourselves and make a better future life for ourselves and others.
Putting together a list of great exchanges we can make is both a risk and a challenge. Can you boil a successful life down to even 10 basic decisions in life? That is the challenge. However, if you even fail to try to create a vision for a successful life, you take the risk that you might be the reason someone failed. Despite that, here is my list:
Ten key exchanges (decisions) we can make that will lead to a better, more successful, more fulfilling life:
- Exchanging the ordinary for the excellent – There comes a day in life when you must decide whether you will be one that accepts the ordinary or mediocre versus the better choice of excellence. Doing things right. Doing them the right way. Giving your best in every situation. Giving your all. These things don’t easily come nor do they come automatically. They come by choice. There is a conscious decision to be made that shifts us away from the easy road to the better road. Make that choice.
- Exchanging a focus on self for service to others – There seems to be an epidemic of narcissism in today’s world. Individuals are consumed by what will make them happy… what will be best for them… what can make them the most successful. However, there is a better way. A better choice is to exchange your life for one that serves others… that seeks to make a difference first for those around us. Spending each day striving first to serve others yields a more satisfying and, in my opinion, a more successful one. When you demonstrate a willingness to serve others, you automatically become a leader or one that others seek to emulate and follow. Becoming a better leader and a better person will enhance your life.
- Exchanging the recognition of others for the creation of value – Recognition is important in a world infused with social media. In an age of “selfies”, followers, and “likes”, individuals are consumed with how much love they get from the world. However, this creates no real value to anyone. A better choice is to seek ways to make a real difference in the world, not seek the adoration of an indifferent set of digital friends. Adding value will bring a sense of accomplishment that recognition could never provide. Deciding to be a doer makes the world around you a better place… and you a happier, more content person.
- Exchanging blame for accountability in what we do – Why do so few people accept responsibility for their own actions, decisions, and efforts? When did our society become one in which the greatest accomplishment seems to be the attainment of “celebrity victim.” Being a victim serves no one. Accepting accountability for your own actions does. Choosing to be accountable, rather than one seeking to blame automatically puts you in a better place… for everyone.
- Exchanging fear for adventure – Many individuals get into a rut and are glad to stay there. After all, there is safety in the rut. We know where it is and what can go wrong. However, we miss out on a lot of life when we stay in that rut. A failure to take an occasional, reasoned risk robs us of fun, adventure, and opportunity. Choosing to be a warrior, not a worrier, can bring joy, satisfaction, and adventure that the rut could never offer.
- Exchanging a love of work for a love for life – Let’s face it, work can bring much satisfaction and fulfillment. It can provide for our own identity and our desired lifestyle. However, just like anything else, out-of-balance focus on work can lead to the detriment of all other areas of our lives. An excessive love of work can cost us much, including our families. Achieving that balance of work and life is an important decision we must all make. And, don’t fool yourself… it is a choice. Don’t lose your family for a title, money, or prestige. It is not worth it!
- Exchanging rebellion for compliance – I have observed many individuals that simply cannot keep a job or move from one thing to another without focus or aim. In many cases (not all), individuals that are unable to submit to authority (e.g., those that default to rebellion) struggle with working for others. Making the choice to submit, when needed – to follow the rules, to seek to comply with the basic rules of life – fare much better in life. Compliant individuals tend to achieve more success, as well. Certainly, there are times when we need to take a stand, but choosing compliance over overt rebellion is the better choice.
- Exchanging convenience for commitment – Many individuals have difficulty making and keeping a commitment. For example, marriage was originally designed to be a lifetime commitment. Most wedding ceremonies still use the phrase “till death do us part” in the vows exchanged. However, the divorce rates are still around 50%. Challenges with commitment are evident in other parts of our society, as well. Too many individuals choose convenience over commitment. However, when you choose to be a committed person, you are more likely to have stability in life and be seen as a person with integrity. Commitment is a choice… and one that puts us on a more satisfying and successful life path.
- Exchanging a reliance upon emotions for a reliance upon facts – As humans, it is easy to allow our emotions to dictate our actions. We react to the events in our life using our gut, intuition, or feelings. However, these emotions tend to taint reality. Failing to pause long enough to consider the true facts can deceive us. It is good to be emotional at times, but we need to ensure that we always utilize facts. For example, being able to step back and ask tough questions can keep us on track. Good questions might include, “Will this really matter? What is the real impact of this? How can I solve this both short- and long-term?” Choosing to allow emotions to drive our actions without consider the facts will almost certainly lead us to poor outcomes in life and work.
- Exchanging lies and deception for hope and encouragement – Our world is an ongoing challenge every day. This is especially true when we consider our hope for the future. The world will try to deceive us by saying, “There is no God. There is no life after death. There is no hope after life is over.” These are lies! There is a God in heaven that loves us and wants to offer us hope for our eternal future. Exchanging these lies for the hope and encouragement that God offers through His Son Jesus Christ is our only hope (see What is your hope? for more). In my life, the greatest exchange was the decision to accept this gift from God. Exchanging a life lived by my own standards for one based in the love and grace of my Father was the best decision I ever made.
There you have it! Outlined are the ten key exchanges or decisions that can make our lives productive, fulfilling, and meaningful for ourselves and those in our lives. These decisions can impact our work, our family, our friends, and our future. They can dictate whether we live with optimism and hope or fear and despair.
Take an honest look at your life against these key decisions. Have you already made the wrong choices? It is never too late to make a mid-course correction. It is never too late to change course. Even late in life, you can alter your legacy by the decisions you make today. Finally, consider whether you have made that greatest exchange… that one that determines your eternal destiny.
Have a great day!