Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Perspective–Defining What’s Important

During my morning reflection today, a memory came back to me from my hockey playing youth.

The memory was of a particular game of street hockey I played on a cold Saturday morning back in the late 70’s.  On one occasion in the game, I stole the ball from an opponent behind my net, ran up the street deftly stickhandling around two guys, jumped over the stick of a third guy who swung it in an arc about knee high and suddenly I was living every hockey youth’s dream.

I was on a breakaway.

It was a series of moves worthy of any replay reel – at least in my mind anyway.

As I raced in on net, my heart racing and adrenalin rushing through my veins, I excitedly prepared to complete the perfect end-to-end play.

“Perfect” is a matter of perspective and from the perspective of the goalie I was racing towards, my finish was indeed perfect.

I missed the net entirely.

All that energy …. expended in a brilliant, solo effort …. for nothing.

I replayed that game over and over in my mind many times that year.

I marvelled at how “perfect” everything had gone.

And I re-experienced disappointment over and over at the finish, often choosing to be a slight revisionist as I imagined what the perfect goal would have looked like instead of the finish that I created.

It all seemed pretty important at the time.

A couple of months ago, I happened to be visiting the town of my youth and had an opportunity to drive down the street where I played that game.

The stretch of pavement which was about two hockey rinks long in my memories was maybe 75 feet long at best and only a single lane wide.

That’s funny – it seemed to be a lot bigger 30+ years ago.

Life experience and the perspective that comes with it

At the time I was experiencing the missed goal of a lifetime, the good parts seemed like the most important thing of all time while the missed goal seemed like the most disappointing thing I could ever experience.

The funny thing was that for all the effort I put into living and reliving the moment, in the grand scheme of things the event wasn’t important at all … nor was constantly rehashing it in my mind.

As so while the sequence makes for a great memory that causes me to smile today, it reminds me of the importance of perspective.

Whether or not I scored the goal would have made little difference on the person I became, the things I embraced, the career I set out on or anything else significant in my Life.

But back then, when all I had was “the moment” with no plans for the future, it was as big and as important as anything could be.

Life goals – the ultimate discernment filter

As a student of the human experience, observing what we choose to fight over and how we choose to do it, I can’t help but wonder if too many people are caught up in the same phenomenon of making little things much bigger and more important than they need to be or glossing over things that deserve much more attention than they receive.

I also wonder if the main reason we get caught up magnifying the unimportant while diminishing the important is because many people have no identified Life purpose or goals that would provide them with a lens by which to evaluate and respond to the events around them.

Oh sure, when people are asked what their goals are, they say things like “lose 20 pounds”, “retire early”, “travel the world”, “send their kids to college” and all of that stuff.

But those are merely events and milestones, all contributing to the greater reason for existence.

Most people don’t know what that “reason” is and so without clear perspective on their Life purpose, they have nothing by which to measure the importance of everyday events against.

And when that happens, their Life is one of reacting, getting angry at some event which is not really important, not responding to events that should be calls to action and generally experiencing Life instead of creating it.

They also don’t realize that their response to every single event in their Life takes them closer to or further away from their ultimate Life purpose.  Without a “reason” to help determine the right response, their responses are random and as likely (or more) to produce the wrong long-term result as they are to create the desired result.

To compensate for the void that they feel, they fill the gap with mind numbing activities or allow themselves to overreact to stimuli in their environment, regardless of whether or not the energy and emotion they are expending actually contributes to their Life purpose.

After all, if they manufacture noise in order to be constantly responding to something, it feels like they are making progress in Life (or have an excuse as to why they are not).

It’s not their fault - they don’t know what their Life purpose is so how could they know better?

The truth of the matter is that much of what we get immersed in is not important while the important things are practically screaming at us for attention.

If more people took time to have a better sense of their value, their potential for contribution and the importance of recognizing the same in others, we would spend a lot less time debating and arguing and more time collaborating around developing our Life purpose and helping others do the same.

And for those who choose not to care about what their Life purpose is, here’s another truth.

If you don’t know what your Life purpose is, you become a stepping stone to be used by those who do.

How do you feel about that?  That’s where most people are in society, whether they want to believe it or not.  Maybe that’s why they feel so uncertain – they have a sense of this but can’t quite put their finger on it.

The world is at a point where respectful collaboration and impactful, meaningful change is needed more than ever.

But in order to manifest meaningful change, it takes more than just a lot of energy expended in a random fashion or directed towards things that don’t really matter.  It also takes more than aimlessly rehashing stuff in one’s mind or constantly chattering about it.

And instead of passionately fighting everything in Life, be selective about what you fight for and then be passionate about that.

It takes focused effort, measurable outcomes and the combined efforts and contributions of many to bring positive change to fruition.

Otherwise, when your end-of-days has arrived, you may find that your Life experience was much like my hockey experience on that cold Saturday morning .…

…. a lot of energy expended in what looked like brilliant moves at the time but with your only shot “missing the net” as mine did in the late 70’s.

I believe we all can and must do better than that.

What do you believe?

In service and servanthood,


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