An ode to Joy

9 04 2010

My generation is so much different then my parents.  I think I’m probably different from my father in a lot of ways too.  We all know stories of parents who sacrificed something for the good of something else.  My mother sacrificed her dream of teaching to pursue raising her family while my father spent 12 hours everyday working which included 4 hours of commuting to and from the big city.  Wasn’t a very joyful existence but they sacrificed for the family.  We were spoiled.  For me sacrifice is reading when the cable goes out or taking the bus.  God forbid!  My parent’s generation would often sacrifice joy for the financial well being or improvement of the family.  Comfort and happiness in the hopes it brought joy.  We’ve had it pretty good.  I’ve had it pretty good.  Maybe that is why my significance matrix is so different?

Maybe you are like me?  We have a basic family budget to run our household.  We go to work to ensure our budget gets fed every month.  Anything beyond that is earmarked for all kinds of things – savings, projects, vacations, debt reduction, and luxuries.  I think we all have an internal gage of the level of discomfort we are willing to accept to ensure these details get looked after.  I call it “working for free”.  The income we earn which pays for the basic budget is working for free.  Quite often when there’s more month at the end of the money we’re working for less then free.  Anything over and above is getting paid for my contribution.  That’s how I look at it.  When the level of brain damage at work is greater then the level of remuneration and the remuneration is barely allowing me to “work for free” – we have a big problemo.  Here is the question of questions – if I am working for free and hating my job due to the level of brain damage, what would I really want to do for free.  What would fill me?  What significant contribution could I make to the world?  Where would my strengths best be deployed allowing others to be served and my life to be full?  I’ve often heard it said to discover what you should do with your life, discover what you’d do for free – and do that.  I never understood what working for free meant until now.  A close friend said to me yesterday, “when I leave my job its not like I could make less then what I’m making now so I’m not worried…”.  That’s the ticket!  That’s the freedom.  I’m not advocating everyone quitting their jobs to go volunteer at something.  Not at all.  However I am advocating the move to courageously living our dreams in all aspects of our lives – including our careers.  We can do whatever we set our minds to.  Fear, insecurity, comfort, entitlement, family history, experience, safety, routine, and so much more are all ways we protect ourselves and protecting ourselves is a good thing.  But these same protections can also hold us back from realizing one of the greatest treasures God gives us – a life filled with joy.  I’m not talking happiness.  I’m talking joy.  That overwhelming feeling you are doing THE thing you were made to do.  Maybe you have never experienced that thing before?  Maybe you don’t know where to start?  Maybe you have been like me – scared and comfortable?  Maybe you are 1 of the 88% of people Marcus Buckingham suggests are “living in their weaknesses” or in other words are spending the majority of their time in the things that deplete them.  Stop the insanity!  Don’t you agree its time for a change?  Living my dreams means living a life filled with joy.  Getting up everyday to do THE thing I was made to do.  The ascension of Dream Mountain.  Living my dreams. 

My father and I were driving home from church on Easter and I asked him about living his dreams.  In light of his life of sacrifice, what that meant to him?  You know – he surprised me.  He told me there was no greater joy then having a place to call home, a family to love, and to be married to my mom.  He sacrificed whatever he needed to as long as it ensured he could be THE thing wanted to be – a husband to my mom and a father to my brother and me.  In hind sight, I guess he has lived his life filled with joy.  Maybe we’re not that different after all.