Everyone needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning

In their book, The Good Life, professors Waldinger and Schulz make an unassailable argument that to be happy in life humans need healthy, intimate relationships. I affirm that, but I would add at least one more factor: To be happy in life, humans need purpose. We need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. 

We know what purpose is so I’ll not spend time on that topic. A more difficult, puzzling topic is: Why do some people have purpose in life and some don’t? While some people have enough vision, purpose and drive for three lifetimes, many people don’t. Is it a rare gene? Why do some people constantly need a push from behind—-they need to be “motivated”—-while others bemoan not having enough hours in the day to get it all done? Are some people born with a predisposition toward purpose and motivation while others will never have it?

The older I get, the more I’m convinced that some people have it and some don’t, and the ones that don’t probably never will. It truly saddens me to come to this conclusion and I’m happy for you to push back and argue that I’m wrong.

I don’t think it’s a matter of childhood environment, training, or coaching. Two siblings, born into the same family and raised in the same environment, can be treated the same and have similar opportunities and challenges, but one finds purpose and is driven toward it and the other one doesn’t. 

Through the years I’ve tried training and coaching people relative to developing vision, but if the seed is not there, it does no good to water and cultivate the soil. But, if the seed is there, it responds well to water and cultivation.

I think purposelessness can contribute to depression, whereas being excited about the future and being engaged in meaningful planning and activity is an antidote.

I want to end this post with a hint of optimism and hope. If you don’t have purpose in life, keep searching. Stories abound of people who found purpose later in life. If it still doesn’t come, just commit to living a steady and useful life. Even if you never sense a unique purpose for your life, carry on. 

Don’t overreact to life’s ups and downs

An Eastern monarch asked his wise men to invent a phrase that would apply to all times and in all situations. After careful deliberation, they offered this statement: “And this too shall pass away.”

When Abraham Lincoln heard the story, he mused: “How much it expresses. How chastening in the hour of pride; how consoling in the depths of affliction.”

When you’re going through tough times, don’t be overly discouraged because “this too shall pass away.” And when you’re going through times of prosperity, don’t be smug and proud because “this too shall pass away.” Events are seldom as catastrophic or fortunate as we think. This truth, if embraced, will give us ballast and stabilize our emotions.

In my early forties I had several career leaps that catapulted me up near the top of my profession. The rails were greased and the momentum strong. But the high times were soon tempered by the challenges of life. Good times don’t last forever.

In my late forties I became clinically depressed. I thought my life as I knew it was coming to an end. If you’ve never been depressed, it’s hard to understand the feelings of hopelessness and confusion that torment the mind. I told my wife that we needed to liquidate our belongings and go live with her mother out in the country. But that season of my life passed. With the help of medications, I climbed out of the dark abyss and resumed normal life.

Winston Churchill touched on this thought when he said, “Success is not final…failure is not fatal…it’s the courage to continue that counts.”

Life is a series of ups and downs, but the peaks and the valleys seldom last. So don’t be too discouraged by the low points nor too emboldened by the high points in life. Remind yourself and others of the transitory nature of life. Try to achieve a balanced perspective on life.

Leaders – When your organization is prospering, be grateful but not smug or arrogant. When your organization is faltering, don’t panic but take guided steps to stabilize it.

Be kind to one another

Also – report on IFL trip to Israel

World Kindness Day is celebrated annually on November 13. On this day, participants attempt to make the world a better place by celebrating and promoting good deeds and pledging acts of kindness, either as individuals or as organizations. What a wonderful program.

My eight-year-old grandson’s school promotes and celebrates the day. When I picked him up at school, I saw this poster his class had made. 

Kindness is the foundation of civility, peace, accord, and community. It is the oil that lubricates human relationships. Without it, human alliances get rusty, mundane, tedious, and eventually break down. 

The opposite of kindness—cruelty, intentional harm, malice, animosity—are certainly detrimental, but even the mere absence of kindness—neglecting to be kind to others—can cause harm. 

The Bible includes kindness in the list of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Apostle Paul simply says, “Be kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32).

Most acts of kindness are simple and don’t take a lot of time or money. And they’re not hard to identify; even Ben’s second-grade classmates came up with a good list. I challenge you to make your own list of at least 12 ways you could show kindness to people you will encounter today. And then do them. You and the world will be better off for it. 

Never underestimate the impact that one simple act of kindness can have. The following story is my all-time favorite illustration of the power of a kind deed.

The South African bishop, Desmond Tutu, was once asked why he became an Anglican priest. He told this story, “In the days of apartheid, when a black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and then nod his head as a gesture of respect.

“One day, when I was just a little boy, my mother and I were walking down the street when a tall, white man, dressed in a black suit, came toward us. Before my mother and I could step off the sidewalk, as was expected of us, this man stepped off the sidewalk and, as my mother and I passed, tipped his hat in a gesture of respect to her. I was more than surprised at what had happened, and I asked my mother, ‘Why did that white man do that?’ My mother explained, ‘He’s an Anglican priest. He’s a man of God, that’s why he did it.’ When she told me that he was an Anglican priest, I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I wanted to be a man of God.”

Desmond Tutu, along with Nelson Mandela, were largely credited with the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa. Perhaps that one act of kindness he experienced as a child set the course of his entire life of service to others.

Today, and for the rest of your life, be kind.

Israel 2023  

Mary and I just returned from a terrific trip to Israel hosted by Insight for Living. I had the privilege of leading worship when we gathered at The Southern Steps, Garden Tomb, Mount of Beatitudes, Sea of Galilee, and other venues. Everyone should go to Israel at least once, and when you go, travel with Chuck Swindoll.



Emotional intelligence: a key element in close friendships

My eight-year-old grandson Ben is becoming friends with Max—a ten-year-old boy who lives near our Lakehouse. I enjoy watching their friendship develop. 

We go to the Lakehouse about two weekends a month so their time together is spotty and limited but they have developed a healthy and solid friendship. 

One important feature of their friendship is that both boys posses and demonstrate an amazing level of emotional intelligence. Most adults don’t possess the EQ that these boys have.

For instance, recently Ben said, “Max it’s good to see you again. I wasn’t out here last weekend because I had a birthday party I had to go to.” (Thus reassuring Max that their relationship is important and durable).

I noticed that when Ben and Max play soccer, Max (who is older and larger) doesn’t kick the ball as hard as he can or make the moves he could; he scales back his play to Ben’s level so Ben doesn’t feel inferior or frustrated.

This is astonishing. How did they learn to be so emotionally attuned to each other? Who taught them the subtleties of relating to others in a healthy and nourishing way? 

I want to use their relationship to introduce a broader topic—the importance of emotional intelligence—and an even broader topic—multiple intelligences (MI). 

In 1983, Howard Gardner published a landmark book: Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in which he suggested that there are multiple ways a person can be intelligent (or unintelligent). Prior to Gardner’s book, IQ was considered the only measure of intelligence, but he suggested five other areas of competency. 

Multiple Intelligence (MI) 

      • Abstract intelligence – symbolic reasoning, logic (IQ)
      • Practical intelligence – knowing how things work and how to get things done
      • Emotional intelligence – being aware of, and properly responding to, the emotional world
      • Aesthetic intelligence – a sense of form and design, expressed in literature, the arts, music, and other holistic experiences
      • Kinesthetic intelligence – whole-body competence such as sports, dance, or flying a fighter jet
      • Social intelligence – properly assessing, and relating to, social environments; social awareness 

The most familiar assessment, IQ, is perhaps the least accurate indicator of success in life. Most people have enough IQ to function well in life; only a few professions require extreme IQ (rocket scientist, mathematics professor).

Of those six types of intelligence, three of them (abstract, aesthetic, and kinesthetic) are basically innate—your aptitude was set at birth and there’s not a lot you can do to improve. To some extent, practical intelligence can be developed, but for sure, emotional and social intelligence can be increased through study and practice.

To be successful in life, which of the six types of intelligence are most important? Interestingly, the two areas that can be developed: emotional and social intelligence. Granted, if aspire to be a professional athlete, you need to score high on the kinesthetic scale. If you want to play in the New York Philharmonic, you better excel in aesthetic intelligence. But for most professions, high EQ and SQ are the most important. To do well in life you need to be emotionally and socially intelligent.

Isn’t that interesting: the only areas that we can improve through study and practice are also the most important.

Back to Ben and Max. I predict that, individually, they will do well in life and that they will enjoy a lifelong friendship.