“Sometimes, I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Valuable, but small. I sometimes ask myself, ‘Do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave?’ So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when, shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So….goodnight, dear void.”
This past Christmas, I did something for the first time in my nearly 30 years of living. I woke up on Christmas morning completely alone. No family, no friends, and no presents. I didn’t receive a single gift.
The amazing thing was: It felt incredible. Liberating, even.
I had gone up to my hometown in Cincinnati, Ohio to visit friends and family for a few weeks. I was staying with a buddy of mine who I’ve known since I was 11 years old. Come Christmas morning, he had gone off to spend the day with family, and I was left to myself in the house. After spending most of my life on Christmas day clamoring for material goods and the presence of many people, it was such a strange feeling to wake up and have literally none of that, without a lot of noise, without a lot of “things”, and with only myself to be with.
It made me realize just how much I’ve changed and how far I’ve really come.
Like most young males, in my 20s, the dream was stereotypical: Get tons of money, have a big house, drive super fancy cars, and marry a smoking hot chick. Don’t get me wrong. I had some more reasonable and healthy dreams in there, too: Work for myself, own my own business, do what I love and am absolutely passionate about for a living, etc. But, the superficial material goods weighed heavier in importance than the internal goods did.
However, as I’ve gotten older, wiser, and more mature, my outlook has changed dramatically. The more I do, the more I see, and the more I achieve, I start to realize a really profound, almost hidden, aspect of life that I don’t think most people really ever come to realize:
It’s not the size of the life you live that matters. It’s the size of the Value that does.
I’m one of those fortunate people who get to wake up every single day and pursue an adventure of passion and purpose. Honestly, I know that I’m doing what I feel like is my reason for being here on this earth. I’m immensely grateful for it, and I make sure to appreciate this privilege every single day. I get to work with all kinds of people: Professional athletes, college athletes, youth athletes, business people, every day people, friends, etc. I get to create an impact on people’s lives that helps them enjoy what they do more, feel great, and achieve more in their own life.
Those dreams I had in my 20s still haven’t happened. I don’t have tons of money, live in a huge house, drive any super fancy cars, and I’m still single. I make enough money to take care of myself with a little extra, live in a small space, drive a Mazda 3, and haven’t been in a serious relationship for 6 years.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Every day, I feel an immense sense of Value. I feel Valuable: To my athletes, to my friends, to my family, to people I happen to meet and interact with, and most importantly, I feel Valuable to myself.
THINGS don’t bring true, lasting Value. Tons of money, a big house, a sports car, and a hot spouse don’t create Value. They create an attachment to material goods that leave a person dependent on external things for satisfaction, confidence, and happiness. They create a temporary high. But it never lasts. True fulfillment comes from knowing you lead a life of Value; Value to people you love, people you may never meet, your community, your society, and the world at large.
How to lead a life of Value:
The experience I had this past Christmas has given me an entirely new perspective and has really driven me to go even further. This coming holiday, I want to spend Christmas Day volunteering in a food kitchen, taking part in a public initiative where I’m part of a group that drives to family’s homes and provides underprivileged children with presents, or spend the day with homeless people at a homeless shelter. I want to contribute to other people’s happiness.
What kind of Contribution can you make to those in your life, to the world, and to yourself? What can you do to improve the Value of people you love, of strangers, of society, and of your own self? Think about it. What can you do to make those around you feel incredible, benefit society, and take a leap in your own growth and potential as a human being?
Just like Kathleen Kelly, I lead a simple life. I love it. I don’t own a lot of things. I don’t even have TV. I spend my days doing what I love, going for walks, and reading books. On the weekends, I go out with friends. I play soccer here and there during the week. I continue writing my book, creating more ideas for my work, working with my clients, doing sessions, and continuously try to focus on my personal development, both with my career and myself.
When you get out the external, it creates a focus on the internal. You get turned on to the smaller, simpler things in life. You become more grounded, humble, appreciative, and grateful.
Is your life filled with clutter? Can you cut out some of the external and bring in some of the internal? Become attached to things that excite you and make you happy from within, not things that bring a fleeting sense of false, temporary happiness from without. Detach yourself. Detach yourself from things, from goods, and from stuff. Become dependent on loving the process and what you do as opposed to loving results and having an obsession with the concept of success.
“If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.” Progression from one level to the next, be it in a person’s career, relationships, or personal life, comes down to taking risks, both big and small. Want that promotion? You have to take the risk and ask for it. Want to marry your boyfriend? You have to take the risk and ask him. Want to follow your passion and purpose and start your own café? You have to take the risk and go for it. It’s never going to happen on its own.
The greatest people that have created the greatest Value in history all took risks to create that Value. They put their reputations, money, and fears on the line. What risks can you take that you’ve been holding out on? What boundaries can you push? What leaps can you make that you haven’t been making? What have you been afraid of doing that, if you did them, would not only create Value for others, but for yourself as well?
Personally, I think personal development, or the pursuit of one’s personal growth, is the greatest piece of Value a person can give. If you want to love someone else, it starts with loving yourself. So true.
In order to provide Value to others, you have to provide Value to yourself first. You have to feel Valuable, and I don’t mean in how much money you make or what kind of job you have. Self-Value should NEVER come from things. It should come from a sense of self-love, self-confidence, and self-worth. And, you don’t need permission to have those things. You don’t need validation from something outside of yourself to feel Valuable. Just as true outward Value doesn’t come from things, true personal Value doesn’t come from it either.
What can you do today to start being more Valuable to YOU? What habit can you start to break, weakness can you start to improve, or personal aim can you start to take action towards achieving? What can you do this week to become a better, stronger, happier person? What can you do right now to start loving yourself more?
Do it. You can.
Back in 2008, I was severely depressed and seriously considered killing myself. I actually started planning it out and everything. Then, one morning, I read a newspaper story about a promising 19 year old who was president of his class in college, was well-liked by his peers, and had an awesome career lined up for him as soon as he graduated from college. He and his mother overcame incredible challenges and obstacles to come from their native Haiti, start a new life in America, and live the dream. He and his mother were killed one morning by a semi-truck that ran a red light and smashed into their car.
Reading that story, I instantly felt nauseated with myself. Here I was, alive and with my future in front of me, with that audacity to complain, feel depressed, and want to willingly take my own life. I was a selfish, self-absorbed waste of space. How dare I sit around feeling sorry for myself. He didn’t have a choice. His life was stolen from him because a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel. He was unbelievably strong, determined, and Valuable to himself and the world. Why should I get to live, and he doesn’t? I should be the one that’s dead, not him.
Ever since that day, I’m grateful to wake up every single day drawing breath. When I feel stressed, or something in my work frustrates me, I picture his face and his smile from that newspaper story I read. It puts everything into perspective. Every day, I make sure to appreciate as much as I can, no matter how small. I appreciate that I get to go outside with my dogs. I appreciate that I get to do what I love. I appreciate that I have amazing friends, family, clients, colleagues, and acquaintances. I appreciate my small but Valuable life.
What can you start to really appreciate that you’ve maybe been taking for granted? Who or what can you be grateful for? What are some of the things about yourself that you can appreciate?
Big life, small life….it doesn’t matter. Life is about happiness, not about sizes. And, one of the keys to happiness is an overwhelming sense of Value, not only that which you can provide to others, but most importantly, that which you can provide to yourself. Provide Value to yourself, and you can provide Value to the world.