“The Western world is awash with plenty. People living in those countries have more choices in the cereal aisle of their local grocery store than most people have in their entire lives. But has [this] created contentment and fulfillment?” – Gary A. Miller, PhD
In 1913, Arthur “Pop” Momand highlighted the side effects of the American Dream that urges us to do things in order to impress other people and create a sense of social standing. His cartoon strip, Keeping Up with the Joneses, followed the McGinis family as they competed with their neighbors, the Joneses, in social status and the accumulation of material goods.
Interestingly, in the twenty-six years the strip ran, the Joneses never actually appeared in the cartoon—a clever way for the author to show that the Joneses represented much more than just the McGinises’ next-door neighbors. They were the pressure of society given a name, and though the strip was comical, it dealt with an issue that has plagued humanity throughout our existence. This was such a big problem in the early twentieth century that the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” has endured in common usage for more than a hundred years.
Is this still an issue today?
I would argue that it is, both from my own experience and what I hear on a regular basis in the heartfelt confessions of friends and clients. The mental games of comparison, competition, and striving plagues us.
Gary A. Miller puts it like this, “We face a formidable enemy that constantly reminds us that the only thing that satisfies is just a little more.”
Just a little more. It sneaks up on us. It helps us rationalize that next choice, that next purchase. It affects our daily choices and our perspective on how our life is going overall.
If you have ever compared your life to someone else’s and found yourself trying to measure up to theirs, you have firsthand experience of the power this force has to change your perspective. When we imagine someone else’s life as better than ours, what we have acquired or accomplished can somehow become dissatisfying—not good enough.
That feeling is what my wife, Susan, and I experienced in our journey. We spent years comparing and competing with the picture we had in our minds of what life should be like.
Friends and clients have shared that they are stressed and working too much, and their families hardly know them. They are never home, their marriages are difficult, and they are barely hanging on. Their lives are like running a marathon on a treadmill—they put in all the work but don’t get anywhere.
Others share they have it “all”—everything life has to offer. Yet, deep down, they know they were created for more and want their lives to count for something more meaningful and have greater impact than just a collection of titles and possessions.
Still others don’t have a clue who they are. They struggle each day searching for significance and acceptance. They try everything they can think of—social media, shopping, alcohol, drugs, new fashions, and more. No matter what they do, they can’t seem to find contentment in any of it.
Some have passionately shared that they “hate” their life. They might have everything we think we’re supposed to want: the home, the job, the cars, and all the toys. But they find themselves worn out from spending all of their time maintaining their possessions. They have yet to learn that God is better than stuff.
Not everybody hates their lives, but how many of us are really happy?
How many of us are really content? Is true contentment even possible?
How many of us are enjoying our lives and spending more time loving, giving, and experiencing freedom, rather than the opposite?
It’s time to live our lives with a new perspective.
Before you think I am suggesting you sell everything, move to the wilderness, and live off the land, understand this change to the simpler, fuller life I am talking about doesn’t require changing your location. It is about being more present right where you are because you know who you are and why you are here. It is freedom from keeping up with the Joneses, from living someone else’s life, and from being caught up in the rat race. It is freedom to be more completely present with your spouse, your kids, and your community in a way that will make your life richer and more worthwhile.
Bob Buford put it eloquently when he said, “Many of us can feel like we are simply getting by and trying to keep up with some undefined, external forces that we don’t understand. Instead, we can experience intentional, authentic lives filled with passion and purpose.” This is exactly what the Halftime Institute exists for – to help gifted individuals move from simply getting by to living with passion, purpose, and balance.
How would your life change if you focused on who you are, why you’re here, and the difference you want to make with your life?
Think of the possibilities if you started living your life more intentionally, doing more of the things that matter most—and less of everything else. Could life be less hectic?
What if you spent more time doing things today that could lead to a better tomorrow, instead of just trying to survive each day?
What if you could live more simply, yet more fully?
Take a moment to imagine the decisions you would make differently if you experienced a shift of perspective like we are describing.
Sometimes a major life event gets people’s attention. Other times, it’s the accumulation of life’s pressures all adding up. It’s different for everyone—and very personal. Whatever your own journey looks like, only you can experience it for yourself. You are the only one who can discover the real you, but it might take the help of a coach to unearth the important discoveries. That’s why I became a coach – to walk alongside others and help them in this journey.
Some call it purpose, passion, calling, or a host of other things, but basically it’s just this: You must learn who you are. You must learn why you are here.
And you must decide how you are going to live your life.