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I don’t know about you, but I’ve seriously pondered that question.
Why make the great sacrifices of time, money, and interests and why accept the great burdens of great living? What’s wrong with indulging in the comfort of complacency?
And why do people divide so sharply on these types of issues? Why do some people resonate with men and women of great ambition while others take pride in “having conquered the need to conquer the world?”
I mean, let’s face it…every one of us, “rich or poor,” lives in sumptuous luxury compared to our ancestors.
We can communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime. We’re surrounded by unlimited amounts of ready-to-eat food. Deadly predators are a world away. Modern medicine can save us from all but the most catastrophic sicknesses or events. Our great struggle for survival involves trying not to bury ourselves in credit card debt or or drink or eat ourselves to death.
What more do we really need? Isn’t that great living? Should modern society’s obsession with material wealth and recognition be viewed more as a perversion than a standard?
Well, I’m no philosopher and I don’t presume to know what a great life really is, but when I meditate on this type of existential dilemma, I think of the following quote…
“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”
In case you don’t know of him, Wooden was a legendary NCAA basketball coach that lead his Bruins to ten championships and a sixty-one game winning streak, and who developed a recruiting system and full-court press style of play that revolutionized the game.
Wooden also said some pretty profound stuff about life and achievement in general, and I think his statement above strikes at the heart of the “great life dilemma.”
A great life isn’t determined by the standards of others but instead by your own sense of yourself.
It isn’t about the external but the internal: the personal journey of self-discovery and self-actualization wherein, through the application of ourselves to life, we learn what our abilities truly are.
At the end of this journey, no objective measurement of the friends we make, skills we learn, or wealth or wisdom we acquire matters. Who’s to say we did or didn’t share our lives with enough people or achieve enough mastery or make enough money? Only our measurements of our efforts count. Only we can know if we made the most of our endowments and opportunities or if we squandered them.
We all can live great lives in our own ways, according to our own abilities, and we all have our own adventures waiting.
This is why I move as quickly as I can every day, trying to fit into my life as much as I can before the clock expires. This is why I strive to spend the majority of my time with people I love and respect and why I’m loathe to settle for giving anything less than what I’m fully capable of in my work, relationships, and pursuits.
Will it all add up to a great life? I don’t know, but it’ll be a hell of a lot more fun and fulfilling than a “good life.”