“Did I love people well?”
“Did I make a difference in the world – did I matter?”
As I struggled with these questions, I tried to justify my life by saying that those closest to me would, of course, miss me and that I mattered to them. While this is true, I felt that this answer was inadequate. This type of answer wasn’t good enough. A good answer required more intentionality.
Our passion is to be able to help other people answer these questions for themselves so they can look back at the end of their life and know they have lived well.
As we’ve been talking to folks about living more intentional to lead a life of significance, often we find that there are some barriers to accomplishing this. One of the biggest barriers is money. For many folks, money (or the lack of it) limits their options. Here are some ways that money can be a barrier to living with significance:
1. Inadequately managed finances can create a lack of time for living with significance
When you have to work overtime or take on a second job to support your current lifestyle, you use up all the margin in your time. Literally your day is full, and there’s no room in your day to, say, take a trip to help out at the local soup kitchen.
2. Inadequately managed finances narrows your vision for living with significance
When money is a source of stress in your life, you become so focused on meeting your needs and financial obligations that you use up some or all of you mental capacity to dream and be creative. You lose sight of long term goals. Your mental field of vision becomes filled with what is happening this month, this week, or even just today. Your vision of what is possible shrinks to make room for handling your money stress.
3. Inadequately managed finances creates a lack of funds for living with significance
Finally, the more obvious case is that when you are struggling to make ends meet each month, you simply do not have money for being generous. You can’t even think about contributing to or setting up a college scholarship. You can’t consider starting some new venture or non-profit. Take a class to learn a new skill because it will help you pursue a passion? Not with those credit card bills. You can’t.
The really cool thing with money, is that if you get it under control, not only will it stop being something that limits you, but it can become something than enables you to do more. If you have money saved up for the purpose of making a difference in the lives of others, the possibilities become wide open.
Here is an example.
Eugene Lang had graduated from Public School #121. Mr. Lang had become a successful business man and was asked to come back to his old school and give an address to a class of 6th graders. Just a few minutes before Mr. Lang was to go up and give his speech, the principle had mentioned that probably 75% of the kids wouldn’t even graduate high school.
I don’t know what was going on in Mr. Lang’s mind, but when we got to the front of the class, he held up his prepared speech and told the kids, “I was going to tell you that if you worked hard, you would succeed. But I don’t think that’s going to work,” and My Lang tore up his speech. Then he continued, “If you graduate high school. I will pay for your college.”
As a result, 90% of those kids graduated high school or got their GED. 60% of those kids have pursued higher education, and of 61 of those kids, 54 have remained in contact with him. (If you want to know more, check out http://www.ihaveadreamfoundation.org/html/).
Eugene Lang could not have had that level of impact on those kids if he did not have the financial resources. For Mr. Lang, money is an enabling agent. For many others that aren’t sufficiently proactive with money, it is a limiting factor in their life.
What about you? If money stopped being a limited factor for you and became an enabling agent, what would you do?