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August 22, 2003

"Lives based on having are less free than lives based on either doing or on being."
--  William James
During the summer, Mary and I like to spend the long summer evenings, sipping iced tea, watching the sunset and talking on our deck.  Usually, it's quiet but the other evening we heard the racket of neighbors urgently getting ready to go on vacation.  In their hurry to "get away and relax," Dad was angry, the kids were yelling, and Mom was trying to get everyone ready to leave.  It didn't sound very relaxing to me! 

It reminded me of how crazy our lives often are. 

We all know the story of the man or woman who works long hours, 7 days a week to provide for their family or save for retirement, only to die far too young, with no chance to enjoy the fruits of their labor. 

In the Bible there's a similar story.  Luke records that Jesus went to visit two sisters, Mary and Martha.  Upon his arrival, Mary chose to listen and take in the wisdom of Jesus' words, while Martha bustled about the house, fixing a dinner to honor their special guest. Eventually, Martha got frustrated and asked for Mary's help, but it seems Jesus was more interested in conversation and fellowship than in the fancy meal and all the trimmings. 

How often have we done the same thing?  I remember many visits with friends and loved ones where we got so caught up in the fancy barbeque or trip to the beach (or whatever) that we never had a chance to sit and talk. 

I've been reading Roy Jenkins' biography of Winston Churchill this summer and what hits me again and again is the time Churchill spent talking with people!  Without television and other distractions, they had time for food, for walks, for painting and long talks.  Churchill was a man of strong opinions and not everyone appreciated his point of view, but oh! the conversations they must have had! 

We will never return to the slow pace of a hundred years ago, but we do not need to spend our lives rushing about like chickens! 

Far too often, we get caught up in the "have-to's" of life, and most of those "musts" are, in reality, extremely small, meaningless things. We "have to" see a ball game or run an errand.  We rush to meetings or worry about cramming one more day into our vacation schedule. There are so many phone calls, so many emails, so many things we have to do" that we forget to live our own lives. 

My friend, Michael Angier, referred to this as the "thick of thin things" and I love that phrase!  Life is to be lived, not rushed through!  Life is to be savored, enjoyed, experienced and remembered, but too many of us see only the blur of life passing us by.  Remember the old movie, "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium?"  What an awful way to see Europe!  Let's not live our lives that way! 

Resolve this week to maximize the QUALITY of your life, rather than the quantity of items on your to-do list!  Resolve to SAVOR every conversation, and to eliminate at least one unnecessary pressure. Say "no" to a few requests; politely decline a couple of invitations. Smell the roses, notice the sunrise, feel the grass under your feet. Take a sandwich for lunch and eat in the park, maybe sharing a few crumbs with the pigeons or the ducks.  For a couple of dollars, rent a movie, buy a bottle of wine and spend a quiet evening with someone you care about. 

Slow down!  Slow down enough to enrich the quality of your life. Take time to breathe, to laugh, and to listen.  Take time to call someone you care about.  Do something truly radical -- actually take pen and paper and send someone an old-fashioned letter! (Wow!  There's a wild idea!) 

Give yourself the gift of living the life you truly want instead of the lifestyle of the "madding crowd" around us.  You are wiser than that! Listen to your heart, plan your days, match the rhythm of your schedule to the desires of your soul.  You'll discover you are richer than you knew! 

By Dr. Philip E. Humbert, professional coach, author and popular speaker.  www.philiphumbert.com
Copyright (c) 2003, all rights reserved.
As summer winds down, take some time to slow down and assess. What can you do that would have you savoring, enjoying experiencing your life?  Set some new actions in place that improve the quality of your life.

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