Accepting Difficult Responsibilities
As I pursue my happiness by documenting and advancing liberty in American culture, I’m constantly evaluating my everyday experiences through the lenses of economics, civics, and personal initiative. As I explain on my About page, “I choose the first two lenses because I acknowledge that economic liberty and civil liberty are two sides of the same coin; you don’t possess liberty in any real sense with one but not the other. I include the third lens because merely possessing liberty is meaningless. Liberty’s power is only meaningful when it is combined with personal initiative. Liberty opens the door of opportunity, but only you can walk through it.”
The first two lenses are fun to think about and talk about – but that third lens (personal initiative) poses real challenges to us all from time to time, myself included. Because when you embrace personal initiative, you take responsibility for the trajectory of your life – and sometimes life is difficult. When you embrace personal initiative, you take responsibility for the trajectory of your life. Click To Tweet
I personally experienced such difficulty just a few weeks ago. I sat at my laptop with a hot cup of coffee one Tuesday morning and wondered where to begin. After six months of behind the scenes work, I was eager to embrace the power of personal initiative and implement my new ideas – but I had no idea where to start because there was so much to be done. Blogging, podcasting, social media, email newsletters, a new product launch (coming soon) – LTP was just the beginning. My growing family, implementing 10-year plans at work, maintaining friendships, my physical health, my mental health, my faith walk… A never-ending stream of critical tasks pummeled my mind from every angle of life. How will I possibly find time to do all this? The answer was far from clear.
Reflecting on my individual liberty
On that morning, I knew I had to get out of my head to avoid being overwhelmed by it all, so I created a new Word document and typed “How to make this all work” at the top of the first page. That’s a bold title. Will you be able to match it with a bold answer? I took a deep breath. Honestly, I had my doubts – but I began jotting down ideas anyways.
After a few minutes of free writing, I stumbled across a fundamentally important question: What do I want? The words stuck out at me on the page. Wow, what do I want? I had never asked myself that question in such concise form. It forced me to reflect on my individual liberty: yes, I have the power to live my life in accordance to my values – but what do I value at this point in my life? I wrote down a list of ten things:
- I want to live a healthy lifestyle. I value sleep, diet, exercise, faith, prayer, and meditation.
- I want to be a good husband and father, and to protect family time.
- I want to schedule social time with friends and extended family regularly.
- I want to effectively lead my family business so that it runs smoothly and profitably.
- I want to document liberty on a daily basis on social media.
- I want to write one blog post per week.
- I want to release one podcast episode per week.
- I want to interview at least one new podcast guest per week.
- I want to launch [my new LTP product].
- I want to retain the option of teaching Financial Peace University with Katy [my wife] from time to time, or doing something else that requires a similar periodic commitment of time.
I reviewed my list. Yep, that’s the stuff I value at this point in my life. I wrapped up my work that morning with a sense of good progress, but admittedly, I still didn’t have my bold answer.
That changed less than 24 hours later.
Getting Called Out
I continued my reflection early the next morning. I opened my Word document on Wednesday morning and saw my typed-out list with a fresh set of eyes. And my bold answer hit me square in the face. It came in the form of another question: What am I currently doing that isn’t on my want list?
Talk about getting called out!
Don’t get me wrong. I had been spending lots of time and energy doing things that fully aligned with my want list, but my second question forced me to observe the ways I was spending time and energy on things missing from (or even at odds with!) my want list.
I typed out a list of answers to my second question. They were innocent enough on their own. They consisted of things like watching a TV program after the kids go to bed, having a beer with dinner during the week, and going to bed 20 minutes late. Nothing atrocious. Yet when juxtaposed against my supposed want list, the answers to my second question were glaring because I despise hypocrisy: everybody wants stuff in life – but talk is cheap. I seek to be the kind of person who works to achieve what I claim to want in life.
In the weeks that have passed since I asked myself these questions, I have made great progress in aligning my life with my values. And you can do the same! If you’re ready to exercise your individual liberty in a real sense – if you’re ready to align your life with your values – ask yourself these two simple questions: What do you want? What are you currently doing that isn’t on your want list?
Don’t be surprised when your daily choices quickly align with your values after completing this exercise. Nobody wants to be a hypocrite, right?
What do you want? What are you currently doing that isn’t on your want list? Share some of your answers to these questions in the comments below!