“What would you like to be good at?” I asked my two-year old the other day.
It was a different way of phrasing the question that will dog him until about age twenty-three: What do you want to be when you grow up?
“Huh?” I coax him along.
“Basketball and guitar,” he replied, all blinks and ambition.
I’m not sure if that is true. If it is, he is making a bad go of it. He owns no guitar and has yet to pick up a basketball since declaring his goal. I don’t begrudge him that—he’s two.
But many of us are not two anymore, yet we proclaim what we want to be, but take no action toward becoming said thing, learning some desired skill. Our guitars gather dust, along with our dreams.
This is not just limited to vocations, hobbies, and skills. It stretches into the realm of character, only there, at about age twenty-three, we are the ones who stop with the asking: Who do I want to be?
One is an accumulation of behaviors. If I begin lying and cheating and stealing things, I become, based on my behaviors, a criminal. My past behaviors set my present identity, and likely pave my future path—in this case one leading to prison.
Of course, I don’t want to be a criminal—very much the opposite, in fact.
I want to be honest. So what behaviors does the honest person exhibit? Well, honesty naturally. But what leads to honesty? What cultivates habitual truth-telling?
I want to get the most out of my time and learn to respect and love others. I don’t want to become enslaved to money via debt. I don’t want to be ravaged by anxiety. I want to be humble. And on and on I could go about who I want to be—and likely just as long about who I don’t want to become.
And speaking of that, I noticed a thing on social media the other day. It was someone in their late sixties making incendiary posts about politics. Basically, this person was a rabble-rouser, and was effectively rousing rabble (and others) for all the world to see. The comments on his posts were a train wreck as people strutted into no-man’s land only to be obliterated by fire from across the way. The man was a crusader—only his crusade was pointless, irksome, and downright ugly. I thought: How does someone end up like that?
I didn’t have to go far for my answer, for elsewhere on social media I came across another “friend.” Half the age of the dictator-of-thought mentioned above, this younger man was unwittingly on his way toward becoming an angry online tyrant. He, too, made some incendiary post about politics: juggling grenades, smiling at how well they fit his hand and the power he felt surge within.
Without some intervention, the younger will become the older. A bit of misguided passion in one’s twenties, will grow in the thirties, mature in the forties, define in the fifties, and imprison in the sixties and beyond. The skin gets harder, the voice louder, the room emptier—the longer one behaves unchecked the more formidable the habits become. It is plodding progress toward the wrong answer.
Rules in math help one solve equations and arrive at the correct (and desired) answer. That is why most math text books freely give the answer in the back. For math is not about the answer but how one arrives at that correct position. Life works the same way. If I do not begin applying some rules that help guard and check and assess my behaviors, with the correct answer forever in view, I am adrift and set on a subtle path toward becoming that angry old man, that bitter neighbor, that judging hellraiser.
Hellraiser. I use that term intentionally. Hell is a place or metaphor or idea congruent with absolute unrest. It is tortuous and loud and binding. It is destructive. To raise that is a willful brutality, a kicking up of the dirt or a tracking in of the mud just because. It is setting fire to a forest simply because it lives green and free. To raise hell might be the very epitome of evil.
Heaven, though. Heaven is peace. It is big, leafy trees casting shade beside calm waters. Can you hear the gurgling stream? Peace. It’s restoration and beauty and perspective. It is calm and enduring—not some quick, scorching flame, but a gentle, steady heat. I want to invite that to descend upon my life and give it to the world about me–somehow raising Heaven rather than Hell.
To do so means I must actually have some awareness as to who I am, how I am growing, and what I am becoming.
Rules help guide me along. They are not absolute and may change over time. In fact, they probably should. They will adjust as I adjust, as I age ever along toward the answer in the back of the book.
So concludes this series on Life Rules. If interested in receiving a free e-book on the topic just reach out via the contact form . We will get that to you upon its release. Also, consider subscribing to this blog for more free content. Thanks for reading.