Posted by: Korry | February 23, 2012

Giving Up So We Can Give More

Yesterday marked the end of Mardi Gras…and the beginning of Lent, the 40-day season that precedes Easter. Traditionally, Lent is a time that Christians give up something in their lives. In part, this is done to recognize the sacrifice they believe Jesus made for them. And as our priest pointed out during the Ash Wednesday service my wife and I attended, Christians also give up so that they can give more!

Now for me, I’d already prepared for the giving up part. I said my goodbye to sweets by ordering a large M&M Blizzard, and I said adios to morning hits of the snooze button by allowing myself a few extra hits yesterday.

But what about the giving more? Sure, I could exercise more or read more or do something like that. But the relative impact those types of things would have would be minimal, at least to those around me. So what could I do to add more value to the lives of those around me?

That’s the question I’d like to pose to you today!

There really is only ONE constant in life: TIME! Like it or not, it keeps ticking along, second by second, minute by minute. One of the greatest challenges in all of life is how we choose to use the time we have. Do we simply spend it or do we invest it so that the effects of our efforts may compound over time?

Think about the different parts of your life. Are you simply spending time with your family or are you investing it. Are you merely spending time with your friends or are you investing it. Are you just spending time at your work or are you investing it.

The difference isn’t minimal. When we spend our time, we do so for our own benefit. When we invest our time, we do so for the benefit of others. In other words, spending time is “ME” focused while investing time is “WE” focused.

The great thing about being WE focused is that the people around us benefit and so do we. It’s win-win!

Unfortunately, our society is very “ME” driven. In part, I believe that’s because it’s so much easier for us to see the benefits of ME. It’s instant gratification. WE thinking, on the other hand, takes a lot of time and effort. While the benefits aren’t always recognizable immediately, over time those benefits compound again and again.

Let me give you a few examples.

For several years, I have volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Shortly after I got married, I changed airplanes from the Boeing 757 to the 737. My work schedule changed significantly and I started to find it increasingly more difficult to work time into my schedule for my “little.” Several of my friends wondered how long I was going to continue to volunteer, especially since my commitment of one year had long ago expired.

For a time, I thought about ending the match, especially since I didn’t always receive instant gratification from my “little” that my time was making a difference in his life. But every time I thought about ending the match, one thing came to mind. If I ended the match without a valid reason, all the time I spent with him would have been about ME, not WE. It would have meant that I desired my own instant gratification more than I desired the long-term gratification that comes by making an INVESTMENT in the life of a child. So would I simply spend my time or would I invest it? As you can probably imagine, I chose to invest.

Or consider any number of people who didn’t just spend time within an organization, but invested time and thus helped create incredible change within organizations. People like Gordon Bethune at Continental Airlines, Alan Mulally at Ford, Louis V. Gerstner at IBM. Or how about the people who invested time in their people or communities? People like Hershey, Carnegie and Gates. 

None of these people simply spent time; they invested it! They sought long-term gains that were compounded exponentially by the efforts they expended years beforehand. They believed in culture. They believed in possibilities. And they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. You’ve hopefully even had people like this in your own life such as a parent, a teacher, or a friend.

There is a cost to everything in life. There is a cost to spending time and there is a cost to investing it. There is a cost to focusing on ME and there is a cost to focusing on WE. But just as there are costs, there are also benefits.

I don’t presume to have the answers for what you should do with your time, but I do think my priest has it right: you have to give up to give more. So are you a spender or an investor? Do you need instant gratification or can you wait for the big prize that comes from taking the long view?

I know what I’m choosing…and this season of Lent is another opportunity to double down on my investment.

What will you choose?

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