Defining a Lifestyle

Fred Smith offers four key questions to ask when defining a lifestyle.

By Fred Smith

A quality lifestyle doesn't happen by accident — it takes hard work.

When we start to define our lifestyle there are certain questions we need to ask:

(1)What do I really enjoy doing? Unfortunately a lot of our backgrounds don't let us think enough in these terms. The thing I have a talent to do, the thing I do best and enjoy the most, should certainly be considered first in defining a lifestyle. However, there should always be guidelines because certain things that people enjoy need to come into line with Christian thought. For example, if we enjoy creating envy by conspicuous consumption, proving something to people, creating ulcers among our associates, or simply raising dust to show our activities, we are not operating under Christian concepts. This lifestyle needs to be under the discipline of our scriptural faith. On the other hand, Bob Storm is a man I admire. He was a metallurgist in New York, commuting from Connecticut and hating every minute of it. He decided what he really enjoyed was fine craftsmanship. He resigned, went up into New England and found individuals in out-of-the-way places who were doing extremely fine craft work but lacked distribution. He opened Midland Crafters between Pinehurst and Southern Pines, North Carolina. He now has customers from all over the country because he has assembled some of the finest craftsmanship I have ever seen. Bob is a happy man now because he is doing what he really enjoys doing. He asked himself some questions and he made a decision.

One Saturday morning instead of going to the office, I sat in the study with Mary Alice listening to some tapes of Malcolm Muggeridge doing some fireside chatting with friends. What a delightful time it was listening, and making notes on this very wise and humorous intellectual . I thoroughly enjoyed this time. For me, experiences like this must be included in my lifestyle definition. It is important to include things that you enjoy doing.

(2) When do I feel good about myself? This is the second defining question. What makes you feel that you have meaning, that you have worth, that you are unique? I am concerned for a dear friend who has been in the rat race constantly acquiring and acquiring, but not scratching his accomplishment potential. He is a man of fine intellect, of good taste, genteel manners and culture, yet making money has almost consumed him. He has become the medium of exchange for he is trading his gift for things. When do we really feel good about ourselves, is it when we are giving or when we are getting?

(3) When do I feel joy? What creates that sense of deep satisfaction? What gives us that "life should be like this more often" feeling?

Personally, this comes in times of genuine worship. It is not limited just to church services. It is in those times when I sense the largeness of God and the smallness of Fred. When I feel the smallest, I feel the most secure. This universe is so big we can only reverence it. I have certainly been in the atmosphere and attitude of worship when I felt the joy of His creation and grasp of His relation.

(4) What gives me balance and authenticity? Speaking to a group of financial executives I mentioned the fact that it's wonderful to wake up at two o'clock in the morning and the little guy inside you is happy to talk to you. But if he says, "get lost, I've lost respect for you," then you are in trouble. One of the CEOs jumped up, saying,

" Man, you have plowed up a snake." I knew then he spent some time early in the morning when he couldn't really talk to his little guy.

There must be ethical harmony within in the lifestyle that we define. Being authentic in our relationships is key to the defining process. Our life must reflect good relations with our family, our friends, and our associates. When we feel joy we are growing a balanced life. I see some people, professionally, intellectually——and maybe spiritually——who are growing so unbalanced that they would be grotesque if they were physically visible that way. They are growing unevenly, focusing on certain areas to the exclusion of others. A healthy lifestyle definition strives for a compatible, beautiful, harmonious life.

To define our lifestyle we need maturity. And this maturity is more than growing. It is becoming wise in joining knowledge and action. It is knowing what to do — and doing it.