To date, I am not sure that anyone has come up with a satisfactory answer for the question ‘What is the meaning of life?’ Even the wisest king – Solomon – said that everything was vanity, and that life was just a mere vapour. That, in itself, could be a depressing thought if ever there was one. However, in the absence of a degree in theological studies I would posit that Solomon was urging us to live lives of value; do not waste your time on earth because time is finite.
As I was interviewing someone recently and wrote her Barbados identification number, I realised that the adult female sitting in front of me was born in the year I entered secondary school. That was a sobering thought. I am getting old! After that initial shock wore off, I became more introspective and cast a cursory eye over the years trying to see where the time had gone. I have not been able to answer the question about the location of time but I was certain of one thing – it was gone and I will never be able to recover it.
That got me thinking about how I spend my time and whether I was using it wisely. I will share with you a few things I have decided to do, in an effort not to slow time down, but to maximize my limited time here on earth. I issue my recurrent disclaimer about these views and opinions being mine and I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, trying to impose my beliefs and ethics upon you as readers.
In good conscience, I must say the first thing is to discover what God’s plan is for your life. This seems to come easily for one set of individuals, whilst for others this task is as difficult as getting gold milk from a centipede. I encourage you, however, to strive to find that answer as it makes the rest of living easier than rising daily to twenty-four hours of ‘blissful oblivion’.
Live your life as an individual. There are so many unique attributes we each possess yet we spend most of our time looking at others and trying to be like them. We wear what others dictate to be en vogue, sometimes to our demise, as there is a great divergence in body types and sizes. What accentuates a statuesque 5’ 10’’ beauty quite easily makes a 4’11 rotund belle look like an arctic seal. We each have within us the potential to become great if only we would be happy with ourselves.
Whilst it is noble to be happy with oneself as an individual, there is always room for improvement. ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ is a popular cliché and with respect to being your best self, choose wisely those persons with whom you associate. The Bible states that if you walk with the wise, you will become wise. The converse is true. Make sure that in your circle of close friends and associates there are persons who can stretch you and want you to achieve greatness.
There comes a time in life where our friends need to be audited and some need to be left behind as we soar to the zenith of our greatness. Those persons who advise you not to further your academic studies or further qualify yourself within your area of specialty need to be dropped. A good friend of mine always says, ‘A brek down merchant doan care who else he brek down.’ Putting that into English, we could conclude that there are some people who prefer for you to stay in the gutter and wallow in laziness and self-pity with them. You have better things to do with your time… press on!
We need to be careful of our responses to adversity and challenging situations. Muscles are developed under strain and the same can be said of character and success. More often than not, the most important lessons we learn in life were taught by a difficult task master. It may have been a difficult relationship, a challenging financial circumstance, loss of someone or something close or a season of loneliness. One of my lecturers in medical school suggested I repeat physiology because my grades were not the greatest in that subject. He was so convincing and after all he was the expert; he had walked this road already, and he knew best. I had two choices. I could take his advice and repeat the subject in a year’s time, or I could buckle down and turn my grade around.
Perhaps it was fear of telling my parents I potentially had to repeat a subject (not that there is shame in repeating anything), or maybe the knowledge that with God’s help I was capable of achieving ‘the impossible’; I opted to study and study hard.
When the grades came out, I went back to the lecturer beaming with pride at my superior exam results. With a sense of bravado I did not know I possessed at the time, I cautioned him about crushing the spirits of students and suggested using tools such as coaching and mentoring and instead!
There is something powerful about being confident – not cocky, arrogant or sickeningly narcissistic – that allows others who look on at us to feel inspired to become confident themselves. We cannot be our best selves if we do not add value to the lives of those with whom we come into contact. Our lives would have been wasted if we did not do something to improve the life of another human being.
Consequently, I soar, seeking every God-given opportunity to become the great individual I was created to become. Confidence and humility need to peacefully co-exist. Fueled by a passion to pursue excellence (not perfection), we can achieve so much more than we ever thought was possible.
(Renee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:[email protected])