How Big Should a Life Be?

by | Feb 3, 2015

Should it be as big as possible? And big in terms of what? Money? Prestige? Power?

I’d like to suggest that bigness is at best a poor measure of the value and import of a life. Rather than size or scope, I suggest we look to characteristics such as grace, relatedness, peace, generosity – even, and this is my favorite, joy.

A few weeks ago I listened to Juliet Stevenson’s exquisite reading of George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Stevenson’s beautiful voice and nuanced interpretations animated this beloved classic. There were so many things to love in the novel and in the performance that although it was a whopping 35 (!) hours long I’m looking forward to listening again.

What on earth could compel me to devote that much time to listening to a novel? The simplest way I can explain it is that the writing and reading left me with a nice feeling. The kind of nice evening that is profoundly orienting, that points us in the direction of our best selves.

Ringing in my ears and in my heart even now are these closing lines. This is for everyone who has ever thought that they need somehow to live bigger, be more, have more, or do more in order to make a difference. It all counts, people, even, or perhaps especially, the small stuff.

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Would you like to explore the immense practicality of joy?

The following quote about joy landed in my inbox last week, and it resonated deeply with me and how I see my life and work these days. It has everything to do with what I am up to as a coach.

“As one of the seven factors of enlightenment, joy is not only a fruit of awakening but also a prerequisite. Joy creates a spaciousness in the mind that allows us to hold the suffering we experience inside us and around us without becoming overwhelmed, without collapsing into helplessness or despair. ” ~James Baraz, Lighten Up! from a post at Tricycle.

I have come to see the joy is always available, even in the midst of dark hours. Joy is closely allied to insight and wisdom. We can use our sense of the presence or absence of joy as a navigational aid in life.

As a coach I help my clients explore the immense practicality of joy. I point them to the spiritual principles behind the human experience. As their understanding deepens, their joy increases. They act with greater ease, creativity, grace, and wisdom.

I have room for two new clients in March. If this resonates and you’d like to have a conversation to see if we are fit, visit my coaching page and schedule an interview, click here.