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What’s in Your Box?

In my current stage of life – let’s call it middle-age-mature – I find myself thinking about how to simplify my life in order to have less stress. That means that I think much more about what matters most and whether I’m spending time on things that don’t really matter in the long run.

A book that I just completed helped me greatly in understanding what matters. In the book The True Measure of a Man, author Richard E. Simmons tells a story of how a prosperous business man and leader of people had his life changed in a single conversation. In a meeting with a strategic planner, to discuss options he was examining, the strategic planner asked him to describe his basic interests and motivations. After listing several items, the planner asked, “What’s in the Box?”

It was a surprising question and the guy didn’t get it. The planner explained that the question was to determine what was central to the man’s life, that the question was this: If there were only able to focus on one thing in his life, what would it be? The story continued with the planner taking a pencil and drawing a square box on a sheet of paper and asking again, “What’s in the box?” The business man said there were a couple of things that he counted as his top priorities. One happened to be his religious faith and the other his career. The planner said, “Before I can help you decide how to focus your interests, you have to decide what’s in the box.”

That made me start thinking – what’s in my box? This story has made me search myself to answer that question and it’s making a difference in what I choose to do every day. It has also freed me from feeling that I have to have professional, personal, and spiritual goals. Now I have just one, and every key decision I make is based on that alone. My life is much simpler and more focused now. It’s easier to say yes or no to activities that will take up my time because I can make my decisions based on whether or not they contribute to what’s in my box. What’s in your box, and are you carrying it with you or are you keeping it hidden in the attic?

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