Is Your Ladder Leaning Against the Right Wall?

By Greg Fullerton

Stephen Covey talks a lot about people climbing ladders only to discover that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.

In other words, we work hard at acquiring and/or accomplishing the wrong things.

What a horrible — and easy — way to live a life of regret. To put so much time, effort, money, and energy into projects and then actually gain the things we seek, only to realize that those things weren’t all we thought they’d be.

How many things in life would we stop pursuing if we were honest with ourselves and stopped to consciously think through,“What win I if I gain the thing I seek?”

Things Are Not What They Seem

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem A Psalm of Life”, starts with this stanza:

“Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.”

So many of us seek wealth and fame, only to realize that they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.

Now, there may not be anything intrinsically wrong with wealth or fame, but should these be our end-all, be-all goals?

They may come as a natural byproduct, but are there not more worthy goals we can pursue?

The Importance of Balance

Sometimes, the things we seek are actually worthy goals, but we pursue them at the expense of other important things in life.

For example, we may work hard in our careers while neglecting our families. I know fathers who tragically regret missing out on the most important moments of their children’s lives.

Or perhaps we seek grandiose manifestations of success while not appreciating the small moments.

Hard-Easy, Easy-Hard

Many times, our goals and pursuits are based simply on the path of least resistance and are therefore not worthy of our talents and true purpose.

Steve D’Annunzio talks about a concept that he calls “hard-easy, easy-hard.” As he puts it:

“’Hard-easy’ refers to those things in life that initially appear to be difficult, yet in the long-run they make life much easier and more enjoyable. On the other hand, ‘easy-hard’ refers to things that seem easy at first yet lead to far more difficulties down the road.

“For example, suppose a young boy steals a candy bar from a store. He did so because he thought that it would be easier to steal than to earn the money to buy the candy bar.

“However, it’s clear that if he develops a habit of theft, life will end up being much more difficult for him (easy-hard). On the other hand telling the truth and facing the consequences may seem like the hard thing to do, but will make his life so much easier as he develops (hard-easy).”

Do your goals inspire you? Do they cause you to stretch and work? Or are you climbing a short ladder?

Stop and Think

I harp on this so much that I probably sound like a broken record, but I can’t stress it enough: You’ve got to consistently take time to think through everything you’re doing in life.

A little introspection can go a long way — especially if it’s consistent.

Not only should you set goals, but you should also assess your heart to see if it’s in the right place. Are you seeking vain glory, or trying to make a difference? Do you want wealth to show off, or to serve?

As King Solomon taught,

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

In all your pursuits, make sure your ladder is leaning against the right wall before you start climbing.

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