While driving with my son last week, we were in need of gas. We neared a gas station selling unleaded for $2.39 a gallon. As we drove right by, he asked why we didn’t stop. When I told him that it was too expensive, he reminded me that I had told him a few months back that “anything under $3.00 a gallon was a good price.” In a few short weeks, things have changed. Last year in swimming, his goal was to swim each stroke without getting disqualified. This year, he is not happy with a time that doesn’t qualify him for States. Just yesterday, he told my wife how great dinner was; the same dish he choked down last month when she served it. He explained that his extreme hunger made it taste good. In each case, the relative answer given was a surprise, as we were operating from an anchor point that demonstrated our difference in perspective.

This is the case for each of us to varying degrees. In my current assignment, many things have changed for me. My definition of a long day at work has changed. My definition of a meaningful engagement has changed. My definition of insightful intelligence has changed. These observations re-enforce Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.’s statement, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” I find that quote true for me; I see it in my son; I attempt to do the same for those with whom I serve. Without the influence of another, a change in conditions, or an awakening of some sort, people tend to see things how they’ve always seen them. We operate from our anchor point and compare that which is new to that which we think we know.

Think about these questions now. Then reflect upon how your 10-years ago self would have answered them. Finally, think about how your 10-years from now self might do the same.

  • What is a fair price for gas?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • At what age is a person old?

Our expectations of a fair price change over time; our favorite food may stay the same (yes, those of you with a palate of an eight-year-old), but for most of us it doesn’t; and our definition of old tends to go up in numbers with each passing birthday. The things we were once quick to do no longer excite us. The things that once gave us pause are now at the top of our list. Time changes us, circumstances change us, and truly living life changes us. If we are still doing the same things we did 10 years ago, we are missing out. If we are still doing the same things 10 years from now that we currently are, we are not living. If our anchor points are not changing over time, we are not truly experiencing life. After all, that is what life is all about…experiencing it! Just last night, my son asked me what happens when we die. It’s a question to which none of us have the answer and I explained that. I shared with him what I feel comfortable believing, but I focused my answer on what it is we do know. We know what it means to live and we know that a fulfilling life is one that includes self-realization, meaningful relationships, and challenging experiences. A fulfilling life is one that includes a level of exploration that affords our anchor the opportunity to drift.

Whether it be our mental perspective, our place of residence, or our likes/dislikes, if we don’t give our anchor the opportunity to drift, we are missing the point of life. The key is to not allow our core values to do the same.

How fixed is your anchor?