It’s Not What You Have, It’s How You Use It

There are many values we hold dear. Among them:

  • Freedom to speak our mind
  • Freedom to belong to a church
  • Freedom to associate with others
  • Freedom from government intrusions in our lives, and more


Autonomy means the right or condition of self-government.  Autonomy is nice to have, but what you do with it decides whether or not you can get what you want from life. Beware. Autonomy by itself, won’t make life fulfilling or useful.

It’s like other governments we know about. It can lead to good or evil.

Autonomy can lead to control

Just what kind  of control is one of the choices you have. If it is disciplined self-control to seek a higher purpose in your life, it is a good thing. If it is imposing your will on others, having them act to please you, and to divert their skills and efforts to your benefit for too little pay, it is not.

Autonomy is about being able to make choices.

The result you get is what is built into the choices you make. You can choose selfishness or not. You can choose empathy or not. You can choose respect or not. You can choose impatient or not. You can choose the future or now.

People occasionally let circumstances force their decisions. Most of the time,  that is because they made weak choices in the past. Failure to anticipate and prepare. I had a lawyer friend who was working 80 hours a weak trying to cope with a growing practice. I thought he should hire another lawyer. His reply, “I don’t have time to hire anyone.”

Many choices provide perennial results. If you are two week behind in your work, you have two choices:

  1. Work 60 hours a week for four weeks and be caught up. Then work 40 hours a week forever.
  2. Work 40 hours a week forever and be two weeks behind the whole time.

Learn to cast your choices into the most stark contrast.

You can use your autonomy in several domains

How do you use your resources? Selfish or not. Most people think money, but time matters more. You can save money to use later. You can grow more. You can lose it and make it back.

No so with time. Learn to use it wisely. Wisely being to get the most value from it. The value might not be all yours. Sharing your time magnifies its value. Learn to receive value from others. Listening is learnable skill. Most people don’t need hearing aids, they need listening aids.

How to share? Chuck Feeney, the founder of Duty Free Shoppers, built a fortune of about US$ 9 billion. By age 89 he had given it all away. Why? Because he wanted to see the good it would do. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in life, is organizing as if being the richest person in the cemetery had value. Look after yourself with a margin for error. After that share. Children. Your community. Distant causes. Just people you meet. Sometimes A few hundred dollars at Christmas would make a world of difference for a struggling family. You don’t need attention. Chuck Feeney had a rule for the organizations he helped. “If you tell where the money came from, it will stop coming.”

Choose relationships where you can both contribute and receive value. Your life grows bigger when you share your meaning and receive meaning from others. Learn to share dependence. It’s not exactly sharing duties. It is sharing feelings. It is showing vulnerability. No one can do everything well. No matter who you relate to, there is something they can do better than you. There is something they know you don’t. There is support they can give you. The biggest impediment is pride. That’s where the ability to show vulnerability comes in. Vulnerability is part of the human condition. That condition gets easier if you recognize how it works.

Procrastination harms your future.

It is hard to be organized if there is no time discipline. Procrastination is the second step in a series of three. Perfection —  procrastination — paralysis. 

Perfection is a choice and it arises from feelings of inadequacies. The inability to express those feeling and deficiencies. If you demand perfect of yourself, you have failed to notice perfect is not an option. You cannot achieve the impossible. The mistake is to try. Seek excellence and learn with each project. 

One of my children had it figured out. He thought. “Sixty is as good as a hundred. They don’t put your marks on the diploma.” It took a while to convince him the transcript had uses he had not fully considered. Even there, 90 was likely as good as 100. If you seek perfection, you will never start. Do a lot of stuff less than perfectly and learn from your mistakes.

The takeaway

Having the ability to choose is a wonderful thing. Like other wonderful things, how you use that advantage will define how valuable and joyful you life will be. 

Be selfish. Make your life joy-filled and useful. You cannot take the values with you so better to spread them around as best you can while you can. Who can you teach? Who can you comfort? Who can you assist? Who can you love?  Being selfish in the right way can be very unselfish.

Society looks for expedient. Expedient looks easy and turns out hard. You can use your freedoms more productively.

The effect you have on others is what will remain forever. Be sure it is the right effect.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email

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