In life, there are several big challenges: happiness, however you define it; health; the freedom to pursue what you love, to verbalize what you think and believe; and the financial means to pursue all of the above.
Yet, over 800 million people – one in eight – go hungry. If you’re hungry, then nothing else matters. If you’re sick and don’t have health insurance or the means to pay for the treatment you need, then you are basically screwed. If you live in a repressive country where the Internet is censored, where women must be accompanied by a male relative before they can leave their homes, then you are probably held captive by religious beliefs that say you, a woman, must be controlled, subjugated. But let’s say, for the moment, that you win 500K in the Lotto. Or it’s what you inherit or earn. How does half a million change the dynamics?
Well, if you’re Bill Gates or the Vanderbilts or the Campbell soup heirs, half a mil is pocket change. This percentage probably spends that in a week on employees, horses, and other diversions. But if you’re middle class or working class or are among the ranks of the unemployed or underemployed, then 500K is a game changer.
All of us have markers that are game changers: when my book is published used to be one of mine. But when my first novel was published, I was already into the next book and thought, Okay, when this book is published I will… And when that book got published and I had contracts for more novels, my game changers morphed again, my goals shifted. At this point in my life, my game changers entail larger stakes, bigger dreams. When the script sells, when the option is exercised… But the older I get, the clearer it becomes that what I’m really talking about here is: how do I want to spend the rest of the time I have on the planet?
Perhaps, in a way, these game changing goals are like new year’s resolutions. Well, in 2014 I will… what? Discover the secret of the universe? Unlikely. But perhaps I will stumble across a story that will shed light on some essential mystery I have puzzled over for most of my life. Perhaps I’ll finally have an OBE that will blow my socks off. Or maybe I’ll converse with my dead parents or my dead editors and or end up on a space ship. Or maybe I will learn something I didn’t know about life after death. Or about life.
I do know this: the game changers and goals I recognized in my twenties are worlds apart from the game changers in my sixties. The forty some odd years in between tend to change your priorities. When you realize that more than half your life is behind you, you become even more aware of how every moment counts, of how NOW is the only thing you have for certain and even that NOW is elusive, fluid, ever changing.
So, really, regardless of your age or place in life, the bottom line question seems to be: how can I make a difference, with the time I have on planet Earth?