It’s hard to believe how quickly life changes. One day we’re living one way, then something happens—we go to college, or get married, or start working or have children—and suddenly everything looks different.
Take technology. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I owned a flip phone. And you know what? I was totally content with it. In fact, I loved how that tiny phone fit into my front pocket. Now, I can’t imagine life without a giant smartphone. Instant access to the Internet and email isn’t a matter of convenience—it feels like a necessity.
Or consider the transition from college to career. I used to enjoy 15-minute naps every afternoon between classes, leisurely bike rides around campus and meeting up with friends to talk about politics. But these days, I don’t have time to take naps, let alone leave the office before dark.
Perhaps you can relate, whether with technology, children, marriage or simply getting older. Life is in a constant state of flux. While change is good, the unintended consequences of change aren’t always to our benefit. Unless we take a minute to assess what we’ve lost in the process of gaining, we might end up without what we would do best to keep.
In that spirit, here are five things you may have lost and need to add back to your life.
We live in a noisy world—and it’s only getting louder by the day. Screens compete for our attention. Social media is always on our mind. Responsibilities pile up as we age. There’s never a moment, it seems, to pause amid the craziness, to take a breath from the rat race, to escape the franticness of life.
This isn’t how it’s always been, of course. There was a time in our lives when silence was more familiar than noise. And maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing.
With silence comes reflection, contemplation, prayer and relaxation. Silence humbles us, because alone without distractions, we’re not puffed up by the false affirmation of busyness. We’re forced to confront who we are—and the life we’re living.
If you’ve forgotten the sound of silence, try to rediscover it. You might be surprised by what you hear.
Have you noticed that the older you get, the harder it is to have purposeful conversation? I think it happens to all of us—as we age, we put on masks. We learn to hide the bad and project the good. This results in superficial relationships and shallow conversation.
But here’s the thing: We weren’t created to live in isolation, but to share life together. In fact, God’s nature is relational—and because we’re created in His image, we too need relationships. That means taking off the masks and opening our lives to other people. Telling a friend what’s really going on below the surface. Asking the hard questions, and giving the hard answers.
If you find yourself lacking real friendships, make a point of identifying those you trust and begin opening your life to them. Your openness will encourage them to share their life with you.
If there’s one advancement that defines our generation, it’s social media. While the increased connectivity is great, it’s also transformed each of us into mini-celebrities. Among an ever-widening circle, our every thought (in 140 characters) and image (refined with filters) is broadcast for all to see.
This leaves us in a perpetual state of plotting and planning how to capture another Facebook like, another Instagram heart, another Twitter favorite.
For all its benefits, social media—and the obsessive affirmation seeking it spawns—can easily nudge us toward egocentrism, where our social standing is what matters most. But that’s not how God calls us to live. We’re called to selflessness and humility, empathy and sacrifice. In short, we’re called to think less of ourselves and more of others.
The solution to our culture’s me-driven mentality is simple: Service—looking to give while gaining nothing in return. And that means no status updates announcing your good deeds to the world.
Growing up, every day was an adventure. Pick-up games and afternoon swims. Practical jokes and late-night parties. Saturday morning brunches and long walks at the park. It wasn’t just the fun activities that defined that season of life. It was the attitude—the belief that every day was full of wonder and potential. Life was whimsical.
Now that we’re adults, though, each day often looks the same. Life itself can feel routine and even boring. But it doesn’t have to—at least I don’t think so.
Even if you’re in a cubicle, caring for children or answering phones, the attitude that defined your youth is still accessible. It’s simply a matter of living with intention and making the most of every moment. Choose joy, adventure and whimsy. There’s time every day to do something fun—even if only for a moment.
As a kid, I played a lot of sports. Although I enjoyed the competition, I mostly loved being on a team and working toward a larger purpose. In that context, every teammate becomes a cheerleader. There’s nothing quite like the energy created by mutual encouragement. It lifts spirits and helps everyone perform at their highest level.
Why, I wonder, does this type of encouragement fade as we grow older? Instead of cheerleaders, we become critics of one another. Perhaps it’s because we’re no longer on a team—at least that’s how we choose to see it. Instead, it’s us versus the world.
This is only a matter of perception, though. It’s just as easy to conclude that we’re all in this together. Our success in life depends upon the success of others. It’s time to begin encouraging those around us—family, friends, even co-workers. God calls us to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Practicing this won’t merely lift others’ spirits and improve their performance, it will leave everyone feeling as though they’re on the same team, working toward a common purpose. And soon enough, your words of encouragement will become theirs.
Paul Perkins is an attorney, former White House staffer and author of the spiritual memoir, Unexpected Journeys. Read more at PaulPerkins.com.