While in college and seminary, I spent seven years in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia near Monticello, the estate of Thomas Jefferson. It’s an impressive place to visit. American history, beauty and inspiration flow from the 5,000 acre mountaintop plantation outside Charlottesville. The author of the Declaration of Independence, third president of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia designed and occupied this breathtaking environment of productivity and reflective renewal.
A less known part of the story — Before he reached age 50, Thomas Jefferson began to contemplate how he might make the second half of his life more significant.
Neglecting family, the passion of his heart and love for farming, Jefferson invested the first 45 years of his life in a pivotal founding role of America. Lloyd Reeb tells the story in his book, Success to Significance (p. 25-26).
When his wife Martha died, deep grief drove Jefferson to do some introspection and evaluation. He took some time away in Paris to gain new perspective and a fresh vision. Jefferson had tasted success but his soul longed for something deeper and richer – something more lasting.
Jefferson celebrated his fiftieth birthday by packing up his belongs and sending them from Philadelphia, where Congress met, back to Monticello. He was ready for a new season.
Reeb quotes Jefferson’s reflection on his first half. Jefferson described himself as “Worn down with labors from morning to night, and day to day, knowing them as fruitless to others as they are vexations to myself…cut off from my family and friends…in short giving everything I love in exchange for everything I hate.” Thomas Jefferson was wrestling with basic midlife questions.
HAVE YOU ASKED YOURSELF:
Am I doing what really matters in the big picture?
Am I energized or worn out by what I do?
Am I able to invest in my most important relationships as much as I want to?
Am I using my time, talent and treasure to make the greatest possible impact in life?
Changing the world is more about asking the right questions than it is about having all the right answers. Are you currently asking yourself the essential questions? If not, why not?
QUESTION: Which of the above questions do you need to focus on right now? I would love to know. Use the comment area below.
3 responses to Asking the Right Questions
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