A Gift for 2016: The 5 Numbers of Life

As we head into the holiday season and begin to think about 2016, I asked myself what kind of gift I could give you, my readers.

Obviously, I won’t see or talk to you outside of this column, yet I want to give you something that will stand you in good stead no matter what you might run into in 2016. 

About 35 years ago, a coaching consultant called on me, and in the course of his pitch, he offered something I’ve never forgotten. Personally, it has become a model or a standard that my wife, Laura, and I try to apply every day. It becomes especially useful when we encounter some unexpected problem. I hope you find it a source of comfort in dealing with life’s problems.

We call it “The Five Numbers of Life.”

1. Integrity: Some call it their value system, their soul or their essence. Whatever you call it, this is your core. It’s that which makes you unique and valuable. People without integrity cannot be trusted. Cherish and protect it. With it you can be a great spouse, parent, friend and co-worker.

2. Your health: This includes physical, mental and emotional health. If you have problems in any of these realms you perform poorly and are a burden on others. True, you might force your way through it, but you can’t perform at 100 percent. Think how something as small as a head cold impairs you. You feel miserable. Much of your energy and thoughts are drawn to dealing with physical or mental infirmities.

Recall one of those times when physically or mentally you were off-kilter. It doesn’t have to be life-threatening. At any level your effectiveness is diminished. Also, people around you have to make up for your diminished capacity. It takes them away from their work. Stay well.

3. Your family: This encompasses more than your immediate family. It covers anyone you care for. It’s your extended family. Those who are close to you, regardless of genetic relationships, are part of this family. They depend on you to some extent for love, respect, support, information, guidance or other treasures.

You want the same from them. When you lose one of these people, your life is never the same again. If and when parents, spouses or children leave you, nothing can fill the void. Take care of them.

4. Your career: Your job may or may not be that stimulating, but you need it. It supports you. It’s a large part of what makes you want to get up in the morning. Hopefully, it energizes you. Your imagination and creativity are unleashed here. It’s what psychologist Abraham Maslow called “self-actualization.” 

If you were free to do anything, this is what you would do. If you hate your job, you must pay the price of getting a better one. Writer Joseph Campbell put it beautifully: “Follow your bliss.” Hopefully, your job is your bliss. If not, find it and devote your life to it.

5. Everything else: Yes, that’s right. If you take care of No. 1-4, you have every chance of being quite happy. Of course, some very bad things can happen to you outside of the big four. But with few exceptions, time and money can cure them. 

Consider physical things, like your car or house. You don’t want to lose them, but in time, they can be replaced with effort and money.

Granted, there are exceptions you can’t replace with money: your grandfather’s watch, your parents’ wedding pictures or the family heirloom that has been handed down through generations. To be sure, losing these do hurt. But their loss is nothing compared with losing your integrity, health, family or job.

Focus on the big four. If your car is dented, your couch stained, your dress ruined, keep cool. They’re annoying — but fixable. On the other hand, cheating, being sick, losing your child, not having a great job to go to — these are not so easy to repair or replace.

Happy 2016.