Below the Bottom Line


What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Matthew 16:26


Helping people take hold of the deeper priorities of life is something I do in a seminar exercise called, “Below the Bottom Line.”  Everyone is given a blank sheet of paper.  I ask them to fold the paper in half from top to bottom.  On the top half they number from one to ten.

Now the fun begins.  Imagine that money is no object and time is eternal.  Imagine that all of the limitations are gone.  What are ten things that you would love to have or do?  Write them down as quickly as you can.  Whenever I do this, I notice that people are a bit stunned at first.  They are so accustomed to thinking and living inside of the limitations of life that it is hard to leap the boundaries.  However, once they do, the pens start to flow as wonderful dreams and thoughts pour out on paper.

After a few moments of writing, I invite people to share their list with one another in small groups across the room.  They are asked to share whatever they would like.  Again, there is a moment of uncertainty.  People are not accustomed to sharing their wildest dreams.  Someone with a bit of adventure takes the plunge first, and then, within seconds, the room is alive with excitement.  People are sharing wonderful things.

I have heard everything.  There are cars and houses, condos and vacation cabins on the list.  People want to learn to fly airplanes or visit the jungles of Brazil.  One young man spoke up and said he’d like to have a building named after him while another said he would like to land a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier.

Something happens when you dare to speak your wildest dreams.  You touch a childlike place within you.  You begin to explore the kind of person you are deep on the inside.  This is not the person who is meeting needs and expectations, but the person who is finding their dream.

The second part of the experience is on the bottom half of the page.  I ask people to number one to five.  Now, write down the things that have to be in place to make any thing on the top of the page worth while.  What are the things that you must have to make your wildest dreams worth having?  Again, it is often a slow start as people ponder the question.  And, when it is time to share their answers with one another, the conversations become intense, deep, and very personal.

The responses on the bottom half of the page include things like inner peace, happiness, authenticity, my family, my faith, purpose in life, wisdom, and love.

I then ask everyone in the room to draw a line between the two lists.  Label it “The Bottom Line.”  What is below the bottom line that makes your life worth living?  They are the relationships, ideals, values and convictions that help you be your best and realize our potential?

When you discover what is “below the bottom line” for you, you have the beginning of your “Quiet Agenda.”  There are items “above the bottom line” that are deeply important to you.  However, never sacrifice what makes these things worthwhile.  Never give up on what’s below the bottom line


Copyright © Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.

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