Frame of Reference

During this challenging and disruptive time, I think it’s important for all of us to revisit and perhaps reestablish what I call our ‘frame of reference’.

This frame of reference is a constellation of ‘points of reference’ that consists of the people, institutions, and barometers that we turn to in order to weigh, measure, define, and value our lives. Perhaps they could be considered more tangible expressions of the Core Values that I often write about.

Only these ‘points of reference’ are often flesh and blood, real world things. For a number of Old Money individuals, part of their frame of reference is their ancestors. Fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, aunts and uncles who accomplished and contributed to family, business, or country.

While it’s always tricky business to measure yourself against someone else, to feel the pressure or motivation to achieve as much as your predecessors did is a common thing. We often want to ‘hold up the side’ or ‘do better’ than our parents.

Another point of reference can be our spiritual tradition. Are we living our best life in terms of adhering to our faith? Are we putting it into daily practice, or just going through the motions on Sunday at church?

Institutions of higher learning can inspire us to excel. Alumni and classmates who have, again, achieved and contributed can motivate us to be another notable link in that chain of men and women who honored the privilege they had and made the most of the wisdom they received at a college or university.

And finally, our country can ask us to give of ourselves and our talents. And even our lives.

My question is this: what constitutes your frame of reference? What holds you firm in times of trouble? What pushes you on when you’re tired and frustrated?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Happy Sunday.

  • BGT

6 thoughts on “Frame of Reference

  1. My grandmother used to say – if you have your health – you have everything.

    I start by seeking to understand why I am feeling tired and frustrated.

    I make sure to exercise daily, spend time in nature, wake up w/o an alarm clock, drink 90 oz of water daily, eat a 97% vegan diet, meditate and journal. I also try to focus on areas in life and my work that I’m truly excited about.

    To your point – I think about ancestors quite frequently and the challenges they overcame. For example, if I walk outside and its freezing cold, I recall my uncle who was an officer stationed in a cold and snowy part of northern Europe during WW2.

  2. I talk with my husband and son when I am frustrated, or worried. We spend time closing in from society at home. We focus more on each other, our pets, our hobbies. We talk long into the night with our close friends via facetime or messenger. We are more grateful for our blessings and more appreciative of what we have. I find joy in watching the Cardinal at my window each morning and worry if he is not on time! We read! We read everything! Books are the key to a true quality of life!

  3. Several things . . . my faith, my church. And like Heinz-Ulrich, my extended family, both living and now gone. The older I get, the more I learn about those who went before me. I’ve many unanswered questions, but was delighted to learn more about my Great Uncle Ed in recent months. And reading, always. And music!

  4. I think you’ve touched on a delicate problem. OMGs, almost by definition, have at least one ancestor who made a lot of money. I’ve noticed that many OMGs doubt (perhaps with good reason) their own ability to make as much if they had to do it all on their own. It’s what makes us so focused on preserving what we have. Many OMGs will never find out whether they could have made a lot of money starting from nothing. Therefore for an OMG to compare herself to her ancestors, at least in financial terms, can be self defeating. I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s something I’ve noticed with some of the more thoughtful (and honest) members of our group.

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