Music and the Spoken Word: How to measure success in your life

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given Sept. 1, 2019.

Have you ever wondered how to measure your life? With a ruler or tape measure, we can determine how tall or wide something is, but how can we measure the depth and breadth of a life? What are the markers of significance, of success, of fulfillment along the road of life? 

Some measure success by how much wealth a person accumulates. That’s an easy measurement, but usually an inaccurate one. We might instead equate hard work with a successful life. And yet while honest labor is honorable, it’s possible to work hard at the wrong things.

Over a hundred years ago, orator and statesman William Jennings Bryan offered this standard of measurement:

“Service,” he said, “is the measure of greatness; … he is greatest who does the most of good.” He went on to observe that “nearly all of our controversies … grow out of the fact that we are trying to get something from each other — there will be peace when our aim is to do something for each other. … The human measure of a human life is its income; the divine measure of a life is its outgo, its overflow — its contribution to the welfare of all” (“The Prince of Peace,” 1914, p. 52–53).

In describing this divine standard of greatness, Bryan was simply echoing the Lord Himself, who said, in effect, “If you want to find yourself, first lose yourself in the service of others.” (See Mark 8:35; Luke 17:33). In other words, self-fulfillment is the wrong measuring stick. When you improve the world around you, that’s when you find out how well you’re doing at life. 

And improving the world doesn’t always mean going far from home. Look around you and you will find countless ways to contribute “to the welfare of all.” Every selfless thought moves the needle. Every act of kindness and love, no matter how small, carries significant weight in these scales of greatness. This is a higher way to live. This is “the divine measure of a life” well lived.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160 AM/102.7 FM, ksl.com, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, Dish and DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143), the Tabernacle Choir’s website and YouTube channel and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org/schedules.