Are You Living a Life Sentence?

By October 17, 2011Generations

Life SentenceWhat thought enters your mind when you read – are you living a life sentence? Most likely, an image of being imprisoned or incarcerated is envisioned.

In the United States, we have the highest incarceration rate with about 2.3 million people in prison. This has grown into such an industry that CNBC is running a special on this topic entitled Billions Behind Bars: Inside America’s Prison Industry.” Be shocked with this statistic:

“One out of 100 American adults is behind bars – while a stunning one out of 32 is on probation, parole or in prison.” CNBC, October 11, 2011

Even more shocking is that many more are living their life imprisoned by their inaction and inability to do something meaningful in their living existence. Even though we are not behind metal bars, we put ourselves behind mental and spiritual ones.

Too many drudge through life like it is a chore.

We get distracted by pretty objects. Then, the fascination passes, and there is an emptiness within.

We engage activities that deliver bursts of satisfaction. Then, the joy fades, and no meaning is left in our actions.

We grind on with hollow objects and unfulfilled actions.

Life is not a chore. Life is not in a box in what it delivers or in what we can think, feel, and do.

  • Think about what keeps us in a mindset of being imprisoned in our own lives:
  • Buying things, believing those things deliver happiness
  • Buying bigger things, believing big is always better
  • Digging a financial hole with the walls beginning to cave in all around
  • Thinking small or petty, reasoning that trivial thoughts keep us safe
  • Ignoring our inner calling, believing it is too risky or just an irrational voice
  • Adopting a limiting or negative attitude, thinking it is a protective shell against disappointment

Whatever it is, we forget that the gift to us is our life, and we need to unbox our gift without self-imposed bars or barriers. I realize we all have certain limits, whether it is time, money, or certain abilities. However, I do know we all have capabilities and talents that are underutilized and unengaged.

So, here is another way to think about the question – are you living a life sentence? Complete the following sentence.

I will live my life embracing and exhibiting a belief and attitude of _______________________________________________


Is your completed sentence boxing you in or bringing you out?

Go a step further. Complete each of the following sentences.

I will engage my soul by _______________________________.

I will engage my mind by ______________________________.

I will use my time and actions to _________________________


In my life, I will _____________________________________

in order to ________________________________________.

We need to live the right life sentence. We need to stop living an imprisoned life; too many are there already.

We need to live a sentence filled with active verbs, aligning our soul and mind to our actions.

Get rid of the boxes. Open up your spirit and mind, and do the work that produces real life meaning.

How do you open your life up to a complete, meaningful sentence? How does your life sentence read?

Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders.
Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz

Latest posts by Jon Mertz (see all)

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Steve says:

    This was a very thought provoking article for me. I, like so many people, am trying to restart my work life all over again for the third time in ten years. While trying to find suitable employment for the past year and coming up empty (except for some odd jobs) I really needed to be reminded that I shouldn’t be looking for a job, I should be relentlessly following some sort of passion and simply trust that the result will be success. Simple yes, but still scary.   

    I suppose you either create your own destiny or be prepared to suffer your own fate.

    • Jon M says:

      Steve, My thoughts and prayers are with you as you create the right opportunity for your work going forward. I know it is challenging, but I believe you are right – “you either create your own destiny or be prepared to suffer…” There is a community of support around you to help, too, so be sure to recognize it and embrace it. All the best to you, and thanks so much for your comments and feedback. Jon

  • cherylsmith says:

    I’ve done some work in prison ministry and know about the recidivism rate, but hadn’t heard the statistics you mention here. Staggering! But even more so? How many live in prison without even realizing it. Good questions for thought here. 

    And welcome to The High Calling!

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks, Cheryl, for your work, and the stats are staggering. Something needs to change. Maybe it does start with us by showing others to live our life more fully. Appreciate your comment and welcome! Jon

  • […] Are You Living a Life Sentence? | Thin Difference "Living a life sentence" takes on two different meanings. We need to embrace an active sentence. We need to remember that our life is a gift, and we need to unbox our gift without self-imposed bars or barriers. Source: […]

Leave a Reply