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Highest and Best Use

As a realtor, sometimes the question of "highest and best use" becomes relevant. Most properties are pretty straightforward, like in the case of a tract home in a planned unit development. This will almost always be slated for residential living. But sometimes it can get sticky when the most valuable usage of the property is not as easy to determine. For example, I once had a home I was listing in a historic district that had originally been built as single family homes, back in the 1930's. Over the years, however, many had been converted into businesses and the area was quickly becoming a charming mix of cute boutiques and residences, so the street had been rezoned to accommodate both. The sellers were a sweet elderly couple who had lived there for around 40 years. The buyers were planning to renovate and run a painting studio and antique shop in the main house, with a small bakery in the back building on the lot. The lender was not going to permit it, though, unless the appraisal came back showing that commercial space was the "highest and best" (re:most valuable) way to use the property. They did not want to lend to someone who might potentially decrease the value of the investment over time. Thankfully in this case the appraisal came back in our favor, and the sale went through as planned.

I've been thinking about this principle in my life recently also. Just like there are many ways a building can possibly be used, there are many ways we can spend our time, talents and resources too. But even if all are possibly valid, there will be some that are better than others. Some that hold more value, so to speak.

Sometimes the answers are obvious, but often it takes some effort to sort things out. Do we try to do everything ourselves, and get so busy that other more important things get pushed aside? Or get so caught up in tedium and details, that we can't even get out of the starting gate, much less reach the finish line of our big picture goals? Do we get so bogged down in "must do's" that we neglect the REAL musts, like taking care of our health and relationships? Are we carrying on the way we do things, simply because it is how we have always done things, without pausing to ask if there is a better way? Any of that sound familiar?

We understand this concept instinctively when it comes to money. If we have a thousand dollars to invest, we will search for the vehicle that will bring us the highest return on investment, and put our money there. This just makes sense right? But do we do this with our time? If an inventor uses her creativity to come up with a fabulous product, would it be reasonable for her to then jump in and do all of the manufacturing, marketing, inventory and shipping of the product too? Or might it be best to turn that part over to others, so she is able to go on to dream up her next big idea? I suppose the answer to that is debatable, depending on circumstances, but it's something to think about isn't it? Are there areas of our lives where we are attempting to be a one stop shop, working harder than ever when the actual result is holding us back from greater potential? I have been running several businesses for quite some time, but recently it has been becoming clear that I need to phase one of them out soon, to allow myself to focus more on the others. Letting go is hard, but can sometimes be the most productive choice we can make.

And what about the parts of living that have nothing to do with money? Are we scrolling endlessly on our phones, while the people we love are essentially being ignored in the same room? Do we not "have time" to exercise, but make time to watch hours and hours of TV every day? Your answers and my answers may differ, since our situations are unique, but the question is the same. Are we soaring up to reach our highest potential? Or are we like an eagle with a broken wing?

Don't misunderstand me. This post is not meant to pressure you into speeding up, working harder and adding even more to your already busy schedule, to become better than you are. Not at all!! It is meant to encourage you to take stock of your personal gifts, and let go of things that don't serve them well. So you are then free to fly higher in the areas that you already excel at. So your God given talents and beautiful strengths can bless others more, and so you, yourself, can realize more joy in daily living. Your personal "highest and best use" is calling. Will you answer?

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