Why? Why not? How important is this really?
These questions should be the most frequently asked questions of our day. In answering them, we have to consider our purpose and that consideration naturally pushes our actions and behaviors in the right direction.
Yet, unless we’re in the middle of a crisis or vacation it seems these questions rarely come up.
Crises and vacations have a lot in common with one very large distinction:
In crises and vacations, the mundane banalities of life disappear. All you’re left with is yourself, whoever you choose to invite along, and wherever you happen to be.
In both scenarios, with the dull monotonous haze that creeps into everyday life washed clean, life is suddenly clutter-free. Anything introduced to this clear, open space is immediately questioned, justification of its presence demanded.
In both scenarios, we become acutely aware of wasted time and energy, useless pursuits, fruitless thoughts and activities. In full control of everything we choose to engage, all we do becomes saturated with the brilliant hue of meaning and life.
In both scenarios, we become free and uninhibited, compelled to do, say and explore things we wouldn’t ordinarily consider. Unbound by planning and expectations, every moment is a new opportunity for a beautiful and unexpected experience. We dream fully, open to new thoughts and ideas.
Yet, how do we enter these scenarios, and how intentional are we about using them for optimal strategic benefit?
When we vacation, we carefully choose and plan timing, location, etc based on existing commitments, budget, availability, etc. Vacation should be a time to retreat and drink in life, to advance with refreshed perspective. Ideally we would realize a holiday is essential when a higher new perspective is needed, and would choose to retreat from the day-to-day. Instead, we allow the day-to-day to dictate when and how we ascend to higher perspective.
We don’t choose to enter crisis.
We find ourselves gulped down into the middle of it, propelled up and outward from it, free-falling in a whirlwind of change, newness, trust, prayer. Yet we invariably emerge with a higher, refreshed perspective.
Sometimes we aren’t allowed to wait until we decide to give the little every day things a rest, so we can finally focus on the overall purpose of it all. Sometimes those things are forced aside so we simply find ourselves asking.
Why? Why not? How important is this really?
We don’t need to be in China, Paris, Israel, Australia, or Jamaica to think carefully about what we choose to do with our time. Nor do we need to be promoted, bedridden, grieving, overjoyed, or in a hospital to choose what we’re doing, what’s really important in our lives, what isn’t, and why.
Start today. Grab a pen and paper and sit with your spouse, friend, or advisor.
A) Start by answering the question: How can I use my unique gifts to show how awesome God is? This might take a minute to uncover. Give it time. This is the beginning of defining your purpose.
B) Then, identify how you spend your time (whether you like the activity or not) by four categories:
- What is in line with my purpose?
- What is purpose-neutral?
- What do I really want to do and is it in line with my purpose?
- What is out of line with my purpose?
C) Set a waking time frame (for example 24 hours minus 8 for sleep/ eating). This is your daily purpose shift, or realistically, how long you spend moving toward or away from purpose. The things you do during your shift will vary widely because maintaining your spiritual, mental, physical and emotional health, your relationships, and identity are as critical to your purpose as each obvious step you take toward it.
D) Estimate the time spent on each activity listed in category 1. Add up the time and subtract it from your daily purpose shift.
E) Consider each activity in category 2: Is the activity tied to a unique gift of yours, and if so, how can it be tweaked so it becomes purpose-filled? If not, move it into category 4. If so, tweak it and estimate the time spent on it. Add the time and subtract it from the daily purpose shift.
F) Consider each activity in category 3: If it’s an activity that’s aligned with your purpose, estimate the amount of time you’d need to spend for the activity to be productive. Add this time up and subtract it from your daily purpose shift.
G) Consider each activity in category 4: Commit to either severely limit, or eliminate the time spent on everything in that category. Add this time up and subtract it from your daily purpose shift.
H) Consider how much time is left, pray for direction on readjustments, and make them.
I) Post this list somewhere visible, like the inside of a bathroom medicine cabinet, the fridge, as a screensaver, or at your desk.
J) Use the power of choice daily to fill your life with meaning.