How You Can Make The Most With The Rest Of Your Life
Your Job Description
Before fully addressing this question let's look at some foundational concepts. Many people responding to this question would do so in terms of a job. They think, "I would be most happy if I were a doctor, or architect, or teacher, or whatever." The real answer is a bit more complex.
One place to start is by looking at what I call 'your job description' Did you know that all people have one? Here it is: When you join a company you are typically given a job description that outlines the objectives of the position and the tasks and skills required. All people have a God given job description and it consists of two parts.
First is a general job description that is relevant for all people. All people are called to accept Jesus Christ as savior, to live lives in relationship with God, to be active members of God's family, and to be responsible members in the world. We are to tend the world around us (The original job description given to Adam), to redeem it and transform it, to make it a better place. We are to live under God's lordship and to inaugurate his coming kingdom. The Bible forms the basis of how we should live. Unfortunately many people have not heard or responded to God's good news, yet that doesn't mean that they are exempt from their general job description.
Second, there is a distinctive part to the job description. It is one of a kind for each person. Part of your distinctive job description is made up of the unique capabilities and interests that God has given you, and another part consists of the tasks you take on in life. That first part has to do with your unique gifting and experience. For instance, some people have inquisitive scientific minds, some are creative, some are extroverts, and others are introverts. Some are excellent with words. Others are reflective. Some are good with their hands. This list of personal qualities goes on and on, and the combinations are infinite. The fact is, you have been given uniqueness and this becomes one part of your distinctive job description. The second part is made up of the work you do in life including paid work and all the other responsibilities you take on.
As an aside here, it is important to understand that no job (paid or unpaid) should be seen as better than another, as long as the job is of service. In other words, does the job redeem, transform and add something positive to the world, or does it degrade. The Reformers like John Calvin and Martin Luther made this clear. Luther said that the job of the cleaning lady is just as noble in God's eyes as that of the judge or the priest. Calvin reflected the same ideas. Ulrich Zwingli, a Christian Reformer from Switzerland said, "The worker is most like God." There is no hierarchy with God. Always keep this in mind knowing that your special life calling is important to God and he wants you to stand firm in this. In today's world of almost unlimited choice you have the possibility to engage in many different kinds of activities, but it is best to choose those that best fit your unique temperament and capabilities.
This means that it helps to determine what you are good at, what you enjoy doing, and who you are as a person. If you need some clarity in understanding yourself, why not take a personality test like the Myers-Briggs or something similar. Then understand and accept that you are unique, that God has formed you with special qualities and capabilities that can specifically apply to the tasks you chose.
So, to deal with the question of how to make the most from the rest of your life, a starting point would be to find life activities where your full job description can be expressed. When your general calling as a Christian, your unique gifting, and your life activities integrate, it can be a place of great fulfillment. But, there is more to it.
Search For Your Deepest Longings and Find Your Vision
Getting the most from the rest of your life involves doing what you were created to do, so that your deepest vocational longings are being met. This then leads to the question, "What are your deepest vocational longings?" In other words, what are those God given heart's desires that if fulfilled would make a big difference in your life and in the world around you?
Your deepest vocational longing (or calling) is something you probably haven't thought about very much, at least in a way that provides a satisfactory answer. Here are some reasons why. First, is the busyness of life. Most of the time we are consumed with the immediate concerns of life: making money to pay the bills, running children from place to place, meeting the incessant demands of bosses and professors, etc. We spend our time going from event to event and those events are the things that are filling our minds. With all this busyness it's challenging to find a few spare moments to just stop and think about the simple question, "What is it that I really want to do?"
When is the last time you looked deep into your soul and asked yourself, "What is it that I really want to do with the rest of my life?" If "the rest of your life," sounds a bit too futuristic then what about the next phase of your life?
Often when people think about what they want to do with the rest of their life they will come up with several possible answers. Your list might look like, a) I want to spend the rest of my life lying on a beach on a Caribbean island, b) I want to leave my job and start a new company, c) I want to finish my university degree, and d) I want to help some needy people down the street. As you go through the list you suddenly realize that many of the items are divergent from each other, or they can't all be accomplished at the same time. And most likely as you begin to look at them you will find that there is one that has been sitting there for a long time. As new ideas come in and out of your head, there is usually one you keep coming back to. When you really think about it it's the one you are passionate about, the one that raises your excitement level.
When you identify that most important thing you would like to do for the rest of your life, or for the next phase of your life, it carries with it a strong mental image of the future. A picture is formed in the mind and this makes you excited so see it happen. Let's call this picture your vision. One of the main Hebrew words in the Old Testament used for vision is 'Hazon'. It means, "An ecstatic beholding by the seer." This represents more than just an idea. It is euphoric, something that pulls you forward. It is a vivid image of how the world could be.
One woman had a desire to be an artist since she was young. But her family told her she could not make a living with her paintbrush and that she should teach instead. She suppressed her dream and did as they suggested. She taught grade school for years without passion, except for the times she was able teach her students art. Finally, she acknowledged that she had been deceiving her heart. This awareness helped her reaffirm her original desire, and it set her on a new path that led to the fulfillment of that initial, internal call.
To get the most out of the rest of your life yoou need to understand what you are called to do. One of the greatest life experiences is to know this and then to engage with God in pursuing it. That journey is where you will gain the most from life.
Bring It Before The Lord
As you go through the process of identifying this deepest calling (your vision), it is important to remember that you are not doing this on your own. It is God who enables visions to be formed in our minds, he brings clarity to our thoughts, and he is with us throughout our journey. Ultimately he is Lord and we are not.
In bringing your vision before the Lord you will want to reference it to the scriptures, to gain insights and as a way of testing your idea. I suggest that you also test your idea through the following filter, bringing each of these before God as you seek clarity.
First, reflect on how your vision provides a service or adds something to the world. Does it strengthen God's church or add something positive to the world? This is a question the Puritans asked when considering the topic of work. All vocations were seen as noble if they provided a service. Fundamentally, how does your vision redeem or transform the world?
If your passion is to start a new company it is easy to see how people would benefit from the product or service made by the company. And the employees of the company would have a place to use their capabilities and gain a living to support their families. And the culture of the company would provide a positive influence in dealing with suppliers and customers. If your vision is to do basic research on molecular particles it makes a positive contribution to the knowledge of the world. But, if one's vision is purely to gain riches or power that are only self-serving and at the expense of others, then the vision is lacking.
Second, ask whether it is really worth doing? Pursuing your desire will be time consuming and is likely to involve some costs. Will the effort and outcome be worth it?
Third, think about your unique gifting. If your vision is to fight an injustice in the world and it means rallying and leading thousands of people, and if you are naturally an introvert and uneasy with people, then you might question if your vision is something you truly want to start. At least you might consider if you will need people to complete the skills that you don't have, or how you will learn the needed skills. This is not to say that God can't use the introvert to lead people, but you need to think about the demands of your vision and what they mean.
Fourth, there are the economic implications. Most visions have an economic component. If your deepest desire is to go back to college, there is a cost. If you have a heart to help the poor in my community, there will be financial considerations. Some thought needs to be given to what funds are needed and where they will come from.
Write It Out
To pursue your vision, write it out. This might be a one sentence 'vision statement', a few descriptive paragraphs, or a complete plan. By getting it on paper it helps fix your mind on what's important and what needs to be accomplished. Whatever you do, do it in a way that captures the passion of what you feel for your vision remembering that this is something important. It is something that will direct your life, something that if accomplished will make a significant difference in your life and in the world around you. In the book Bring Your Vision to Life there is a chapter on the components of how to write this statement, but the essence is to write it in a way that motivates you, and then put it in a place where you see it often. The book also goes step by step through the key items you should consider in pursuing your vision.
Act Upon It
Ideas in your head or a plan written on paper will not enable you to get the most out of the rest of your life. It is when you take action that the fulfillment will occur. In fact, the fulfillment will come when you are in the process of achieving your goal. Just ask any entrepreneur. The fun is doing the project and there is additional fun when you see it achieved.
People who are getting the most out of their lives are typically those who know what they are about and are enjoying their efforts. In fact, the energy they expend to tasks doesn't even seem like work. They tend to be extremely focused, almost obsessed in achieving their goal. They don't get sidetracked into other things. They would not take on a bunch of superfluous tasks that will lead them away from their goal, like trying out a hundred and one interesting things to do before going to heaven. They know the goal they want to achieve in this lifetime, to get the most out of this lifetime.
The key questions are, a) what is your vision? And b) what is stopping you from achieving it? Whatever you do, don't go back to business as usual. Find out what life routines need to be changed and eliminate the ones that are keeping you from your vision-journey. It is walking by with God on that journey that you will make the most of the rest of your life.
Concepts from the book, 'Bring Your Vision to Life: The Guide to Turning "Whatif?" into Reality'. Destinee S.A. For more information go to Vision To Life.
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