As a new year begins, what are you hoping for, resolving to accomplish?
Losing weight? Eating better? Living simply or saving money or finding a new job or a new relationship? Spending more time with your family? A happier year? A healthier one?
Whatever it is, I’m guessing you’ve tried for it before. And I challenge you to try for something bigger–something that might really stick. Something that might change your life in bigger ways than you’re hoping for.
Consider making 2015 a year of purpose. A year in which you live intentionally and true.
So many of us go through life mostly reacting to what comes our way. We find ourselves thrown around by life’s circumstances and eventually forget the power of our own intention. We forget that while we can’t control all of our circumstances, we do get to decide how we will respond. While we don’t get to make all of our dreams come true, we do get to choose what to strive for. We do get to design our lives around the things that matter most to us.
Doing so is a countercultural choice. We are trained and expected to respond constantly–respond to advertisements, respond to the whims of fashion, respond to the voices of popular culture that grow increasingly loud in their attempts to get our attention. We are expected to respond to the priorities set for us by other people, people who know clearly what they want from us and how it benefits them.
Here’s the deal: We can’t really live without purpose. If we don’t own our purpose, others will choose their own self-serving purposes for us. If we fail to choose our own orientation toward the world, we subjugate our purpose to others who will be happy to define us and profit from our aimlessness. We unintentionally abdicate our responsibility to live the lives we were put here to live.
Which way do you want to live?
If you want to be purpose-filled and intentional this year, consider asking yourself these three questions:
1. What do you want?
You’re probably not in the habit of asking yourself what you want. Especially for Christians and other people of faith, it seems more admirable to deny our desires in favor of putting others first. But our own desires are not at odds with caring about and for others. And for people who carry God’s presence with them in the form of the Holy Spirit, our desires are shaped by God himself (for an in-depth and brilliant discussion of the role our desires play in our own spiritual formation, see last week’s conversation with Jen Pollock Michel and her outstanding book Teach Us to Want). Positive change in our lives always begins with desire–we have to want to change. We know this from the power of Twelve Step programs, from all our redemption stories, and even from Jesus himself, who asked a surprising and insightful question of a man who had been an invalid for 35 years: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6).
What do you want? Dare to ask yourself and see where it might lead you and the people you care about.
2. What matters most to you?
Many of us are in the habit of making choices based on what seems most important in the moment. And often that sense of importance is defined by what seems most urgent, which wheel is squeaking most loudly, what feels easiest or most soothing, or what someone else thinks is most critical. Sometimes we have to make choices based on factors like these, but if we never stop to think about what really matters most to us, we will unintentionally go through life making decisions according to these reactionary criteria, and the opportunity to make the most of the lives we’re given will pass us by.
So take time to ask yourself what matters most to you. Then ask yourself how you can honor those values in your everyday life. Create a few statements that express your intention to live according to these values, and use them to set your own priorities and make decisions. You might be surprised at how empowering this is–and how it might begin to change your life and the lives of people you influence.
3. What will close the gap?
If you’re like most people, you’re the main obstacle standing in your way. But you may be facing other obstacles as well. Be honest with yourself about those challenges, but instead of merely looking at what’s in your way, consider what you can do to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Be honest and courageous about what is required for you to move forward–there may be hard work here! Remember what you’re shooting for: life according to your own God-guided sense of purpose, not someone else’s purpose for you.
Once you’ve identified what needs to be done, break it down into bite-size goals. And consider hiring a coach (like me!) who can walk with you through this process and hold onto your vision for you when you falter.
May this year be a year of powerful intention, the kind of life we are all called to live. May you find the courage to say no and yes in all the right places. May you shape your life around what matters most, and may you see your own life inspire others to do the same.
© 2015 Amy Simpson.