It is that time of year! It is the time that, statistically, most Americans give up on their New Year’s Resolutions. If the studies I have read are accurate, then 80 percent of those who made resolutions or set goals at the beginning of the year have given up on them by now. Can you believe that? 80 percent! If that is true of you, then I have a solution for you.
In my last post, I talked about how God wants all of us on a great adventure with Him. He is not looking for us to play it safe (2 Chronicles 16:9). I made the case that He wants us fully committed to Him, willing to risk it all for whatever unknown adventure He has in store for us. If that is the case, why would anyone NOT experience this great adventure?
As I have planned for this year and completed my goal-setting process, I have determined that I am going to build on some of my successes from last year. In doing this, I am going to take some bigger risks and go after bigger experiences and results. In a word, I want this year to be an adventure!
What about you? Are you living a great adventure? Or are you just watching (and envying) those who are?
I am not sure about you, but this past year has flown by for me. Not only has this year flown by, but I will say with confidence that it has been my best year ever, in many respects! As I look back over what all has been accomplished this year, I am amazed. I am also excited because I know why and I believe I can build on it this new year.
Best Year Ever
If the idea of having your best year ever interests you, then I have good news for you.
Maybe it is the material I am choosing to read. It could be the kind of people I am around these days. Whatever the case, I am hearing more and more about life plans and finding a “calling” from God. I wonder if there might be a serious problem in these discussions that too many people are missing?
Life Plans Are Good
First of all, I do not want anyone to think I believe life plans are bad! I have one myself that I tweak and clarify every year. I have written a great deal about being intentional in living out or lives for eternal impact. A solid life plan can be a great tool in this process.
Every year in December, our C12 material includes a Yearly Audit. It is a great opportunity to look back over the past year and assess what it might look like from God’s eyes. Rather than auditing our financials or other measurable metrics, this exercise is more about determining our growth in various areas of our walk with Christ.
This year, I have included the actual audit from C12. Take a look at the following 10 dimensions and give yourself a rating from 1-10 (1 is Low, 5 is Average, and 10 is High) as measured against your potential or opportunity. Total your scores for each at the end of the post. Keep track of your score from year to year to see your improvement as you go!
1. You spent more time with The Lord.
- This is an easy one. Everything we are or do comes out of our relationship with God in Christ Jesus. We can never be more than our relationship with Him enables us to be. Obedience to God is the FINAL definition of success in our lives and our obedience comes out of our relationship with Him. As we grow to know Him better we are more able to hear His voice. The more clearly we hear Him, the easier it is to obey Him.
Don’t be deceived. Our ministry in business or anywhere else will never grow if our relationship with God doesn’t. Of course our relationship with God is not totally defined by the amount of time that we spend with Him. The quality of the time and the result of the time are just as important. It’s possible that you may not have to spend more time with God to build your relationship with Him… but not likely!
Unless you’re “one-in-a-million,” your love for God and your devotion to Him are mirrored in the prioritized time you spend with Him. We’re talking about all kinds of time here: daily quiet time, prayer during the day, evening meditations, and the sense that He is in you and with you in the everyday decisions you make to run the business.
Wherever each of us may be in this equation, there’s plenty of room to grow. How was your year?
2. Your family relationships strengthened.
- Were you able to spend more time — and more quality time — with your spouse and children? We need to look at these relationships right after our relationship with God. It isn’t very likely that we had an improving relationship with God and a deteriorating relationship with our family.
We can’t really get closer to God and not be convicted to love and serve our mates and children. Did you make more time available to your spouse, as your top ministry priority, and less to your hobbies or business? Is your sacrificial love for (and service to) your family growing? If so, you’ve had a good year.
[Why do we start a year-end audit of our business by talking about God and family? Because we can only bring to work what we already have in Christ in our lives and homes. We are not two people. We are one person, living an integrated life before the Lord. Our ministry in business is simply an extension of our lives in Christ, not separate from it!]
3. You spent more time listening and relating to your key team members on a one–to–one basis.
- Increasingly, you did this with an ear tuned to God and His purposes and eyes searching for ways to minister to stakeholder needs. You had a good year if you care more for your lost employees, seeing the horrible prospect of their eternity in hell more painfully. You had a good year if you frequently prayed for their salvation, and an even better year if you actually did something more to impact them for eternity.
4. You saw the people that you deal with – suppliers, customers, employees, and others – more as objects of your personal ministry than as objects to be exploited for your personal gain.
- If you increasingly see yourself as an entrusted servant to them, rather than master over them — even a little bit more — you had a good year.
5. You are even slightly less acquisitive than you were a year ago.
- The urge to acquire things is of the flesh, not the Spirit. The vain thought that simply possessing more stuff will bring any real benefit to our lives is immature and foolish. Any honest Christian knows that there’s no joy or peace in things.
The more stuff we have, the more we must tend to and use. Materialism is a curse; a cancer of the spirit. If you’ve extricated yourself, even a little, from its grasp, and are more able to steward your gifts with an open hand before the Lord, you’ve had a good year. You might measure this as a percentage of what you gave from what you were given. Were you more of a “cheerful giver” of your “first fruits” this year?
6. You are measurably more thankful for what you have and content with your present lot in life.
- Spiritual maturity brings with it a contentment that comes from the awareness of what God has done for us by grace. What do we have that we deserve? And, given that we have as much as we all do, being among the most materially wealthy people in the history of the world, how can we not be thankful? Why do we need more?
If God were to say to you, “What you have is the best it will ever be,” what would you say to Him? Could you say, “Thank You, Father…I already have more than I deserve or need,” and really mean it? If you can, with a truly grateful heart, you’ve had a good year.
7. You have more peace in your heart.
- This is especially true if the peace is not related to circumstances, since circumstances always change. If our peace is dependent on them, it comes and goes with the changes. Spiritual maturity, and the peace that comes with it, is dependent on abiding in our God who never changes. Do you more clearly see God’s hand in your circumstances (i.e., “…give thanks in all circumstances” [1 Thessalonians 5:18], “Consider it pure joy…” [James 1:2], “…in all things God works…” [Romans 8:28]). If so, you’ve had a good year.
8. You learned more about your profession and are able to apply greater technical expertise in your field.
- If you believe that (a) your business is a gift from God, (b) as steward you’re to run it for Him with excellence, and (c) you’ve mustered the time and will to learn and apply better ways to do so, you had a good year.
9. You took better care of your body.
- Did you get the exercise you need? Was your diet better than last year? Are you giving the time to the maintenance of your body that you know you should? The way we care for our body is one measure of our self–control and a visible part of our witness. Mastery of self is a key to spiritual growth. If your temple is in better shape than it was a year ago, allowing for the wear and tear of time, you had a good year.
10. More eternal fruit has been produced through and around you, due to your effort and influence while abiding in Christ.
- Eternal fruit is defined as “lives turned toward God.” It means simply this: your obedience to God in what you say, do, and are, influences others to move towards God in their thoughts and actions, yielding eternal fruit.
This doesn’t only involve conversions and discipleship. It includes anything that brings a heightened and more favorable awareness of God and His ways to others. A Godly life lived in a Godly way produces eternal fruit. Everywhere Jesus went eternal fruit was produced. This is true in all areas of our lives, not just in business, but we’re talking primarily about the workplace here.
Are more people more favorably aware that you are an Ambassador for Christ in and around your business? Have more needy people been helped because God has entrusted the business to your care? Do they know that they’ve been helped because you love God and are doing so in His name? Are more Christians being influenced to grow in their faith because your business has brought you, reflecting Christ, into their lives? Have you grown as a humble, but firm servant leader and found ways to lead effectively according to timeless Scriptural core principles?
If you can see that more eternal fruit has been produced in, around, and through your business, you’ve had a GREAT year.
_____ Total for the Year (Total your ratings for all 10 dimensions)
What were your strongest areas in the audit? Did you work on them?
Where do you need the most improvement?
Do you see value in this annual audit exercise?
What is your life purpose? What actually motivates you to fulfill that life purpose? When the going gets really tough and you are tempted to give in, what thought do you cling to for the strength to keep pressing forward? While you think about the answers to those questions, I am going to share my answers to those same questions. Maybe my answers will help you think through yours!
Life Purpose Image
At a recent speaking opportunity, I shared a specific image with the group to illustrate how I view living out my life purpose. This is a picture I believe God put on my heart ten years ago and it has motivated me since then. As I reflected on my presentation, I realized I had never fully described this image on the blog. I want to share it with you today, but before I get to the image, I want to set the stage.
If you have been reading my blog for long, you have likely read a post that contained the Greatest Commandment(s) and the Great Commission. These passages are found throughout my blog. It is in these two passages that I believe we are most clearly given our life purpose – not just for me, but for all disciples of Jesus.
What Does The Bible Say?
In the Greatest Commandment(s), we are told by Jesus that all of the law and prophets boil down to two commandments: love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. If Jesus says these are the two greatest commandments, then I believe that is what my life is supposed to be about.
In the Great Commission, I believe Jesus tells us how we are to carry that purpose out in our daily lives. When you look at the original language, the “Go” actually would be better translated into “As you go…” or “As you are going…” and includes all that we do as we move through this life on earth.
“As we go,” through life – at home, work, school, etc. – we are to make disciples of all nations. This is not a suggestion from Jesus. This does not only apply to those we think have the “gift” of evangelism. No, it is for anyone that calls themselves a disciple of Jesus and it applies to any and every vocation.
My Life Purpose
Having said all of that, I believe it is my purpose in life to love God, love others, and make disciples of Jesus. I think it is really that simple. I also think that is your life purpose. I believe these passages apply to all of us – the differences between you and me is how we carry out this purpose.
For me, I believe I am to carry out my life purpose (at least for this season) by operating a business as ministry in order to impact people for eternity. I believe that it is my job in the marketplace to run this business in a way that maximizes the eternal return for its Owner rather than the temporary return for my family, the temporary stewards of the business. If I do this, I believe I will hear the words that drive me…”Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Work Tested By Fire
The last piece of setting the stage comes from Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. In this passage, Paul describes the foundation of Jesus in our lives. On top of that foundation, Paul says we will build our lives. He talks about how everything we build will be tested by fire on the day of judgment.
If what we have built survives the fire, then we will be rewarded. If what we have built with our lives is burned up in the fire, then we will still escape, but just barely. As you think about this passage, also think about what you are building with your life. Will it burn in God’s fire or will it survive?
So, in light of that passage, I want try to describe the picture God has given me and what it means to me today. It is this picture that drives me and keeps me going when everything around me makes me want to quit.
In our business, we have four buildings in a row on 15 or so acres and they are all adjacent to each other. Normally, this property is busy and lively with cars and people everywhere. But that is not the way it looks in the picture I want you to imagine.
Instead, the property – all 15+ acres – is completely scorched. There is nothing left from the buildings. There are no cars or trucks remaining, not even those steel racks we use on the front line to display cars. I will say it again, there is nothing but black earth. It has ALL burned in the fire.
Intuitively, I know that this also means that any and all bank accounts are gone. They have burned up as well. Nothing remains from the 3+ generations of our family business…except one thing.
As I scan the property, I see silhouettes…hundreds of them, maybe more. I realize that these are silhouettes representing those souls that we have impacted for eternity because of the way we have decided to run our business.
As I first considered this picture in my mind, it all clicked. In turning our business over to God, I realized that He was going to use it to draw people toward Him. It was these people that made up the silhouettes and they were the only part of our work that would last into eternity. All of our bank accounts, all of our buildings, and all of our cars would burn up in the fire, but those souls (silhouettes) would be all that remained.
My Daily Goal
I then realized that my goal every day was to wake up and go to work for the purpose of adding to those silhouettes. That is what drives me. That is how I believe I am to live out my life purpose. It is this picture that keeps me going when everything else tells me to quit.
Can you get a clear view of this picture in your life?
What would be different about your picture?
What do you need to do to better live out your life purpose?
In her second guest post in this two-part series, Kari Scare digs into the details about the daily plan that is part of her overall life plan. Her method is simple and straight forward, making it very useable for anyone! It brings some structure, but retains flexibility for those days we all need it! I highly recommend you take a look at her overall “Big Picture” in her last post as well as consider the details of her daily plan as she describes it today. You will probably want to read more from Kari at her blog – Struggle to Victory.
My Daily Plan
As detailed in The Big Picture, my husband and I created a life plan together many years ago. We do our best to teach our boys the elements of that life plan in the way we operate as a family and as individuals.
Each member of my family lives out the life plan in very different ways, that is to say we have unique daily game plans. Though how we each live in the details is unique to the individual, we still work as a unit to make sure our family stays on track with its priorities.
Today’s post details the carrying out of the Big Picture “daily plan” from my perspective.
Creating a Daily Plan
Each morning, I make time to allow the following process to happen. During the week, this process can last an hour or two. When the family is home, the process sometimes need shortened or at least metered out differently.
- 1. Hear the timeline the Holy Spirit has for my day. Because I tend to over-control, I must give my day over right away to the Spirit’s control. I do this through time in prayer and God’s Word.
- 2. Make a list of the day’s goals. Sometimes this involves repurposing part of my last “to do” list, and sometimes a new one gets created. This list comes into existence during step 1, usually one piece at a time.
- 3. Seek confirmation of the game plan. Did I mention that I tend to over control? Because this truly is a chronic struggle for me, I spend time reading Christian blog posts and short devotions after my list is created. No set number, just enough until I feel a peace in my spirit about the day’s plan.
This approach attempts to pre-empt my tendency to over-control and script my day too much. In my head, I call it forcing things. I used to live a life where I forced every aspect, partly because I lacked patience and partly because I thrived on control. This scripting or forcing always led to immense frustration.
The above process works well for creating my daily plan. But alone, it’s not quite enough structure. I like flexibility, but I also realize that my moods and feelings can easily distract me. For this reason, I use the following tools to help keep me focused and structured enough to stay productive.
- · Lists
Some are paper & some electronic. My weekly project list and daily “to do” list (sometimes these are one and sometimes separate), are written out on paper. Then, I use Evernote and Alarm Stiky Note on my tablet for other lists such as books to read and shopping lists.
- · Calendars
I have an electronic calendar for appointments and a paper calendar for my writing. The electronic calendar goes with me pretty much everywhere, but the blog calendar stays with my writing material. I check my electronic calendar daily and the writing calendar when necessary to direct my writing priorities.
- · Journal
This is where I keep prayer requests, where I express my emotion, where I address problems and struggles, and where I consider goals and focus areas.
Devotions allow God to direct my thoughts, feelings, goals, etc. Sometimes I use a book of devotions, and sometimes I use devotions from other blogs. Sometimes I read just one, sometimes several. God uses devotions written by godly people to confirm His Spirit’s direction.
- · Bible study
The Holy Spirit always has a specific focus for me to study that goes deeper than daily devotions.
· Scripture memorization
This is the area with which I struggle the most. I continually have scripture I want to memorize and am working on a solid system that I can stick with.
· Idea book
While I am very picky about the book I use for this, I am not so picky about what I write inside. Sometimes I write brief thoughts, quotes and notes. Sometimes, I write outlines for posts or studies. And often, I write an entire post out before typing it. This is the book I take with me when writing at the coffee shop or sitting outside on the deck. When I want to decide blog post topics, I go through this book.
Each of these items is an essential tool in my daily plan. They are adaptable to my needs and moods, yet they also provide a structure that helps me stay focused. This system helps me release control and rely more on the Spirit’s leading as I live out the details of The Big Picture.
Do you see how you could manage a similar daily plan?
Which of these tools should you immediately add to your daily plan?
Do you see enough flexibility in this daily plan process?
Have you read about the life plan and goal setting methods others use? Do they frustrate you because you think differently or cannot seem to keep up with some of the details they build into their process? If so, you may just love this (and the next) guest post from my friend in the blogging world, Kari Scare. If you like this one, check out more of her work at Struggle To Victory!
The Best Goal-Setting & Time Management Method in Existence!
Guilt. Frustration. Embarrassment. Inadequacy.
This is how I used to feel when I failed to set goals the “right” way. When I heard about a person’s completed life plan or even a personal mission statement, I felt defeated because I just couldn’t manage to create my own.
Unconventional Life Plan
I have felt like a failure over and over again because I didn’t set SMART goals and because I didn’t do a SWAT analysis or put a daily game plan together in just the right way. I have felt ineffective because I don’t use an app to do just about everything for me, including helping me break negative habits and establish new ones.
Then this thought struck me. If I struggle so much with feeling this way, why am I still so productive? Why do I have so many solid habits that keep me healthy physically, spiritually and mentally? I then finally realized that while my methods might not fit into the mainstream mold of goal setting and habit management, what I do still works very well. This led me to my next question.
Best Life Plan Method?
So, what really is the best goal-setting method? What really works for creating new and breaking old habits? The answer to these questions transformed my life. Ready? Here it is: Whatever works for you!
No two people will use exactly the same life plan method, nor should they. We may take bits and pieces from other methods, but what works best for a person will be unique to that person. We all have different blends of personality style, temperament and learning style, so why wouldn’t our styles for managing time, goals and habits be different too?
As a result of these realizations, I now value my personal life plan method for setting and reaching goals and for making new and breaking old habits. My method revolves around the creation of a Big Picture, a life focus if you will, that sets priorities. It also includes two other essential elements, accountability and regular touch points.
The Big Picture
Each of the elements in creating my life plan holds a lot of details within themselves. The priorities and basic philosophy don’t change, but how accountability plays out and touch points are maintained do change as one season of life fades into another.
1. Set priorities.
My life plan involves three focus areas, God first, family second and work third. My husband and I decided these priorities years ago, and both of our lives are organized around them. The choices we make, such as how to fill our calendars, our financial planning, etc., revolve around these focus areas.
2. Establish accountability.
The primary reason my husband and I combined our life plan into one is to live as fully as possible in the truth that two become one at marriage (Mark 10:8).
Another very important reason we did this was for accountability. While we must make decisions separately at times, we know they must fit within our priorities. We constantly check with each other to make sure we stay within our priorities as well as avoid over-commitment. The idea being that we want excellence in fewer things rather than mediocrity in many.
3. Create touch points.
Touching base on our priorities, which basically means keeping each other accountable, is part of our life’s routine. We coordinate our calendars regularly and discuss commitments prior to making them whenever possible. We have daily downloads every day when possible, even if they need to happen electronically.
We also make a point to talk in more depth on our priorities at least quarterly. We try to do this away from home, say at a coffee shop or on a dinner date. We also go away as a family twice a year for connection that includes delving into goals and priorities.
Solid Guide, Different Parts
The process for creating and maintaining The Big Picture has been solid guide for career and parenting choices as well as served to strengthen our marriage too.
This Big Picture provides the framework for our lives, but we each carry out the unique parts we play in very different ways. In other words, we live in the details in different ways.
In the next post, Living In the Details, I will detail my personal approach to carrying out a daily plan, and approach that fits my personality and temperament. While no two people live life exactly the same way, we certainly can gain insight, inspiration and ideas from one another. That is my prayer in sharing my personal plan with you.
What do you think about this approach to a life plan?
Which part can you take and apply immediately?
What benefits do you see in using this plan?