Why am I here? What is my purpose? What should I do with my life?
These questions are in our minds from early childhood. If you are over the age of five you’ve probably been asked what do you want to be when you grow up. The questions will swirl through your head for much of your life as you compare your real life to the life you dreamed of as a young child. The questions will guide your education and lead you on a path that is sometimes foggy and filled with many detours.
Few people are laser focused on what they want out of life yet it is important if you want to accomplish anything that is difficult. Knowing what you want to accomplish and not being willing to settle for less will help you overcome all the setbacks and obstacles that are coming your way. I’ll give my thoughts on what goals to pursue later on in this article.
So how do you find that kind of focus?
This Ancient Greek saying “know thyself” is as important today as it was four thousand years ago but probably harder to achieve. As little as one hundred years ago it was easier to know yourself because it was easier to find quiet time for study and reflection. Today, every moment of every day can be filled with noise and distractions ensuring that you never think about what you want to accomplish nor how to get there. You’re in a flurry of activity but missing time to think about what is really important.
Think about it, your life is filled with so many distractions: TV, radio, internet and smartphone, which sends a constant stream of text messages, email, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even phone calls providing a steady stream of distractions. If that was not enough your phone has instant access to the world: YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and the web are only seconds away, ready to distract you from your quiet time.
In order to know yourself the first thing you need to do is turn everything that off. Be still and take time to think. Even God says “be still and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10
So how do you be still and take the time to get to know you and your creator? Unplug. Turn off the TV and radio and put your phone on airplane mode. Get away from anything that might cause a distraction. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple liked to take walks. It gave him time to think through what was going on and helped him stay focused on his goals. There were many other “walkers” who made a significant contribution including John Quincy Adams and Stonewall Jackson.
Take time to read and think. Think about what is really going to make a difference in your life and spend time there. Books are an incredible way to clarify your goals in life. Pick books by people who lived a focused life and made a difference in the world. If you are not big on reading, audio books are available at places like Audible.com. Here are a few of my favorite books:
- Bible. Written by various authors over 2,000 years the Bible is the story of God working in people’s lives with an invitation to have him work in your life also. The book of Proverbs is filled with wisdom and advice for young and old. If you have a smartphone the Bible is available as a free download. Spend 30 minutes a day reading and praying with no distractions and you’ll find your life changed.
- Crazy Love by Francis Chan – This book challenges us to live a life totally committed to following Jesus.
- Keep Moving by Dick Van Dyke – The older I get the more I appreciate people who share what they’ve learned over the years. Dick Van Dyke’s book was written when he was 90 and is a reflection on living life.
- Smart Money, Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruz. – We do such a terrible job educating our children on financial matters that I think this book should be required reading in school.
- Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin – The story of Abraham Lincoln. Actually many books on history would be on my list. They help us understand what life was like just a couple hundred years ago and the courage and determination that our forefathers had to make life better for all of us.
How do you know what is really important?
My decisions are based on how long the decision will have an effect on me. Eating an ice cream sundae? Short term. If it tastes good and I’m in the mood, go for it. No long term benefit or consequences. Eating an ice cream sundae every day? You need to think about the calories and other potential consequences.
Decision: Whether to spend time with your kids or on with work, friends, at the bar or whatever else you might be interested in. The results with everything other than your kids is questionable. You could work 80 hours a week and still lose your job or business but the time with your kids can never be replaced. Those moments are gone forever. You can still have a strong relationship with your children at a later time but you’ll never have today with them again.
There are decisions that have eternal consequences. Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life. No man comes to the father (God) except through me and John 3:16 says for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes him shall never die but have eternal life.
Living a life following Jesus means we are no longer pursuing our own interests but our interests become the same as those of Jesus. Our goals of accumulating money and power fade away replaced by a desire to love God and love people.
Someone approached Jesus and asked him: Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets[a] are based on these two commandments. – Matthew 22:36-40
Jesus claimed that he was God which either makes him a liar, not to be listened to or he really was God and the most important figure every to live on earth. After spending much time reading the Bible, praying and checking out Jesus words and his life I concluded that he was who he said he was and that I need to follow him.
I’ll close with this video by Francis Chan. He gives an excellent example of spending our time on things that really matter.