YOU CAN DRIFT OR PLAN
Because of the constant demand on our time, it is easy to fall into the trap of drifting towards our future. The idea of planning ahead and being intentional about our future appeals to us but is often put aside because when we do have time we are too exhausted to take on another big project. I want to propose a short exercise that you could get initial results in around an hour’s time.
LIFE IS MORE THAN A CAREER
Too often when we do plan, it is focused on career changes, but while that is important, there are lots of other aspects to our life that could benefit from some intentional planning. The quality of our life is affected by our physical health, our relationships, our spiritual journey, and our career as well as other factors. What I will propose is a short but disciplined way of reflecting on your whole life. It is just a beginning, but it could energize a more complete process later on.
I’m going to specifically talk about religious leaders, but it can apply to any person who wants to take their life journey seriously.
THINKING BEGINS WITH WRITING
I want you to begin by thinking two years into the future. This will make it close enough that you can begin now to act on your thoughts but not so far into the future that you will be tempted to delay in getting started. I’m going to suggest five areas, but you can easily expand this into other areas as well. Writing your thoughts down, either on paper or with one of the various electronic devices, is important. Too often, when we try to just process our ideas in our mind, we keep spinning out of control. By writing it down, we can look at and reflect on what we are thinking. In each area, I will ask you to write three or four statements. Each statement will be different so you are probing a series of possibilities. By keeping it to three or four, you won’t get overwhelmed with the task.
BEGIN BY BEGINNING
Begin by writing out three or four statements on where you would like to be physically in two years. Be as specific as you can. Instead of saying I want to be healthier, think about what that would look like. For example, I want to discipline myself to eat healthier foods and lose twenty pounds. Or I want to train myself to get at least eight hours of sleep at least five times a week.
Now, make three statements about where you would like to be emotionally in two years. Don’t take a lot of time analyzing the previous area before you move on to each new area. Continue to be as specific as possible so that you will be able to measure your progress. Also, don’t be afraid to identify small goals. Big changes begin with small steps. In the area of emotions, you will probably have to name some emotional traits that you wish to change. I’d like to be able to complete at least three days a week feeling thankful for what has taken place. I’d like to catch myself when I’m being cynical and alter my thoughts to something more positive.
We continue but this time focus on your relationships. Here you can make a choice as to whether you focus on your intimate relationships with family or close friends, or whether you want to look at your business or social relationships. If this process works for you, you may want to choose one area of relationships now and then return to others at another time. Again, think about how you want those relationships to be two years from now. If you could alter your relationship with those who irritate you in the church, how would you like them to be in two years. What can you imagine changing in your relationship with your spouse or children.
Try to describe in specific ways how that relationship would look. Make three statements to describe three different ways that you would experience the relationship you have chosen. If you are a pastor, educator, you might want to focus on the larger relationship with the congregation, or groups within the church. Presbytery staff might want to imagine how they relate to the small congregations, the retired clergy, etc.