"How would you live differently if you knew you only had six months left to live?"
That was one of the questions in a "getting to know you" game during a retreat I attended.
I don't know about you, but somehow that question always re-focuses my attention onto relationships. It doesn't matter how many places I want to visit and how many things I want to do before I die, somehow I just wish to spend more time with the people I love.
Many years ago, I set out to find the meaning in life and define what I really want. When I started feeling and thinking and being honest with my needs and wishes, my life turned around.
Earlier this month, I took some time off from work to attend an annual retreat with 36 sisters in ministries near Yosemite. I am so grateful for my time of reflection, sharing, and learning among old and new friends. Here I am by the lake with Ann and PF. Do you see those beautiful swans swimming behind us?
We all wish to live the life we really want. If that's the case, why does it seem that so few of us actually do?
Creating the life we want should be easy, but for many reasons it isn't. Sometimes we're too busy working, paying bills or picking up kids to give it much thought. Sometimes we don't know how to get clarity so we put it off until "later." Or, perhaps, we have ignored what we really wanted and, instead, created a life that others wanted for us (or themselves)—ouch.
Some people may ask, "How can we create our own life?" and added, "God is the Creator and He is in control of everything!" Interestingly, such a glimpse of truth can be a source of frustration or comfort, depending on our point of view.
Growing up, I wanted to take control of my life, so I worked very hard toward my goals. Amazingly, it is after realizing that I am not the creator of my life that I actually get to create it—but not alone. The best news in life is discovering that as a Christian, I have become a new creation in Christ. United with Christ, I started to create the life I and Christ both want for me. How about you?
How to Create the Life You Want
If you aren't living the life you want, how do you get back on track? How do you get clear on what you want? And how do you stay committed to it?
Here are some steps that can help you get started:
Before getting what we want we must first know what that is. This may seem obvious but it trips up even the most intelligent people right out of the gate. Take out a blank sheet of paper and write "My Dream Life" at the top. List everything you want to have, do, be and share. From this list generate goals to help set you back on course.
Avoid the "Shiny New Object Syndrome"
It's easy to lose momentum by getting distracted with new, exciting opportunities. Having clarity makes it easier to distinguish those opportunities that help move us forward from the ones that throw us off track.
The next time a new opportunity arises ask yourself, "How will this help me achieve my ultimate goal of "x"? If it doesn't, you probably want to dismiss the opportunity and move on.
People who focus on the destination as opposed to the journey also tend to be more critical of their failures. When you enjoy the process along the way, it's easier to appreciate the end result—whether you consider it a "success" or "failure."
The next time you do experience failure, however, reframe it. Consider that you have just learned how not to do something, and then acknowledge yourself for what you've learned. What a relief to know that there is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1).
Follow the Guidance of the Holy Spirit
Yes, craving new challenges is hard-wired into our DNA. If it weren't, we never would have left the cave, invented the wheel or flown to outer space. Ignoring this primal code over the long term can lead to disappointment. But as a new creation in Christ, we can follow the Holy Spirit, instead of our old thoughts and habits. We could plan and achieve, but we can discern God's will and be ready to change our plans (James 4:13-15). At the same time, we could be bold and confident as long as we are doing His will (Philippians 4:13). So how do you happily conform to God's will? With more clarity and structure.
Create a list of things you haven't done yet, but want to do. Be specific and remember the three, guaranteed "no fail" rules when it comes to goal setting:
1. Write it down. 2. Write it down. 3. Write it down.
Putting your list in writing transforms it from a desire into a personal contract with yourself and God. Along the path of grace, you will learn God's good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:2) in spite of obstacles and detours.
Taking time to care for ourselves, guilt-free, is difficult for many people. Sometimes it feels as though things will fall off the rails if we "let go." But when we do let go, something amazing happens: the earth still spins—people find a way to manage without us. Taking time off leaves us feeling refreshed and makes us better workers, parents, spouses and citizens knowing that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
Plus, going guilt-free can be contagious.
As with anything worthwhile, there is no quick fix when it comes to designing and building the life you want. Hopefully, these steps can help guide you along your path to living the life you and God want... and loving the life you live.
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications