What Do You Want From Life?

Do you know exactly what you want from life, and what price you’d need to pay in order to achieve it?

That’s the question Matthew Kelly asks of the teens and adults he meets as he travels and speaks.  Sadly, very few people can answer the question with certitude.

Most people know exactly what they don’t want, but few have the same clarity about what they do want.  Kelly, author of The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose, laments:

It constantly amazes me that men and women wander the earth marveling at the highest mountains, deepest oceans, whitest sands, the most exotic islands, the most intriguing birds of the air and fish of the sea — and all the time never stop to marvel at themselves and realize their infinite potential as human beings.

More people have access to education today than ever before.  But I cannot help but feel the modern educational experience is not preparing us adequately to attend the rich banquet of life.  Certainly the young people of today have mastered the use of technology and are capable of solving complex scientific and mathematical problems, but who and what do these serve if they cannot think for themselves?  If they have no understanding of the meaning and purpose of their own lives?  If they do not know who they are as individuals?

What do you want from life?  I can’t recall the first time someone asked me that question.  But I do remember a time in 1999 when one of my mentors asked it.  He encouraged me to answer the question by creating a master dream list and writing down every single thing I wanted to be, do, have, and achieve in my life.

That was over ten years ago, and I’ve assembled quite a list since then.  Over time, I’ve added many new things to the list and have deleted things that I no longer deem important.

By keeping a master dream list and reviewing it now and then, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I value in my life.

My master dream list helps me know where I want to go and beckons me to develop a plan on how I’m going to get there.  It gives me clarity in times when I’m faced with multiple opportunities, helping me make decisions that move me closer to the achievement of my dreams and goals for the future.

If you don’t know what you want from life, everything will appear either as an obstacle or as a burden.  But one of the greatest lessons of history is that the whole world gets out of the way for people who know what they want or where they are going.  Be assured, if you don’t know where you are going, you are lost.

So, what do you want from life?  What are your dreams?

Think about it.  Ponder it.  Write your answers down.  Make a list.  There are no right or wrong answers!  Write quickly.  Don’t overanalyze.  Write everything down – even if it seems a bit silly.  Put  a date next to each item on your list.

Then schedule a time to regularly review your list.  I’d suggest doing it once a month as part of your weekly review (perhaps on the 1st Friday of each month).  The more you review your dreams, the more you can clarify which ones to work on now, and which ones will have to wait for later.

Has anyone else used a master dream list before?  If so, has it helped you in achieving your dreams?

You are What You Do at…Church?

If you’re new to Life Compass, on Sundays I write on Spirituality, Faith and Ethics. Here’s why.

If I were to ask you what you “do”, what would you say?

Most likely, you would respond by telling me what you do in your day job. Because most of us identify who we are with what we do for a paycheck, whether we’re a plumber, teacher, truck driver, etc.

Several years ago, I read how some churches were turning this idea on it’s head…and encouraging their members to identify more with what they “do” at church instead of what they “do” at work.

It’s an interesting idea, and I’m not sure I totally follow it.  Because I may volunteer an hour or two a month in the church nursery, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is my calling.  And yet I’ve met many dedicated people who feel it is their calling to invest their time and energy in a particular area of church ministry.  For these people, they identify much more with what they do at church than what they do from 9-5.

I think this illustrates the point that our calling or purpose in life may or may not be reflective of what we do for a paycheck.  For some, it may be closer to what we do in service to others.

So, what about you?  Does your life purpose match what you do from 9-5?  Or is it something else?  Please share your comments!

Pillar #5 – Reveal Your Personal Values

Welcome back to Life Compass, where I’m sharing my Ten Pillars of Lifestyle Design. So far, we’ve covered:

Now I’ll share Pillar #5 – Reveal Your Personal Values. Last time I mentioned you’ll want to keep your Life Area sheets handy, because you’ll need them for this next step.

Each of us have a set of personal values, or beliefs that impact each Life Area.  These values, or beliefs, guide us when we are faced with choices, set priorities, and make decisions.

We all have a tendency to “default” to unconscious values or beliefs that have shaped us due to influences or decisions from the past.  This shows just how powerful our values and beliefs are, and how important it is for us to consciously determine our values for each life area.

For example, those who have been told that they’ll never amount to anything in life end up believing this is true.  Therefore while they may say they want to make change in a certain area of their life, they fail to take action to change their current reality because they believe deep down that it will make no difference.

So, in this step, I want you to take each of your Life Area Worksheets and write down what you currently value or believe about each Life Area.  This will require some thought…and quite a bit of honesty.

Example:  Life Area – Health

Current values/beliefs: I can eat or drink whatever I want and it doesn’t matter.  I don’t really care how much I weigh or how I look.  No amount of exercise will make a difference in my life.

Once you’ve written them down, take a good look.  Is what you’ve written satisfactory to you?   Does it match the dreams you’ve listed or your life purpose or preferred future?  If not, then write out new values or beliefs that do.  Here’s an example:

New values/beliefs: I value maintaining my ideal weight.  I value regular exercise to maintain my body and keep it in good condition.  I value drinking water more often than I do soda pop.  I value choosing fresh foods over processed foods.

Example: Life Area – Family

Current values/beliefs: I’d rather read the paper and watch television than talk with or do things with my spouse.  My work comes before my family – after all, if I don’t get paid, they don’t eat.

New values/beliefs: I regard my marriage as the most important personal relationship in my life.  I spend quality time with each member of my family every week.  I teach my children to manage money and use it wisely.  I keep communication open and comfortable with every member of my family.

Allow yourself plenty of time to do this.  And if you get stumped and can’t think of any values or beliefs for one life area, just skip it for now and move on to the next.

That’s Lifestyle Design Pillar #5 – Reveal Your Personal Values.  Congratulations, you’re half-way through the Lifestyle Design process, and you’re moving closer to achieving your dreams and finding more freedom, purpose and fulfillment in your life and work!

In the next installment, we’ll cover Pillar #6 – Set Well-Defined Goals.

Pillar #4 – Evaluate Your Current Reality

Welcome back to Life Compass, where I’m sharing my Ten Pillars of Lifestyle Design. So far, we’ve covered:

      Today I’ll share Pillar #4 – Evaluate Your Current Reality.

      Our lives are made up of seven basic categories, or Life Areas. They are:

      1. Family
      2. Career
      3. Financial
      4. Social
      5. Health
      6. Personal Development
      7. Spiritual/Ethical

      Many times, when we want to change one aspect of our life, like our income, or our career, we tend to focus so much on that particular life area that we tend to neglect others.

      Sadly, the media and our culture often endorse this approach. We celebrate singular success: people who achieve greatness as athletes, writers, business leaders, etc. We don’t often celebrate those who live well-balanced lives and are winners on the field and in the back yard, or in the office boardroom and at home in the living room.

      I believe that successful Lifestyle Design is holistic, it impact all areas of life. Think of your life as a wheel…you want it to be well-rounded. You don’t want success in one area to cause weakness in another. It might be OK for a little while, but not for long.

      In this step, we’re going to take the time to evaluate how you’re doing in each of the Seven Life areas.  Grab seven sheets of paper, or your computer, and put the name of one Life Area at the top of each sheet.  Ask yourself:

      • What things should be important to me in this life area?
      • How important are they currently? How are my relationships with others?
      • What is going well?
      • What needs attention?
      • What are your strengths in each area?
      • What are your opportunities for growth (formerly called “weaknesses”)

      That’s Pillar #4 – Evaluate Your Current Reality.  Keep your Life Area sheets handy, because you’ll need them when we cover Pillar #5 – Reveal Your Personal Values.

      Pillar #3 – Clarify Your Life Purpose

      Welcome back to Life Compass!  I just started sharing my Ten Pillars of Lifestyle Design. So far, we’ve covered:

          Today I’ll share Pillar #3 – Clarify Your Life Purpose.

          First, what do I mean when I talk about Life Purpose?  Others may refer to it as a mission or calling.  It is the overarching theme of your life, which blends your interests, goals, passions, dreams together.  It is built on life experiences of the past, and points you toward your future.  And it becomes your guide, and a benchmark, to help you weigh future decisions.

          How do you identify and clarify your Life Purpose?   Grab some paper and a pen, or sit at the computer and take a good look at yourself to understand your personality, how you work with others, and what motivates you.

          What are your unique skills and abilities?  What are you good at?  But don’t stop there.  Sadly, many people do stop there when they make career decisions, and that’s why 80% of Americans end up feeling unfulfilled in their work.

          Experts tell us the average person is probably good at 100 things.  For fun, take a few minutes and make a list of all the things you’re good at.  You might be surprised at how big your list is!

          After you’ve written down your unique skills and abilities, think about your personality tendencies.  Are you an introvert or extrovert?  Do you take action immediately or procrastinate?  Are you extremely organized or a clutterer.  Do you get things done, or do you leave projects half-completed?  Are you self-motivated or do you need outside accountability?

          Next, what are your values, your dreams and passions?  Your values are the non-negotiable things or principles that are most important to you.  We’ll take a more in-depth look at your values in a future post, but for now, just jot down whatever comes to your mind.  For example, your values might include:  being debt free, being home with your family at least four nights a week, growing in your faith/spirituality, maintaining personal health.  You get the idea.

          You already took the time to think about your dreams when you started your Master Dream List, which we covered in Pillar #1.  Of all those dreams you wrote down, which are the ones that might shape your life’s direction?  Write those down here.

          Passions are interests or causes that are important to you. The things you’d give your life for.  Maybe your passion is to help at-risk youth stay in school, or you want to improve the lives of people living in sub-Saharan Africa, or maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom whose passion is to encourage other moms to stay at home at raise their kids.  List all the passions and interests that come to your mind.  And you can always add more later.

          The more you take the time to understand yourself, the more confidence you can have about your life’s purpose.  And this understanding and confidence then leads to clear focus regarding your Life’s Purpose.

          For extra credit, now that you’ve taken a good look at yourself, ask yourself how others see you.  Then, if you’re bold enough (and I think you are), ask a good friend, spouse, co-worker how they see you.  We can eliminate blind spots in our life, improve the quality of our work, and strengthen our relationships when we take the time to ask trusted friends how they see us.

          It is through this process of introspection, of taking a good look at ourselves and how we’re uniquely made, that we’re able to understand and clarify our Life’s Purpose.

          Your next step is to write out a first draft of your Life Purpose.  You can just write down the first thoughts that come to your mind, then refine and edit it later.

          Here are some suggestions to help you as you write your Life Purpose:

          1. Identify the highest priority roles you fulfill in your life (for example:  at home, at work, at church, in your community).
          2. Include the values and ideals that are important to who you want to be in the future (for example:  excellence, continuous improvement, generosity, goal achievement).
          3. Summarize the most important long-term goals and achievements you wish to obtain.

          Once your first draft is written, you can feel free to edit, refine, or synthesize it a bit.  Then let it sit for  a while.  In future posts, we’ll cover some more tips that will help you refine your Life Purpose further.

          That’s Pillar #3 – Clarify Your Life Purpose.  Tomorrow we’ll cover Pillar #4 – Evaluate Your Current  Reality.