Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Resolutions-Oh No! Not Again!

I believe it’s very possible to create excellent New Year’s Resolutions and make that annual process a great and productive experience. I also think it’s essential to have our lives turn out in a way in which we can look back on our lives with satisfaction, not regret. I also believe it is NEVER too late regardless of your age. So please don’t “check out” on this message, thinking there isn’t anything you can do differently.

To set the stage, I’d like to first identify what I think are some of the inherent problems associated with goal setting and why it often doesn’t work. The first being the kind of environment we live in today. With the constant barrage of media influence and the ability to have worldly influences 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; it makes it very difficult to follow the Lord’s scriptural call to “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Also, the media barrage also makes it nearly impossible to develop any level of self confidence when the messages are that we don’t have the right car or other possessions, or the perfect body, or that we better check with our doctor to make sure we’re not missing out on the latest new prescription to heal the disease we don’t even know we have. These worldly influence can leave us very confused or misguided on what goals we should set in the first place.

The Law of Harvest is a concept lost on those of us who have never been acquainted with the farm life. The law of the harvest is also found in the scriptures and essentially states that we reap what we sow. So if we spend our evenings watching mindless shows and negative examples of life around the world, what do you think will be the result? The Law of the Harvest would suggest if we sow sarcasm and negativity, we will only reap the same. The Law of the Harvest also suggests that even when we sow good seeds, we must wait for the natural cycle before we can reap the harvest.

So it would make sense to have some patience in the process of goal setting and not give up in early February because we aren’t seeing the harvest. We reap in the “harvest time” of the cycle, no sooner, whether we want it now or not.

In the United States we pride ourselves on the freedom and opportunity we have. But I also think we’ve strayed a bit and live in a culture that pushes us to discard our dreams and pursuit of our natural talents in order to fall in line with the mantra of pursuing educational choices that will get us the best jobs, not what builds on our natural God given talents and gifts. The question, "How much did they pay you to give up on your dreams?" can be heart wrenching question if we consider truthfully what we've set aside in pursuit of the well-paying job or a chance to climb the corporate ladder.

This supressed desire about living a life that’s one’s purpose doesn’t just happen by chance or by doing things the same way we’ve always done them in the past. According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is “to do the same things over and over again expecting a different result.” So if we aren't living a life full of joy and purpose, something must change in us or we're living a life of insanity as Einstein would define it.

My personal experience with this started a while ago. My opinions and attitudes began to shift about 15 years ago with the realization that our education should never end and personal development should be a daily pursuit. That lead to a realization that “working endless hours in a job” at the expense of my family relationships and spiritual well-being was not the answer. So began the pursuit of a balanced lifestyle.

That lead to a pursuit of trying the find the ideal career for me. About 2 months ago a made a very interesting discovery. I found a notebook I had been using in the fall of 1998 based on some of the dates I had written in the notebook. On some of the pages I had written what I felt would be the ideal career for me. Since that time I have had 6 different jobs, 3 different career changes, and lost my job 3 out of the 6 times that I changed. During the 6 year span from when I wrote down my ideal career until I started doing what I do now, consulting and personal coaching, I don’t think I ever reviewed what I had written down again. In fact, even though I had an idea in my mind about what I had written down, I forgot I had written it down until recently.

The big surprise was that except for a couple of minor points, what I had written down is what I do today. What I had written down was an industry in its infancy, personal coaching, and I didn’t even know existed until I found it 5 years ago.

One thing I do know is that if I had never decided to continue my personal education, set some goals, and write down my ideal career I never would have found myself in a position to pursue the career I’m in now and doing what I would consider in many ways is my life’s purpose.

I just don’t think it ever would have happened if I didn’t at least informally set some goals. I’m also of the opinion that we have a lot more control over how our lives turn out than we may think. In a book called, “Something More” by Sarah Ban Breathnach she writes, “…Joy is the absence of fear. Joy is your soul’s knowledge that if you don’t get the promotion, keep the relationship, or buy the house, it’s because you weren’t meant to. You’re meant to have something better, something richer, something deeper. Something more. Joy is where your life began, with your first cry. Joy is your birthright.
“However, reclaiming joy as your birthright requires a profound inner shift in your reality. Most of us unconsciously create dramas in our minds, automatically expecting the worst from every situation, only to have our negative expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies. Inadvertently, we become the authors of our own misfortune. And so we struggle from day to day, careening from crisis to crisis, bruised and battered by circumstances, without realizing that we have a choice.”
(By the way, I found that book for $2.00 at a thrift store. Your continued pursuit of education doesn’t have to be exceptionally expensive.)

My observation working with people all over the world in many cultures and mindsets is that until someone figures out what their “life purpose” is they don’t do very well with goal setting and definitely not very well with goal achievement. In Proverbs 29:18 we read, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

The bible has many stories of people who's lives changed dramatically when they discovered what it was they were meant to do.

Moses had fled Egypt as a wanted man, only to find out on a mountain in the wilderness what his divine purpose was. Once his purpose was understood, finding the courage, energy, and will to persist to the end wasn’t as difficult.

Queen Esther found herself in a position to save her people, the Jews, from certain destruction. But she was very hesitant to plead with the king to save them because of the real possibility she would be put to death for coming to see the king without an appointment. But Mordecai in an effort to help her understand her purpose simply said, “…and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” So Esther asked the Jews to pray for her and away she went to fulfill her purpose and save a people from destruction. (See Esther 4:14)

These are great stories of individuals who followed through in great ways, documented in the scriptures to be remembered and studied for generations and generations. But what can we do? We’re just ordinary everyday people right?

I think if everyone were to dig deep down inside their hearts and minds, we would just know that we are here not by chance, but by design and purpose. “For such a time as this...for such a time as this.”
So it would make total sense to me that we can and should seek to be inspired to figure out our divine purpose. As well as figure out our unique gifts and talents and then use them purposefully through intention and planning.

I think at times it can actually feel quite overwhelming and even frightening to learn what we are really capable of. I’ve often had the thought that, “it would be a lot easier to just stay in my routine and not press outside my comfort zone. But then I have learned that our comfort zones are really a prison of our own making and we really won’t grow by staying there.

I have a quote on my office wall I heard was that was attributed to the author Og Mandino that says, “ The most selfish thing I can do is to be consumed with thoughts of self-doubt. Because when I am, I rob myself and everyone else around me of my greatest talents.”

The discovering of our divine and inspired purpose is a worthy challenge all on its own. Once that’s figured out, identifying resolutions and goal setting becomes so much easier, and infinitely more productive.

How many times do we set goals that seem to be only appropriate and nice for others? Perhaps we even set them for “their” approval, whoever “they” are. That goal, or those goals (unless they are very easy) are pretty much doomed for failure because we don’t really have the internal passion to achieve them. They really belong to someone else.

When our own divine purpose is understood, all goals we set must fit within the context of our eternal purpose. So an important part of proper goal setting is to make sure it’s YOUR goal, and not just someone else you’re trying to please. But keep in mind, the context of insisting on the goals being your goals, is that you have first discovered by divine inspiration what you should be doing already.
I think it’s also important to understand as it’s so famously noted in Ecclesiastes 3:1. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”

So now we come to the real challenge of goal setting and New Year’s Resolutions. Knowing the balance between what we think we want, and what we really should want, and the timing of when we should pursue each worthy and inspired goal.

Every December we hear or read the Christmas Story as recounted in the Gospel of Luke. Think about Mary, the mother of Jesus preparing for a wonderful future with Joseph, only to find out life would soon change dramatically. So an angel tells her about a new plan and then says, “For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’” And with the customs and culture of that day, she was essentially agreeing to a situation that would bring her great shame and ridicule. And also most likely lose the life she planning with Joseph. According to custom he had the choice to put her away either publicly or privately. And she probably didn’t know which of the two difficult options he would choose. In her virtuous mindset, I’m sure she didn’t have a lot of time to think through what was ahead and what option Joseph might choose. And then Joseph as well had a choice to make that was different than his hopes and plans. Again, through inspiration, he chose a new plan and both he and Mary were greatly blessed for their decisions based on new, inspired information. (Luke 1:37-38) “To everything a time and season.”

So not only should we pursue our life’s purpose with passion and enthusiasm, we should be ready and able to change course with faith when new and inspired information comes.
But I don’t think it’s the regular practice of God to smack us over the head with what we’re supposed to be doing. We need to seek out what our unique and divine purpose is through inspiration and then trust God that He will make a way for us to pursue that purpose with passion, remembering that “…all things are possible, to him that believeth.”

We may not be someone who ends up documented in the history books for having been a positive influence on thousands and thousands like our prophets through the ages, but we can certainly make a difference in the life of one person. Asking or wondering how our positive influence on one person can really make a difference is like asking how many oak trees lay dormant in one acorn? We may never know in this life, but we do know that “our joy will be great with the one, or one’s we labor diligently with” in our circle of influence.

But none of this is likely to happen just by chance. So why not pursue the discovery of why you are here? And then, be better able to serve the one, or the many with your unique gifts. Why not decide that God is really in charge and knows who you are. Why not set some excellent New Year’s Resolutions and then some specific goals to accomplish them?

Live on purpose knowing an all-knowing, kind, and loving Heavenly Father sent you here for a purpose and make each day exciting and meaningful, come what may.

© DTE Consulting 2010. “Helping you DThe Extraordinary!”

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