Well, it's finally 2020. Happy New Year.
I'm especially excited because I've always been told that hindsight is 2020. How delightful!
We have 366 days (YES, it's a leap year too!) of clear hindsight to look back and see where things should have been different.
If you are like me, and you possess the superpower of finding fault in yourself, you should be excited too. Sometimes it's hard to wait until our sight is sufficiently 'hind' so that we can properly assess and condemn the actions and inactions we (foolishly) took or failed to take and how (predictably) awful the results were.
It's a shame that the human body needs to sleep because having perfect clarity for a whole year is still not enough time to second guess my first 58 years on this earth. It's going to be tight, given that my 30's alone will take most of 6 months.
I'm exaggerating (a little), but it is truly amazing how quickly and viciously I can carve myself up. A very good friend who has noticed this tendency in me, and in herself, pointed this out again recently. Her path, like mine, has included some ignominious defeats, and much Monday Morning quarterbacking about woulda-coulda-shoulda. But didn't. Or did. Whatever.
As I have gotten older, wisdom and moderation have very slowly muscled into my impetuous, ready-fire-aim approach to managing myself.
For a while after college, armed with my management degree and Dr. Odiorne's 'Management Decisions by Objectives,' I set large numbers of very aggressive but exceedingly well-crafted objectives.
Prioritize? Why? They're all important and besides, I'm in my 20's, so I reckon I have about 130 years to finish the list. No problem.
The results were (predictably) disappointing. After a series of years where this disappointment alternated between 'slight' and 'extreme' and realizing I could not continue to beat my head against the wall (it was becoming noticeably flat on one side), I did what any reasonable, overwhelmed person would do. I stopped setting goals.
Goals? Why bother? I have enough to do just getting from day to day, staying employed, taking care of my family and that is what men do in their 30's. After all, I still have about 70 years left so taking a decade or so off won't hurt. Right? Right? Hello?
Well, one of Dr. Odiorne's choice nuggets of knowledge stated that 'if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.' (Don't think about it too long, you will give yourself a headache.) Suffice to say this was his admonition to always have goals and to NEVER do what I did in my 30's, that is, to stop setting goals.
As happens to everyone throughout their lives, I was blown off course from time to time and had trouble finding my way back. My forties were not substantially different from my 30's except for proportionally less hair and more waist.
As I have now ripened into my later 50's, I've started to learn that there are relatively few truly important things. In no particular order, my exhaustive list is below, consisting of Health, Family and Faith.
Your health matters. If you take your good health for granted, quit that nonsense, immediately. Good health is a blessing but it is not 'granted.' We have to work at it whether we have 'great genes' or not. Simply expecting our bodies to continue feeling and functioning like a fine Swiss watch is ignoring reality.
It is only through our health that we can accomplish other things. Once it's gone, it's hard to get back.
Your family matters. I thought that this was the most intense when my kids were small. It is intense, but that's why you have little kids when you yourself are young. But as they have grown and matured, the day-to-day 'care' of your little ones is replaced by cautious optimism that you have not raised the next Son of Sam (imagine how Sam felt with that guy for a son?) or Lucretia Borgia.
We begin to celebrate their (our) success until we realize we're watching our kids react to things the way we used to. Make the same mistakes. Goals all over the place. Everything is a priority. Unlimited time makes priority meaningless. I even see the early stages of flat spots on heads from being beaten against the wall.
All we want to do is get them to stop. Or get a pillow between them and the wall. To help them avoid the disappointments. Our kids will always matter.
Our spouse takes on renewed importance when our kids move out. Unlike our newlywed days, we have a long history together with good times and bad. We know each other. The good and the bad, there are no secrets.
Together we have built something which, while not perfect, is unique and special and blessed by God. After all, He created you, your spouse and all of your children. He loves us and if only for that reason, our families matter.
Your faith matters. Any wisdom I have been able to absorb in recent years comes from my faith in Jesus Christ. Rather than loudly, awkwardly and unsuccessfully trying to do everything myself, I learned and understood for the first time that everything is dependent on Him.
Yes, I have a role, but that role is to follow His direction. He knows what I am made for. I only know what I want to be made for. I want to be an NBA player. I want to be a powerful business executive. I want to be an advertising genius. I want to run a marathon.
If all we have is 'want-to's and those happen to be off-target, as mine were, we're left feeling empty (at least) and like a miserable failure (at worst).
We wake up and realize that our 'want-to' is not going to happen. Maybe it's been a succession of 'want-to's that haven't panned out. This doesn't feel good at all.
There is really good news though: God made you and He didn't do it because He was bored on a rainy day.
God made you for a reason. He made you to love you. He made you to (hopefully) love Him, too.
He will not force you to. Love is a choice, even the love of God.
But whether you love Him or ignore Him, He is your creator, your ultimate father. He wants great things for you. He wants you to be happy and fulfilled. He wants you to be successful.
We are most successful when lending our unique combination of talents, skills, and abilities to contribute meaningfully to the world. When we do what He made us to do.
Our job is twofold: One, figure out what that unique set of talents is. And two, follow His direction to the place, situation, and circumstances where they harmoniously fit and fill a need that would otherwise not be optimally fulfilled.
So how do we 'do our job'?
The first part, figuring out what makes us uniquely talented, involves trying things.
Resisting comfort and the zone where it lives.
Humbling yourself to learn.
Differentiating between a bad fit (which means you should move on) and growing pains (which are a normal prelude to success later).
Keeping an open mind about what you are doing and ignoring lies about things like money, status, prestige and other factors that seem important but should take a back seat to the task of learning your true calling.
If we are diligent in trying things that seem to fit and letting go of the ones that may provide comfort but also breed mediocrity, we will find our place. This will occur in God's perfect timing, which is always going to be different (that is, a longer wait) than ours.
The second part, finding our opportunity to shine, is all about trusting God. Having helped us identify our purpose, He will put us in the perfect situation to fulfill it if we trust and follow.
Keep your eyes and ears open. Listen to that quiet whisper down deep that tells you with clarity and confidence what you should do. You know, the one that always turns out to be right.
Realize that God uses other people to accomplish His purposes. While He is using someone else to help you, He will be using you to help that person or someone else. It's all interrelated. So pay attention to people.
Being in the right place at the right time with the right people and the right set of skills is how greatness happens. Whether they are famous like Larry Bird, Leonardo DiVinci and Mother Teresa, or anonymous heroes like the millions who do all the good in the world, large and small, noticed and unnoticed every minute of every day, always.
Given all this, shouldn't our one goal, resolution and, focus on January 2, 2020, be to find out what God made us for and then following Him to that place where our purpose fulfills its designated need?
thank you for this new year and a fresh page on which to write our story.
Thank you for blessing us with unique sets of talents, skills, and abilities.
Help us to clearly see these blessings and lead us to where they are most needed.
Thank you for maintaining our health so we can pursue our purpose.
Thank you for the blessing of our families and friends.
And most importantly, thank you for the faith you have given us to ensure that we have hope, even on the most difficult days.
In the reassuring name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN!