The end of the year or the beginning of a new year is time when I like to evaluate how my life has gone the past year. Or maybe you find yourself in a transition? Like a flying trapeze artist, the in-between time can be unnerving. It can be a good time to take stock of your life. I’ve written an article to help with this important task of every leader…
Taking Stock during Transitions of Life
“What do I wish to be remembered for?” Saint Augustine said that asking this question of your own legacy is the beginning of adulthood. An honest, authentic answer says something about who you are at the essence of your personality and soul. It is what you identify with; it is the purpose and passion of your life that is encoded in your soul.
Bob Buford in his book, Half Time says the game is won or lost in the second half, not the first. Just because you were successful in the first half does not mean you will end well. Also, if you have made mistakes in the first half, there is still time to recover. Especially in times of transition or change, we need to ask ourselves, “What have I been given?” and “What will I do with it the rest of my life?”
“The real test of a man is not when he plays the role that he wants for himself, but when he plays he role destiny has for him.” Vaclav Havel
“The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do…to find the idea for which I can live and die.” Søren Kierkegaard
So what is the role God has for you? What does God wish for you to do the rest of your life? What do you want to live and die for? What do you wish to be remembered for?
Again, Bob Buford, in his book Half Time, suggests that we take stock during this period of our life. He quotes Søren Kierkegaard, theologian and philosopher…”If I were a doctor and were asked for advice, I should reply: Create silence.” A time of taking stock cannot be a busy or noisy place. Our first half is usually a time when our plates are full. Unintentionally, life became filled with frantic busyness and chronic distractions. Bob encourages us to ask: “Were all these activities important? Where they the types of things you would die for? Are you looking forward to more of the same?
Now, it may be that you awake each morning and stretch out into your day like a wild mustang on a grassy plain that gains momentum and strength with every stride. Life and ministry is exhilarating. But other days or seasons in your life and ministry, you may dread, like having to go to the dentist for a root canal without anesthesia. At best there is a dullness, with joy that has been in exile. You have piles of to-dos that have eroded your passion and aliveness and melted them into one huge obligation. The mistake we often make at this point is to settle in and ignore the voice that is telling you to stop and listen.
Bob Buford offers a few suggestions:
- Make peace with your first half. “Regret is a tough emotion to live down: it haunts you in ways that will sap your strength and inspiration to go on to better things. So, one of the first things you need to do in halftime is make peace with your first-half set of issues.” You have a choice: You can beat yourself up over mistakes and what you should have done… or you can come to terms with them through grace. It is important as an adult to take responsibility for the transition, avoid a victim mentality so to learn valuable lessons that will help you in the second half.
- Take time. It is important in every stage of life to take time to think, meditate, reflect, journal. It is especially important during seasons of change.
- Be deliberate. It is more than just taking time to think. Halftime needs some structure and agenda which include: time to pray and listen, time in the Word, reading. Bob also suggests asking deliberate questions:
- Am I missing anything in my life right now that’s important to me?
- What am I passionate about?
- Who am I?
- What do I value?
- What do I want to be doing in ten years?
- What gifts has God given me?
- What am I willing to die for?
- What is it about my job that makes me feel trapped?
- What changes can I make?
- What do I need to learn? What changes do I need to make in order to live up to the demands on myself and my expectations of life?
- Share the journey. Share it with your spouse. Share it with friends. Don’t go it alone or be a lone ranger. Live out the process in community.
- Be honest. This is time to be your authentic, genuine self. Be honest enough to discover it.
- Be patient. Enjoy the process. It took many years to get where you are. You can’t change overnight.
- Have faith. Listen to God’s voice through His Word, believing that He will guide you, He has your best at heart; He will never leave you or forsake you; He is for you!
Some more questions to take stock from Bob Buford:
- What do I want to be remembered for? Write descriptions of how your life and ministry would look if it turned out the way you wished.
- Am I living a balance life? What are the important elements in my life that deserve more time?
- Where do I look for inspiration, mentors?
- Peter Drucker says that two important needs are self-realization and community. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest), how am I doing in these areas?
- What do I want for my children?
“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else—we are the busiest people in the world.” Eric Hoffer
“A common characteristic of driven people is that, at some point, they forget their purpose. Drivenness erodes purposefulness. (Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God, p77)
I hope this helps in times of transition to take stock and to learn. Maybe your heart resonates with the cry of David in Psalm 139:23, 24:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”