I think about my purpose in life with some regularity, but particularly when I'm starting something new. “Am I doing the right thing, going the right direction?” is a question that comes up regularly when I'm on a new path. I think about those questions on my own, ask God to give me guidance and wisdom, and ask other people questions about purpose and direction to get their thoughts.
I was having some of those conversations last week. The question came up “Can you be great in the world if you're not trying to be, if you're not focused on trying to do great things?” On the one hand was the valid argument that your thoughts do a huge amount to guide what actually happens in your life, positively or negatively. On the other hand were all the stories of great men and women from a variety of circumstances across time who ended up doing something amazing without trying to BE amazing.
My question became: do I have to visualize being a great teacher and speaker and writer in order to be one, or might I find when my life is over that God used me in amazing ways that I couldn't have orchestrated on my own anyway?
The answer to both questions – to a degree – is yes. Visualizing the accomplishment of concrete goals often opens up your subconscious to seeing things you hadn't seen before that will get you to your goal faster with better results. Researchers have found that the brain uses muscle memory as much as any other muscle in the body.
But we all can think of times in our lives when things worked out in a way we didn't expect and couldn't have forced to happen by force of our will and actions. Sometimes it's absolutely divine intervention. Sometimes the unexpected happens because of dozens of tiny actions (driven by your beliefs) over the course of time. If you hadn't been visualizing your goal, you wouldn't have noticed the opportunity that led you to the circumstance that suddenly gave way unexpectedly to something amazing.
Nevertheless, in my experience pursuing greatness as a goal will almost never lead you there. Pursuing money seems to be the same. And if that worked for you – great. But I have tried pursuing both and ended up farther away from them than when I started. Who knows? Maybe that's divine intervention, too, so I won't get distracted my actual purpose for my life. 🙂
What I do know is this. I talked to several people in the last week or two about whether you have to believe you'll have an amazing impact for good on the world, or if just focusing on doing what you believe you should be doing is enough to end up at the same place. In the end last Sunday, I decided I would bring the conversation back to God and ask him to help me figure out how/where to focus.
In 1 Peter 5, I had highlighted verses 2-4 and written in the margin, “My writing career! 🙂 Nov 12, 2010.” In 2012, I'd underlined part of verse 2 and wrote “June 12, 2012” in the margin.
I read and re-read the first eleven verses. With a little bit of thought, and without taking things out of context but trying to apply the intention to my own situation, I saw a prescription for building a great business there.
1. Serve not because you must but because you are willing.
2. Don't be greedy for money, but be eager to serve.
3. Listen to those with more life experience.
4. Be humble before God and men, and God will reward you in time.
5. Cast all your anxiety on God to free yourself from that wasted negative energy.
6. Be self-controlled and alert.
7. Understand there will be hard times, but God will give you strength.
I could go into each of those steps in greater detail, showing you how exactly I'm implementing them in my business. But I don't want this post to be longer than you want to read. 🙂 And you might get more out of it by thinking about how you can use these steps to build your life and business.
This passage in my Bible now has a new notation in the margin. “Reiterated Aug 3, 15.” I can't wait to see what great things happen next!