“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s the hallmark question of childhood. We ask wide-eyed little kids, expecting answers like “pilot,” “astronaut” or “firefighter.” It’s not a bad question, but when it’s the only one we ask, kids end up believing their identity belongs to their occupation.
The real question we should be leading our children to consider is not what, but who do you want to become? The difference is subtle, but extremely significant.
And so it is for us too. It's important for you to consider if the work you do defines who you are; or, if the person you are defines how you behave in the various roles of your life.
I'm sure you have weighed, many times over, how you spend your time in "work" - whether as a professional, stay-at-home mom, or volunteer. But have you ever truly considered what kind of person you would like to become?
The Good Book says, “Without a vision, the people perish.” I submit to you that perhaps the biggest reason why so many of us, our families and our children seem to have lost our way is that we, as a culture and as individuals, have lost sight of the vision of the lives we want to lead.
The question, “Who is it you want to be?” can be a daunting one - especially as we age and feel, perhaps, as if it is too late to change; to reach for something better; to not just apologize for - but correct the damage caused by our short-comings.
So how in the world can you come up with a vision that is both worthy and realistic?
It isn’t as difficult as it may seem. In his book, See You at the House, Bob Benson writes,
…if God can take a tiny seed and, in the process of giving it his life, endow it with a knowledge of what it is supposed to be; if he can give it the purpose and strength and fruitfulness to not only accomplish it all, but to perpetuate itself as well; and if he can give it an inner calendar to tell it when all of this is supposed to be done, why is it so hard to believe he has done the same for our hearts?
God made you, uniquely, in His image. That means you were designed to show and tell the world something specific and wonderful about His character. And you are made to do it in a way no one else can. God wants you to be aware of the purpose He has for you. But this exercise isn't about deciding who we will be and then expecting God to help us get there. It’s about prayerfully considering who God made us to be, and the attitude and action we should adopt in order to make His vision for our lives our own.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey wrote,
How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and do what really matters most.
The vision you develop is meant to be a blueprint and solid foundation upon which you can build your life. It’s a map that can help you find your way back to the narrow path God cut out for you if you have wandered off. It can help lead you through the darkness if you write it according to what God reveals in the light.
How To Save Your Family: Write it Down
A friend of mine recently shared the steps her mentor guided her through to help her develop a life vision. I included a summary below, tweaked with my own experiences, to serve as a guideline to help you through the process of developing a vision that can inspire you.
Step One: Get alone with God.
No one understands better who God made you to be than God himself. Take some time to find a quiet place and pray. Ask God to reveal his intentions for your life.
Step Two: Write your own eulogy.
Though it may seem a bit cryptic, there really is no better way to boil your vision down to the essentials than writing your own eulogy. As Steven Covey would say, “Begin with the end in mind.” What do you want people to say about you at your funeral? Most likely, you want them to tell stories that highlight your character. How do you want to be remembered?
Step Three: Consider your strengths and desires
Think about the things you love. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are your talents and dreams and desires? What gives you joy? What exhausts you? We understand who we are by paying attention to the way God made us.
Step Four: Develop a vision for your career (not necessarily your "job")
In this step, it's important to avoid thinking about your current "job" as your career. What I am really referring to is how you would like to use your gifts- all the faculties God gave you- and your resources to bless others. This is your true career. And it may very well be your vocation, if it is what gives you passion, fulfillment, and purpose. But anything else you do- even if it takes up more of your time- is just a side job.
Now, use the answers to the questions above and your “eulogy” to craft a personal vision statement.
If you are a spouse or parent, there is one other key step that you should take and then combine with the work you have done above:
Step Five: Develop a vision for your family.
What reputation do you want your family to have? What values do you want to pass on to your children? (Remember that it’s not enough to be against things, we must be for something too.)
Now, considering what you just wrote, add a few key "how tos". Think about what your role is in making the vision for your family a reality. Although you cannot control the way others will act, you can control what you do to help or hurt that vision. How do you want to relate to your spouse? How do you want your children to view you?
Remember, the vision you develop can be as long or short as you want; should include all key areas of your life; and should be edited and refined as you learn and grow. The critical part is to have a vision. It offers something concrete to strive for, to measure your daily decisions by, and to remind you to bless others.