Whenever we walk out the door, we have an intention of heading somewhere, even if it is only a vague idea of taking a walk in the neighborhood. We always have an intention, but most of the time it is barely thought off, and we run on automatic pilot day in and day out. That’s fine for mundane tasks like getting the mail or taking out the garbage or sweeping the steps, but what about more important things?
On a sliding scale, you probably put more attention on planning for a vacation than on running errands, more for an event such as a birthday or anniversary than for the staff’s regular Monday meeting at work.
But what about the big things in life—like where you are going in total. Are you headed toward something special? Do you have goals for personal growth and development? Or do you just go along with the crowd and do what your friends and family do, because it’s familiar?
It’s all too easy to fall back on the claim that we’re too busy juggling all that needs to be done to take time out for life planning that doesn’t involve practical matters such as insurance or job security or retirement savings. Those have their place in the scheme of things, but what I’m talking about is the fact that if we don’t have a goal, then we live a life that is based on reacting to what’s going on around us, and the days and months and years just roll by with a lot of busy-ness to fill the calendar.
When I sat down to write this, I had a quotation in mind to share with you, which I’ve always thought was from Henry David Thoreau: “It is not enough to be busy. The question is: what are we busy about?” I did a quick check online to be sure I was phrasing it correctly and I was a bit taken aback to come across a site that pointed out what I was planning to share is actually a popular misquotation, along with a variation that goes like this: “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Apparently, the correct quotation is: “It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?” And it appears in a letter Thoreau wrote to a friend, H.G.O. Blake, on November 16, 1857.
However you look at that quote or its variations, I think the point is clear. We all get so busy, the contents of our To Do lists and our agenda books and calendars are exhaustive and far too often very stressful. We get caught up in all the details—but what is the big picture?
How would it be if you had an overall goal, like a glorious umbrella over your life, that had a bright and shiny phrase written all over it, describing your vision for yourself?
Why not take a few moments to think about what that sentence or phrase or slogan would be. Maybe it’s your personal mission statement, your own take on what you bring to the world while you live and serve at your highest level.
Imagine it’s a time off in the future. You are really old, and just about to blow out the candles on your birthday cake, and then someone asks you to sum up your happy life. What would you say? How would you describe it?
I bet it wouldn’t be that you got more errands done in one weekend than the average person managed in a month. Or that you filled in for two other people at work when their job was suddenly slashed off the payroll, and managed to keep going without collapsing. Or… well, I’m sure you get the point. Too much work, not enough joyful play, not enough dreaming of where we are going.
Set your course. Keep your eye on the compass so you’ll know when you need to make a shift in direction. And enjoy the journey.