A few weeks back, I posted about Three Ways to Be an Essentialist in Your Thinking and Doing. I was in the midst of a reading Michael Hyatt’s book called Living Forward and stated that I was going to take an entire day to assess the major categories of my life (or Life Accounts) and see what I could do to live more intentionally in each of them.
And so I engaged myself in this process this past week. I took an entire day (as the text suggests), went to a neighboring wilderness area, got alone, sat by a very full and rushing river, and wrote.
I did some thinking and then would write. I did more thinking and then more writing. It was quite an amazing day. I want to share this process with you because my hope is that several of you as my readers will get this book and do the heavy lifting of assessing where each of your Life Accounts stand.
Assessment is so healthy to do in your life and it has many benefits. The goal is to then take the assessments, make some adjustments and future commitments, and be more aligned with God’s thoughts about your life.
This process was so overwhelmingly positive for me that I wanted to share it with you.
It started with looking at the Life Accounts that I wanted assessed. I chose the following:
Each category had essentially the same statements to assess how I viewed my passion and my progress in each of these important areas of my life.
And the reason there is a primary focus on passion and progress is that if we want to see positive results in our life, 1) our vision of the future must excite and motivate us, and 2) we must be taking action to bridge the gap between our current reality and how we envision the future.
Results were put into one of four quadrants: Gift (high passion, high progress), Lift (high passion, low progress), Shift (low passion, high progress), and Drift (low passion, low process).
For example, after taking the assessment, I showed my Health account in the Lift quadrant, meaning I have passion about getting healthier and stronger in some areas but I am not seeing the progress that I desire. My Spiritual account fell in the Shift quadrant, meaning I am seeing some progress in areas but desire the Lord to ignite more affection for Him within. I want more passion.
By doing this, it gave me a baseline from which to work – an honest evaluation of where I am.
The day began by doing an unusual activity: writing my own eulogy. Why do this? Because it was sobering to have to write about my own life and filter out those elements that are really going to matter when I am gone from this earth. How do I want to be known by people? What would I hope would be said?
And no worries – this was not some morbid exercise – rather, it was very beneficial in helping me see what really is important in life. And when you are able to boil it all down, am I living in a manner that shows I value those things?
The remainder of my day was spent looking at each of my Life Accounts and then writing about their status and where I would like to see them be. Each account had the following four elements:
1. State my purpose for each account
This forced me to draft a very brief statement about describing my bulls-eye in that area. For example, my purpose statement for Kids and Grandkids is as follows:
My purpose is to influence my family in the ways of the Gospel; to model love, humility, grace, forgiveness, and generosity. To prepare them to live successfully on their own. To laugh a lot and have much fun together.
2. What is my envisioned future?
Or another way of asking this is, “What d0 I want this life account to look like moving forward?” This is not pie in the sky, but it assists in creating a tangible gap between where my life is and where I desire it to be. It does not necessarily reflect reality but where I wish reality to be.
My envisioned future for Vocation is:
I am fulfilled in my career and advancing in leadership roles. I am viewed as a servant-leader and mentor in my field. I have expertise that I share with others and I serve my employees and coworkers to help them be successful. I have written a book that contributes to my field of learning.
3. What is my current reality?
The only way this section has value is in how honest I am willing to be. Was I willing to acknowledge both the hills and the valleys for any given category? If not, this would only be a theoretical endeavor and not one moving to life change.
My current reality for Friends is:
I have some great friends and a few key relationships that would do anything for me and I for them. I do not feel as if I need more friendships to maintain a sense of happiness or satisfaction.
4. What will I do?
This final element is asking the question, “So what do I need to do specifically to make a bridge from my current reality to a better destination?”
This was some of the more difficult writing that I did because I had to be very specific with my commitments. In other words, “Try harder at (fill in the blank)” was just not going to cut it.
I was challenged for my commitments to be specific, measurable, realistic, and have time frames.
And so I did that. Where was I willing to make some adjustments?
Here are some samples of commitments from my my account God and His Gospel:
- Keep my time in the word fresh, alternating between reading the word, journaling, doing a study, or reading a book.
- Look for Jesus when reading God’s word each day.
- Ask God daily to grow my affections for Him and my hatred for sin.
When I began wrapping things up around 4:00 that afternoon, I was pleased to have a 14 page document with a full day’s effort behind it. I plan to share it with my wife so that she knows my thoughts on each of my Life Accounts and can provide encouragement and accountability.
It was a mentally tiring day but a day of fresh thinking. I came away rejuvenated with a sense of anticipation. And looking back on last week, here are five takeaways from that day:
- It took an entire day to do this, but it got done in one day.
- I was questioning if I needed to do this in one day or do it over several weeks. I took the advice of the authors and claimed a day just for this activity. Doing this in one day gave me flow to my work and momentum in my thinking. I know, we are all busy, but just like my car, if I do not keep up with maintenance, I have a vehicle that may not be fully operational (except maybe for coasting).
- I needed to go somewhere different. For me, it was getting into nature. It clears my thoughts and wards off distractions. For you, it may be a coffee shop or going to the beach. It doesn’t matter. Just get away from your normal surroundings.
- Count on mental roadblocks. There were some elements of this day that were more difficult to reflect on than others. I would write and then edit. Write and then edit. It is designed to be a fluid document.
- I felt a great sense of accomplishment – a detailed action plan. It was totally worth the day and trading out all of the stuff that I would have done otherwise.
I have been instructed to reread this document every day for the next three months. I need these ideas firmly fixed in my head and not just in an orbit.
All of my commitments then work their way to my calendar or my task management system. If this does not happen, there really is no true benefit gained. We just end up feeling good about feeling good and no change will happen.
And then every three months I reevaluate, I do mini-assessments, and recalibrate. And finally, I annually review my Life Plan in great detail for adding, deleting, and tweaking to adjust for new growth.
Are you beginning to understand the intentionally of this?
I will admit, this will not be easy practice but I believe it will make my life more effective. The whole reason I bought this book and submitted to the process was because the drift I was feeling became more uncomfortable than the “pleasure” of simply staying in my ruts.
And now I am ready to begin the hard work of cutting some new paths.
Let’s do this!