Weekly Thought – November 5, 2013
Fred sat on a tombstone when he was in his twenties thinking about the direction he wanted for his life. To codify his thinking he wrote out an epitaph: “He stretched others.” He said, “I enjoyed seeing people productive and growing.” His tombstone in Dallas, Texas bears those three words for indeed, he did!
“Thank you for last week’s email. I really needed to hear that and I am sure many others did, too.” The Weekly Thoughts are sent as an encouragement and as a way to allow Fred’s work to keep on stretching others. As you know we are currently having a critical fundraising drive and your help in large and small contributions is needed.
Direction not Goals
Choosing a life direction is more important than just focusing on goals. Enticing short term goals can take one off course and in a faulty direction. Mature success and satisfaction come in the direction we move, not in the goals we attain.
I oppose setting an ultimate goal for one’s life, in the sense of a specific, definable, measurable, figure-oriented place in life — the place for arrival. This puts too much importance on one decision. This closes off the serendipity of life which leads to magnificent adventures.
I have known too many executives who set a title as their ultimate goal only to realize that the joy was in the challenge of achievement, not the actual job attained. The old song says it well, “Is this all there is?” I laugh at the picture of the man spent a lifetime climbing a ladder only to realize at the top it was leaning against the wrong wall.
Goals are important to confirm we are traveling in the direction we desire. Direction, not goals, should determine our path.
We read of many politicians who are driven by how history will remember them. Many bad decisions are driven by developing a legacy. On the other hand, we are all writing a story that will be remembered. We may not be chronicled for all to see, but the impact on our family and friends is just as important. But we need to remember to keep in mind how we want to be remembered.
When young people ask me how to set the direction for their lives I always ask, “Do you want to be useful or self-fulfilled?” This is actually a trick question. As long as they see these two qualities in opposition, they are going to struggle with maturity. I have never known a person who devoted his/her life to usefulness who didn’t experience great satisfaction and fulfillment. And conversely, I have rarely seen a person who focused on self-alone who gave unselfishly to others.
There is great truth in the scripture paradox that a lost life is a found life.
Think carefully about: 1) When have I sacrificed direction for short-term goals? 2) What makes my life useful? 3) What do I want inscribed on my tombstone?
Words of Wisdom: “There is great truth in the scriptural paradox that a lost life is a found life.”
Wisdom from the Word: “Jehoshaphat asked, ‘Is there no prophet of the Lord here that we might seek the Lord’s direction?’” (2 Samuel 3:11 NET Bible)