This article originally appeared on http://www.steveandgwensmith.com/a-new-year-and-another-new-beginning/. We are grateful to the author for his permission to reprint it.
Here are five suggestions that I hope will give you some perspective to think through about your life and your future. Each of these suggestions will take practice; beginning again and again to get it right and this one most especially: grace—please choose to extend grace to yourself as you begin again. Think these through. Print this out and consider reading it with a friend over a meal or with your family. See what other ideas along with my ideas will spark in your and in your conversation. Here are my five suggestions for our new year ahead:
1. Work smarter, not harder. Learning to work smarter takes into account:
a. Your capacity—It’s not just how much can you do but how much SHOULD you do? Our true capacity is not really a measurement of if we are “high capacity people” or not. It is more sacred than that very corporate way of measuring people. It is about learning to keep our humanity in tact. That means giving up the myth that we “should” and “have to” always be doing more. To preserve our humanity and healthy relationships, we may need to learn to do less-but to actually do what we do better.
b. Your margin—We need to think in terms of this focused question—Is my life—at the rate I am currently living—sustainable? When we include having margin in our life, it means not giving all we have; all the time to everyone around us. It means reserving time, energy and space—our every hearts for those we love and truly care for in this life right now—not later.
c. Your boundaries—Are you saying “Yes” to the wrong people in your life? What would it mean to learn to say “Yes” to yourself and “No” to others? Sometimes, we have to learn to say “No”to others in order that we can say “Yes” to those we love—which includes ourselves and my friends, this is NEVER a selfish act. Never!
2. Right size your life! We’ve all heard the expression “down size.” Companies down size. But sometimes, there is resistance to thinking of down-sizing when it comes to our personal life or church or a ministry. Let’s learn to think of things with a new term: RIGHT SIZING! What would your life look like if you live this next year “right sizing your life?” What would you need to stop doing? What do you want to start doing? This is an expression that Gwen and I are embracing as we contemplate the future of our own work and our short time left to do this work. We want to give up illusions of expanding and rather, embrace living life that feels right, is right and treats us right as well as other people!
3. Live with the End in mind. Most of us live with an illusion that we will outlive death—perhaps even escape it. But living wisely means to live each day with your own end in mind and that does not mean retirement. It means the end of your physical life on this planet. Benedictine Spirituality, which has greatly impacted our life and work says, “Keep death always in front of you.” If we do this, we will not live with regrets. We will grow in our appreciation of people—not things and embrace an eternal perspective in life not just focused on the here; the immediate and the urgent. I sit with a person each month who is a Benedictine Monk. As I sit and process where I am on my own journey, I see behind them–hung on the wall–a picture, an iconic image of my own spiritual director lying on the floor with a funeral pall draped over their entire body. It is a sobering reminder for me each month as I sit talking about my life to live with my own end in mind. It’s a humbling yet healthy realization to embrace in our Facebook lives where we offer illusions of happiness, fun and out of proportion pictures which tell us that we are missing out; we better hurry up and do what they are doing to really live. When I processed this picture with my spiritual director, I am reminded that the Benedictines make a vow to “live every day with death in mind.” It’s a vow that helps keep them grounded and humble. What would it be like if in our marriages, friendships and work, we did the same to remember how fragile, brief and fleeting life is?
4. Live this next year in a sustainable rhythm.
By far, the #1 violation of people’s lives is simply this: We are living too fast; doing too much and have stripped the gears of our soul where there is nothing left but 5th gear and reverse. A sustainable rhythm has it’s foundations in the very heart and work of God. God worked six days but left one whole and complete day for rest. By embracing a cadence of life where we learn to rest and give up the illusion and false notion that says: Our life is up to us. Our work is up to us. The well being of other people is up to us. These are all fabricated lies that attach themselves to our hearts and literally squeeze the life out of us—robbing us of true life itself. In our work with thousands of leaders in the marketplace and ministry, the violation of living in a sustainable rhythm is rampant, destruction and dangerous. It is why there is so much exhaustion in people’s lives, marriages, relationships and souls.5. Live with your Soul in mind this next year! When we learn to live with our soul in mind, we will embrace the notion of caring for our souls. We are not machines. We are an integrated, cohesive and unified creation. We are wonderfully and fearfully made. So when we live with the soul in mind, we understand that stress, busyness and living in the fast lane will not only make us tired. It will make us sick. It will suck the life out from us. When we live with the soul in mind, we will live whole and holy lives—experiencing a deep sense of satisfaction, contentment and happiness. These are things that we cannot buy—cannot manufacture and cannot barter for. Contentment is an inside job which involves careful attention, nourishment and cultivation. When the Apostle Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content…” he wrote those words while chained to a wall of a prison. What Paul learned, we can learn.
Friends, a New Year provides the opportunity for us to give attention to our very lives. I trust these five suggestions will give you fodder for the fire of transformation this next year and throughout our lives.
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