The Priority-Driven Life
by Lori Heine
On your mark…get set…go! ‘Tis the season to make resolutions. Though, before we know it, we usually find ourselves casting these good intentions aside. By the time we’ve reached middle age, many of us have gotten so discouraged by our failures that we’re afraid to make New Year’s resolutions anymore.
But Christians are a people of new beginnings. Jesus told us to believe in fresh starts. Until the very last day we draw breath, the God He has revealed to us encourages us to cast our failures behind us and try again. And again and again and again.
Some spiritual leaders have made millions telling us how. Sometimes their advice is helpful, and sometimes it comes to naught. Rick Warren made a mint on a book titled The Purpose Driven Life. I confess to being no great fan of his, because his views are, in my opinion, sinfully ignorant and disrespectful to LGBT people. But I did read this book, and generally found it interesting.
I can’t disagree that godly purpose needs to drive every Christian’s life. I assume that most of the people who read this essay believe that, too. Any resolutions we make—any plans we undertake at all—should certainly be driven by a purpose derived from our faith in Christ. This is an important thing to understand. But it’s a bit vague to simply say so.
Though I’ve made no millions serving as guru to the stars, I have been a Christian most of my life. And by middle age, I have learned a few things about what works when making resolutions and what doesn’t. Though I no longer make resolutions every New Year, I feel that my plans, in general, are more on-track than ever before. This is because I no longer see those plans as entities in themselves. I never allow them to become detached from what matters most to me.
Sitting down after Christmas and writing out a list of resolutions, much like the list of things we wanted for Christmas when we were kids, I don’t find helpful. That’s how I used to do it. I think it’s how most people do it all their lives. At least until they give up hope that they can ever plan their lives effectively.
I’ve simply taken a few steps back and begun to view the situation from a different angle. Instead of starting with a list of things I want to do, or would like to do, or think that I’m supposed to do, I now begin from a completely different place. I realize, now, that the most important thing in my life is not merely to accomplish things—not even very important things. The most important thing in my life is my relationship with God in Jesus Christ. Any other important things are attached to this like the spokes in a wheel.
These are my priorities. They rightly come before my plans. As a matter of fact, they rightly shape them.
When your life is driven by your priorities, you’ll be guided by the right purpose. Your plans and resolutions will be more likely to succeed, because their reason for being will be in line with your reason for being. Losing weight, or exercising every day, or buying a better car—the sorts of things most people list as resolutions—are only what we happen to want at the moment, and are superficial to who we really are. They anchor us to nothing deep inside us, so in the busy-ness of our daily lives, it’s relatively easy to just let them drift out of sight.
I start with the list of my priorities. There are ten of them, but I won’t enumerate them here. Suffice to say that Number One is my spiritual life. The others are listed beneath this in order of importance. Looking at that list, I ask myself how well my life reflects these central things, and then I make the plans, and set the goals, I need to have in order to make sure I’m living in harmony with my top priorities.
If we’re being honest with ourselves about what our priorities are, making our resolutions this way will motivate us more powerfully to keep them. And because the priorities themselves are the main thing, we can fine-tune our goals more flexibly as circumstances change. Doing a specific thing we may have set out to do becomes less important than making sure we’re honoring our commitment to the things that matter the most to us.
I hope that helps. If it does, you don’t need to thank me. But if you want to send a few million dollars my way, I won’t mind a bit.
© 2016 Lori Heine
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