Do you know where you are headed next in life? Do you know where you should be headed next? If you’re like a lot of us, you may have accidentally fallen into a life direction instead of intentionally choosing your best path.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it shouldn’t be that way.
God created each one of us with unique strengths, passions, and skills sets. He gave us each unique relationship connections that open doors of opportunity unavailable to others.
And He expects us to use it all to more fully reveal His majesty on earth as it is in heaven.
A Little of My Story
A few years back, I served as the principal of a thriving Christian school. I was doing good work, to be sure, but I sensed there was something more God wanted me to do. Truth be told, I had known what it was for quite some time—decades, in fact.
From an early age I had sensed a strong desire to write. I loved to think deeply about life’s issues, study them in light of God’s revealed Word, and then communicate what I learned in language everyone could understand.
But I didn’t pursue it. At least not directly.
I needed a job with health benefits when I got married, so I went with what I knew—retail. I took a management position with Target. I became a pastor for a while—studying, counseling, and teaching. I became an English, history, and speech teacher—helping others get better at thinking and sharing their thoughts. I got an MBA and ran the school so we could produce more biblical thinkers who would communicate well.
Good things, all. But none were truly what I was wired to do when I’m at my best.
In many ways, I settled for what Stephen Pressfield calls a “shadow calling.”
All of these jobs were sort of similar to what I was truly designed to do. Some were so close that they felt like I was fulfilling my calling at times—close enough to pass a hurried review but not a detailed life inspection. They were only a shadow of my true calling.
I determined that if my story was to become one worth telling for all eternity, I had to let go of my shadow calling—safe and secure as it might have felt at the time—and step toward a destination I did not fully understand (and am still discovering).
So I stepped out, away from the school and toward a new life direction oriented around a core of writing.
And now I make a living doing what I love to do. I invest 80-90% of my time in my “sweet spot” of strengths, as opposed to the 30% or so that I did before.
But stepping out into nothingness is not a practice I would advise. Taking a blind leap is not faith, but foolishness.
Along the way, I learned a few things that can help anyone trying to find their authentic life direction.
5 Suggestions to Help you Get Clear on Your Life Direction
- Clarify what you believe to be true. Everything begins and ends with faith—and faith is doing what you believe to be true, often in spite of what you see, sense, or feel. [I unpack and explain this teaching in detail in the first 3 chapters of A Story Worth Telling. ] Getting clear on what you believe to be true is critical because what you believe determines what you do and, more importantly, what you think you can do. Begin by examining what you believe to be true about God. About yourself. About others. Those beliefs will shape your understanding of what is possible. You believe, therefore, you do. The process I’ve described above takes time, which is why most people never engage it, I suspect. But once you do, everything changes.What you used to accept as normal no longer satisfies. What satisfied you before may feel inadequate as your vision for what is possible grows. And that’s ok. “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.” —George Mueller
Focus your faith. To fulfill what God has created you to do, you must first believe that He is the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Unlike some who try to help people find life direction apart from faith in God, I believe it needs to start there. Can you figure out how you are wired without a right relationship with your Creator? Yes. But can you fully engage in the mission He created you to do? No. Only with faith focused on Christ can you begin to fully comprehend how your life story fits into His greater story. That means you have to get serious about walking by faith focused on God—not just saying you trust, but intentionally taking righteous risks in order to increase your faith and to more fully reveal His majesty. Only then can you begin to move from the excuses of if only, to thinking what if, to walking as if all the promises of God are true in every area of your life.
- Prepare to Act Courageously. When I stepped away from a reliable paycheck, believe me, I was afraid. Even when I sat down with my six children and explained the situation and assured them God was in control, I wasn’t always confident. But I moved forward anyway, even though it made me uncomfortable. Because comfort can never achieve what courage dares to try. So expect the journey to be intimidating and even downright scary at times. Fear may be the best indicator that you are finally attempting to do something with your life that you know you never could do apart from divine intervention. And that’s good news. Your story will become most worth telling when it most fully reveals the majesty of God for all eternity.
- Discover yourself. How much time have you invested into understanding how God has wired you to thrive? Few of us invest much energy into figuring out how we are each uniquely created. We look at the success of others and then try to cram ourselves into their success box. We end up frustrated at best, with our skills and talents left sticking out at awkward angles. Some of the best tools I have encountered for discovering how I am wired include StrengthsFinder (for a general identification of strength areas), StandOut (excellent, scientifically reliable tool that focuses on your best role in the context of a team), The Truth About You (hands-on application for StrengthsFinder with tools you can use to identify strengths and weaknesses) and the RightPath resources, which give what may just be the most thorough look into behavioral hard-wiring. Do your homework before you step out onto the trail. Not that you won’t learn as you go, as well, but at least discover your basic make-up before you set out on the journey. [Read my post “The First Step to Figure Out Your Life Direction” ]
- Listen. The reality is that most of us stagger through life, lurching in whatever direction the wind happens to blow, without much intentional planning. Part of the problem is that we never take the time to truly listen. We must listen to the voice within that produces the dreams that fuel our souls. We must listen to wise counsel from without and be sure to ask the right questions. Above all, we must listen to wisdom from above, revealed primarily but not exclusively through Scripture. I suggest a personal retreat dedicated to listening intently. When I did that, I returned having decided I could not stay where I was and get to where I needed to be. It was one of the most freeing and clarifying moments I have ever experienced.
The process I’ve described above takes time, which is why most people never engage it, I suspect. But once you do, everything changes.
What you used to accept as normal no longer satisfies. What satisfied you before may feel inadequate as your vision for what is possible grows. And that’s ok.
Photo credit: waynewaite.com