All of our lives, we are so busy doing things that most of us never understand the purpose we want our lives to serve.
- As a child, you are busy learning to be human – walking, talking, eating, learning the social and intellectual skills needed to live in our society.
- As a young adult, you were busy taking your place in society – getting that college degree, finding a job, getting your own home, being a productive worker or business owner.
- As a parent, you are super busy raising the next generation – having babies, earning enough to pay to raise them, and teaching them all of the things they need to know.
It’s only as we approach death that our lives come into sharp focus. What have we done that is worthwhile? Have we made the world a better place by being in it? Have we really been effective and productive in society?
If only it were possible to find our focus sooner, before it is nearly too late to live it.
It is possible and some people achieve that focus at a very young age, others (like me) don’t get it until later. Here are my retrospective tips on how to lead a focused life.
Build In Dream Time
Allow time in your day and week to dream. You can dream through personal meditation or in conversation with a person close to you. You can dream while you do physical tasks that don’t require a lot of mental activity. You can dream in church or during those college dorm sessions where you try to re-write the rules of the world. You can dream at work in those brainstorming meetings or at the gym while you work out.
Some of my best ideas and revelations came to me while ironing or raking leaves, or sitting with hubby in the morning talking things over. Some have even come as I write.
If you are in a constant frenzy of activity, rapidly switching from one thing to another, you can’t pursue a thought to its’ final vision.
Set your schedule to allow time for activities which allow you to dream about what you want your life to be and mean.
Picture The End Of You
As Steven Covey said in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – “Start with the end in mind”.
To live a focused life, start by figuring out what you want people to think, feel and know about you on the day that you die.
Everyone dies. Most of us just don’t want to acknowledge it. Picture yourself at your own memorial service. What do you want people to say of you? What do you want them to list as your accomplishments? Who do you want to be there? How do you want them to feel about your life and death?
Answers to these questions lead you to the vision you have for life’s purpose. Within them are multiple legacies that can be left – legacies that show you met your purpose in life, that what you have done was worthwhile and that you did leave the world a better place.
Pick one or two big legacies you want to leave. Make them the focus of your life. Then figure out what big things you can do or be to build those legacies.
Test Your Vision And Legacy Ideas
Talk to others, in multiple walks of life about your vision for yourself and how you plan to implement it. Use their input to test your willingness to pursue that vision and refine the legacies you choose to make it come about.
But be careful not to let their expectations rule your definition of your life’s purpose. You must live true to yourself. If you try to meet everyone’s expectations, your life will meander aimlessly through other people’s purposes.
Do test your vision and the legacies you want to leave behind against the values held dear by others to make sure you can hold true to them.
Develop A Roadmap
What big things can you do to achieve your legacies? Which of them will you do, which will you avoid?
If you don’t know where you are headed, looking at a map doesn’t do any good at all. Once you decide on a direction, then you can start choosing the roads to travel.
Find the big deal things to do and be and put them on your roadmap.
Set Time Frames For Your Big Deal Things
Will you be ready to take that mission trip this year or should it wait until the kids are grown? When will you have enough knowledge to start teaching those classes to pass that valuable knowledge along to future generations? How long will it take you to build up the resources to start that successful business to enrich the lives of thousands?
Think big chunks of time, measure life in decades and set big timeframes at decade markers for your big deal things to build legacies to achieve your life’s purpose.
Develop A Plan
Think about what you need to do or what skill you need to have to accomplish those big deal things. Think about the activities and tasks that you need to do to get the skills and to accomplish these big deal things.
The activities and tasks for each and every big deal thing leading to a legacy will be your life plan. A plan that lets you end up having lived a life of purpose.
Which of those tasks are you working on this year. What will you do today to make progress towards reaching this part of your life’s vision?
I use yearly goal setting and daily to do lists to try to stay on track. We are all easily distracted by many demands on our time and attention. It is often hard to stay the course.
Stay the course by setting priorities to step towards your life’s end purpose.
Allow Yourself To Change
Different stages of life may bring you to different conclusions about your purpose and vision. You may decide to change or tweak your desired legacy. Permit yourself to do so, without guilt, but then continue to live a life focused on that changed purpose.
What purpose does your life serve? Are you making progress towards the legacies that will prove you lived a worthwhile life? How will the world be better off for you having lived in it?
These are hard questions to ask and answer. How do you go about living a purposeful life?
This is a great post! I think these are all things that I am currently trying to figure out.
Thanks Holly. I am currently in a big stage of self reflection – even thinking about writing my autobiography!
Awesome article! I think at some point in our lives we should try to sit down and introspect on what our mission is in life and to figure out if we are already able to serve our purpose.
I believe it is a continual process.
This is a great post! It’s so easy to lose sight of these things in the day to day hustle and bustle. Living purposefully and deliberately is important. Right now I’m working towards things that I want to achieve by paying off my debt.
Losing debt did bring a lot of piece of mind to us. If you are constantly worried about money, you don’t usually feel much like meditating on life!
Very nicely said, even inspirational! How did you get so smart? 🙂
Hah! You just made my day. I’ve made lots of mistakes along the way, hopefully some of them paid off in new synapse connections!
Dream time has probably helped me figure out more problems and inspired me more than anything else. Sometimes I do it at work when I’m completing a monotonous task. Other times I’ll lay in bed for 10-15 min while listening to music. It’s also very therapeutic.
Music frees our inner soul.
We need space for dreaming, planning, prioritising. Yup, can’t fault that. But if I had my time again I would try to find a lot of space for doing as well! And while doing, try not to dream…
Wow, this sounds almost like poetry!
You raise some great points. Covey is a legend and I live by this ‘reverse-engineering’ approach. I am a young adult now and just hope I don’t lose sight of my dream to run a dive school one day 🙂
So I’m guessing your dream isn’t to run a dive school….
Great post Marie. I can see the difference in my life when I have a goal or not. It is easy to get sidetracked and overwhelmed but tackling one small goal at a time it all gets done.
When I picture myself at my own funeral it doesn’t look so great. Yikes, my life needs a change of course!
It does get you to thinking doesn’t it?
Great post! I never thought about what I wanted people to say about me when I die, but now I have a lot to think about.
Most people don’t ….. until they get old like me!
Great article. In our world of virtually unending distractions, I think achieving focus has become more and more difficult. I try to manage my time well, and purposefully, as you outlined. It helps me make sure I’m spending a proportionate time on the things I really value.
Good for you. You are probably one of the few.
Beautiful. So appropriate for this time of the year, too, Marie. Very well written.