I heard recently of a man who is a relatively successful singer/songwriter, successful in that he seems to make his living pursuing his art and passion (I have never heard of him, not that that is much of a bar). At one point it became clear he needed to take some time away from that pursuit. For 5 years he had pondered walking across the United States of America, an idea planted by someone during a random encounter he decided it was time, it wasn’t a serious notion, until it was. He placed both feet in the Atlantic and took off. It was an amazing journey, sometimes a dangerous one—like when he was bit by a venomous snaked and spent five days in hospital and 3 week recovering before heading back out. When he got to the pacific he took those long awaited steps into the water…and felt the same.
“I thought I would feel accomplished” is what he said.
In the end he did feel something, he felt what he called “possibility.” I guess he means the beginning of a new time, the post-walk time.
What strikes me in this is how often we might step out in faith onto a journey that sounds like a good idea without really knowing why or what we might expect. This isn’t always bad, in reality we never know exactly what we are doing or where we are going or how we are going to feel about it once it is done; we are notoriously poor at predicting what will bring us joy and satisfaction. Still, when he thought more about it he realized he had expectations, he just hadn’t taken the time to discover them or think about whether his particular project was going to help him meet the need behind the expectation; in this case the feeling of accomplishment, something he lacked in his life.
Many will set off to read more, eat better, study scripture, pray more etc. etc. over the next month. While we have bad predictive powers it still seems true that it is particularly difficult to hit a target if we do not know what the target is. So, I wonder if now might be the time to ask some deeper questions so that whatever strategy to meet our needs we choose (walking across Canada, pursuing an Ironman, learning cello, hosting great parties…) might actually have a chance of accomplishing this.
Do we want more respect?
Do we want less fear or anxiety?
Do we want that elusive sense of accomplishment?
Asking what we really want may help us select a project to embark upon.
This is as true for the spiritual life as it is for our financial-mental-relational-physical lives.
This December, I suggest taking the time to evaluate where we are, and writing down as accurately/honestly as we can what our current pain points are and where we would like to be, or see improvement in the future. From there we can all begin to pick tasks (strategies like reading the bible every day, saying I love you to the mirror…) with a little more hope that we might succeed in meeting one of our core needs.
I believe this helps me because when I know my ‘why’ for meditating, scripture reading, praying and the like they are much easier to practice with regularity. Whatever your project is, if you know your why I suspect it will be easier to follow through on.