YOUR SEARCH. I made a commitment to myself and to you to try not to control or steer you regarding decisions about your future. You are exploring options and considering choices. I want to support you in that search without trying to determine outcomes. Your future is yours, not mine. I fully anticipate that you will clearly eclipse my own best advice.
PRINCIPLED APPROACH. I was thinking about this and figured that it’s not specific choices that matter so much to me as a desire that you take a principled approach to your future. So, here are a few things I hope you’ll take to heart as you approach your future. I have tried—and am still endeavoring—to live these. They are in no specific order and they are incomplete. Hopefully, we will have opportunity to talk more about these together.
- Nurture your enthusiasms. May you know what it feels like to be exuberant about a few things. May you occasionally enjoy something so much you care less what peers or others think. An enthusiasm can connect you to authentic passion about life. It can also convey the difference between what excites and what empowers.
- Fan the flame of your gifts and creativity. Run to your strengths as you sense or uncover them. Even if you don’t feel creative, you really are. Creativity can’t be reduced to art forms. Explore and experiment with ways of expressing yourself until you find a few with which you can sail forward.
- Open yourself to God; pay attention to the “still, small voice.” This is not about going to church. It is about something much bigger, grander. Even if organized religion sometimes seems provincial and institutional church disappoints, God and grace is bigger, higher, deeper, wider. God is ever-approachable, accessible, with you, there for you. Keep open. And tune in frequently.
- Think in terms of “calling” as well as career path or vocation. In Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer paints these distinctions. You are incredibly capable; there is really nothing you can’t do. Don’t typecast yourself or close the door on any possibilities too quickly. Think in terms of what contribution you might make to your generation, to life, more than about whom you might work for or what job you might fulfill.
- Face down your fears. You will encounter intimidators, bullies, and manipulators throughout life. They come in the form of ideas, norms, friends, family, corporations and culture. You may even come to fear your own power. Whatever or whoever you fear holds power over you. When afraid, seek to see through fears and pray for courage to confront and throw off fear’s tyranny—again and again.
- Cultivate solitude. Carve out space to be alone, to be quiet, to listen, to recollect, to open your heart and look inside, to lift your soul and be changed little by little. This includes intentionally and routinely disconnecting from noise and media. It’s a discipline that will bring great satisfaction and wisdom. Here is where you learn to know yourself and discern what is best.
- Unlock the power of forgiveness. Annoyances, slights, grievances, hurts and wrongs multiply. The only sane way forward is to forgive. Whatever grievance you hold onto holds onto you; it inflicts more personal pain than you can inflict in response. Forgiveness is a choice. But our ability to forgive is limited; I’ve found I need God’s grace to make forgiveness real and lasting. There’s nothing so wonderful in life as to forgive and be forgiven.
- Magnify subtleties; look carefully at things others overlook. “Been there, done that” seems to define our times, as if life is about collecting strings of experiences. Manyness and muchness leaves unfulfilled yearnings. I find value in contemplating serendipitous encounters. Return to memorable places. Be faithful to friends. Attend to those others undervalue. Uphold the value of something small.
- Diversify your exposure to ideas, people, and the milieu of life. Keep drawing the circle bigger. Read beyond your comfort zone. Dare to listen to and include people others routinely reject. Challenge every prejudice you find yourself expressing. The world is too interesting and life’s too short to think and act narrowly. And the world really needs you.
- Don’t deny yourself “the struggle.” No one hands you personal success or freedom. It is won through intentional pursuit and personal sacrifice. It’s worth it to put first things first and delay gratification. Give up some frivolous things in order to become or achieve what you desire. This isn’t about “financial freedom” so much as it is about becoming and doing what you envision.
- Reflect on your journey as you go. Look back often enough to appreciate the journey you’re on. Observe how grace has guided you thus far. Note past failures and see how to avoid them in the future. Celebrate little breakthroughs and the things important to you that others don’t notice. Reflecting on your journey is a way of loving God, loving yourself and, ultimately, making your love more valuable to others.
In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.