You have a picture of your life. Where it’s going? Where you want it to go? And maybe even where you thought your life would already be. One thing I know about your picture is that it includes joy. Everyone wants to live a life they enjoy. No one sets out to be miserable or stressed. No one desires to experience loneliness, hopelessness or live exhausted continuously. Life is fast-paced, full of challenges and struggles and unless there is an intentionality to how we live, these seem to be the default of our lives. So what do you do? How do you move from enduring life to enjoying life? The first step is to rhythm times throughout the year for personal review. You need to pause. You need to reflect. You need to get alone with a pen and paper and objectively look at where you are and where you want to be so that you can begin to move towards the future you desire.
The Bible continually calls you to review where you are (2 Cor. 13:5; Ps. 119:59-60; Hag. 1:5-7; Lam. 3:40). It is a call to look at yourself and take responsibility for our own life. In his famous sermon on the mount (Matt. 5-7) Jesus used the illustration of investigating whether you have a log in your eye rather than worrying about whether someone else may have a speck in there’s (Matt. 7:5) In other words – REVIEW YOURSELF! Jesus isn’t just challenging the hypocrites and haters. He’s teaching a vital life principle of personal responsibility. You are not responsible for how anyone else lives their life, but you are responsible for how you live yours. I often like to say, ‘when you read the Bible read it as a mirror not a set of binoculars’. The goal of binoculars is to focus on something other than yourself, whereas a mirror functions to allow you to inspect yourself. The difficulty, however, is that we don’t like to review ourselves because of fear of what we might see. You, therefore, have a few options. You can deny where you are. You can avoid evaluating where you are. Or you can review and begin to execute the change necessary for you experience a more enjoyable life.
Psalm 77 is one of my life chapters. God used it in a unique way to change my life during a very trying time. I was down, and I was struggling, and in a deep hole that I didn’t know how to escape. As I read the Psalm, I noticed that while the Psalmist began troubled and weary, very much in line with how I felt at the time, that was not how he finished. By the end of the chapter, his entire perspective and position in life changed. The writer moved from complaining about his difficult situation to celebrating all had God had done in the past. How did he make this shift? Verse 5 is when the change began.
5 I consider the days of old, the years long ago. 6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: Psalm 77:5
The Psalmist began to ‘consider, remember and meditate’. In other words, he started to apply the principle of review. While experiencing genuine pain, he paused and took stock of his life. If you want to be able to navigate through the complexities and pressures of life, you must learn this habit. We all suffer, struggle, and experience stress. Much of which is out of our control. But what is in our control is how we will live our lives despite these obstacles. We can learn from the Psalmist and move from complaining to celebrating.
As multifaceted beings, we need to evaluate many different aspects of our life. So ask yourself, ‘Where am I emotionally? Where am I relationally? Where am I spiritually? How about financially, physically, mentally, occupationally and even sexually? You get the idea. Life is nuanced and to truly enjoy your life you need to experience health across the board not just in one area. You can be succeeding in your career, but if your relationships are failing, or you’re experiencing significant physical health issues, you won’t experience a whole lot of joy in your life.
Let me give you a couple of examples from my own life. I make intentional space four times a year, using the school calendar to rhythm my review time (early new year; Easter, Mid-year and September school holidays). September has recently passed, and during my two-week annual leave, I spent some personal time reflecting and reviewing. As usual, I came away with much to consider. Often I can feel overwhelmed by how much growth remains but I always try and focus on working two or three areas. This September I’ve come away with three areas I have decided to make some adjustments.
Spiritual: My prayer life has been lacking. I have decided to go back to the old habit of ‘knees before feet’. Essentially if my knees hit the carpet first – I Pray. If my feet hit the carpet first, I work. Knees first mean I start each day in prayer.
Physical: My weight and overall fitness are the poorest its ever been. These holidays I struggled to play with my kids as much as I wanted to. I’ve not prioritised my health, and that needs to change. So I’m adjusting my diet, measuring my daily calorie intake and upping the exercise with the eventual goal to take up a sport again in 2019.
Mental: My leadership and general personal growth have stagnated. Leaders are readers. I’m not a great reader, but I typically read about 20 books a year. During the first half of 2018, I read five books. That’s too low if I genuinely want to grow as a leader. Since the middle of September, I’ve read five more books. In four weeks I doubled my reading by merely getting back to 30 minutes a day of reading.
So step one to living a life you enjoy – REVIEW! Stop and review where you are in light of where you want to be and and begin moving towards the future you want.