We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
In “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” Greg McKeown, describes an interesting and ironic process all successful people face:
Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.
Curiously, and overstating the point in order to make it, success is a catalyst for failure.
I’ve often felt sorry for people who are too talented and intelligent across many different areas of interest. When I was in college, I had a friend who was amazingly talented. He could sing beautifully. He could pick up just about any instrument and play it well. He was a talented actor. He could quote Shakespeare as easily as he could work out detailed and difficult mathematical equations. By the time his college career was coming to an end, he couldn’t decide which of the many opportunities to take into the next stage of his life. In the end, the various options crippled him and he couldn’t decide, and ended up frozen into inaction. After about ten years I lost track of him, but in those ten years he still couldn’t find a direction and stick to it.
McKeown calls us to “conduct a life audit” and “eliminate an old activity before starting a new one.” The life audit means looking at how we spend our work life and our personal life. Further, reflect on whom you are spending time. Are you spinning your wheels? Do your activities further your goals? Are your recreational activities renewing you? Are the friends in your life fulfilling you or diminishing you? What changes are necessary to bring you wholeness?
The next step is incredibly challenging and painful. I know a person who starts any number of new activities, and is talented in all of them. The problem is, he is so successful in everything, and his interests so varied, that he is never quite amazing at any of them. He could be a virtuoso guitarist, or a fabulous artist, even a successful race car driver, but he can never totally throw himself into anything long enough to become a virtuoso at any of them.
Today, think about the ways you spread yourself too thin. Prayerfully ask God to assist you in “conducting a life audit” and from there, taking the steps to eliminating old activities. We don’t have to strive for perfection in each activity, but we do need to strive to be our best at something, in order to honor God. Refocusing our life direction gives the Holy Spirit room to guide us to a new and even more meaningful place.