Out of Crisis

Many of you know my father is battling lymphoma.  He came close to dying a week or so ago and I am pleased to share that he is out of the crisis zone even though he is not completely out of the woods.

There’s something about crisis that crystallizes our thinking and how we invest our time. Most of us don’t live in perpetual crisis, but lots of us live in a funk. Living lives that aren’t miserable — just a little stale, boring, selfish, safe, and small. Joyless.

Sadly, many have thrown in the towel thinking this is as good as it gets. It reminds me of the TV commercial getting a lot of air time these days about “The Settlers:”  many have settled for lives that are comfortable but lack vision, energy, and purpose.

There is a way out of this funk. I’ve spent the last decade studying and coaching people who are pursuing and experiencing joy.  I’ve captured those findings in my book  The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose and Balance. I’ve discovered that one of the biggest deterrents to experiencing joy — besides a lack of imagination or lack of a crisis — is a lack of time. Time to intentionally rethink the purpose of our lives.  I call this margin— and where there is no margin there is no mission.

Change is hard, and if the status quo of our lives is so-so but not disastrous, we won’t push ourselves to create the space to be strategic about our lives.

There are others who have plenty of motivation to change either because the status quo is painful or the promise of a better life is compelling. But their lives are so full of commitments, responsibilities, and obligations that they can’t find the time to plan and execute on any real change in their lives.

I’ve heard it said that BUSY stands for Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke. Our jam packed lives are holding us back.  Although most of what’s holding us back is good stuff, it’s not the great stuff God really wants for us.

So how do we create margin in our calendars? My recommendation is to NOT start with time management, efficiency or delegation techniques. You see, the real source of busyness is rooted in divided and confused values and priorities. For example, someone may value family time, but they also value how people perceive their work ethic. The result is a workaholic who lives with guilt that he doesn’t spend enough time with his family.

Another example is someone who values making a positive difference in their community, but also wants all the nice things money can buy.  The result is a stressed out servant who is also a slave to consumerism and materialism.

No amount of efficiency or time management expertise will get us out these types of pickles.

My advice is this: “If you want capacity in your calendar get conviction about your calling.”

Here’s how it happened for me: In 2005, my dissatisfaction with the status quo compelled me to enroll at the Halftime Institute to figure out God’s real purpose for my life. Not that my life was bad. In fact, my work as a management consultant paid well. My marriage was strong. The kids were healthy. I was having a blast in Colorado skiing, fishing, hunting, and camping.  But there was a joy that I kept reading about in the bible that was eluding me.

My Halftime Coach gave me a lot of tools, assessments and exercises to work on.  He also encouraged me to carve out extra time to journal daily about my dreams, fears, real obstacles, and perceived obstacles. One day I decided to read 6 months of my journaling in one sitting. As I did that, it clicked in my heart, gut and brain that my calling is to help people figure out their calling.

That was it.  It was my calling and I knew it. When I looked at my packed calendar 15 minutes later, it was crystal clear which activities supported my calling and which were getting in the way. I began the process of ruthlessly yet responsibly getting rid of commitments and activities that were holding me back.

By creating a little margin to think about God’s purpose for my life, I was able to open up lots of margin to go live it.

Here’s to joyful living!

Jeff Spadafora