God taught me numerous lessons this past year and I know He wants me to learn more in the coming year. Unfortunately, you do not learn by passively letting each day go by. I think you need to be asking questions all the time. These may be questions about yourself or about the circumstances you are experiencing. Here are some of the questions I am continually asking myself.
1. What do I need to remove from my life?
I am fully aware that some of the behaviors in my life are counterproductive to my long-term dreams. This may be as simple as removing some of the chocolate or soda from my diet. It can also be as tricky as watching movies with nudity or foul language in them. Jesus reminds us that for a plant to grow there must be pruning.
2. What do I need to add to my life?
I once read a statement from Dr. Phil that said something to the affect of, none of us really change we simply exchange one habit for another. I am not sure I completely agree with it, but there is definitely some truth to it. For example, I not only need to remove the junk food but I need to add exercise. Instead of lying around eating sugar and getting fat I need to get up and do something active to fill that time. If I am going to remove something negative I had better have plan to fill that void with something positive.
3. How can do things better?
Numerous things in my life are not necessarily bad. In fact, many things I do are very good. The problem can be that I am not doing them effectively. How can I improve my Bible reading time, my prayer life or my spiritual reading? Is it better to listen to something or read it myself? Is it better if I take notes or simply sit back and absorb? How can I maximize the time I am using for good in my life?
4. Does this matter in the big picture of things?
Early in life I was often caught up in the minutia of the moment. Little flaws would drive me crazy. Momentary disagreements would derail me. One sentence statements would keep me up at night. Lately I ask myself “big picture” questions. Is that one disagreement indicative of my entire relationship or just this one moment? Will this one flaw throw off my entire effort or be just a minor distractions? Will I care about this issue in a year? When I ask myself this question it helps me to calm down and not be so emotional in the moment. That dent will not matter in a year compared to the scar I can give with my words in the moment.
5. What did I learn from that experience?
At least half of what I attempt fails. Maybe more. Some blog posts never get read. Some sermons get a nice yawn. Some family times end in arguments and frustration. Some ministries fail. Some dreams die before I am able to take the next step toward them. You know what I mean, because we have all been there. I have come to believe we can focus on the failure or we can learn from what just happened. With that knowledge we can do try to avoid the same mistakes the next time or do it differently altogether.
The flip side is also true. Sometimes I actually succeed. The blog gets praise, the sermon goes well, the ministry is effective and my relationships are great. I still need to pause and ask myself, “What went right?” How can I repeat success unless I learn from those experiences too.
Failure or success must be constantly evaluated so that we can learn from each day of our life.
These are the questions I am asking myself this year. Some of them I ask daily, some weekly and some monthly. I will often sit down at lunch alone and just start thinking. Often I bring a notepad and jot down ideas that come to mind. It has resulted in blog posts, sermons and always life lessons that are making me into the person God wants me to be.