Write it Down Then Live it Out

“No, I don’t like where I am in life. I want to be doing better.”

The young woman had come to my office looking for help. I told her that knowing she was not where she wanted to be was good. It is a step to acknowledge that and know you want to do better.

I asked her what she was doing to move forward. “Nothing really.”

Stealing a line from Dr. Phil I asked, “How’s that working for you?”

“Not very well. That’s why I came to you!”

We talked for a while about her situation. Mainly with me asking questions. What she needed most was clarity on what she wanted to accomplish in life. Even more she needed to know who she wanted to be in life.

I asked her if she had ever written down goals for her life. She said that she had not. So I asked her if she was willing to do so. Without so much as blinking an eyelash I told her that “studies” show that people who write down their goals have a much better chance of fulfilling them.

I was really glad she didn’t challenge me on the studies. I would not have been able to give her a citation. She left saying she would work on the written goals and I quickly did a search for said studies. What I found might interest you and be of help.

In 1979 the Harvard MBA program conducted a study where they asked students this question: “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” You might want to answer that question for yourself before you read further.

Here’s what they found out: only 3% had written down their goals and plans. Only 3% in Harvard’s MBA program! 13% said they had goals but they were not in writing. And a staggering 84% had no goals at all.

Ten years later the students were revisited and you will be amazed at what was discovered. The 13% who had goals but had never written them down were earning two times the salary of the 84% who had no goals. But get this—the 3% who had goals and wrote them down were earning an average of ten times as much as “the other 97% of the class combined!”

Life is made up of much more than what salary you take home. But I believe the principle we can take away from this study has to do with more than your salary or mine. Having a direction for your life and writing it down is a key to fulfilling your life’s calling.

I am not one who believes you can just “name it and claim it.” I do, however, believe that there is a power in knowing where you want to go in life and who you want to be. Here’s why: once you are clear on those two things you can say “yes” to the things that will help you get there and be the person you want to be and “no” to the things that will move you off course.

Why not give it a try? Take some time this week to write down…yes, with a pen and paper…3-5 goals for your work and 3-5 statements about who you want to be.

You may not like where you are in life now. But it can be better once you are clear about where you are going.

Question: What do you most want to accomplish in the next year?

Look Ahead for Better Days

It’s something you could notice every time you get in your car to drive. But you probably don’t. Sometimes you are just in a hurry and don’t think about what’s right there. A parable. A reminder. A way to view not only the road but also your life.

What am I talking about? Your front windshield and your rear-view mirror. You take them for granted, don’t you? That is until one gets hit by an object and shatters or one falls down.

Which happened to me and my wife on our summer road trip. I was driving at the time and all of a sudden the rear-view mirror fell. I had not noticed how much I depended on it to keep track of the traffic around me.

We couldn’t readily figure out how to put it back on or what caused it to fall. So I did what any resourceful person would do. I held it up with my right hand while I steered the car with my left. Fortunately we quickly found a place to stop, pulled in, and remounted the rear-view.

Where’s the parable in that? Sometimes you need to be able to see behind so that you can move ahead. It does you good to take stock of what has happened in your life to get you to where you are. Some of what you will see is good: Wise decisions. Helpful friends. Enjoyable times.

Some of what you will see may not be so good: Bad choices. Friends who steered you down wrong paths. Seasons you would just as soon forget.

You can learn from those. When you look in the rear-view mirror you can be reminded of routes you do not want to take going forward. What has happened in the past is descriptive. But it doesn’t have to be prescriptive.

Why? That’s the other part of the parable. Have you ever noticed that your front windshield is much bigger than the rear-view mirror? It is. (If you don’t believe me go check yours right now.)

What lies in your future is much bigger than anything that has happened in your past. Your best days are ahead. I’m not saying all of them will be perfect. The road ahead can have potholes and uneven shoulders.

But they can be better. They can be better because you have hopefully become a better traveler of life. If you have paid any attention to what is in the rear-view you have learned which paths are better. And because you have you can look for the better things that lay in front of you.

Those better things are being paved by God. One of the prophets told God’s people as much. They did as we do. We tend to think of the “good old days.” When we are in the middle of something hard we think the best times were somewhere “back there.”

But don’t. Keep your eyes on the road ahead. Isaiah says: “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness.”

Are you traveling through a wilderness? Then don’t look to the past. You might miss the new road right in front of you.

Question: Do you believe the best days are ahead of you?

Avoid the “Kiss of Death” in Your Relationship

If you value your relationship with your spouse you will want to listen to John Gottman and Robert Levenson. They say that this one factor can predict divorce with a 93% accuracy. And no, it has nothing to do with the way you place the toilet paper on the roll.

But it may have everything to do with your reaction to it. If you find yourself thinking or saying things like “What kind of idiot doesn’t understand that the paper should be on the outside and not the inside? The patent even showed it this way!” then you may be headed for a breakup.

What is the one factor that they have identified for predicting divorce? Contempt. Contempt is a mix of anger and disgust towards another person. And in the case of marriage Gottman– a psychologist at the University of Washington and founder of the Gottman Institute–studied 79 couples over a period of 14 years to arrive at his conclusion: contempt is the “Kiss of Death” in a relationship.

Contempt for the other person leads to a superiority complex in the relationship. And when one person feels smarter than the other it will lead to them not valuing the input the other has to give. Their opinions and thoughts will not be valid and you will find yourself less able to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective.

Jesus talked about this in the Sermon on the Mount. You can find a progression there that moves from anger to contempt to lust to divorce. To prevent divorce Jesus started with anger and said the root of the problem had to be done away with. If anger is done away with contempt disappears too.

What can you do if you see this trait in your relationship?  Here are a couple of ideas that might help:

  • Just recognizing it in yourself or your spouse is a good first step.
  • If you see the trait in yourself get some help in identifying why you show up in your relationship the way you do. What deep held beliefs do you have that would make you think that your spouse seldom has a valid idea? What experience did you have in  your past that made you want to be right all the time?
  • If the trait is in your spouse you might not want to attack them with your discovery. Instead invite them into a discussion about how you might make your relationship better. If that is their goal too then you can discuss your feelings of being treated as an inferior and ask them to help you.

Addressing this issue early in marriage is vital. Studies show that when contempt surfaces in the first year of marriage a couple is more likely to divorce. But sometimes that doesn’t happen until sixteen years down the road.

Contempt is the “Kiss of Death” in a marriage. Ridding your relationship of it will set the environment for better kissing.

Question: When have you shown contempt for your spouse in your relationship?