By Guest Contributor, Kristi Porter, Founder and Chief Do-Gooder at Signify.
And now, here’s Kristi:
I’m sure this has never happened to you, but there are times in my life when I’ve felt aimless.
It’s not a good feeling. In fact, it’s a pretty discouraging feeling.
Ever been there?
At times like this, one of the best exercises I’ve found to get back on track is one I discovered in the Experiencing God workbook. Three times I’ve done this Bible study, and three times it’s changed my life.
I’ll give you the 50-cent tour of this exercise below, but what I think it does so well is give me perspective. Perspective brings clarity, both for where God has brought me, and potentially where He is leading me.
When we’re feeling sad, restless, or like we have no vision for the future, I think it’s often because we’re caught up in our own stuff. It’s like not being able to see the forest for the trees.
However, when we have perspective, we can rise out of our own circumstances to see the path we’ve been on and, possibly, the direction we’re headed—even if it’s only the next step.
Share Your Story to Gain Perspective
I’ll give you a small example from my own life to illustrate. I’m a solopreneur, so I have no co-workers. If you’ve ever tried to do something big on your own, you know there are lots of moments of doubt. I go through those pretty much daily! Plus, because I have no one working alongside me, there’s no one to constantly talk me down off the metaphorical ledge.
It’s at these times God has been so faithful. Without a doubt, He sends me someone new, and I get to tell my story. It could be in a new client meeting, someone I met at an event, or just a new friend. Regardless, they don’t where I’ve been, so I get to tell them.
In the process of sharing my story, I listen. And by the time I arrive at the present, I think to myself, “Wow!
That’s MY story! I got to live that, and now I get to serve the people and causes I care about. That’s amazing!”
Just like the exercise below, sharing our stories gives us perspective. It’s not about our busy calendars; it’s about the journey. And I think it’s that kind of outlook that truly gives us vision.
So, if you’re feeling restless, burned out, or looking for deeper insight in your life, give this exercise from the Experiencing God workbook a try. It can be an incredible opportunity for breakthrough, especially when trying to discern those things that bring meaning to your life, and maybe even your purpose.
Take an Objective Look at Your Past
The first step is to figure out where you’ve been. Getting perspective can be incredibly difficult in the day-to-day. There’s so much being thrown at us all the time to keep us busy and distracted. This could be a source of great unrest for a lot of us, because we feel like we’re just moving through life on autopilot. And autopilot is the opposite of what we’re after—purpose.
So, to move forward, we’ll start by looking backward.
Essentially, what you’ll need to do is list your “sign posts,” as the study calls them. These could be major milestones as well as meaningful moments. Think about the points in your life that stand out.
Oh, and before you begin to “put pen to paper,” also think about how you personally like to process information.
Me? I love bullet points, so I keep a list of these sign posts in Evernote. I’m a list maker at heart, and I don’t like keeping up with paper.
But if you’re a more artsy type of person, maybe you want to take a big piece of paper and create a map or draw your sign posts visually.
Find a way to help you get the information out of your head so that you can analyze it later.
Okay, back to it! Here are a few prompts to get you started:
· What are the major milestones that have occurred in your life? (ex: moves, college, marriage, kids, jobs)
· What moments have been meaningful? (ex: pivotal conversations, experiences)
· When/where/why have you grown spiritually? (ex: What did this look like?)
· What other times stand out in your life?
Having done this study three times, I started with the big transitions and then began to fill in the gaps. Now, I add to it annually with anything I think adds a dot to my personal timeline.
The important thing here is write down anything that stands out to you, and that you consider to have shaped you in some way.
Look for Common Threads
Whew—that’s a lot, right? Some good stuff and some not so good stuff? Me, too.
There are definitely days I’d rather forget about heartaches, bad bosses, and having chronic health issues, but those experiences shaped me, too.
So, after you’ve written what amounts to the abridged story of your life out of your head, move on to the evaluation. Basically, connect the dots of your life.
Look for common themes, threads, and occurrences.
What continues to pop up?
What trends do you see?
What makes you happy?
What makes you sad?
What do you want to see more of?
If you’re having trouble spotting themes, ask someone you trust to take a look. They might be able to spot them more quickly.
Next, add your own summary section so you have a dedicated place for your takeaways. You’ll want these to stand out for future reference.
Move Forward with More Clarity
Hopefully, you’re starting to see more clearly. You’re able to identify lessons, ideas, and values you couldn’t see as easily before.
Maybe it reinforced your thinking, or maybe it surprised you. Regardless, I hope and pray God has revealed Himself to you.
Here are just a few of my own insights:
· Justice has looked different to me over the years, but it’s always been important to me. I volunteered for years with social justice organizations, but I realized that I needed it to be a bigger part of my life. So, while I love working with all my clients, my favorites are definitely in the social impact space.
· Writing has been a big part of my life since I was a kid. Even when I wasn’t doing it full-time, I had to start a blog to not only keep up with the practice of writing, but feed this source of creativity.
· Traveling brings me both enjoyment and clarity. Over the last couple of years, I’ve made it a point to figure out ways to travel, even short distances every couple of months. It’s not just for fun, but to use as periods of reflection for my business.
· It’s not uncommon for me to have major spiritual breakthroughs after moving to a new location. I think one of the reasons I’ve felt spiritually stagnant recently is because I’ve been in the same place for too long!
And remember, new experiences can change your perspective. I think it’s a good idea to do this exercise each year to see what new insights appear and where God might be leading you next. Your purpose might indeed look the same throughout your life, or may shift from season to season or year-to-year.
What about you? What has been revealed to you through this process? With all of this newfound knowledge, what will you do next?
Whether you found a new direction or purpose or not, you should see that there is order to the chaos we call life. You have been created and called, loved and led, gifted and given, restored and redeemed—over and over again. You have not been forgotten, you have been favored.
Kristi Porter helps nonprofits and for-profits with a social mission get noticed and grow through effective marketing and communications. She also teaches solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate easy philanthropy strategies. Essentially, Kristi makes cause-focused organizations look and sound more professional so they can build a larger audience, increase sales or donations, and do more good. Connect with Kristi here.
If you missed our interview with Kristi Porter for Mission Driven Monday, you can catch up HERE.
Ready to take it to the next level?