I once saw an illustration at youth group that stayed with me. The pastor wanted to show the importance of getting your priorities right. He had a bottle that he first filled with sand. Then he tried to fit about 6 balls inside but because of the sand they could not all fit in. He then tried fitting the balls first and then filling the bottle with sand. Now everything fit perfectly, showing that if we put our priorities first everything else in life should fall in place.
After a grueling quarter (hence my blogging hiatus), I now face two decisive quarters ahead with a job that keeps on demanding more of me. This will not be easy. Last quarter I reached my limits, verging on the brink of exhaustion and depression. This is why I am being very intentional about this coming time. This should be slightly easier quarter but still very challenging. I just want to ensure I add my priorities first in my time container so the sand of “other stuff” can fill the remaining space.
So, I decided to calibrate my rule of life this quarter to add additional things. Probably the name “rule of life” can be a misnomer as it implies rigidity and strict adherence. A better definition would be “an intentional plan to simplify our spiritual practices and expectations for a period of time.” Traditionally, the rule of life was primarily aimed at religious practices such as prayer or reading Scripture. I have expanded to include things like physical exercise, a commitment to seek counseling, dates with my wife and taking a family day.
Honestly, writing about this rule of life is making me look a lot better than the way I normally am on a day-to-day basis. In reality, it is a plan of the things I aim for doing while also adding a lot of grace for when I fail. When I look at my rule of life for last quarter I was able to follow most of it except for the last two weeks when finals and work just consumed me to the bone. Yet, I must say, even having a rule of life felt liberating rather than an additional burden. The reason for that is that it helped me focus on a few things rather than allowing me to wonder about ALL the things I was NOT doing in the quarter. So in a way, it became an exercise in expectations management rather than an accountability tool. And by the way, writing a blog is not included in it. That is just a bonus in this season.
January is here, and we fall into this illusion of making resolutions for the new year. It is good to set goals but I would contend that the problem is the time period. I learned that planning works best in the short 3-6 month window. Anything longer than that is bound to become stale or forgotten. Now that I am studying I have the advantage of having set schedule of classes that help me also align my life to these time periods. Yet, a quarter turns out to be a great time-chunk to do goals. It forces you to go back to it soon enough and make changes as needed. No wonder, large corporations set their financial goals in quarterly periods. It helps manage investor expectations when the situation changes.
So, before I get off my soap box, I encourage replacing resolutions with simple rules of life. Focus not on what you want to ACHIEVE but on what you are going to DO. Share it with people close to you and allow yourself much grace for when you fail. They do not define who you are but are a statement of intention for a simplified life.