Discover A New Beginning
Ted W. Engstrom
What a tremendous, invigorating word-Discovery! The word has intrigue. Mystery. It implies that something valuable-even precious-is temporarily hidden from normal view, just waiting for us to dig until we find it.
Consider this. If you were to participate in an archaeological expedition, you would need certain essentials, including strong mental desire to believe something is there to discover and the assurance that the treasure, no matter how hidden, will be unearthed through your efforts. You would need specific tools, and the task of digging would have to take absolute priority over every other activity in your life. You could not scrape a few inches of dirt for five minutes a day and expect to make much of a discovery. You might uncover a few commonplace arrowheads-but you would, in all probability, miss the gold.
Discovery is a demanding but worthwhile process. Beyond rare artifacts or buried treasure, it can also yield new ideas, new options and new pursuits.
A Lifetime of Discovery
Several years ago Newsweek ran an immensely valuable two-page article entitled “Advice to a (Bored) Young Man.” Despite its title, its counsel is to us all-man or woman, young or old.
Died, age 20; buried, age 60. The sad epitaph of too many Americans. Mummification sets in on too many young men at an age when they should be ripping the world wide open. For example: Many people reading this page are doing so with the aid of bifocals. Inventor? B. Franklin, age 79.
The presses that printed this page were powered by electricity. One of the first harnessers? B. Franklin, age 40.
Some are reading this on the campus of one the Ivy League universities. Founder? B. Franklin, age 45.
Others, in a library. Who founded the first library in America? B. Franklin, age 25.
Some got their copy through the U.S. Mail. Its father? B. Franklin, age 31.
Now, think fire. Who started the first fire department, invented the lightning rod, designed a heating stove still in use today? B. Franklin, ages 31, 43, 36.
Wit. Conversationalist. Economist. Philosopher. Diplomat. Printer. Publisher. Linguist (spoke and wrote five languages). Advocate of paratroopers (from balloons) a century before the airplane was invented. All this until age 84.
And he had exactly two years of formal schooling. It’s a good bet that you already have more sheer knowledge than Franklin ever had when he was your age.
Perhaps you think there’s no use trying to think of anything new, that everything’s been done. Wrong. The simple, agrarian America of Franklin’s day didn’t begin to need the answers we need today.
Go do something about it.
Newsweek then suggested that the reader tear out the page, read it on his 84th birthday, and ask himself what took over in his life: indolence or ingenuity?
I’m not suggesting you tear out this page, but we all need to keep it handy. There’s no reason, however, to wait until our 84th birthdays. How about looking at it every birthday, or every month, or every week for the rest of our lives!
Benjamin Franklin’s discoveries kept him going for a lifetime of service to his country and his fellowman. And with each success his motivation became even stronger.
Are you saying, “Come on, now, you can’t expect me to be a Benjamin Franklin.” Or are you thinking, “Now there was a great man. And I have just as much opportunity to make my life count as he did.” We hope it’s the latter. Because, for one thing, it’s true.
We do have as much opportunity. And those diamonds still can be found in our own backyard. We just need to know where to dig.
Discovery in Action
Perhaps you want to initiate a new project, a new commitment, a new beginning. Here are 14 steps on the road to discovery and achievement.
1. Determine values. Ask yourself, “What do I value most?” “What consumes my time?” “What are my deepest needs?” “How am I doing in fulfilling them?”
We’ve read stories of men and women who have left high-level, lucrative, executive positions to run grocery stores or fishing tackle shops in the mountains. Whether it was mid-life crisis or just determination to get out of the rat race, their decisions to make a change started with the questions, “What do I value most?” and “How can I go about getting that for me?”
2. Realize motivation is continuous. We are always motivated in some direction-good or bad-to do something. So right now, as we begin, let’s ask ourselves, “What is my direction?” “Where am I heading?” “If money or location or health or anything else were not obstacles, what would I do with my life beginning today?”
Another way to ask ourselves that question might be, “What would I like to have written on my tombstone?” Since that would be my final statement, it obviously would be an important one concerning the direction I wanted my life to take.
3. Seek Wisdom. We must recognize and understand the true value of divine wisdom. In James 1:5, the apostle admonishes us that “if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him.” Wise counsel indeed! Read the words of Solomon the Wise. God enabled him to share practical wisdom with each of us through the Old Testament.
4. Be realistic about limitations. We must be sure to set goals within our reach. Attempting the impossible will destroy our motivation overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither is a career . . . nor a life that’s worth living.
Yes, we must stretch ourselves, but we must also ask, “Is this goal I’m contemplating in sync with who I am?” “Will I be compatible in this new environment?” “Does my intuition tell me I may be overextending myself and my abilities?”
We are neither supermen nor wonderwomen. And if we feel we must do everything, sooner or later we will make the startling discovery that we are doing absolutely nothing of lasting value.
5. Be willing to take some risks. We cannot be afraid to try new ideas and new methods and we need to challenge with a vengeance such killer phrases as, “You’re on the wrong track”; “The boss ought to get a chuckle out of that idea”; “Hey, I can tell you, the twelfth floor isn’t going to like it.”
Remember, all the new ways of doing things have not yet been discovered. So take some risks, find a better way. Maybe you will invent a new mousetrap in the process.
6. Make lists. If each of us had to make a decision today that would change the direction of our lives, what would it be? Would we start our own business? Take an overseas assignment? Work in a halfway house for kids in trouble? Would we finally sit down and write that novel? Start a course in accounting at night school? Take flying lessons? Start big. Think blue sky. No limits.
Make a list of your grandest dreams and then put it aside-but don’t forget it. Make another list with the heading “Things I can start doing today.” Be specific, clear and realistic. An effective, easily described plan (written so both you and others can understand it) is the first step to action.
7. Pray. We must lay our plans before the Lord. Years ago I took Psalm 32:8 as my life verse: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way that thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye” (KJV). The knowledge that God does instruct, teach and lead His children step by step and day by day is a constant encouragement to me. He is far more interested in us, our plans, our future and our well-being than we are ourselves, and we must pray about what we think God has for us in this process. He is as much concerned about the details of our planning as He is about the final results. More is accomplished by prayer than by anything else this world knows.
Who can explain prayer? We have direct access to the Maker of the universe. We can call on Him, counsel with Him. God, in His Word, continually invites us into His presence. “Call on me . . .” “We have an advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous one.”
8. Divide projects into manageable parts. After we’ve given thought and prayer to our direction, we must ask ourselves, “How can I break tasks into manageable pieces so I can handle them effectively?” Remaining consistently self-motivated throughout life comes from making regular progress. But if we overload our circuits, our system will begin to close down-physically and emotionally. When that happens we will frustrate ourselves into a corresponding loss of productivity. So initially, we must take only bite-size chunks and not try to finish a six-month project in six weeks. Being realistic with ourselves about our abilities will pay off in the long run.
9. Take action. Procrastination is the death blow to new discoveries. “I’ll do it later . . . after I get organized” is the language of the unsuccessful and the frustrated. Highly motivated men and women don’t put things off. They know their lives are no more than the accumulation of precious seconds, minutes and days, golden moments never to be recaptured.
Just three words, “Do it now,” can propel us on to achievements we never thought possible. Start prospecting a new client, now. Empty the garbage, now. Fix the leak in the sink, or in the roof, now. Love your spouse, now. Today unused is lost forever, and tomorrow may never come.
10. Consider the negative consequences of inaction. If we neglect practical goals and objectives we could incur financial loss, depression or deteriorating health. We may take out frustrations on loved ones.
When we choose to do it now, we cut through our work like a machete going through high brush. when we choose not to act, our inaction takes on a life of its own and inflicts its punishment on us.
11. Take advantage of energy peaks. All of us need to learn to schedule our most important tasks during those times when our body and mind are functioning at top level. Some of us are morning persons, other’s don’t get going until midnight. Some need naps, other’s don’t. Only you know when you work at your best and highest level. It may be helpful to make an “energy chart” for the month.
At the end of each day, make a note of those periods of time when you did your most productive work. Was it after a nap? After lunch? After a stimulating conversation with an associate or with one of your children? This regular personal survey can help you apply your best efforts to demanding tasks.
12. Trust in a big God. God is without limits. Nothing is impossible with Him. He is the author of true creativity. All creation is His, including every idea our minds can conceive. He keenly desires to give us the ability to make the right choices in our lives.
13. Become accountable. Find some other person or a small group of people-whom you can trust and who trust you-to monitor your progress in a given area. There is a great deal of pleasure in being held accountable, yet many of us fear this exposure.
There are three kinds of accountability. The first is determined by the society into which we are born. To be a part of our society, we must accept the accountability society places on us. We are, of course, expected to do certain things correctly and according to schedule. Taxes will come due every April. Stoplights will turn red. The consequences of ignoring these occurrences are powerful incentives for us to perform well. Accountability is assumed. It is a given.
We accept the second kind of accountability when we join an organization, whether it is part of our vocation or something like our local church. When we accept a job, we automatically accept responsibility to our superiors, peers and subordinates. We may play different roles at different times, one time as leader, another time as follower, but accountability is always part of the job. Too often in our service we forget that.
The third kind of accountability is that which we voluntarily make to others. In many ways it is the most effective. We all seem to perform better against the goals we set for ourselves. We should seek to be accountable to someone for as many areas of our life as possible and to permit others to ask us to hold them accountable. I have a friend who often asks the simple question, “What can I pray about for you this week?” I soon learned that he intended to accept responsibility not only to pray about that need, but later to ask, “How did it go?” I quickly learned not to be too glib with my prayer requests!
14. Be optimistic. Success is won by people who know it can be done. One of the greatest salesmen of all time, W. Clement Stone, has said repeatedly, “What the mind can conceive and believe in, the mind can achieve.” And Stone is right!
Do we dare believe it? If we do, we will be able to aim higher and reach farther than we ever thought possible, because the self-motivated optimist is getting things done when others are still wondering if they can be done.
Optimists believe in who they are and in what they are doing. They make mistakes and learn from them. they achieve success but don’t take for granted that success will come again. They set long-range objectives, but they also encourage themselves with daily personal rewards.
Optimists know that with God’s help they can be the people they were created to be. We can be open, free, caring, spontaneous-with the daily awareness that successful living is nothing if not, with God’s help, an endless journey in self-discovery and personal fulfillment.
The above article, “Discover a New Beginning” is written by Ted W. Engstrom. The article was excerpted from a pamphlet published by Focus on the Family in 1985.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.