Begin the Ending
Our Baby Girl began her final semester of law school this week. What a blur the last three years have been! Soon she will be, in the words of the Rugrats television series, All Growed Up. She has an excellent internship which she hopes turns into a full-time job after graduation and the Bar Exam. Her mother and I are really looking forward to a nice raise a few months from now.
Baby Girl posted a photo on social media next to the sign outside the law school. Her photo bears the caption, Begin the Ending.
Yesterday I officiated my ninety-one-year-old uncle’s funeral. He was a man of great deliberation. That is a polite way of saying he lived an unhurried existence. He was not lazy or slothful. He was focused and precise.
My uncle outlived his wife by seven years. Vivacious and joyful, she was his polar opposite. However, after she passed away, he soon took up residence in a nursing home. He was not bored. He picked up a bit of his wife’s joie de vivre along the way and was named last year’s Valentine’s Day King. He was well known for his ambition to dance with anyone willing to join him. He made the most of his last years.
You have heard the old saying attributed to Zig Ziglar, “You can’t go back and make a brand new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending.” Baby Girl’s formal education is coming to an end. Many new beginnings lie ahead of her. My uncle’s endings are over. Heaven is a long hello.
How about you?
Where are you in your story? What ending is near at hand? What new beginning lies ahead?
Stephen Covey says we should begin with the end in mind in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. What end are you focused on right now? What is just the right amount of vision in just the right amount of time? Since it is hard to be strategic beyond three years, how about using that as the one big qualitative goal deadline to work toward?
This one long-range visionary goal stretches you. It makes you dream big dreams. It causes your heart to beat faster. It is exciting. However, by itself, it is nothing more than a dream. You need a long-range strategy to accompany the goal which creates action toward living the life of your dreams.
What four things do you need to accomplish in the next one to three years to reach that three-year vision? These four big rocks turn this long-range goal into four significant strategic steps to achieve it.
Part of my three-year goal sounds like this:
I am a catalytic story coach helping people maximize their stories in a manner that honors God and serves others. I am focused on the few things I do well so that I can maximize my own story in my remaining chapters. I love the autonomy and variety I enjoy as I coach, consult, read, and write out of the overflow of my time with God. I have more time and resources to deeply invest in my family. We enjoy annual vacations in beautiful places where we reignite our love for one another and reimagine our future.
Note that this is written as if it is already reality. This is what I want my life to look like. This deeply motivates me.
One of the big rocks for the next one to three years is to become a subject matter expert in life planning. This will become reality through reading broadly in this subject area, systematic continuing education, and regularly facilitating life planning events.
The one short-range visionary goal focuses your work quarter by quarter to a series of significant achievements which empower you to accomplish your long-range goals. The daily, weekly, and monthly rhythm steps fill your calendar with short-range strategic meaning and purpose. You know what is important now and never have to wonder what to do next.
My current ninety-day goal is not nearly as impressive as it sounds.
I will complete one book manuscript each month.
Our assistant and I are working on a series of simple books to help people process what they learn from their Bible reading plans. These are tools which help us help others. We want to release a new book each month. That requires a workable schedule and attention to details.
One of my monthly steps is to collect and arrange thirty-one Bible verses about the topic of the month. This month is Joy.
Having completed a quarterly plan which moves me in the direction of my dreams, I schedule those weekly priorities for the upcoming week each Sunday evening. This weekly review keeps me focused on what is going well, what is going wrong, what is confused, and what is missing. This kind of weekly, quarterly, and annual planning has multiplied my productivity.
We are drawing near to the time of year when people give up on the resolutions they created around New Year’s Day. Instead of giving up until next year, start now toward that life goal you have held near to your heart for so long. Start turning that into reality.
Begin your brand new ending.
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Acts 21:10, 11 Several days later a man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea. He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’” (NLT)
Acts 20:33-35 “I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (NLT)
Acts 18:9, 10 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” (NLT)
1 Kings 19:11-13 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (NLT)