What if I don’t have the time to think about big life questions?

When we are super-busy, thinking about a broader sense of direction in our lives can feel a frivolity.  It’s probably a good idea but just something we don’t have time for right now.

We are so often over-scheduled and over-committed and barely have time to think about next month, let alone next season or next year. We’ve all been there – finding we spent more time last year planning our vacation than our career, or more time on social media than in calm reflection, or whatever.

However this attitude could be disastrous.  Here is why and how to move forward.

3 reasons to start thinking about your purpose today

  1. Time is ticking.  Time is our most precious resource.  It is easy for month after month, year after year, to slip by.  And we never know how many days we have left.  What a shame to have spent more time planning our vacations than orientating our lives!  And yet considering our purpose is a real investment: the earlier we do it, the greater the payoff in the remaining days of our life.
  2. Your busyness may be the symptom!  The reality is that our over-commitment and busy-ness are often symptoms of not having thought clearly enough about our purpose.  We are chasing too many things, because they all seem good.  But what are the few true priorities can you are called to?  Insight here can cut through the noise and help you cut back and simplify your life.
  3. There will never be a good time.  Here’s the rub.  You will never find that magical season when conditions are perfect to give these questions consideration.  There will always be complexities of life to juggle:  young children at home, difficult teenagers at home, new jobs to establish yourself in, illness in the family, financial difficulties, relationship difficulties, whatever.  And don’t believe the myth that retirement brings lots of time for this kind of reflection:  many retirees report being busier than ever!

4 ways to actually move forward in the midst of a busy life

1. Change the recording.

First thing is to get your brain answering different questions:

  • Stop saying to yourself “I don’t have time.”  If you say that, you will certainly never find the time.  You’ve abdicated already.
  • Start asking “when can I make time?”  Your brain is a powerful problem-solving device.  It will find answers to questions you ask it.  So ask it this one.

2.  Stop scaring yourself.

I get it, words like “purpose, calling, meaning, direction” can freak us out.  They seem so … important. Big. Scary.  How on earth can we start to address such lofty topics?

We think we need masses of time, like a week-long retreat, which just isn’t practical for us.  Or we think we need masses of insight and yet we feel cloudy and confused.

The secret to stopping scaring yourself is to understand finding your purpose and direction as a journey of smaller and more manageable steps.  Not a one-off retreat or away-day where we figure everything out, but a series of humble musings and jottings.  We need to stop seeing this as “I need to figure out my life’s calling” but “let’s get a little bit more clarity on what my next steps are.

3. Set a micro time goal

Now we’ve diffused the scary idea that we have to figure everything out all at once, set yourself a micro time goal.  Find 2, 5, 10, or 15 minutes over the next week to start thinking about some of these questions.  Hopefully after step 1 above, your brain will have started to come up with ideas when. If not, here are some quick ideas

  • Check social media for 10 minutes less
  • Watch 10 minutes less of TV
  • Skip one news check-in this week (radio, TV, web)
  • Get up 10 minutes earlier. It’s just 10 minutes!
  • Spend 10 minutes before sleep
  • Skip time with your colleagues at the coffee machine or water cooler, just once
  • Recycle a commute

Now go and put it in the diary so it actually happens. If you don’t do this you will almost certainly fail to remember.

4. Get clear about the benefit of doing this – and of not doing this.

The first step on the journey is to remind yourself, in your own words, why this is important.  This is a great activity for your first ‘micro time slot’ established in step 3.  I did exactly this a couple of years back when I knew I needed to think carefully about a few areas in my life and refocus myself.  Here are the two exercises I recommend:

  1. Write out the problem.  This basically outlines what is at stake if you don’t actually get clear on your purpose and direction.  I would just jot down a few points in a list. It’s important to do this to remind yourself that doing nothing is actually a problem.
  2. Write out the vision.  This is the flip side.   It’s what the benefits are of finding your purpose and making a real difference with your life in that chosen area.  Try to write it as a snapshot of a future point:  How do you feel? How much impact have you made?  What do important people in your life say about you?

By the way, do put pen to paper – it really makes things so much more concrete than just thinking.

A simple free resource to put this into practice

If you are interested in giving this a shot, I recommend you download my free work sheet, that:

  • gives you more detailed guidance on the process
  • provides specific questions to prompt and direct your thinking
  • can be printed and used as work sheet to ensure you get it done

Use the form right here to download it.

How about you?  Do you feel you never have the time for such long-range activities, or do you regularly make time to review your life direction? Let us know in the comments!

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