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October 26, 1997

How To Flourish In Your Whole Vocatio

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Whenever I roll out this idea of multiple vocations, I consistently get the same questions: “Steve, I get that I have all these callings in life and that I need to learn how to manage them, but how do I do that?”
It’s a fair question, and one that I think is best answered with a few key principles. Over the years, I’ve found that these key ideas work not only for me, but also for many others that I’ve talked with. So, I want to offer you four ideas that I think are universally key in helping us flourish within our vocatios.
First get over Super Joe and Tommy Bahama and call them what they are – a man-made marketing concoction. Make a visceral commitment to become whole, healthy and complete, not perfect and superhuman.
Second, embrace the art of ‘the swap’ to achieve balance. What I mean is this: After you let go of the idea of being ‘super’ at everything, you must then acknowledge the related reality of life that sometimes you must swap time from one of your vocatios for another. Just like any tabletop has a limited capacity, so does my life. If your son or daughter has an important event coming up, then you may need to say “No” to a work function. That’s pretty simple. But there are also certain seasons of work that demand more of your time, and that might steal a bit of time from your leisure or family time. That can be a harder pill to swallow.
Now here is my repositioning conviction that some might call heresy, but that I think is a necessary principle for a flourishing life. You should strive to score a solid B across the board in everything that matters over time. I have never met a single man or woman who focuses on excelling in one area of life, while dismissing or failing in the others, who is truly flourishing. That type of compartmentalized, myopic living is fundamentally opposed to the flourishing life. Flourishing is really about chasing a realistic composite scorecard.
Third, create life-rhythm. I love the good old-fashioned blue grass music of the south. In part, I love it because of the rhythm. You can’t help but tap your foot and nod your head as you listen. Any kind of good music, though, is composed with a compelling rhythm. It ebbs and flows in crescendos and decrescendos. Some parts may rise to a roar, while others settle into a hush. That’s the beauty of it. And that’s the beauty of life as well. I try to establish a foundational rhythm and flow within and between all the areas of my life that matter most. This not only helps me manage each vocation appropriately, but it also helps manage expectations because everyone knows how things generally run.
What’s your life rhythm? Do you have one? Or do you make it up as you go? I’ve found that when I allow work and family schedules and the tyranny of the immediate to dictate my schedule, I get stressed. To avoid this, I do my utmost to implement a Graves Rhythm and schedule life accordingly. Of course, the rhythm doesn’t work magic everyday. My life is still lived both from the outbox and inbox in some kind of concert. But some proactively engineered rhythm can certainly help guide the dance moves.
Lastly, distinguish a “good idea” from a “divine mandate” and a “cultural expectation.” In order to avoid falling off the rails in our vocatios, we must learn when to say “Yes,” but also when to say “No” to people who pitch a “good idea” that seems compelling. Not every activity, pitch and offer that comes your way is really a good, healthy helpful idea. At the same time, every good idea is NOT a divine mandate. It is up to me, and to you, to perceive the difference and know where to place my bets of time and energy. I must understand that whatever I say “Yes” to will ultimately steal time and energy away from my other callings in life. A swap is always going to happen when we say “Yes” to something.
In order to flourish you must be discerning and be ready to say “No” to things that seem great at the moment but will ultimately knock you out of balance with your other, more important callings.
So often in this life we can feel like schizophrenic people—our heads snapping around because we’re wheeling off to another work meeting, or we feel like we’re failing our bodies and need to work out, or we haven’t been to church in two months, or fill in the blank.
But we’re not schizophrenic. That’s simply the reality of life, but it’s also its beauty. It demands much from us. It’s multifaceted. It’s intense. It’s full of wonderful things to do, and wonderful people to know.
If you want to stop feeling like a schizophrenic person on the treadmill just take a breath and remember, you’re not insane for feeling pulled in all directions. You are just neck deep in life. If you want peace, you must be okay with swapping time from one vocation to another, establishing a life-rhythm, and learning to discern what things you really need to be a part of. So, the next time you feel like your heads about snap off, just relax and breath it all in. That’s life.

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Micah 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

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