I wouldn’t say I had bad habits as a young pastor because I really didn’t have habits at all, at least not intentional habits. Instead, I had an image in mind of what good pastors did and tried to live up to that image, yet I was not consistent or intentional about my life. Clarity of purpose didn’t come easily.
Like many reading this, I didn’t have the luxury of a mentor or coach guiding me. Even though I went to seminary, that was for education, not direction. For the nitty gritty stuff of life, I was on my own. Instead of intentional living, I was living by trial and error and living by trial and error wears thin over time.
While I had individuals who influenced me, there wasn’t anyone who show me how to live a purposeful life. Without purpose, I felt like the Henry David Thoreau quote, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.”
The Target of Nothing
That’s not to say I had a bad life, or that I even knew of my own desperation. Through the quote, Thoreau points out our lack of purpose. Most people live from moment to moment with no thought of purpose or direction. “If you don’t aim at anything,” as it is said, “you have a good chance of hitting it” and a lot of people are hitting the target of nothing.
Hitting the target of nothing, I believe, described me. While I tried to be the best I could be, it seemed like the target was so far away, I wasn’t even sure where to aim. So, I went through life not knowing where I was heading just doing whatever. In other words, I was spinning my wheels not really going anywhere.
For most of my life, I didn’t have a purpose, at least not a deep purpose. I was a pastor and in some sense, pastors do live with purpose. In another sense, I was floundering, trying to figure out what it meant to be a pastor, or rather, what it meant for ME to be a pastor.
My life began changing when I realized I could live with purpose. I discovered that it is possible to get up in the morning with desire and excitement, looking forward to moving toward your goals. Clarity brings purpose.
It took years for me to find clarity surrounding my purpose and calling. Clarity brings purpose and life into focus. Many of us go through life with fuzzy vision, creating quiet desperation. In other words, we don’t know who we are or who we are to become. Clarity brings focus to our vision, creating motivation to move forward toward our calling.
I believed my purpose was to be a pastor. While there’s nothing wrong with pastoral work, being a pastor really isn’t a goal or a purpose. Finding purpose means I must align my work with who I am and who God has called me to be.
My purpose is to become the person God has created me to be and for that to happen, I must move out of the “quiet desperation” lifestyle and be intentional about who I am becoming and what I am doing.
Mentors and Coaches
A mentor or coach could have helped in God’s purpose for my life. I didn’t have such a person. Maybe you don’t either.
Coaching and mentoring are fairly new areas. Are mentors and coaches helpful? Yes. But finding the right mentor can be difficult and sometimes we aren’t able to afford to pay for a coach.
All is not lost! Even if you don’t have a coach or mentor helping you navigate challenges and live purposefully, there are other options. Books can serve as mentors. There are several bloggers who can serve as mentors. While these mentors can show us the way to success, we will have to determine what success looks like for us based on our core values and God’s calling.
In Part Two of this article, I will share five books that have helped me find purpose, direction, and a way to reach value based goals.