As I was mulling over this Live Your Calling series, it suddenly dawned on me: “I’ve thought a lot about this before!” Then a whole section of my life flashed before me, a time when I was an entrepreneur and created a “training and development” business called Terra Nova (new territory).
During that time I studied the work of Stephen R. Covey and presented seminars to non-profit groups and other interested people on his principles of leadership and organization. Covey’s organization trained trainers (for a very large fee), but since I couldn’t afford that I took comfort in one of Covey’s main principles “Teach whatever you learn as you learn it.” So I did – and still do.
During this time I also helped individuals write personal mission statements – a key principle in the Covey portfolio. Of course, before I could teach that process, I had to actually write one. It was a months-long struggle and I gave up many times. Eventually I wrote a statement that described how I would respond to Covey’s description of our four human needs: to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy. The intertwining of these four needs results in a balanced life and an antidote to “urgency addiction” and frenetic life. The positive result of living in this balance was “The Fire Within.” I fell in love with that statement. Could there be a better way to live than to be filled with a fire within! Isn’t that what being empowered by the Spirit is all about. Of course, I was decades from learning that spiritual truth.
My mission statement was too long (paragraphs) to make it useful, but I didn’t know how to re-shape it. Then I found the book The Path, Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and for Life by Laurie Beth Jones. (She also wrote a book on leadership called Jesus, CEO. See the book recommendations page on the home page of this blog for more about her and that book.) Jones’ book took me on a step-by-step journey in determining the personal experiences, attributes, character traits, and talents that have fueled my life.
This inner work helped me fashion a one-sentence statement that was remarkably accurate in describing my fire within: “to facilitate change in people who want to change.” (The italicized words were necessary because I was just beginning my journey as a recovering enabler who always wanted to change everyone I met.) As I have re-thought this whole process this week, I have shortened that statement even more. My calling, my mission statement, and my fire within is: To facilitate change.
Looking back, I see that this calling has long been internalized. Everything I have ever done (teaching, founding and directing an adult literacy organization, being involved in the substance abuse field, creating my own training business, educating people with MS about their disease, working in the spiritual formation field, writing books) has arisen out of this calling. It is the basis for my emotional and spiritual journeys. It even determines the kind of books I read and the TV shows I choose to watch.
In the book First Things First, Covey and co-writers A. Roger and Rebecca Merrill say that
“Fulfilling the four needs [to live, to live, to learn and to leave a legacy] in an integrated way is like combining elements in chemistry. When we reach a “critical mass” of integration, we experience spontaneous combustion – an explosion of inner synergy that ignites the fire within and gives vision, passion, and a spirit of adventure to life.”
We have the perfect model for this “inner synergy” in the life of Jesus of Nazareth who was so in tune with the four needs of a human being that his “fire within” lit up the entire universe – including the hearts of his disciples who famously turned the world upside down. Each of us can do the same.