My wife and I are currently packing up our house getting ready to move. It is amazing how many things have accumulated in the closets and drawers of our lives. Every drawer we open and closet we clean out leads us say, “Where did that come from,” “I forgot we had this,” or, “I’ve been looking for that!” The clutter in our homes will grow to fill the space available. It is the same in our lives. If we don’t consciously choose what we will fill our lives with, they will fill themselves with whatever comes along, and whoever requests our time first.
Wherever there is space something — whether a possession, person, or commitment — will grow to fill it.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to choose the possessions, people, and commitments of our lives, rather than have them choose us? Whether doing some spring cleaning, packing for a move, or taking regular inventory, it is important to differentiate between what is necessary and important to the life we hope to lead, and what is not. We must discern between what we put there by choice, and what simply grew to fill the empty space we provided? In the next few paragraphs
I invite you to take a few minutes today and explore the hidden corners, closets, drawers, and recesses of your life. See what you find. Why is it there? How did it get there? What is its purpose? How long has it been since you used it?
Things & Possessions
Our possessions become a part of us, and we a part of them. We use our time, attention, money, space, and resources to care for, keep up, and protect them. Our possessions become an outward expression of who we are on the inside.
Take a look around you – are the outward possessions of your life an accurate depiction of the inner state of your heart? If what you see is not who you want to be then something needs to change. We choose our possessions based on what is, or is not, important to us, or what we consider relevant and true in our lives.
We fill our lives with things which reflect on the outside how we feel about ourselves on the inside. So what do the possessions of your life say about you? As you think about the things in your life, consider the following:
- What purpose does it serve?
- How did it come into my life? Was it a gift, an accident, or a conscious acquisition?
- Why do I have it?
- Do I protect it and cherish it, or is it merely filler?
- What is its purpose?
- What benefits does it provide?
- What does it cost me to keep it, in terms of space, time, money, attention, or other resources?
- What does it invite me to be, or become, today and in the future?
- What image does it portray to others if I am honest with myself?
- And finally, looking at the answers to these questions, do its benefits outweigh its costs? Is it worth the weight I am required to bear as a result?
People & Associations
Great men throughout the ages have said that we become the average of the people we associate with the most – in terms of our perspectives on life, religious beliefs, political views, finances, personalities, and characters. Looking at who you associate with the most, and after exploring the questions below, please consider – who are your friends becoming – and is that who you want to become?
If the answers to this question lead you to question who you associate with on a regular basis then please seek new friends, or have a conversation with your current friends about who they want to be, and how they plan to get there. If their aspirations line up with who you hope to become in your life, then all you need do is continue to walk that road together. On the other hand, if you find yourself walking in different directions, seeking to become different people, then perhaps the time to part ways has arrived?
George Washington said, “Associate yourself with men of good reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” And an unknown author said the following, “Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.”
As you think about the people you spend the most time with in your life ask yourself the following questions:
- Do my friends and associations invite me to:
o be better and become more, and to rise above who I have been, or to regress and forget the truths I have learned in my life, slipping back into mess from which I have escaped, or want to escape?
o become more like myself, or more like them at the expense of my own identity?
o instill, deepen, and expand more virtues in my life and character, or to let the vices, weaknesses, and addictions of life grow unchecked, or worse, to actively encourage them?
- Who am I becoming by my association with them?
- Who am I when I am with them?
- Who am I after being with them?
- Would their life be one I would choose to live? Is it a life I would want to live?
- Are they a person I strive to emulate, or not?
- And most importantly, what does my association with them invite me to be, or become, today and in the future?
No matter where we go, or what we do, commitments will fill our lives. Taking the kids to school, studying for a test, doing homework, going to work, filling our responsibilities at church, working around the house, or doing the laundry, are just a few of the things that we will be required to do. Many, if not all, of these commitments are beneficial in nature. But this is not always the case.
There are many commitments however that cost us more than they enrich us. These become the most time destructive bits of clutter in our lives. They rob us of our future and simultaneously replace something beautiful with something hollow and empty in the end. Perhaps they take too much time away from our families, and even when healthy place secondary priorities first in our lives, like an addiction to some hobby, like running marathons or triathlons, at the expense of your family. Or perhaps they shouldn’t even be a priority at all, doing nothing but take from your life while providing a temporary escape from issues that need to be addressed, and not ignored.
These are illustrated best by addictive and self-destructive behaviors of all kind; drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc… In light of this fact we must make sure that our commitments match our priorities.
In the words of Stephen Covey, “Do first things first, and second things never.”
It is important that we clean out the commitments of our lives regularly so that they do not overwhelm us and leave us shattered, worn, and robbed in the end.
As you explore the commitments of your life ask yourself these questions:
- What purpose does this commitment serve?
- Does it move me closer to the person I wish to become and the life I wish to have or lead?
- How did it come into my life? Did I choose it for myself, was it assigned me by another (like a boss or a spouse), or was it the result of not having spoken up, or saying yes or no?
- What benefits come from fulfilling this commitment? What does it add to my life?
- What does it truly cost me to keep it, in terms of space, time, money, or other resources? What is it costing me (emotional health, well-being, etc…)?
- Does it deepen, or destroy, the all-important relationships between my family and myself?
- Looking at the answers to these questions, do its benefits outweigh its costs? Is it worth the weight I will be required to bear? And will it make me stronger in the end?
- And most importantly, what does this commitment invite me to be, or become, today and in the future?
As you clean out the closets and drawers of your life – and re-evaluate where you stand, looking at how you got to where you are today, and where you’re headed from here forward – please share with us what you found?
Where is your life taking you? And isn’t it about time you had a say in where you’re headed?
Choose your possessions wisely, for they are but the outward expression of how you feel about yourself on the inside.
Choose your friends wisely, for you will become the average of the people you associate with the most.
Choose your commitments wisely for they become the soil from which you will grow, and strive, and reach into the future.
Whether or not the soil of your life is fertile depends, in large part, on what you choose to fill it with. Your choices, and where you choose to spend your time, will determine where you are headed, and who you are becoming. Who will you become, and what will you do?
Only you hold the answer… Isn’t it about time you did some spring cleaning today?