Life Purpose Planning: When Crisis and Calling Collide
- Dewey Novotny The Old Schoolhouse
- 2012 13 Jan
I recall the small piles of trashed tissue, the puffy eyes, and the quivering lip. And I remember thinking that there might be a problem. Hey, just call me Mr. Sensitive.
This is the story of Gina, my dear daughter—her big struggle and her finest discovery.
Gina was 18, a faith-filled homeschool graduate looking for the next big thing. That’s when the questions started to avalanche in on top of her. The questions and related turmoil created what she later referred to as her “midlife crisis.”
Her crisis was prompted by nice people who asked tough questions: “Now that you’re all grown up, what’s next?” and “What are your plans for the future?” She had lots of impressive answers that satisfied friends and family. They just didn’t satisfy her. And they didn’t get down to the heart of the real question with which she struggled: “What is the meaning and purpose of my life?”
Because she lacked a clear and convincing answer to the core question of life purpose, Gina struggled to prioritize her days, establish relevant life goals, and make solid plans for the future. She had ample drive but was “directionally challenged” as opportunities, needs, and friends pulled her first one way and then another. Each day was busy, but her days were full of activities that had no apparent purpose. The result? Frustration.
Gina wasn’t the only one facing a challenge. As her parents, my wife and I struggled to offer wise counsel, give compelling alternatives to poor choices, and discern which opportunities were most suitable. It was tough to know how best to invest our time, energy, and resources to help equip her for life. Just how do you train up a child in the way she should go, when you don’t clearly understand how the child, her leanings, and her specific calling fit together?
Work Together to Find an Answer
Faced with a big problem and few answers, Gina and I set aside four hours and sought out a quiet place to be alone with God. We went in looking for a needle in a haystack. What we found was a “Golden Thread” that God had woven through the entire fabric of her life. This Golden Thread was ultimately tied to three essential pillars of purpose: her significant audience, her delightful method to serve them, and her life-changing message to share with them. Tracing the Golden Thread followed a three-step process:
- Discover your life purpose.
- Define your pursuit.
- Develop your plan of action.
A Process of Faith
There is only one way to successfully navigate this process—by faith, which is the Spirit-led ability to comprehend and accomplish God’s will. Only by faith can we understand the purpose for which God has created us. Only by faith will we understand how to accomplish the great things He plans for us.
Discover Your Life Purpose
A daughter in distress is a call to action. We started with prayer and a yellow legal pad. Then, I asked Gina to list past activities and identify the ones that she had most enjoyed and through which good things had been accomplished. She noted what and whom she took delight in and recorded where she had seen God at work. For activities that she didn’t enjoy, she mentioned critical aspects of those situations that were missing and noted why those were important to her. She also listed activities and circumstances that had caused her to grow the most.
Together, we moved through additional discovery questions. For the most part, I asked the questions and took notes while Gina worked to articulate the answers. This inquiry prompted much discussion and discovery: “What skills, gifts, and talents has God given you that you would delight in using to serve, help, or minister to a group of people that you care for greatly?” We talked in detail about her answers, and then she listed three delightful methods to effectively serve this people group she cared about. For me, having her list things in triplets revealed important repetitions of methods, people, burdens, spiritual gifts, and such.
To clarify her comments, follow-up questions like these brought additional insights.
- Can you help me understand what you mean and why this is so significant to you?
- This sounds important. How would you rate it on a scale of 1 to 10?
- Can you give me an example of a time when you experienced this?
As we continued the search for Gina’s life purpose, the notepad was filled with potential clues. Had she identified guiding Scriptures? What did they mean? What wise and influential mentors had God brought into her life and what characteristics did she desire to model? Were there heroes in the Bible whom she wanted to be like? Had she made significant commitments or responded to a call of God?
On to the next page: Did she have regrets about things that she hadn’t done? Why? What was the one thing in her past that came closest to fulfilling the deepest desire of her heart? How about future dreams, aspirations, and activities? We analyzed her responses and expanded her discoveries. The yellow pages took on a golden hue as I began to understand my daughter at a deeper level than ever before.
Define Your Pursuit
Gina’s answers and comments served as “portals of discovery” into the most exciting and relevant areas of her life. Further discussions in these areas revealed significant themes, repetitions, and patterns. Together, we identified types of activities she enjoyed, who she enjoyed doing them with (and where and how), types of meaningful relationships, her learning orientation, motivations, spiritual gifts, talents, future interests, passions, and so much more.
Along the way, there were indications that we were on the verge of our greatest discoveries. Misty eyes, big laughs, obvious excitement, and moments that suddenly turned serious beckoned us to investigate further. As we did, we learned what and whom she cared about the very most. We took special notes in these areas of passion and discovered that the most purposeful doors we unlocked were these passageways to heart-level understanding. It was an exciting experience for both of us . . . for as Gina pursued and found greater understanding of her purpose, I pursued and found greater understanding of Gina.
The breakthrough in this entire process came when Gina realized the importance of our discoveries and suddenly picked up her pencil, took control of the notepad, and began to write like crazy. Additional pages quickly filled with details concerning the audience she cared about and their greatest needs, her most delightful methods to reach and serve them, her life-changing message of faith, hope, and love, and on it went. I smiled and teared up just a little . . . crisis over . . . adventure ahead!
Being vs. Doing
Overall, Gina’s discoveries fell into two related categories: being and doing. First was the concept of being: God’s work within her to shape and mold her into His treasured vessel. Second was the concept of doing: God’s work for her and through her to bring Himself glory, meet others’ needs, and bring her joy and fulfillment in the process. To define her pursuit, Gina recorded the “being” elements and then wrapped the concepts of “doing” around them. For her, the combination resulted in a compelling, power-packed, vision-filled “Life Purpose Statement” that she couldn’t wait to live out:
"I long to be a real person with a real relationship with a real God! Through concentrated times of structured discipleship and investment, I seek to understand the specific needs of Christian young people (especially young ladies) and help them achieve their maximum potential in Christ. Using conferences, events, and published materials, I seek to rally and unite the next generation of leaders to confront the world’s way of thinking and take a stand for a cause worth fighting for. Ultimately, my heart’s passion is to enable these world-changers to implement their individualized life purpose into a plan of action and combine available ministry, vocational skills, and academics so that they are equipped, qualified, and ready to impact others with excellence!"
Develop a Plan of Action
Planning was Gina’s faithful attempt to arrange and invest her time, energies, and resources to accomplish God’s will. It helped her move from revealed purpose to wise goals and then on to appropriate steps of action. A Godly purpose involves people, ignites passion, and inspires pursuit. Planning helps get ’er done.
A clear and convincing life purpose now launched Gina on great exploits for God and with God. First, she considered the people she cared about and identified their most pressing issues. Then we “heartstormed” the best outcomes imaginable and noted Gina’s dream-solutions to their biggest problems. Taking these solutions, she built her best strategy by considering God’s ways, man’s ways (both good and bad), needed resources, training, and accountability. Understanding the potential influence of her life model and message motivated her to include personal goals as well.
Transitioning from notepad to calendar, Gina set about to merge her efforts and discoveries into a long-range vision of five years. Next, she detailed a one-year plan that was broken down into monthly segments, and then she penned a daily schedule. With that step complete, she took her most important action and committed it all to the Lord.
Gina soon discovered that her faithful steps of action would come with additional guidance as God directed her steps. For Gina, the truth of Psalm 16:11 has become evident: “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
Go Change the World!
Like any journey of significance, Gina benefited from knowing where she was, where she needed to go, and how to get there. Unwavering determination and confidence resulted as she committed her efforts to the Lord and set out to fulfill her God-given purpose.
The story of Gina’s finest discovery is a simple one. What started nine years ago with a box of tissue and a desire to answer the big question of life ended with strengthened relationships, a passionate vision, and a God-centered plan. I have had similar results with my other children and have seen many other parents and young people experience the same success.
God has not been hiding your life purpose from you either. Sometimes, when crisis and calling collide, God is waiting for you to ask, “Why am I here?”
Published January 9, 2009
Dewey Novotny flies internationally as a commercial airline captain but finds his greatest joys closer to home with Chardell and their seven children, homeschooled twenty years. Dewey has an unquenchable passion to see young people discover, define, develop, and deploy into their God-given life purpose. Learn more and get a free audio download at http://www.lifepurposeplanning.org/TOS.
Copyright 2008 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC
This article orginally appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC
Reprinted with permission from the publisher.