THE VALUE OF VISION
by Eric Elder
Last year I tried something new in my annual goal-setting. I like the way it turned out, so I thought I’d share it with you today as you look ahead to your own new year. As the Bible says:
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).
This applies to our personal lives as well. Vision is what gives us hope. Vision is what gives us something to “go for.” Vision is what keeps us on track when we’re in danger of veering off.
Last year, my friend, Kent Sanders, in his book, The Artist’s Suitcase, encouraged me to envision myself one year in the future. He wrote:
“Imagine what your life could be like one year from today. How could it be different? Would you look different? Would you have more energy or a better income? What about that book, blog, music, or other project you’re working on? What would it feel like to have it finished? … Write down what you see–your appearance, energy level, success, and the other items that are important to you. This is what your life could be like a year from now.”
I took Kent’s challenge to heart and asked God to help me envision what my future might look like if He and I were to work on it together. I came up with about 15 goals for the year. That was more than I had planned to write down, but not all of them were huge, and not all of them were vastly different from what I was already doing. But by writing them down, I was able to keep them in front of me all year long, which helped me realize all along that I was actually accomplishing my goals for the year, even by doing some of the seemingly ordinary, every day things I was doing.
For instance, this was one of my goals related to my family:
“I’d like to be enjoying rich conversations with my kids (during school, meals, and other activities).”
As I sat with my kids during the year, whether we were talking about their lives, or their schoolwork, or whatever else was on their hearts, I was able to feel good about the conversations at hand, and this was actually one of my goals: to be enjoying rich conversations with my kids! This really helped me as I went through my days, and ensured that I took the time to enjoy those conversations, not just rush through them and onto whatever was “next.”
This goal also helped me, in both small and big ways, to take advantage of the opportunities that arose to spend time with my kids which I might have missed otherwise.
This goal helped me in a small way, when after a dance class one night with my youngest daughter, she asked if we could stop to get something to eat on our way home. She wondered if we could sit down and eat at a particular restaurant. Normally, by that hour of the night, all I could manage was a quick stop at a drive-through so we could get back home because of all the other things that needed to be done. But because one of my goals was “to enjoy rich conversations with my kids,” we decided to stop and order from the menu at a sit-down restaurant–where a waitress actually brought our food to us! While it might seem like a small thing, when you’re shuttling kids from one activity to another and trying to squeeze as much as possible into every day, taking an hour to just sit and enjoy a meal and a conversation seems costly, time-wise, but is so heavenly, in every other way.
And this goal helped me in some big ways, too. When my oldest daughter mentioned her interest in taking a cruise somewhere, someday, I didn’t give it much thought. Since we normally do things with our whole family, a cruise for a family of seven seemed out of the question. But because of my goal of “enjoying rich conversations with my kids,” I thought about her desire again when her birthday was coming up. I thought, “Maybe I could take just her, and we could go on a cruise together as something special to do, just the two of us.” She happened to call me soon after I had had this thought, telling me about her week, which had been particularly hard. I decided to tell her what I was thinking about the cruise and asked what she thought of just the two of us going. She loved the idea! We found a cruise that we could afford, and we went! And we would have missed it, had I not had this goal of spending time with my kids, and had she not expressed to me one of her own desires.
I had similar experiences with my other kids. Because one of my daughters is going into acting, I asked a producer friend if it would be possible for her to be in a background scene in one of his shows. To my delight, he said, “Yes!” So we flew to Vancouver for the taping and she was able to be on camera in a background scene. Even if her screen time turns out to be only a few seconds, the extended time we were able to spend with each other on the trip was priceless. I was able to accomplish my goal while also helping her to accomplish hers. It was a win-win for us both.
The goal continued to take on a life of its own as my youngest kids and I had been planning and saving for a trip to Israel someday, but we had never done it. It, too, seemed like it wouldn’t happen again this year. But because I had made it a goal, I made it a priority to find a way to do it, and we found one! And on the trip, I was able baptize both of them in the Jordan River–what a blessing for them and for me!
Not all of my goals with my kids involved going places. I was able to do some of them right at home. My oldest son knew that one of my goals was to finish a space in my attic that I wanted to use for reading and writing and praying. I had worked on it several years ago, but when my wife got cancer and passed away a few years ago, I stopped nearly completely. But I put that goal back on my list this year:
“I’d like to be enjoying my fully finished attic.”
So my son offered to help me out each week for much of the year, driving an hour each way to come to my house so we could finish all of the tiling and insulating and drywalling. With his offer, and the help of my other kids, too, we were able to get things almost finished! While we’re not quite done yet, I never would have pressed forward to get to this point had I not had this goal, and have the help along the way. And, by having my kids involved, I was able to spend more time with them, even through the work of it all, meeting my other goal of “enjoying rich conversations with my kids.”
Not all of these goals were fun and games, and each of them had its own set of challenges, difficulties, and costs. But in the end, anything worth doing takes effort.
While I didn’t accomplish all 15 of my goals for 2016, by having those goals in mind at the beginning of the year–and at the forefront of my mind throughout the year–I was able to stay focused and stay on track as much as possible for the rest of the year.
I’m looking forward now to writing out my goals for 2017. What about you? What are your hopes and dreams and visions for the new year? It’s not too late to sit down and give it some thought. We have a whole new year ahead of us. Why not write down your goals, keep them at the forefront of your mind, and see what God and you can do together?