5 big ideas that changed my life
Every now and then I like to take a step back and examine my worldview. I ask: What core beliefs define my outlook? What are the characteristics of the lens through which I see the world?
I was pondering the subject while putting away laundry yesterday, and I came up with a list of key ideas that fundamentally shape the way I evaluate life. (Yes, this is really what I think about while I’m putting away laundry. It’s sad.)
I thought it would be fun to post a list of these concepts, then have you tell me which ideas have been most transformative to your own outlook.
(Can you handle the excitement?! It’s like Nerdapalooza over here today!)
Considering that Judeo-Christian tradition has talked about spiritual attack for thousands of years, it’s ironic that it took a non-religious writer to open my eyes to how it factors into creating art.
When I read The War of Art, it led to one of the most profound ah-hah! moments of my life when author Steven Pressfield elucidated the ways in which Evil — or, as he calls it, Resistance — tries to hold us back. He perfectly articulated what I was experiencing with my writing. Without an understanding of what Resistance is and how it attempts to hamper artists, I wouldn’t have written much at all over the past few years — and I certainly wouldn’t have finished Something Other than God.
It comes to play in all sorts of other activities as well. I find that any time I try to break free of sins, or even just overcome inertia to put a little more energy into each day, I end up face to face with Resistance.
2. Peer orientation
When I read Hold On to Your Kids, it was another moment of being thunderstruck by a book perfectly articulating something I had noticed in the back of my mind, but had never put into words.
Authors Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Gabor Mate point out that modern society lures children to become peer-oriented, meaning that their entire identity is rooted in their peers, not in their family. They make a compelling case that this is an extremely unnatural and psychologically stressful way to live, and they trace many of the problems that plague youth culture back to the issue of peer-orientation.
The longer I am a parent, the more strongly I believe that Neufeld and Mate nailed it — and the more I think that peer orientation is the #1 battle modern parents should be fighting.
When I first became Catholic, I was startled by their ideas about vocation.
I always understood the word to be used in terms of career. Catholics, on the other hand, understood it to be your role within a family, whether that’s a biological family or the wider Church family. So, if you are a married person, your vocation is being a husband or wife; if you’re a monk your vocation is to consecrated religious life.
The most fascinating part of it was when I heard this crazy idea that everyone is supposed to put his or her vocation first: Both wives and husbands should make sure that they’re not getting involved in anything that shoves their family into second place.
At first it sounded like the Church was trying to hold us back from doing Important Things, but life experience would soon teach me that, as usual, God was just laying out a roadmap to lead us back to what really makes us happy in life.
Yet another life turning point came the day I sat down to get the results of my Birkman Personality Inventory. During the introductory chit-chat I mentioned to the test administrator that I was going to a baby shower for someone I didn’t know well the next morning.
She glanced down at the papers in her hand and raised her eyebrows. “Make sure you get some quiet time to recharge your batteries later,” she said. “Because that’s going to sap your energy in a big way.”
She would go on to explain that one of the most important reasons to understand your personality type is so that you can manage your energy levels. Oddly enough, most of us don’t naturally have a good understanding of which activities drain us and which fill us up — you have to take time to understand your temperament, and then look for the best ways for people with your unique makeup to thrive.
This has turned out to be one of my big secrets to being the mom of a big family. It helps me serve my family better — while getting the most out of my limited free time — when I have a clear understanding of what impact different activities will have on my energy levels.
I have been aware of the power of story for most of my life: I wrote my first novel when I was in elementary school, and I come from a long line of Texas storytellers. But it wasn’t until I read Donald Miller’s fabulous book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that I understood that stories are the language of the human heart.
I began to see that if you want people to consider your point of view (say, sharing the Gospel with them), they are most likely to listen if it is presented to them through a story.
Perhaps the most transformative aspect of this lesson, though, was that I saw that a life well lived always make a great tale. I used to use a “success/failure” paradigm for evaluating whether I should take various opportunities that came up. The result was that I would often feel called to do something…but I would talk myself out of it because I might fail.
I decided throw out the question, “Will I succeed?”, and replace it with the question, “Would it make a good story?” Suddenly, I began taking a lot more risks, and life got a lot more interesting.
. . .
When I look at this list, it’s hard to believe that none of these concepts were on my radar even six or seven years ago, since they now color every part of my worldview.
What are the big ideas that changed the way you see the world?
P.S. I go into detail about many of these ideas in my FREE ebook, The Family-First Creative, which is available through April 28.