This time of year it is customary to think about how to become better than we already are. Why would we want to become better? Honestly, in this world where bad often seems good and good is often talked about as bad it is ironic that we still adhere to a tradition where we focus on becoming better than we are. The very idea of becoming better suggests that this life is full of purpose. That we are supposed to live a specific mission that only we can live; that we are here for a reason.
Most people, especially in their youth, have a feeling that they are important. They sense that they are supposed to become great at something. They look to the future with hope and passion. Young people live for dreams and follow their passions.
Then, as life goes on, many adults stop following their dreams. They start believing that the “reality” of this life is that each day is pretty much the same and that there is really no way to track one's progress, if there is any. In short, it doesn't really matter what one person does on one day. Life doesn't really have much point. Some people call this living “real life,” but as we look at the whole of life it seems that this view of living is actually the pretend part of life.
Why would a person spend the first third of his life planning and looking ahead to what he will become, and then the last third of his life remembering what he did and measuring how far he has come, as well as inspiring others to become great, if the third in the middle doesn't matter?
What Is “Real Life?”
For years our family did foster care for troubled teens. When we opened our home to these youth, we learned about what “real life” really is.
We had one youth who watched us very intently when she came to our home. She didn't say much, just watched. On the weekends, she would go visit her family for home visits and come back and watch some more. One day, out of the blue, she said, “Are you for real?”
This was a surprising thing to hear. “Of course I'm real. What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean, do you really live like this, or are you just trying to change me?” she responded.
“We really live like this,” I said. “We are happy when we live this way.”
Then she said something I will never forget. “My dad said that real people don't live this way. He said that you guys don't live 'real life.”
My heart ached. Did she really think that getting in trouble with the law, family fights, drugs, depression, loneliness, and social drama was “real life?” Did God create this life? Wouldn't He show us what is real and what is not real?
The word real means: “true; genuine; not artificial; not counterfeit” (Webster's 1828 Dictionary)
What is the true role of a family? What is the true meaning of life? Can we change our reality? If I find more truth and make more deliberate decisions to live according to truth will that help me find what is real?
What Is Real?
We are each born very small and helpless. We depend on others to help us grow. Our mothers and fathers give us nourishment and teaching.
They teach us what is right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. We learn, we experience, we grow. Then we age and we train others.
After time, we get gray hairs and wrinkles as part of our physical maturity. Finally we finish our journey here and move on.
This is real.
If this is real, then it is real that we are progressing our entire earthly existence. Even if we don't feel we have done anything of note, we are still at least physically progressing. So, it would stand to reason then that our purpose is progression; physical, mental and spiritual progression.
The goal of our progression is for another article. But, we are obviously meant to progress.
We each have a purpose for living. Many people call this a mission; suggesting that each of us has a quest or a grand thing we are meant
to do. Some people call this their ministry or their calling in life. Some people create something beautiful that inspires, while others fulfill a need, fight for a cause or teach an important lesson.
I have noticed a pattern with people who do great things. They don't usually just do one thing. Most people who live their missions do or say one important thing and then get given a new task. This process repeats over their lifetime. They keep deliberately living for “real” each day. Each new project or kind word is for the same great purpose.
Living your mission is less about one thing that you do, and more about the person you are and how you live each day. A person on a mission has to make his bed just like everyone else. The difference is that this person sees that simple action as part of his purpose that day. When the person with mission goes shopping she sees it as an opportunity to look someone in the eyes, to say a kind word, and make an impact for good.
When we live with mission we live differently. This is “real life.”
In “real life” we choose what kind of impact we want to have each day, and live ready to serve, love and inspire those we see or talk to.
For years I made resolution after resolution. This is a good habit to get into. ( In fact this tradition keeps our society focusing on doing good; which is great!) Then, one year it hit me. “Nicholeen, resolutions are a way of living, not something to check off a list. So, why not change your approach. Live ready to do good every day. Then each day ask God what good you can do that day to help in His work and do it. Finally, at the end of the day, ask 'Have I Done Any Good In The World Today?” At this point, I can track my progress by recording my experiences and impressions in my journal.
Now when the end of the year comes around I don't look at my failures and the lists I didn't check off, but I look at the change in my heart
and the good I have done. If I have done good then I am living my mission.
The Anglo-Saxon root of the word good means “God-like.” So, if I have done good I have done something like God would want me to do it.
Mission is living good. It is making each moment of the day count for something. It is making a difference. When we do good, the world will be changed because we were here. That is purpose, that is mission, that is real life.
Isn't this the message we have all learned from It's A Wonderful Life anyway?
Read Nicholeen's book about how to help your family deliberately live its mission to be a united family. Parenting A House United