I remember the minute personal development became exciting for me. I was sitting in a training room in Singapore listening to the introductory session on Christian coaching. I showed up to the training kind of on accident. I didn’t know the first thing about coaching but a few months earlier someone had asked me to consider going. He also volunteered to pay for the training and to watch my 3- and 7-year old for a week. So I said yes.
At the end of that first session we were directed to a document called “Personal Development Worksheet.” It had about 15 different headings and we were instructed to brainstorm as many goals as we could under these headings. We didn’t have to figure out how to accomplish them, just list some areas we wanted to grow in or things we wanted to accomplish.
We headed back to our room and I started writing. It was hard at first. As a mom with small kids, it had been so long since I’d had 10 minutes alone to sit and think about what I wanted beyond a shower and a hot cup of coffee. But once I got started, the ideas just poured out. I was getting more and more excited about each possibility as I wrote down long dormant hopes and dreams. I looked over at my husband very enthusiastically and said “Isn’t this so great? I have so many ideas! I’ve never done this before.”
With a sheepish grin he responded, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I do this every year.”
The room was silent. I could tell he felt badly that he had never invited me to do this with him (he hates this story to this day for that very reason). And as I processed his statement I realized I felt, well, angry (but only the biblical kind!) Why hadn’t anyone ever asked me what my goals were? Why hadn’t I had any kind of personal development offered to me since language school? Why hadn’t I been challenged to grow beyond my daily grind?
In that moment two things crystallized for me. One, I was not going to let this continue to happen in my own life. I was determined to take everything I could learn at the coach training and seek to live a more intentional life. Whether that meant pursuing a master’s degree or simply setting a goal to finish a scrapbook, I wanted to live a life of intention. Second, I didn’t want this to happen to other people, especially women. I wanted them to know there were tools and training available to them to help them fulfill their goals and dreams and furthermore, to help them identify what those were. Essentially, I wanted people to know that personal development was for everyone.
Somewhere along the way, I started seeing how me choosing to live a more intentional life was benefitting more than just myself. I was setting growth goals in parenting, prayer and marriage, so my family was benefitting. I was being coached through ministry projects and learning new skills, so my coworkers were benefitting. You see, personal growth starts off as something that is seemingly for ourselves, but the benefits extend to those in our various spheres of influence as we experience transformation. It is this concept of filling up to pour out that inspires me to pursue personal development in all areas of my life with passion and to actively encourage others to do the same.
The book of Ephesians is full of references to purposeful living that springs from an awe of the God of our salvation. This is where all of our desires for growing should ultimately come from. Acknowledging that we were bought with a price, we seek to honor God with our lives. We know that God has good works prepared for us — how are we actively trying to discern what these are?
Ephesians 5:17 in the MSG says “Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.” This is the gift that personal development has given me. I have discovered tools and methods to stop living unthinkingly and to try to understand what the Master wants. For me, this has become a tool God uses in my walk with Him. I have even started taking a day alone with God to pray over and fill out my IGP (Individual Growth Plan). These have become rich times where I talk to God about the desires of my heart and try to discern how those align with the good works He has already prepared for me.
Just one disclaimer before I close. These words reflect the true and deep intentions of my heart but I still have tendencies to let overwhelm and busyness distract me from purposeful living. It is all too easy for me to let the flow of events determine what I do and as Matt Perman says when we do this we will “likely fritter ourselves away doing all sorts of urgent things that come our way while never getting to the truly important things.” So to this end, time management is at the top of my IGP this year and I am currently reading Matt’s book, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way you Get Things Done.
What about for you? Are you being filled up so that you can pour into those around you? When and how will you take time to discern what the Master wants of you in 2016? Let’s all aim to end the year with a satisfaction that we spent our time on what we know God had planned for us!