As I was eating breakfast this morning I noticed the words on the front of my daughter’s coloring book. They read, “I can be…A Dance Star…” then at the bottom of the book they continue, “…a rock star…I can be a vet…I can be an astronaut…I can be a ballerina.” Reading this obviously started me thinking. Hence this blog.
There’s a Chevrolet commercial that shows people at a neighborhood bbq. A man asks his new neighbor where he lives, and he says his house is the one with the Silverado out front. The man then asks the neighbor, “What do you do?” The neighbor’s response, as the screen switches to different activities he and his family do while using their Silverado is “Uuhhh…”
I like it. His response wasn’t based on his job, it was based on his lifestyle. He was a dad, a husband, an adventurer. Yet what is much more common and accepted in our society is defining ourselves by our occupation. What is the most common ice-breaking question at social events? “What do you do?” And what is the most common response? “I am a …” You fill in the blanks, but it almost always has to do with our job.
There is a principle that successful people in life follow called “Define. Learn. Do.” This principle teaches that the most important thing to do first prior to launching out into life is to define what kind of lifestyle you want. Who do you want to be? What do you want to have? Where do you want to live? If you could live the ideal life, what would it look like? Of course, your passion may include working a certain job, fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you were to look at the lifestyle of someone doing that same job and everything about their lifestyle is what you want, then follow in their footsteps. Once you have defined what kind of lifestyle you want, then learn from someone with that lifestyle, do what they did, and by default you will have that lifestyle.
Yet what happens or happened to most of us is the exact opposite. We decided what we wanted to DO, then LEARNED how to do it, and whatever it was we learned to do, DEFINED our lifestyle. It defines when we wake up, when we go on vacation, what basic kind of car we can afford, what type of home we can live in, and so on.
I was a teacher for three years. I loved impacting the lives of kids, but I also wanted to accomplish other things outside of my job. My financial situation didn’t allow for me to do much beyond teach. Then I worked construction. I made more money, but if I wanted to go on mission trips, etc, I couldn’t work, and therefore didn’t make any money, and then couldn’t afford the trips I wanted to go on. Then I worked as a Recreation Director and yet again, I lived the basic lifestyle of any other Recreation Director with a small salary, and was limited in being able to pursue those other things in my life. Every new job I took seemed to keep me in the same place. My jobs defined how I lived my life, not my purpose, not my passions.
In 2009 I learned of a principle called define, learn, do. If I would DEFINE what kind of life I wanted to live first, then LEARN from someone with the results in life I wanted, then DO what they did, I could have their results. This works with marriage, parenting, family life, personal endeavors such as art, music, athletics, and every other aspect of life. So as I raise my children, I won’t ask them what they want to be when they grow up in terms of an occupation. I will help them discover their God-given talents, maximize them, and direct them towards whatever their passions are in those areas.
Courtnee and I are now doing the same. We have a picture of the life we’ve always wanted to live in our hearts and minds. It’s a picture based on God’s purpose for our lives. And we want to be effective in living out our purpose. Thankfully, it’s not too late to flip the script and go from living do-learn-define to define-learn-do.
Don’t be defined by your occupation. Be defined by your character, your pursuits, your passions, and your lifestyle. Begin writing your eulogy now so the minister does not have to lie at your funeral. Be a dreamer. Work hard in the pursuit of that dream. Define your life.