When I was working in children’s ministry, our team spent a lot of time talking about our purpose, and we hashed out purpose statements for each department and role within our organization. We wanted everyone—staff and volunteers—to be certain of their top priorities and what they were setting out to accomplish.
Once we were clear on that, we began removing things from our to-do lists. Namely, we got rid of our version of VBS. It felt risky because many can’t even conceive of children’s ministry without VBS, but we knew the truth: It didn’t serve our purpose well. It required too much work and didn’t move us closer to our vision, so it had to go.
I don’t approach my own life with this same clarity of vision nearly enough.
My Pinterest boards provide a good example. Among the topics you’ll find there are faith and family, decorating and crafts, hand lettering, Bible journaling, gift ideas, gift wrapping ideas, parenting ideas, stuff I’d like to buy one day, books I’d like to read, quotes I like, recipes to try, scrapbooking, travel, fashion. One board for each season of the year, filled with crafts and toddler activities and recipes and bucket lists.
Now, I understand the purpose of Pinterest is to collect ideas, not to carefully cultivate one’s purpose in life. BUT. But.
When I scroll through those boards, I feel guilty about every idea I’ve pinned but never completed. I feel less-than because I stick birthday gifts in bags with crinkly tissue paper instead of creating an elaborate handmade bow. I wonder if my boys would be healthier had I stuck with the baby-led weaning ideas I pinned before Ian was born. I look around at my messy, disorganized home and don’t want to welcome anyone in, lest they see I never hung a book page wreath in my bedroom after all. My front porch is sadly devoid of pumpkins this year.
But you know what? None of those things is really related to my life’s purpose.
What if I stopped using Pinterest to measure the value of my days, the beauty of my home, the creativity of my mind? I might scroll with a lot less self-imposed pressure. I would stop feeling guilty and just be inspired.
Let’s get practical for a second: The most helpful tool I’ve found when it comes to identifying my life’s purpose is Lara Casey’s Powersheets. Powersheets are a goal-setting tool (more on goal setting later this month!), but before you even think about a goal, the Powersheets ask you to get really clear about what does and does not matter in your life.
When I began the process, I was a little frustrated that it was taking me so long to get to the goal-setting. (My pesky task-oriented nature gets the best of me all the time!) But by the time I finished that introductory work, I was SO CLEAR on what mattered to me: faith, family, creativity. Done. Since that point, I’ve cut some obligations from my schedule, I’ve clarified my purpose in writing, I started writing a book….all of it emerged from getting clear on my purpose.
I think social media blurs the lines between “must do” and “should do,” between “what an interesting trend” and “this is a normal thing everyone, everywhere does.” The internet’s barrage of images and ideas can be inspiring, but it can also make it easier to conflate our value with how “shareable” our life seems to be. It is easy to feel that we haven’t done or accomplished enough and subsequently begin distracting ourselves from what’s best.
“Jesus understood his mission. He was not driven by the needs of others, though he often stopped to help hurting people. He was not driven by the approval of others, though he cared deeply for the lost and the broken. Ultimately, Jesus was driven by the Spirit. He was driven by his God-given mission. He knew his priorities and did not let the many temptations of a busy life deter him from his task.” –Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy
At the end of most days, if I cared for my children and loved my husband and abided with Jesus and did something remotely creative, then I engaged with my purpose. I don’t need to have tried a new recipe, bought a succulent, hand lettered a Bible verse, or hung a macrame weaving in my living room. Maybe some of that meshes with your purpose statement, but if it doesn’t? Let’s not once believe the Pinterest lie that our lives are less beautiful than they would be, that our days are less full than they should be, or that we are less loved than we could be.
If your perfectionism manifests itself in a long list of to-dos and should-dos or in wishing that your life was worthy of more likes, then some clarity of purpose might be just what you need.
Let’s get clear about what matters and clear about what doesn’t and release ourselves from the tyranny of unmet expectations.
My friend Emily is writing about Soulful Simplicity this month. She wrote a post about how to differentiate between intentions and priorities, and the importance of a well-defined purpose can “lead to freedom from impossible or unfair expectations of yourself.” You can read her wise and helpful thoughts here.
All month long, I’m sharing 31 ways to fight perfectionism, as part of the Write 31 Days challenge. You can find links to all the posts in this series here (or by clicking the “31 Days” button at the top of the blog). Tomorrow, I’ll share about how seeing someone take off her make-up taught me to value my own messy, unfinished stories.