18 PRACTICAL STRATEGIES TO LIVE, WORK, AND LEAD LIKE JESUS
© 2015 Neal Samudre
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV^®^ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version^®^), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Created in the United States of America.
Hey there. My name is Neal Samudre, and I’m the creator of a popular personal-development website called JesusHacks (located at jesushacks.com). My goal with JesusHacks is to help you live the healthy, meaningful, and productive life of Jesus every day.
With that being said, I have a FREE resource that I think would help you accomplish that at JesusHacks.com. It’s called, “How to Establish a Peaceful, Daily Rhythm in a Busy Life.” Check out how you can change your daily life with better habits, routines, and perspectives so that you can live like Jesus in a busy world. Just follow the link below. Thanks!
WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T BE A CHRISTIAN IN THE WORKPLACE?
IN THIS PRACTICAL GUIDE, I’LL SHOW YOU GOD’S DESIGN FOR HEALTHY, MEANINGFUL, AND PURPOSEFUL WORK EVERY DAY.
Learn more about this guide by visiting:
CHAPTER ONE: JESUSHACKS FOR SIMPLE LIVING
1.1 LIVE MINIMALLY // 1.2 SLOW DOWN // 1.3 EXPECT LESS
CHAPTER TWO: JESUSHACKS FOR PRODUCTIVITY
2.1 FORGET SETTING GOALS // 2.2 ESTABLISH MOMENTUM // 2.3 DEVELOP A RHYTHM // 2.4 SEEK TRADE-OFFS
CHAPTER THREE: JESUSHACKS FOR LEADERSHIP
3.1 FOCUS ON YOUR MISSION // 3.2 INCORPORATE BELIEFS // 3.3 STAY CONNECTED // 3.4 CONFRONT INNER DARKNESS
CHAPTER FOUR: JESUSHACKS FOR MONEY
4.1 SPEND LESS // 4.2 REALIZE YOUR ABUNDANCE
CHAPTER FIVE: JESUSHACKS FOR HABITS
5.1 WAKE UP EARLY // 5.2 SHARE A MEAL
CHAPTER SIX: JESUSHACKS FOR CHARACTER
6.1 KEEP SECRETS // 6.2 PRACTICE GRATITUDE // 6.3 ACTUALLY LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR
APPENDIX: THE HABITS OF PEOPLE WHO DAILY LIVE OUT THEIR FAITH
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have a confession: I’m a Christian, but I used to read more personal development blogs than I did the Bible. Why? Because I was looking for a mysterious shortcut to ease my confusion about life. And for some reason, I didn’t think I would find that in t he Bible.
It’s strange how we can adopt a worldview but not turn to it to solve every ache of life. For a greater part of my faith, this was me. I didn’t turn to the Bible or Jesus to answer questions about my career, money, aspirations for success, or even relationships. Don’t get me wrong: I loved the Bible, but I didn’t think it was practical for every aspect of life. It was merely a guide to inform my spiritual side of life. Blogs, magazines, and popular media could solve the other areas of life.
This wasn’t completely wrong—that is, until my faith started slipping.
It’s a simple problem: when you don’t keep Jesus at the forefront of your mind in everything you do, you forget about Him. There’s no need to turn to a faith that doesn’t inform your whole life.
My mind wandered into this cynical thinking about faith. I wished it applied to everything about my life. I wished I could find more depth than the simple Christian blanket statements, such as, “God has a plan for you” and “Trust in God.” I wanted a faith that was so complex and wonderful that it touched every sphere of my life with practicality. Instead, what I got was a faith that was dry, not able to flood into other areas of my life.
I believe many of us struggle to apply our faith to every aspect of our lives. This is what makes the Sunday/Monday division so prominent in our culture. It’s easy to go to church for our spiritual refill, and then forget about it while we focus on work. It’s easy to practice faith only one day of the week.
But when I saw that my faith was deteriorating because of this, I immersed myself in the Biblical literature of Jesus.
And that’s when everything changed.
That’s when I found all the “shortcuts” to life I was looking for. That’s when I saw just how beautiful the life of Jesus really was.
Let me back up for a second. My name is Neal Samudre, and for years I was obsessed with making a difference in the world. This was the main reason I turned to many personal development resources. I was trying to maximize my life and take in everything necessary to make a true and lasting change in the world.
But what I soon discovered was, today’s life is complicated. There is too much noise, distraction, and clutter to take everything in. And as a result, my faith was slipping.
Instead of turning to many external resources for wisdom, I turned to the Bible because I believed my essential focus should be on my internal life. In the midst of excavating my internal life, I discovered that changing the world is not simply about what you do but who you are. As I turned more inward, I saw just how crucial character really is.
The most important lesson I’ve learned in changing the world is this:
You can’t make a difference without being different.
The best example I see for this comes from Jesus. Jesus shocked the world with different disciplines, teachings, and way of living. In doing so, He led a life that meant something.
So what exactly did Jesus do to live differently? Simple. Jesus led a different life by making the world a better place with His beliefs.
That’s what it means to live like Jesus—to make the world a better place with your beliefs.
This is easier said than done. Many of us don’t let our beliefs affect all aspects of our daily life. As a result, our beliefs aren’t really allowing us to make the world a better place. Instead, our beliefs are either ignored or don’t amount to much in our lives.
JesusHacks (my personal-development website) was the result of me wanting to integrate Christian belief with practical personal-development tips that filter into our daily lives. In starting this venture, it was my belief that by having the clarity to see how the life of Jesus intersects with our own complicated lives, we can then use our beliefs to tangibly make the world a better place.
But many of us can’t make this transition of living like Jesus in everyday life because we’ve segregated the spiritual side of life and the daily, routine part of life.
The truth is, living like Jesus doesn’t only affect the spiritual side of your life. It works by gathering all the actions of your life under the umbrella of your beliefs. It allows you to live with character to improve all aspects of your life.
This is the idea that transformed my entire life. And I’m guessing more people haven’t discovered this idea because they kept “living like Jesus” as only a spiritual concept—like it doesn’t affect how you work or how you change your habits.
Living like Jesus is about stepping into the life you were made to live.
Would you like to live like Jesus in your work, relationships, and daily life? If so, let me introduce you to JesusHacks—practical tips from Jesus for improving every aspect of life.
“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”
1.1 LIVE MINIMALLY
Jesus has a smart investment strategy. As displayed in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus states that any investment should be met with a return. In His story, only two servants who were given an investment were able to offer a return. However, one servant provided no return, and as a result, He was sent away.
To have an investment yield a return may seem like a no-brainer, but here’s a difficult question: why don’t we practice this same strategy in life?
If we’re honest, many of us are products of our culture. We bathe in the unnecessary excess and stress of daily life. We buy into media’s attempt to get us to care about things we don’t need. We split our time, devotion, and concern among things that, if we took a closer look at, offer little to no return.
If our life was an investment statement, many of us would be shocked at the little return trickling in.
You know what Jesus would do if He saw His items offering no return? He would send them away. In other words, He would simplify.
This is what simple living is about: clearing away the excess so every investment in our life is offering a return.
It should be stated that seeking a return isn’t for selfish or personal gain. In his book, The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn says, “Selfishness is when we pursue gain at the expense of others.”^^1^^ But when we expect return for investments in our life, we’re hoping for a return that benefits everyone. We’re expecting a return that allows for more time with family, deeper relationships, and an overall increase in the quality of our life.
But the sad truth is, many of us don’t lead simple lives. We give ourselves to things that distract us, things that steal our devotion away from what truly matters.
Jesus was acutely aware of everything that takes our devotion and concern away from what matters. About 15% of all His teachings were aimed at the subject of money, possessions, and the value we attribute to lesser things. ^^2^^ Jesus knew that the recipe for a meaningful and impactful life involves protecting our value from the lesser things attempting to steal it.
So how do we fight back against the excess of today and reclaim our value and devotion toward the things that truly matter (like serving God in our families and work)?
We simplify. We clear the clutter and build safeguards to protect against the excess. We allow only what’s necessary and beneficial to enter into our lives. And as a result, we yield an even greater return from the items we let in.
Jesus did this very thing, and this is why I would say Jesus was a minimalist. It’s difficult to ascribe labels from today’s culture to Jesus, but for understanding sake, I would say Jesus was a minimalist because He was aware of the value in the things surrounding His life.
Many of you might be shaking your head and thinking, “Doesn’t minimalism mean owning no stuff?” To a degree, yes. But it’s much more than that.
There was a time when I thought minimalism was only about the stuff you owned. I tried living minimally, but to me, that meant owning one pair of shoes, one jacket, and having my whole life fit in two boxes.
But something odd happened during this time: I didn’t live with the benefits others described when talking about minimalism. In fact, I felt my stuff trapped me even more.
When you live with less, sometimes you care more for the little things you have.
That’s what happened to me. I cared more for my things because they were the only items I had. I owned so little that I didn’t want to lose any of these items.
Here’s the truth: living minimally isn’t only about owning less; it’s about treasuring less.
As Jesus said, our treasures should be in heaven, not on earth. What this means is, what you value shouldn’t reside in the things you own here. You should invest with an eternal perspective in mind. Things like family, friends, and making a difference are investments that offer a grand return because they are not built on things we may lose; they are the foundational building blocks to any great legacy.
Minimalism is about reducing what you value. It is a healthy response to overabundance and excessive consumerism, which tells us to care about more things.
Here is another definition offered by Jonathan Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, better known as The Minimalists: “Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives.”^^3^^
You are a minimalist when you have stripped your life down to the essentials of what adds value to your life. You have a magnificent return because you are no longer putting time and energy toward things that give you no life. Instead you are putting all of yourself toward healthy, life-giving things.
Minimalism is a popular concept in today’s culture. Thousands of people are trying to live simply by consuming and owning less. It’s how they lead a healthier and more meaningful life.
But, the minimalism that Jesus offers differs in that it’s not practiced for personal gain. Today, people live with less because they’re trying to improve their life; but Jesus went with less because He was trying to improve the lives of others.
As Shane Claiborne said in his book, The Irresistible Revolution, “Simplicity is meaningful only inasmuch as it is grounded in love, authentic relationships, and interdependence.”^^4^^ This is what the simplicity of Jesus leads to.
For instance, when Jesus sends out the disciples in Luke 9, He tells them to not take any provisions for the journey. What this simplicity of possessions does is it allows them to be interdependent, and bless others in the process. The simplicity that Jesus was promoting helped benefit others.
Don’t practice minimalism if it’s going to make you prideful. Minimalism is a lifestyle of the heart. It’s about placing value in the right places so that your life can spill out and touch others. It’s not something you shove in people’s faces like a medal; rather, it puts you in front of people’s faces so you benefit them.
An example of minimalism impacting my life and others is when I practiced carrying less during my undergraduate years. I moved into a new house with only two boxes—one was filled with books, and the other was filled with clothes, shoes, and toiletries. I didn’t even have a bed.
When I had such few things in my possession, I was forced to rely on others—for company and little provisions here and there. This is how my wife and I first hung out. She was the girl next door, and I wanted to see more of her, so I asked her out—I didn’t let my fear convince me to preoccupy myself with my devices and possessions for entertainment. If I did have more stuff, it possibly could’ve given me an excuse to preoccupy myself instead of be brave. It could’ve kept me fearful. But instead, my minimalism allowed for a social good to occur by forcing me to be brave.
That’s how it happened for the disciples. The more provisions they had, the more excuses they had to stay fearful. But because they needed provisions, they were forced to take risks, and benefit others in the process.
This is the glory of minimalism. It doesn’t give us a badge to wear; rather, it puts us in a position for our lives to impact others.
I’m not telling you to embrace another movement in lieu of following Jesus. I only say minimalism for understanding sake. The truth is the minimalism of Jesus is far different than the movement that exists today. Like I said, it’s not a practice to cultivate a spiritual asceticism or make you prideful. When we live minimally like Jesus did, we do it for the sake of others.
STRATEGY FOR MINIMALISM:
In Luke 3, when the crowds ask John the Baptist how they can display the fruit of salvation, John tells them three things. Surprisingly enough, every thing he says deals with the concept of having enough. He tells the people, tax collectors, and soldiers to only hold onto what’s enough for them. Don’t go seeking more. In the same way, we can practice the contentment of only having enough in our lives. Place limits on what you need—with your budget, possessions, and even relationships—and you’ll find that you’re not spreading yourself thin. Instead, you’ll give away the excess. You’ll benefit others and only live on what’s enough.
1.2 SLOW DOWN
Stress is what happens when the items in your life are in disarray and you feel like you need to control it all. Worry is what happens when your inability to control it all affects your thinking, and the future suddenly tries stealing the spotlight from the present.
These are negative emotions we don’t like to feel. We don’t need to feel these burdens, and yet, we foster an environment and attitude in our life that only perpetuates these feelings.
Ever wonder why you feel worried and stressed often? It’s because you’re not addressing the culture of your life. Instead of solving these issues, you perform many band-aid fixes like lighting a candle or taking a bubble bath to momentarily dissolve your anxieties. While these are great options, I believe it’s possible to change the culture of your thinking to cut stress and worry down right at their roots.
The answer to both stress and worry is simply slowing down. It sounds simple because it is simple.
The moment you move faster than the slow pace of life is the moment you invite disruption and chaos to enter into your thinking. Instead, change your response to life. Don’t move fast because the world around you is fast. Slow down and see life for what it truly is—special in every moment.
Jesus understood that His response to life should be slow and mindful to the present. An example of this is seen in Mark 6:31, which says, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ Notice how He didn’t pick up His pace, as we so often do in our fast culture. Instead, He brings the disciples back down to the true pace of life.
Slowing down is how we gain freedom from the addiction to hurriedness that only perpetuates negative emotions. Slowing down helps us honor limits and stay grounded in the present so that each moment is a treasure.
Here are 10 more benefits to slowing down:
1. If you slow down, people won’t expect you to do everything.
Reality check: you can’t do everything. You wish you could juggle fifty different tasks, but you can’t. Yet, if you haven’t noticed, the reason people expect you to do everything is because you agree to do everything. If you slow down and put a limit on what you can do, then people won’t come to you for everything they need done. They’ll instead come to you because they’ll know you do a great job at getting done what matters to you.
2. You can master what you want.
The more you spread out your time among different tasks, the harder it’ll be to hone in on your passion and work to develop it. However, if you go slower with life, you’ll be able to devote more time to developing what you love to do for the benefit of others.
3. You’ll be able to focus on details better.
A recent study measured that in 2013, the average attention span of an American was 8 percent, which is shorter than a goldfish.^^5^^ In our fast living, we have reduced our attention. As a result, our detail has suffered. With only eight seconds of attention, we do what we need to, only to make a mistake we don’t return to later. If you slow down, you won’t miss the details you often overlook.
4. You won’t live with unrealized expectations of yourself.
If you’re like me, you’ve beaten yourself up for not getting done everything that you’ve wanted to get done in a day. When we move fast, we have expectations of ourselves that are hard to meet. Instead of meeting those expectations, we get frustrated and discouraged. But when we slow down, we can see the truth of what we are capable of. We can then set the bar at a more reasonable height for ourselves.
5. You won’t stress about time.
People who move too fast worry about deadlines too much. Their calendars, schedules, and clocks have mastered them. However, there is a chance to break free from this bondage. If you slow down, time will release its grip on you, and you won’t get so worked up by oncoming deadlines.
It should be stated however that I am not suggesting you avoid deadlines. Just don’t let deadlines affect your mental state. In other words, don’t stress about time. It’ll remain the same whether or not you choose to worry about it.
6. You’ll say yes to the things that matter.
People who rush through life oftentimes end up saying no to life-giving opportunities. They see time as a finite resource, something that should be used to getting done work, not for health.
It’s true that time is finite, but it’s not true that you can’t do what you want with time. There is enough time to go out with friends or meeting up for coffee. If you slow down, you’ll be more prone to say yes to these opportunities.
7. You won’t interrupt yourself.
I said this before: we have short attention spans. With our attention gone haywire, we tend to interrupt ourselves while doing work or while living day-to-day. We often forget what we have to do next or what we meant to do a couple seconds ago. In other words, we stumble on an unnecessary interruption.
Fast living dissolves better thinking. Learning to live slower helps us avoid interruption and truly concentrate.
8. You’ll become a better decision maker.
The workplace takes pride in quick thinkers. But today, most decisions are complex. When we decide something quickly, we often skip over a crucial element worth considering. Slowing down, however, will give you the ability to be attentive to all aspects of a decision.
9. You won’t be a ghost to your loved ones.
A strange thing surrounds people who rush through life: their loved ones talk about them as if they’re dead. They say things like “I miss them” or refer purely to memories when they speak of them.
This doesn’t have to be you. You don’t have to be a memory to your loved ones. By slowing down, you can instead concentrate more on making new memories with them.
10. You’ll probably discover you’re not that busy.
People in college were really stressed about “being busy.” But truth was, they had a lot of time on their hands. All they did was go to class and do homework. The reason most of them said they were busy was because they didn’t use the free time they did have wisely. They rushed because they wasted time doing other things.
By slowing down, you’ll probably see that your fast living was really the result of you not using your time wisely. You’re probably not as busy as you imagine yourself to be, but because you’re moving too fast, you don’t pause to see whether you are or not.
Slower living is about honoring the present moment, the process of change, and our limits. It keeps our life healthy instead of rushed. Practice this discipline and see God sparkle in the moments you choose not to rush through.
STRATEGIES FOR SLOWING DOWN:
1. ADD WALKING TIME
Sometimes, I park far away from a building I’m going to because I want to walk a little more. Walking helps remind me that life can be slow if you let it be. So much of our culture tries to eliminate travel time, but I find peace in this time.
2. ELIMINATE TIMEBLOCKS
We often block time for items and move from one thing to the next, but what would it look like if we let the moment end us instead of us ending the moment? Instead of ending lunch to go to the next task, stay longer and let your time at lunch run its course. Eliminate the strict boundaries of your schedule and find joy in each moment.
3. FORCE SLOWNESS
We cannot instantly adopt a slow lifestyle. We need to force it upon ourselves at first. Start by intentionally driving in the slow lane, or going in the longest line. Train your mind to be content during these periods of waiting.
1.3 EXPECT LESS
I believe our sense of meaning, value, and satisfaction with our daily lives rests on one of two ideas: either we are doing too little or we are doing too much with our days.
If I had to guess what the case for you is, I would guess the latter is true. Such is the nature of our society. We take pride in our busyness. We blindly say yes to what our friends, family, and co-workers tell us to do without giving much consideration to our anxiety level. We pile the plate high because we don’t want to suffer from the feeling of doing too little.
Yet there’s a problem in this: we’re crushing our souls in the process.
I once knew a woman who calculated she had a solid twelve to fifteen hours in her day for work. I admired her selflessness as I watched her devote every single hour to the pursuit of money. It was a noble endeavor, something she was doing to take care of her one grandchild.
But then I had watched the process take a horrible turn.
The grandchild was young. I would sit on the porch with him on a hot and sticky summer afternoon, and he would tell me about his anxiety over not having enough money. It crushed me. The anxiety the grandmother felt in her pursuit of money carried over to the child. He was conditioned to be anxious about things he shouldn’t be anxious about.
Here’s what I drew from this experience: we aren’t meant to be busy all the time.
We weren’t created for that. We might feel fine in doing it, but in our busyness we can be blind to unintended consequences sprouting up around us.
Yet, what was the grandmother’s true problem? She expected too much from herself.
We do this too. It’s our expectation that’s hurting us.
Our anxiety and our load of busyness rests on what we expect from ourselves. If we expect we can do many things, we’ll fill our lives up and watch it develop stretch marks from the strain. If we expect we can do nothing, our life will amount to nothing.
There is a relationship between our anxiety and our expectation. Expecting more from ourselves doesn’t mean we’ll be happier with ourselves.
Expecting the absolute most from ourselves is not the stuff of a meaningful life. A meaningful life is not overstuffed or underutilized.
So then, what do we do? How do we manage our expectation so our souls don’t take a hit?
Jesus confronts our expectation in a subtle manner.
In the Gospels, there are several occasions where Jesus performs a miracle and then directly afterwards challenges the disciples to do something crazy. For instance, in Matthew 14, Jesus feeds the five thousand and then immediately afterwards challenges Peter to walk on water. At the end of the Gospels, Jesus dies and is raised to life, and then challenges the disciples to preach the good news to the entire world.
You see what’s happening here?
Jesus teaches the disciples to expect more from Him, and then pushes them to do great things. As the disciples’ faith in Jesus increased, so did their capability.
Jesus never told us to expect more from others. He never told us to expect more from ourselves either. But He did teach us to expect more from Him. And it is in our expectation in Him that we gain the capability to do the right things in life.
But too often, we only increase faith in ourselves.
We live in a culture of self-esteem and motivation, where we are told countless times to simply believe in ourselves to do anything.
There’s a shred of truth in these statements. We have to believe in our ability in order to do hard work. But if there’s anything we learn from the grandmother’s story, it’s that believing too much in ourselves can lead down a road of anxiety and struggle.
If we continue to challenge ourselves only out of greater belief in ourselves, we’ll instead ache with anxiety and disappointment.
Part of the solution then is to expect less from ourselves and expect more from God.
STRATEGIES FOR EXPECTING LESS:
1. Limit your projects
I often try juggling three large projects at the same time and quickly grow stressed from it. I’ll be writing a book while planning a party and working with a large client.
But no one ever told me to juggle these projects. In fact, when I juggle projects, I do a bad job at giving each project the full attention it needs. Limiting the amount of projects we take on is a simple way to expect less from ourselves. It limits us to only get done what we can, instead of expecting more of ourselves and then stretching ourselves thin.
2. Avoid the hustle
Many entrepreneurs, such as myself, break themselves over this idea of “hustling”, meaning that they get a lot of work done. But I don’t like the hustle. Hustling assumes that you’re burning the late night hours, spending time away from your family, and developing unhealthy lifestyle centered on work. Hustling assumes you can do it all and have it all. But as we’ve discussed, this is placing too much expectation on ourselves. When life places pressure on you to hustle, set a clear definition for how long you’ll work hard. Don’t make a habit of it. Otherwise, you’ll make a habit of expecting too much from yourself.
3. Know yourself
I now know I’m an introvert. But when I worked in a church and when I was a student at a large undergrad, I did not know this. What I knew was that the extrovert ideal was praised in society. So I became the extrovert. As a result, I wore myself out.
Too often we trade what we know about ourselves for what society tells us is right. We exhaust ourselves by doing things that aren’t within our gifting or personality.
The tighter hold we can have on who we are, the better we can manage our lives—accepting only the things that give us life.
“Instead of focusing on how much you can accomplish, focus on how much you can absolutely love what you’re doing.”
2.1 DITCH GOALS
Living like Jesus is often radical and works contrary to how our culture operates. One of the ways Jesus differs from our culture today comes in the way He set goals—He didn’t set any.
Let me explain. When it comes to today’s productivity, many of us have bought into the magic of goal setting. I know I certainly have. Being a natural planner and prioritizer, goal setting comes easy for me. But lately, the whole process has disenchanted me, but not because I couldn’t reach my goals. Quite contrary, I reached every goal I set for myself. The reason I became disenchanted was because when I concerned myself with goals, I was only focused on crossing them off my list. I didn’t give account to anything else. I was fixed and determined on the outcome.
This is what we so often do when we set goals. Each year, we set a series of goals, and then anchor ourselves to a specific outcome, as if we can completely control how the situation is going to turn out. This is where much of our tension comes with setting goals: we believe we have complete control for our dealings, and then get disappointed, disillusioned, and discouraged when we find that we don’t.
Truth is, we don’t have utter control over our lives. Setting goals makes us believe we do, but we don’t.
I learned this when after setting a series of goals for myself, things turned out different—better in fact—than how I previously planned for them to go.
Jesus didn’t try setting a long list of short-term goals for Himself. He probably knew that setting that example for the disciples would be leading them astray, because though the disciples would later have powerful faith, they could still not perfectly discern what God’s will was for their ministry. Setting short-term goals, much like we do today, could’ve been distracting to how the Spirit was leading them. It could’ve given them a false sense of autonomy rather than trusting in the Spirit’s leading.
Instead, Jesus gave them a mission (Matthew 28:19).
Based on this example, I now try to be mission-minded rather than goal-minded.
At first glance, a mission might seem like a long-range goal, but it actually works on different mechanics than a goal. Here are just a few differences:
1. You can only set one mission.
While you can set numerous goals at one time, you can only set one mission at a time. Imagine you’re reading a story and you see that the main character is on three different quests. You would get caught in confusion! It works the same with goals and missions. A mission simply gives you a direction to follow while a goal tries to set a defined path. By only having one mission, you limit yourself to just one direction for life.
2. A mission is broad and up for interpretation.
I don’t believe it’s bad to have a mission that’s up for interpretation. For instance, my mission is to “become the hero that God wants us all to be,” but that’s broad. People have different definitions of what that hero is. This means you can go in whatever direction you feel fit, and not feel the pressure and guilt of straying from one path. If the interpretation is broad (but not too broad that you don’t know what it means), you have more freedom to wander and change in the process.
3. There’s no way to measure your progress with a mission.
Great goals come pre-built with ways to measure their progress. For instance, if I set a goal to finish my book, the way I measure that is how close I am to finishing. Yet, with a mission, there’s no way to see how close or how far you are. It’s liberating because there’s no longer any pressure of meeting a quota or deadline. Rather than looking for external measurements, a mission allows you to look for internal measurements—like how you are growing in the process.
A goal is usually specific and measurable, but a mission is broad and immeasurable because its real purpose is to give you a direction to go in life, not give you an outcome served on a platter.
There are several reasons why this is beneficial. For instance:
1. Being mission-minded keeps you focused on the process.
When you’re goal-oriented, you place your mind on the future. You set your eyes to be fixated on the outcome so much so that you miss the little opportunities around you that come in simply being present.
When you’re present as opposed to stuck on the future, you free yourself to take little sidesteps, and not feel guilt about it. You notice the process it takes to get you to where you want, which oftentimes, teaches us more than achieving the goal itself.
Being present is better than being focused on the future.
2. Being mission-minded takes the uncertainty of life into account.
Like I mentioned before: no person can perfectly predict how things are going to turn out. In fact, much of our tension with goals is that we try our very best to control that which we can’t control. The emotional rollercoaster and topsy-turvy process of following a goal is the result of us attempting to make a certain wish a reality, when it sometimes doesn’t work so well in our favor.
When you have a broad mission, you’re suddenly free to take whatever path you feel will be a step in the right direction. It relieves the pressure of needing to have everything figured out, and instead, embraces the unknowingness of nature.
3. Being mission-minded doesn’t limit you to an outcome.
A goal won’t be satisfied unless its desire is met. It limits you to an outcome, which—as I’ve said in the last point—you’re never sure is absolutely going to happen.
When you’re mission-minded, you open yourself up to more possibilities. If you feel one path might help complement your mission more than another, you have the opportunity to explore that and see where it goes.
Basically, a mission doesn’t work on absolutes; goals do, and in essence, that’s why we struggle with them so much. Jesus set a mission because it didn’t try to define and measure everything He did. It instead gave Him a direction to follow.
Now, let’s see what a mission is made of. While a goal is made up of several action steps to get you closer to the outcome, a mission is made up of several habits forming a system of doing.
For instance, Jesus’ mission was comprised of the habits of healing and teaching. These weren’t action steps He plotted out. These were default actions—things that just kicked in and that He didn’t have to plan in advance.
When you have a goal, you’re required to be disciplined every step of the way as you knock out your action steps. This is why people burnout on their goals. They have to be disciplined—in scheduling, doing, and with their willpower—every single moment they move closer to their goal.
But when you focus instead on building healthy habits and effective systems, you only need to have enough discipline to make a certain action a habit. After that period of time (which experts say is about 66 days^^6^^), this action won’t require discipline. You’ll be in a system of doing, which will hopefully keep churning out success for you.
The benefit of having a habit instead of a deadlines or short-term items is that it keeps you doing. With goals, you stop doing once you accomplish a short-term item. But a habit is a repeated action, something that kicks in whenever you don’t know what to do. You keep doing your habit no matter what.
So now, I give myself a mission for each season of life. That mission works to add limits to what I do, while freeing me from the tension of endless short-term goals. It keeps me focused on building healthy habits, and it keeps me doing.
Giving yourself a mission is about freeing yourself from the burden of productivity. Truth is, God did not place us on this earth for us to be productive. He placed us here to accomplish a mission. It is by following the ideals of our culture that we feel the pressure to stay busy no matter what.
In today’s world, the surprising reality is, you don’t need productivity to lead a meaningful life. Having a packed schedule does not necessarily result in more impact from your life. Endless goals upon goals do not make your life worth something. What makes your life valuable is that you were put here on a mission from God.
So follow in the similar pattern. Don’t stress yourself with a list of short-term goals. Give yourself a mission, a theme for your life, and follow God’s leading.
STRATEGIES FOR BEING MISSION-MINDED:
1. CREATE A MISSION
A mission is set for one season of life. It is consistent with who you are and your values. It is a theme in which you’ll filter decisions for your season through. It is one statement of your quest this season. For instance, my quest this season of life is to inspire people to live like Jesus and become heroes. It is broad and up for interpretation, unlike a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
2. DEVELOP YOUR HABITS
For about two months, plan to consistently perform the habits that’ll coincide with your mission. It’s completely up to you what habits you want to perform. For me, I built a habit of writing and connecting with people. I do this everyday, not because it moves me closer to a goal, but because it’s what I love to do and it complements my mission. Plot out the habits of success you want to build in this season.
3. RELEASE YOURSELF FROM GOALS
I’m not saying it’s wrong to set goals. You can set goals if they work for you. I just believe that goals can sometimes lead us down a road of negative emotions—some that stifle our work. Sometimes, it’s better to not know where you’re going. Learn to let go of the guilt and pressure that comes in wanting to know everything. Instead, embrace the uncertainty of life by following a mission.
2.2 ESTABLISH MOMENTUM
For the longest time, I wondered why Jesus began His ministry in Matthew, Mark, and Luke by battling Satan’s temptations in the desert. What an interesting way to begin such a monumental journey. After dwelling on this story for days, I finally realized: this was the perfect way to begin Jesus’ ministry. It incorporated a key habit that I now utilize with my productivity and daily living.
In our culture today, we are obsessed with the end-result of things. We’ve long been told that to achieve success, we must focus on the end goal. As a result, we’ve poured our time, attention, and focus into finishing well.
But now, if I want to ensure a victory in my endeavors, I focus more on starting well—like Jesus did in the desert.
Let me explain.
The other day, I suffered from a lack of motivation. After receiving a crippling defeat in the afternoon, I succumbed to being unproductive for the rest of the day. I sat around, twiddled my thumbs, and replayed sad thoughts in my head. I was paralyzed, shocked with the hurdle that overturned me.
Because I had lost my confidence, I didn’t achieve anything that day. Earlier that day, I started with the end in mind and stated everything I was going to accomplish by the evening. But that didn’t do anything to instill confidence in me. Instead, I crippled under the pressure and did nothing in my loss of confidence.
Confidence is what keeps us moving forward. We need it if we’re ever going to move at all with our mission.
But the interesting thing about gaining confidence is that we only gain it when we achieve a “win” of some sort—whether that means accomplishing a task or receiving encouragement from a friend. Having a “win” is what keeps us motivated and what keeps us going.
When I aimed to finish well, I didn’t account for my loss of confidence. It’s a variable that has the chance to crush everything you’ve planned for.
Yet, there was one way I learned to minimize this variable, stay productive, and find success in my projects. It was simply to focus more on how I started something rather than how I finished it.
While we’ve been told that success depends on how you finish, I’m starting to believe it matters more how you start.
Why? Because when you start positively, you establish momentum; and when you have momentum, it becomes difficult for anything to stand in your way—even a temporary blip in confidence.
Your chances at ending victoriously depend on whether you build the mindset to be victorious; and much of this mindset is formed in how you start, not in how you end.
Jesus built momentum into His story by starting His ministry with a win. He goes into the desert and resists Satan, which in turn defined the culture of how His mission was going to turn out. In essence, He built the necessary momentum to engage on His radical quest.
We can mimic this action in our own lives. We can start our days or projects with a small win, gain confidence, build momentum, and charge through the rest of our day or project with little to no resistance. If we start with a victory, we gain the confidence that says the end will be an even greater victory—not because we won’t face trial, but because we’ll have the confidence, perspective, and strength to overcome them.
This is part of the reason why I wake up at 5 each day. I allow enough space in my day to find peace with my morning devotional, and then I establish momentum by somehow gaining a win early in the day. That victory looks different each time. Sometimes, it means I’ve discovered a new revelation in my daily reading. And at other times, it means I’ve worked on my most important task and have gotten a considerable amount of work done. Either way, I work hard each day to find a victory that’ll keep me moving forward with success.
You increase your chance at finishing strong by simply starting strong. While that might seem trite, many of us neglect this statement by focusing more on the end result. We dwell on how we finish so much so that we miss establishing confidence right at the start of something; and when we miss this, obstacles end up stopping us for good.
Seek momentum, and you’ll be able to plow through the obstacles that try to stop you from living fully.
STRATEGIES FOR ESTABLISHING MOMENTUM:
1. WAKE UP EARLY
I mentioned this before, but part of the reason I wake up early is to start my day out with a victory that keeps me going. When you wake up when you need to, you rush, and create a culture where you’re more prone to having your obstacles stop you. If you wake up early and create a victory in the peace and quiet of the morning, you’ll gain the confidence to keep going with your day.
2. DO YOUR MOST IMPORTANT TASK FIRST
When you try to complete a victory in your day, work at your most important task first. The reasoning for doing so is that your willpower to achieve a victory is strongest at the beginning of the day. Utilize this surge of willpower to do what’s most important. It’ll also make you feel even better about your victory.
3. CELEBRATE YOUR VICTORY
Don’t shove your victory in people’s faces or be too prideful about it. But store it in your heart and celebrate it with a little treat, like having breakfast with someone special afterwards. If you take the time to celebrate your victory, you’ll remember it as your day goes on. If you ignore it, you won’t remember it as a victory and fail to establish momentum.
2.3 DEVELOP RHYTHM
It’s obvious that today’s life is busy, rushed, and frantic. We try to pack everything into our schedules to keep the pace of life, but at the end of the day, we sink into our beds and think that this hurried lifestyle isn’t working. But then, we wake up and do it again.
We’ve unconsciously accepted that life should move at a pace we can’t keep up with.
As a result, the predominant question of our lives becomes, “how can I balance it all?” Unfortunately, this is the wrong question to ask.
If Jesus shows us anything, it’s that we’re not meant to balance everything in our lives. We’re meant to have a healthy rhythm.
Here’s what I mean by that: a rhythm is opposed to balance because when we try to balance life, we try to optimize every sphere of life at the expense of ourselves; we try doing and managing everything when we can’t. But the art of rhythm involves releasing control, recognizing our limits, and realizing that we are not meant to do it all. This realization forms a foundation of grace in our lives, and this foundation allows us to sink into the natural pace of our God created us. In other words, when we live with rhythm, we don’t try to get the most out of ourselves, constantly squeezing out everything we have in us. We sink into the pace of high and low energy, activity and rest, work and play.
Balance tries to make life all about work and tasks. Rhythm makes life about our needs.
And this life of rhythm is present in the way of Jesus. Jesus had the biggest mission on Earth, but it didn’t keep Him in a state of doing. Jesus had times of teaching, then healing, then rest. If He had the production-mindset that many of us have today, He wouldn’t have sat down with the disciples to have a Passover meal. He wouldn’t have rested at Jacob’s well when He talked to the Samaritan woman in John 4. He wouldn’t have spent any time in solitude.
Now, we look at these moments and think that Jesus was working toward His mission in them because we see a spiritual significance behind Each and every one of these times. But the truth is, these moments wasn’t the attempt of Jesus trying to work at all times of the day. Simply, when Jesus paced Himself with a rhythm, every moment in His life became meaningful and essential to His mission, even the times of rest and solitude.
That’s how it works when we develop a rhythm. We might be so stuck in a production-mindset that we think rest and play are hindering our movement forward, but when we develop a rhythm like Jesus had, every moment—including our times of rest, prayer, and community—become essential to our mission.
Balance tries to keep us in a pattern of working, and in doing so, keeps us ignorant of the health of our souls. But rhythm is about feeding our souls.
So the difficult truth is this: to be faithful to God with all He has given you, you don’t need to constantly work and try to balance everything. You need to pace yourself with a rhythm—which essentially means having a blend of activity, rest, and self-care.
Always pushing our selves to the limit is not how we get more done, but how we water down our impact.
Always being aware of our limits, however, is how we pace and position ourselves for more impact. This is the way of Jesus.
P.S. To access the free course I built on how to establish a healthy rhythm, click here: http://jesushacks.com/rhythm
STRATEGIES FOR DEVELOPING A RHYTHM:
1. BUILD BOUNDARIES
Take an honest look at who you are and what you are capable of. This will show you your limits. Once you know your limits, reinforce them by giving yourself rules or boundaries you shouldn’t cross. For instance, you might have a boundary to never check your email after 10pm at night. Or you might have a boundary to not have your phone with you when you are with your family after dinner.
2. PLAN SIMPLE DAYS
Our to-do lists are filled with a million little activities. But instead of viewing our days as a block of time we should fit with as much as possible, let’s view it as days where we can only try to accomplish one or two projects. Keeping your focus on one or two big projects a day keeps you from spreading yourself thin.
3. SCHEDULE REST
For many of us, rest doesn’t come to our minds as a viable option for our days. So what we have to do is actually schedule rest. When plotting out your day, schedule at least two times of rest—one in the afternoon and one in the evening. This will give you a natural pace of work and rest.
4. REDEFINE SELFLESSNESS
Finally, our definition of selflessness should not mean that we are meant to abuse our bodies for the benefit of others. There’s need to be moments of self-care in our lives. If we don’t have self-care, we are not being good stewards of the bodies God has given us. Realize your limits are there for a reason.
2.4 SEEK TRADE-OFFS
With our production-mindset—where we’re only focused on the results and how much we can accomplish—the predominant question on our minds is this: “how can I do it all?”
The excess and options of today have ravaged our ability to choose what’s best for us. Instead, we entertain the false idea that we can do all things. We ignore our capability and say that we can make time for this and make time for that.
The other day while sitting in Starbucks, I heard two ladies next to me talking about their businesses in website development. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I admit, their topic of conversation interested me so my ears perked up a bit.
One woman said that she didn’t write much, but she knew she had to start a blog and update it regularly because that’s what all her competition was doing.
I could instantly see how blogging would pan out for this woman and her business. Because she didn’t write much, she would pour hours into writing one good article, and as a result, take away time from making other things shine.
There are trade-offs to everything because like it or not, we have limits.
In today’s society, we don’t like compromises. We want to do it all and have it all. But compromises have to be made when we consider our limits.
The more we acknowledge our limits and what we can or cannot do, the simpler and less chaotic our lives will be. This is how God designed us—not to be people who try to do everything, but to be people who lean on God’s sufficiency when we can’t do everything on our own.
By ignoring our capabilities, strengths, and limits, we overstretch ourselves, and end up in patterns that are not good for our work, our relationships, and even our faith. If we want to do meaningful work as well as have a meaningful contribution in the lives of those we care about, we must acknowledge the trade-offs in our decisions.
In Luke 14:28, Jesus touches on this concept of trade-offs. He says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
Jesus notes that there is a cost that we must consider. In today’s busy lifestyle, many of us barge into work and activities without considering what the trade-off might be. This results in poor work or even uncompleted work.
Jesus suggests that this is not how we should approach the work. Before we engage in a task, we must ask, “What is the cost for saying yes to this?”
Just accepting everything without exercising the power of choice is the quickest path to burnout and watered down impact. Jesus understood that great work and impact starts by first asking, “What will this cost me?” Anything otherwise is unwise.
STRATEGIES FOR SEEKING TRADE-OFFS:
1. ASK WHAT’S THE COST
We see Jesus mention this in Luke 14:28. It is unwise to barge into a project without first considering if we are capable of accomplishing it. The simple solution is to consider the cost before accepting the project. And there is always a cost. Your job is to determine whether the cost is worth it or not.
Sometimes, the cost is not present to us in the moment. In these times, instead of accepting and paying the consequence later, ask to delay the decision. Wait a few moments for giving an answer, or even, wait a few hours or days to give an answer. Give yourself enough time to assess if you can pay the cost or not.
3. SEE THE BENEFITS
Oftentimes, people don’t like making choices about what they can or can’t do because they hate missing out or they fear missing an opportunity. But the truth is, opportunities aren’t missed; opportunities are created. This means, if you turn down one project to work hard on another, you just created an opportunity of having your project be even better. There are benefits and opportunities behind every no. Highlight these benefits and you’ll feel better about making a trade-off. If you only focus on the negative, or what you’re missing out on, you’ll be less likely to make valuable trade-offs.
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
3.1 FOCUS ON YOUR MISSION
Focus is a scarce resource now days. In a culture where our attention is constantly bombarded with technology and loud media, it can be difficult to direct our focus toward a task that matters.
Yet what I’ve found in my own personal investigation of focus is that it’s not purely technology and media’s fault that we can’t pay attention. In fact, when it came to my lack of focus, it was mainly internal factors—not external factors—that contributed to the problem.
I see this at work with the disciples too. When they were travelling with Jesus, they didn’t have as many external elements attacking their attention (at least, not as much as we do today), and yet, they couldn’t keep their eyes on the prize. They couldn’t focus on the mission during their time with Jesus.
Effective leadership hinges on our ability to focus. This is why I believe focus is a spiritual discipline. If we are ever going to lead others in a God-honoring way, we must learn to cultivate a discipline of focusing on what truly matters rather than allowing our insecurities and internal problems to distract us.
We see this type of focused leadership at work in the life of Jesus. Jesus practiced a discipline of detachment, which allowed Him to keep His inner life in check while He focused on His mission. For instance, during the time in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted by Satan with a number of things appealing to inner desires like power and hunger. These were not so much external distractions but factors trying to motivate His inner principles to deviate. Yet Jesus detached Himself from the concerns that could cause anyone to stumble. He distanced Himself from the desire for power or the need for food. Doing so allowed Him to emerge victorious from the wilderness.
Not all distractions are external. Sometimes, you can’t focus on the mission because of internal factors. If you are wondering what those internal factors could be, here are some reasons from the life of Jesus as to why you can’t focus:
1. You hate what you’re doing.
Ever work a job that was absolutely miserable? These jobs often tear away at our soul because they’re not what we’re suppose to be doing. Yet, while they’re not what we’re suppose to be doing, that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best with it. Truly, to rise above the circumstances that you hate, you must be willing to work it with all you have.
When you hate what you’re doing, you’re distracted by what you wish you were doing instead. To focus, immerse yourself in the present moment. Realize that your wishing will not help you reach your goal any faster than doing the work will.
2. You don’t understand what you’re doing.
When Jesus asked the disciples to pray with Him in Gethsemane, they instead fell asleep. This is because they didn’t understand the urgency of the moment. If they had only known what was about to happen, they would’ve been fully present and alert. Their inability to comprehend what was going on ended up distracting them.
It happens in the same way for us. When we typically don’t understand what’s going on, we check out. This happens in class, at work, and in our families. If we don’t know, we sometimes don’t care.
The best way to reclaim your focus from this is to try your best to understand what’s going on. If it’s a matter that requires your attention, but you don’t understand it, refer to other sources and try to at least get the big picture of what’s going on. As long as you have the big picture, you’ll be able to fill in the details at a later point.
3. You’re angry about where you are.
The disciples often debated with one another about who was the greatest. We see it as a petty argument because we know the full depth of who they were with and why their status doesn’t matter. The problem was, they didn’t realize their argument was unnecessary during the time. Their anger kept them blind to the mission of Jesus.
Sometimes, we can be angry about where we are also. If we’re stuck in a low position or if we wish we were somewhere else, that anger can blind us. It can keep us doing poor work.
The solution isn’t easy. Once again, it involves stepping into the hurt of the present moment, and wrestling with it. Why are you angry? Do you believe staying angry will help at all?
Once you deal with that anger, you’ll see that what matters most is not wishing you were somewhere better, but doing what’s right in front of you.
4. You’re afraid.
Peter denied Jesus three times, just like Jesus said he would. It wasn’t because Peter hated Jesus. Rather, he was afraid. His fear took precedence over his love and loyalty. As a result, he lost hold of the mission.
Our fear can be overwhelming to this degree as well. We can fear that by not answering our phone or checking our email, we can be missing out. We can fear that something will happen without us while we’re stuck doing our work. We can fear what others might be thinking or doing. All the while, we distract ourselves with possibilities, rather than what’s true.
Fear is a persuasive power. It attempts to pull us away. Yet, the best way to focus is to be brave about our current situation. If you’re working, muster up the courage to know that the world will be fine while you’re doing your work. Have the courage to immerse yourself fully in your task.
When it comes to doing work and leading others in a mission, internal factors pulling at our attention can be just as powerful as external ones. Oftentimes, we like to blame external factors more than internal ones. But before you get into the habit of pointing out what’s wrong on the outside, first learn to confront what’s on the inside. Next time you lose focus, take a deep look at what’s going on underneath the hood. You might be surprised by what you find.
STRATEGIES FOR KEEPING FOCUSED:
1. NAME YOUR INSECURITIES
If you feel there is something wrong with your ability to focus, look inside before you start blaming external things. It could be that you have an unnamed insecurity or inner conflict tearing you away from your mission. If this is so, name your insecurity so it becomes real to you. Without naming it, it remains hidden, obscure and unrecognizable. Awareness takes you one step closer to solving the issue.
2. LET GO
You might be angry because you’re attached to how you wish something were different. You might be bitter because you wish you were doing something else. All these matters that stem up internal conflicts might be caused by our attachment to certain desires. If this is the case, let go. Let go of your want of something else. Let go of future wishes. Let go of your petty disputes with others. Let go to allow the more important matters to step into the spotlight.
3.2 INCORPORATE BELIEFS
A mistake we make in discussing leadership is that we pin the spiritual leader as only leading a church or family in spiritual matters. While it’s true that a spiritual leader might do this, a spiritual leader is also one who leads in other areas of life, such as a business.
This is because a spiritual leader is not defined as someone who deals strictly with faith. A spiritual leader is someone who incorporates their beliefs into all matters of life.
With this in mind, we shouldn’t say that Jesus was a spiritual leader because His work dealt with the spread of Christianity; rather, He was a spiritual leader because His beliefs informed every action of His life.
When our beliefs about the world inform our work, we lead more wholesome lives, lives that are truly more successful than those who don’t integrate their beliefs with the rest of their life.
This isn’t a success defined with money and prestige necessarily. Rather, it is a success that comes with leading a meaningful and selfless life.
Here are 6 reasons why spiritual leaders can be more successful in life:
1. They know they can distance themselves from the noise.
Warren Buffett is known for saying, “The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” Basically, the successful person is comfortable saying no to the matters that don’t contribute to their mission. They know how to filter through the noise. Yet, the unsuccessful person is someone who can’t filter the noise, and as a result, say yes to everything.
A spiritual leader knows they don’t have to contribute to everything. They are content with the silence. In fact, most spiritual practices incorporate a practice of being content to offer nothing to the noise. Silence is how spiritual leaders spend time with more important matters.
2. They incorporate intentional practices of slowing down.
A spiritual leader is concerned with finding peace throughout the day. This is why many leaders wake up early and do devotionals in the morning. They are concerned with sharpening themselves to face the day. An unspiritual leader might wake up early but get right into the rush of work, while the spiritual leader knows that their most optimal performance only comes after establishing peace.
3. They don’t feel the need to showcase their accomplishment.
Humility is a large part of spiritual practices, but it isn’t treasured in many cases outside spirituality. However, it should be valued in all cases, because many of us waste our time, attention, and energy trying to get others to notice our work rather than doing better with our work. Humility and secrecy is how we break free of the addiction to showcase our accomplishments, and focus on creating better victories instead.
4. They focus on the wellbeing of their employees, not just their output.
A benefit of cultivating one’s own spirituality is that they know how important it is for others to do the same. They know the health it brings to someone’s entire life. Because of this, they foster habits and practices that encourage not only output from their workers, but transformation. They are more inclined to care about their workers’ overall wellbeing, which in turn improves their workers’ commitment to the mission.
5. They measure success with internal features more than external ones.
Many of us measure success with numbers and statistics. Yet, true success is not only an external matter. Most successes spill out from internal reservoirs, such as our belief in the project or our personal achievement in it.
The irony is, when we care more about the internal aspects of a success, we create better success than we would if we cared more for an external feature. For instance, when we are passionate for a project, we work harder for its success than we would if we were just putting it out there for the numbers or response from others. Spirituality, by discipline, teaches us that it is the heart that matters in many cases—not how people respond to what we do. Because of this, we create better success by first pouring all of ourselves into the project—not by catering it to fit mass popularity.
6. They understand life is not all about their work.
People with spirituality often have a bigger scope to life. They realize that life is much larger than their work, though it comes as a high priority in one’s life. Their scope typically includes how they respond to God in their daily dealings. Because of this larger scope, they allow for more grace and margin for errors in their life. They understand there is more to life than work when they commit a mistake at work. Giving themselves grace because of this scope keeps them healthy and guilt-free—the conditions necessary for making a difference.
While it’s true that anyone can be successful in life, letting your beliefs inform all aspects of your life helps establish the balance necessary for finding a deeper success—one that’s not defined by how much you do or have, but rather by the meaning you feel resonate in your life.
Beliefs add meaning to life. It’s time to apply those beliefs into our work so we can feel a deeper meaning there as well.
STRATEGIES FOR INCORPORATING BELIEFS:
1. CREATE CORE VALUES
We are less able to make an impact with our beliefs if we don’t have crystal-clear clarity on what our beliefs are. For this reason, I made it a priority to create core values for my personal life. Some of my values that allow me to integrate my beliefs and my work are that I prioritize my family, I want to have enough money to give away, and more. So list out your beliefs and start seeing the threads they have with your daily leadership.
2. GIVE YOURSELF SPACE
A sad reality is, some people are too busy to have time to reflect on their beliefs. They are constantly in meetings, surrounded by people, and mastered by their to-do list to break free from their work. If this is you, place a gap in your schedule where you do nothing but fill yourself up. In this space, you’ll explore your beliefs and find it easier to place them at the forefront of everything.
3.3 STAY CONNECTED
Pastors, artists, difference makers, and anyone doing anything significant have one thing in common—they feel lonely from time to time.
This is true in my life. As I try to get my business off the ground, I feel a twinge of loneliness every now and then. I guess that’s how it is when you choose to spearhead a vision—you have to embrace the loneliness of being apart from everyone else.
I do believe there’s a healthy part to being separate as a leader. Withdrawal, solitude, and quiet are the ingredients to the formation of a great leader. In some sense, a leader must find contentment with being apart from the crowd, being alone from time to time.
But I also believe there’s a danger to this loneliness.
There’s a dangerous thought out there that for a leader to do his or her mission, he or she must forego relationships in lieu of being devoted to their work.
There has never been a more harmful idea to a leader.
It’s entirely possible to be a leader who’s devoted to his or her work so much that they abandon their friendships. But what we often forget is, it’s not only our work that makes us leaders. It’s the lives we impact and connect with that make us leaders.
Leaders should never be stifled by loneliness. Their impact, health, and soul is at stake.
The problem is, as a leader, it’s so tempting to shut yourself away from the rest of the world. It’s so tempting to just follow your dreams but forget about others. It’s so tempting to let friendships slip.
As a leader, you must make the conscious and intentional decision to not let your friendships drop.
A leader cannot thrive without healthy friendships. Friends sharpen, guide, and encourage us along in our influence. And in the end, you’ll remember the people who stood by you more than you remember what you did. That’s because a legacy is not only shaped by your achievements; it’s also shaped by the lives who’ve touched you.
Build a better legacy. Keep your friends by your side.
STRATEGIES FOR STAYING CONNECTED:
1. Ask for help
As a leader, when you are wrapped up in your work, gather others around you instead of building fences around you and your work. Involve people in the process, even if you don’t need to. Doing so will give you the life to continue with your leadership.
2. Keep returning
I love how Jesus returns to His friends after they thought He was dead and gone. He still cared about them enough to show Himself to them, and that says something. Sometimes, we can let friendships slip. But like Jesus, we have the choice to return to the friends who think we’re gone. Sometimes all it takes to revive a relationship gone stale is just the simple action of returning when they don’t expect it.
3. Be brave
If you’re a leader, your work requires you to be brave every day. So if you’re brave with your work, why don’t you choose to be brave with your relationships also? Choose to risk for your friends. Call your friend when you need help. Admit your faults to others. Be open. Be vulnerable. Be brave, and I promise you’ll see a return of stronger, more meaningful relationships.
3.4 CONFRONT INNER DARKNESS
Many of us want to make our lives mean something—to feel as though we have an irreplaceable value to our lives. This desire isn’t about proving ourselves. As Christians, we know our value comes in being sons and daughter of God. Rather, this desire comes in wanting to make a difference out of convictions, wanting to change the world for God’s glory.
We want to make a difference not for ourselves, but for God who loved us enough to save us.
But one thing I’ve learned is that we can’t do that without confronting one uncomfortable issue.
I’ve often been too quick to speak. I’ve not waited on projects and I haven’t relented on my entrepreneurial pursuits. I would love to tell you that this was because I was driven by the vision God gave me. But that wouldn’t be true.
The truth is, I oftentimes feel like my work gives me value. I am insecure, and I feel like my writing helps validate my purpose in the world.
The problem with this is, I can do my work as an effort to build up my identity. My mission can be the result of my selfish desire to validate my life. I can commit to my work for all the wrong purposes, all the purposes that lie outside of God’s plan.
When it comes to making a difference, we can’t take a single step forward without confronting our inner darkness—our insecurities, fears, and vain pursuits.
It’s an uncomfortable issue to face, but it’s a necessary one.
Without confronting our inner darkness, we’ll continue on a path that might seem right, but will land us leagues from where we want to be.
A friend recently spoke a story on how necessary it is for a pilot to follow a specific direction. If his direction is off by one degree as he travels around the world, he’ll land hundreds of miles from where he departed. I believe that’s true of life as well. If we are just one degree off, over time we’ll end up in a place we never expected.
Our inner darkness skews our direction without our realizing it. It’ll make it appear as if we’re still fixed on our goal, but over time, it’ll slowly introduce little curveballs that seek to distort us.
And if we’re not careful, that darkness will consume us.
We are not invincible. We are still susceptible to the hurdles that seek to capsize us in our own spirit. What we need to do is spotlight those voids in our character. What we need is to acknowledge where we are wrong so that we can get back on track, and work to make a difference centered on God’s desire for our lives.
Here are some examples of times today when we need to face our inner darkness:
1. When we retweet positive compliments about us.
Do we feel the need to prove ourselves? What’s the point in sharing what someone else thinks about us?
2. When we obsess with stats.
Are the stats important, or is it what you’re saying that’s important?
3. When we think more about people’s perception rather than our message.
Are you seeking approval, or to do what’s right?
4. When money’s a factor.
Are we doing something for the money, or for the impact?
5. When building your platform.
Are you building a platform because you believe in what you’re producing, or are you doing it for attention?
When you become a leader, the darkness will make an attempt to gain power over us. It’ll use our influence as a vehicle for our demise. But it is in those moments that we learn to prevail.
See these triggers for what they are, and champion over them by getting back to the heart of your God-given mission.
STRATEGIES FOR CONFRONTING INNER DARKNESS:
The Bible is clear that a leader must have a pure heart. This means, whenever we encounter a situation where it’s possible to act in a manner inconsistent with the Bible, we should ask ourselves why we’re doing it.
Community should shape and refine our internal character. They should push us to be better in all circumstances. But the only way community can make us better is if they know of our struggles. So search to find the possible idols in your life, and tells others who can keep you accountable of them.
3. PRAY FOR HELP
There’s no way we can conquer our inner darkness by our own ability. We need to trust in a power greater than ourselves. So while we go to others for help, we need to be praying that God will continue making us aware of our inner darkness, and that He will keep providing the tools and help to overcome it.
“Winning at money is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge.” —Dave Ramsey
4.1 SPEND LESS
I’m only just starting to tackle away at my debt, but one important truth I’ve learned in handling debt is that anyone can do it. I don’t need to be a millionaire or have a recent business success in order to be debt-free. In other words, becoming debt-free is not about earning more.
When we think about creating surplus in our budget, we typically tend to gravitate toward the “earn more” side of things. To be in the financial place we want to be, we want to be making more money, which puts us in difficult spots where we work more hours and deny ourselves free time to breathe. While it does sound like a dream to earn more so we don’t have to worry so much about money, it usually doesn’t happen like we expect it to.
The truth is, to create surplus in your budget, you don’t have to earn more. You just have to spend less.
If we take a closer look at Jesus’ perspective on possessions and money, He was concerned more about stewarding well (putting it to good use), not gaining more. For instance, when Jesus watches the people putting offerings in the temple treasury, He doesn’t comment on how much the rich people were putting in, but rather how the poor widow put in all of her money (Mark 12:41-44). It wasn’t about the amount; it was about the heart and trust.
So for Jesus, when it comes to our expenses, He wouldn’t suggest gaining more money. He would instead focus on stewarding what you do have better. In other words, spend less so your money could go to better use.
We tend to forget about spending less because it seems harder to do than earning more. With spending less, we have to create healthy behaviors such as creating and following a budget, saving, denying ourselves of luxuries, etc. All the behaviors that need to occur with spending less are about personal change, which at times can be more difficult than changing our circumstances (earning more money).
We can spend less to become debt-free; but spending less requires changing our habits.
The first step in changing our spending habit is to realize why we’re spending, which if many of us are honest with ourselves, is comfort. The craving for comfort is what drives our habit of spending. We spend to feel secure, to feel luxurious, and to feel accepted and acknowledged—all fitting under the umbrella of feeling comfortable in our life.
To bring this close to home for you: do you go on a shopping spree as a way to feel better about an event? Do you go shopping because you’re bored? Do you spend money to express love for others? These are all examples of spending to feel comfortable.
While there is logical comfort spending—such as bills and rent—there is also unnecessary comfort spending—such as movies, clothes, and other things we don’t need now. The goal of spending less is to change your habit to not include unnecessary comfort spending. This goal is only accomplished by learning to distinguish between logical and unnecessary comfort spending, and putting in place habits to limit unnecessary spending.
Jesus knew the distinction between the two. He knew that in order to travel and do ministry, they needed to sustain living, which required connections, hospitality, and finding places to stay. These items were necessary provisions, which some have argued were supplied by the women who traveled with them (Luke 8:3).
Yet, Jesus spoke on not having treasures on earth. Basically, this means not treasuring the comforts for earthly gain. Jesus Himself practiced the difference between provisions and luxuries.
The problem is, we’ve blurred the boundaries between the two, and we spend on luxuries we don’t need. This in turn keeps us in debt.
Spending is fortunately a behavior we can change. We know this, and yet, we spend on things we don’t need anyways. Consider not falling into the routine of overspending again by acknowledging the problem and putting in place behaviors to redirect your course.
STRATEGIES FOR SPENDING LESS:
1. LIST EVERYTHING
Draw out a list between necessary expenses, and unnecessary expenses. Track everything in the two categories and make sure you aren’t giving priority to unnecessary expenses. Also, make a list of everything you need before you go shopping, and only buy what’s on that list. Don’t go shopping if you don’t need anything.
2. CONTROL TEMPTATIONS
Avoid places you know you would feel tempted to spend. If you are already in a place and the temptation suddenly arises to buy something, learn to control it by either delaying the decision or distracting yourself away from the impulse.
3. REWIRE YOUR BRAIN
Train your mind to have a new response to purchasing items. For instance, ask yourself why you are buying something each time you decide to spend money. You could also address your thinking to sales by realizing that money you save is money you don’t spend. If you’re buying something because it’s on sale, you’re still spending money. Change your thinking each time you’re tempted to buy something.
4.2 REALIZE YOUR ABUNDANCE
Here’s something I’m guilty of: saying I’m poor when I’m actually not. This is a trend among many people. We say we’re poor when we don’t have enough money to buy a shirt. We say we’re poor when we can’t afford to go out and eat. We say we’re poor to justify not spending for things we don’t want.
But in reality, we don’t know poverty. We don’t know what it’s like to go without.
So then, why do we say we’re poor?
One reason is because it’s a popular, well-understood term we give to express not wanting to spend. But the other reason is something we have no excuse for—saying we’re poor because we actually feel poor.
It’s true. Many people say they’re poor because they actually feel poor; meanwhile, they live in a two-bedroom apartment, drink Starbucks every day, and own a cat that needs constant financial attention.
This isn’t poverty. This is not realizing our abundance.
This distinction matters to Jesus. When we read the story of the poor widow in Luke 21, we are the people giving out of our abundance, not the poor widow giving all she has. Thinking we are poor also restricts us from giving more to God’s people. We have been given much so we can give more, but not seeing how much we’ve been given ties up our hands from giving more (Luke 12:48).
If you struggle calling yourself poor, here are 5 reasons you might feel poor when you’re actually not:
1. Your friends have more, which makes you think you need more.
When it comes to money, we tend to look around rather than look up. We compare ourselves to friends in our stage of life, and we let their circumstances judge where we should be with our money. If one friend is doing better than us, then we must play catch up.
But this does not signify being poor. It just signifies one friend has more money. We don’t need to catch up to them. They’re not doing life better than us. We need to be content with where we are, knowing God has called us to different things than them. When we can be comfortable to let our friends go at life their own pace without feeling the need to catch up, then we can fully live in the purposes God has for our money and us.
2. Your excess of stuff requires further expense.
You think you’re poor because you have a video game system, which then requires you to buy games, controllers, a television, and chairs. Instead of cutting out all of these extra expenses, sometimes we like to dig ourselves deeper into financial trouble.
Our unwillingness to let go of our excess ironically feeds our feeling of poverty.
Though we have much, we can still feel poor because what we do have is sucking away at our finances.
The solution? Be simple. Go without luxuries. Analyze what you really need and what you don’t. Give stuff away. Be content to not treat yourself. Instead, serve others with the extra money you’ll have.
3. You’re told to limit spending.
Some people don’t like to be reminded of a budget. It makes them feel poor. But truth is, we don’t place limits on our spending just for the sake of our money. As Christians, we also acknowledge the spiritual need for self-control in our spending. If your definition of being poor is not being able to spend all the money you want on a shopping spree, then maybe self-control is an issue.
If so, release your addiction to spending. Be comfortable to place limits on your spending.
4. You’re stuck on impressing people.
You want to spend money to decorate your house when friends come over. You want to impress them. But when you can’t do as much as you would like to in order to impress them, then you feel poor.
This is a false illusion. For one, it assumes your friends care about what you have when that’s not always the case. Two, friends who care about this don’t care about you—they care about your stuff. And three, you are not called to impress people; you’re called to impact them.
Our vanity and need for validation can oftentimes speak louder than our generosity. But Jesus didn’t say that we find ourselves by impressing people. He said we find ourselves by losing ourselves, giving ourselves to a much bigger cause than our friends’ attention.
Don’t fall into the trap of prioritizing people’s approval. It’ll drive you to feel poor and empty in life when you’re actually not.
5. You think being poor is about money.
This is what gets me. I used to think being poor was all about the little money we had. But being in seminary, where tons of Christians live with little money and are completely happy, made me rethink this idea.
You see, the Christians at seminary might be poor in money, but they are rich in spirit. They are joyful. They are content. They live outside the bondage of money ruling daily life.
And this is why many of us struggle with feeling poor—we neglect what it means to be rich in spirit.
We let money rule our joy when money has no hold on us like that.
Truly, money does not define our happiness. We can have little money, but that does not mean we’re poor. In fact, with the littlest money, we can be the richest people on Earth. We live in an abundance that transcends the Earthly definition of wealth. And this abundance extends to all people—those with a lot of money and those without.
This is the definition of abundance I’m trying to live in. Living without this is what it means to be poor. It’s time we make this distinction in our daily lives.
STRATEGIES FOR REALIZING ABUNDANCE:
The more we say we’re poor and without, the more we’ll actually believe it. So it’s time we change our vocabulary to reflect the truth about our circumstances. Instead of saying you’re poor, say you would not like to spend money that way, or just simply pass on opportunities. Eliminate “I’m poor” from your daily speech.
We oftentimes feel poor when we can’t meet what our expectations and priorities in life are. When we prioritize meeting the approval of our friends, we feel poor and without when we can’t meet that. If we feel poor because we can’t meet some self-imposed standard, we should recenter ourselves on God’s perspective.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
5.1 WAKE UP EARLY
In the recent chapters, we discussed that one of the problems with living like Jesus is that we have a production-mindset—meaning, we are too stuck on what we produce rather than who we are.
When I began trying to live like Jesus, I found that I needed habits that allowed me to focus on my internal life rather than what I did. I needed habits to still me. These habits would give me the ability to enter into a spiritual space—a space that would cultivate my internal life, or my character, instead of just my career.
One of the habits I began doing to add a spiritual space in my day was wake up early.
Now, society promotes waking up early because we love getting more work done in the day. As a society that loves a production-mindset rather than a character-mindset, we promote the main benefit of waking up early as an opportunity to get more done.
But as I began waking up early, I found that there were spiritual benefits to this activity as well.
I started this activity after I read of Jesus waking up early to pray (Mark 1:35, Luke 4:42). Before then, I wasn’t necessarily a night owl. I would still go to bed at about midnight each night. But, I would sleep in for no reason.
I believe Jesus woke up early for a reason. I believe Scripture was intentional when it spoke on Jesus waking up to be by Himself. There’s a spiritual undercurrent in this activity, signifying that waking up early has more benefits than just getting work done. I was determined to find what these benefits were.
One year, after my resolution to live more like Jesus, I committed myself to finding quiet time in the early margin of the day. At first it was painful, but I was ultimately able to change my habits, and radically change my sleep schedule to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier.
I haven’t stopped since.
Here are the benefits I found to be true in my experiment:
1. When you wake up early, you can do whatever you want.
No person is completely selfless. A person might be 95% selfless, but in order to be this selfless, there has to be a certain percentage where they are feeding their self. We need a healthy balance of selflessness and self-care.
I strike this balance by waking up early. I give myself the nourishment I need with time in Scripture and writing so that I can be more available to others during the day.
I admit, waking up at 5 each morning doesn’t mean I’m constantly with people during the day. But at least I’m not pressured to complete work when they do want my time and attention.
To be selfless, you need a degree of self-care. Let your mornings provide that time.
2. When you wake up early, you can withdraw from the noise.
Our schedules, cell phone notifications, social media, etc. are constantly bombarding our attention. There’s no denying we live in a noisy culture.
The noise only becomes a danger when it starts affecting how we view our identity and meaning in life. This is why it’s important to have a time where we are separate from the noise. As author Mark Sayers said in his book, Facing Leviathan:
“It is through the process of withdrawal that the leader discovers the myths and illusions from which he is apart. The leader gains critical distance.”^^7^^
In a busy society, we can distance ourselves from the noise is to wake up when it’s not shouting in our faces.
3. When you wake up early, your thoughts are less cluttered.
When people rush to work, their thoughts are typically everywhere. They can’t seem to gather them together, and they often miss things—sometimes, important things.
But what happens with your thoughts as you go along in your day is they pick up. They don’t slow down.
In the Bible, we are told to renew our thinking and set our mind on things above (Rom. 12:2, Col. 3:2). But how can we do this when our thoughts are cluttered with what we have to do for the day?
When you wake up early and don’t rush yourself, your thoughts are more together and less cluttered. You allow yourself the freedom to think more on the things that truly matter—such as aspects of our character and how God is moving in our lives.
We make a difference by thinking differently. Wake up earlier and allow yourself the freedom to think about more than just your to-do list.
4. When you wake up early, you can avoid being mastered by petty things.
I used to be frustrated with how few hours in a day there were. As a result, I rushed through everything, trying to get the most done in the twelve hours I had. But when I began waking earlier, I found that I was able to pace myself throughout the day. My mind didn’t feel rushed, and I felt less stressed and anxious.
When you perceive time to be so limited, it only puts pressure on you. This is bad because time should not master us like this. We were placed in freedom, not to constrain ourselves even more, but to actually experience freedom. This means, we subdue time. We take ownership of it by not letting it rule our emotions and stress.
We always have freedom, but sometimes, it takes pausing in the margins of the day to realize it.
Whether you decide to do it or not is up to you. But I want to challenge you to at least try it. Try waking up earlier, and decide for yourself if this is just another fad of culture, or a life-giving habit for your spirituality.
STRATEGIES FOR WAKING UP EARLY:
1. PLACE YOUR ALARM ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE ROOM
The best strategy that helped me wake up earlier was placing my alarm on the opposite side of the room. It forced me to get up to turn it off. By the time I reached my alarm, I was alert and awake.
2. HAVE A MISSION FOR YOUR MORNING
Missions, or our essential intent, rally us to take action. When we commit to a mission and have it at the forefront of our mind as opposed to not having a mission, it makes it easier to wake up early because you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. But note that this isn’t a goal. A goal is measurable, but a mission is broad and flexible. A mission means committing to do an action, while a goal means you won’t be satisfied unless you complete that action. Give yourself a mission instead of a goal.
3. HAVE FORGIVENESS FOR YOURSELF
Truth is, you’re going to fail at this. You’re going to stumble a few times before it becomes a habit. But take heart! This activity is not some “do-this” item of religiosity. You don’t have to do this to experience God more fully. This is just a suggestion. If you find that you’re frustrated for not being able to wake up early, have forgiveness for yourself and know that it doesn’t matter.
5.2 SHARE A MEAL
Another habit that gives us a healthy rhythm to our days is sharing a meal with friends and family. This activity is meant to feed our soul with community. It is also a time of rest—where we engage in the right things.
When you have a rhythm to life—this blend of work, rest, and nourishment—sharing a meal is a great way to center your heart on the blessings God has given you.
I grew up only sharing meals with my family on special occasions. I liked this because I was an introvert who desired that alone time to process through the many thoughts I had accumulated throughout the day. I didn’t want to eat with others all that often.
But things changed once I decided to live more like Jesus. I couldn’t ignore that Jesus spent many of His meals with people. His last meal was spent with His friends. He even ate with a crowd of five thousand.
Because Jesus was intentional with His life, He shared this precious time with others.
I wanted to do the same thing. So in college, I reasoned to always eat lunch with people. It didn’t work out so well every day, but I began feeling the benefits soon after.
You see, I believe Jesus was intentional with this practice for a reason. Sharing a meal together doesn’t just provide company to an oftentimes solitary experience. It does much more. There are spiritual benefits to this practice that need recognition.
In sharing a meal with people each day, I’ve experienced the following benefits:
1. Relief from addictions.
When we think of addictions, we typically jump to the worst ones, like alcoholism or pornography. But addictions are every day. They might not be characterized as clinical addictions, but they are attachments driving our self to isolation nonetheless.
For instance, the addictions we have today are: checking our phones every five minutes, going on social media, video games, workaholic, etc.
By sanctioning a sacred time where nothing can lay hold of our spirits, we can have at least a temporary relief from these addictions. We can remind ourselves the beauty of life outside the walls of our attachments. And maybe, that’s the first step to leaving them behind.
2. Dependence on community.
I spent much of my life trying to prove myself with many self-actualization pursuits of finding the right career, accumulating wealth, fashion, etc. Yet in the midst of this, I was also trying to find who I was.
Many of us do this. In the ratio of our days, we spend more time chasing efforts of personal achievement than matters of the common good. We work more to distinguish ourselves from community, not place ourselves in it.
But Jesus said we do not find ourselves by being by ourselves. We find ourselves by losing ourselves.
This means dying to self and living for the greater good. This means immersing ourselves in community, even when we think we don’t need it.
When I began sharing meals with people, I saw threads weaving me into their lives. I saw our similarities and how we can help each other. And I learned more about myself in that time than any other.
Don’t distinguish yourself from others. Find yourself in others.
3. Maintain a spirit of abundance.
Many people today believe they need more. As a society, we’ve cultivated a mindset of scarcity—one that always asks how can we get more, as if we’re running empty in our life.
I always believed I needed more in life. I felt I couldn’t function without the latest fashions and current trends. I always sought more money as the solution to my discomfort.
But this mindset slowly began unraveling as I shared more meals with people. I began to see that I didn’t need more, and that I wasn’t running on empty. I was not poor in the least bit. In reality, my life was rich with relationships. I wouldn’t have noticed this if I weren’t intentional in sharing a meal with people.
I wonder if Jesus gathered His friends around the table to be reminded of His blessings before He left. I wonder if He needed a tangible sight to see what He’s gained in His lifetime. I wonder if this is the gift we are also given in sharing a meal with people—the opportunity to look around and sink in the truth that people are enough.
Let’s celebrate what we have without wishing we had more.
So just like waking up early, let’s dive deep into this habit to discover what spiritual benefits there are to it.
STRATEGIES FOR SHARING A MEAL:
1. SET IT AT THE SAME TIME EACH DAY
The way to make this activity a sacred time is to prioritize it in your schedule. Set it at one time each day and be consistent with it so it communicates to your family that no matter what, you are going to put aside what you are doing to enjoy this meal together. It also helps establish a routine for people to expect.
2. HAVE SNACKS AVAILABLE
If your household does not have snacks, you’re inviting people to eat on their own. Without snacks, they’ll be forced to eat earlier, when they’re hungry, instead of wait for everyone else. Having snacks is an investment for a strong and healthy mealtime.
3. PRAY BEFORE THE MEAL
It would be hard to acknowledge mealtime as spiritual space if you do not commit the time to God and give thanks for it. By simply praying before the meal, you invite everyone else to reflect upon God and His provisions for the meal. This allows mealtime to be a spiritual, life-giving place.
“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”
6.1 KEEP SECRETS
We live in a world of show and tell. With the increase of social media and technology, there is nothing we could really keep to ourselves.
Unfortunately, this inability to keep secrets has molded much of our character. In the past, there were parts to our life everyone didn’t know about, and we were content with this. But now, we intentionally do things so we can show them off to the rest of the world. We go on vacations and share the pictures on Instagram. We live-tweet events we’re attending. And we take selfies so others can compliment us on Facebook. We want people to know everything about our life.
You’re probably thinking this is a good thing because it’s bad to keep a secretive life. You might believe that social media and technology has opened people up to be more vulnerable. But let me ask you this question: is the person you’re sharing with the world really your true self?
This question shook me to the core when I first entered college several years ago. Back then, I realized I was sharing a false image of myself, and the more I shared it with people, the more I couldn’t see who I really was underneath.
This is what buying into our world of show and tell does to us: it distances us from who we actually are. We instead buy the crafted image of how we want to appear, and battle through the dissonance we feel pulsating in our core.
To fight against feeling this confusion ever again, I decided to do something radical: keep secrets.
Practicing secrecy has forever changed how I see myself and how I see the world.
But let me clarify this concept for you who feel friction against this idea. I’m not telling you to keep bad secrets from those who love you. I’m telling you to be content with not sharing everything about yourself. Be content to not share your accolades. Be content to have healthy parts of your life that no one has eyes on—like your personal relationship with God. Being content to not share everything about your life helps you do actions more whole-heartedly, instead of trying to benefit yourself with them.
Keeping secrets always sounds like a recipe for disaster. This is because people often keep secrets when they’re trying to hide something bad about themselves. They’re trying to hide their true self.
But in the example of Jesus, we see Him practice secrecy for the healthy parts of His life. He didn’t feel the need to tell everyone about His prayer life with God, when He would wake up early and go pray (Mark 1:35). He was content with others not knowing of this great habit. This is because He wasn’t concerned with impressing others. He was concerned with better, more life-giving things—like cultivating His private relationship with God.
Jesus also told others to practice secrecy in their life (Matthew 6:3-4). He knew how easy it is for motivation to get skewed, doing actions for others to receive praises for themselves. He instead promoted secrecy—restraining themselves from sharing what made them look good. This kept their motivation right and their heart pure.
If you practice secrecy for the healthy parts of you, then the results are beneficial. Here are some of the benefits I’m talking about:
1. You free yourself from the addiction of what others think of you.
Many of us waste time and energy trying to affect what others think of us instead of actually improving our self. When you live being content to not highlight yourself, you put your focus back on living a meaningful life.
2. Others would be attracted to you more.
It’s ironic: we try to get others to think more highly of us when if we direct our attention elsewhere, they actually will think better of us. This is because it’s annoying when people direct the attention all to themselves. We like to be with people who compliment others more than they showcase their self.
3. You anchor your self-confidence elsewhere.
People who are overly concerned about what they share with the world rest their self-esteem and self-confidence in the hands of others, like they can determine how you should feel about yourself. You should instead be the judge of that. Return the power to your own hands.
4. You become more in tune with who you actually are and where you need to grow.
The more you tell yourself a lie in the form of an image, the more you start to believe it. By being content with not sharing everything, you create space for you to be free and find yourself. If you fill that space with people and striving after their attention, you no longer have no room to reconnect with yourself. If you keep a part of your life where no one has eyes on your healthy habits, you have a part that’s just for you and God.
5. You clear the confusion as to why you’re doing something.
People often try to decipher others’ actions, trying to see the motive propelling their doing. When you want others to see the good parts of you, you do more, but it doesn’t yield better return. Instead, people draw back because they know you’re doing that action for yourself. This isn’t altruism; this is apathy for the other’s cause. If you do actions that can’t necessarily be highlighted, you place your heart in the right condition to truly help others.
I’m not saying to be strict with your secrets. If others ask about your quiet time, you don’t have to lie. I’m saying to be content that others might not know about your devotional life or accomplishments. Keeping some things away from the center of attention cultivates your self to be focused on the right things.
STRATEGIES FOR SECRECY:
1. COMPLIMENT OTHERS MORE
In conversation, do you ever feel the need to redirect the conversation back to your deeds or what you have done? Instead of doing this, listen more, and compliment the other person rather than placing the attention on you. Restrain yourself from the desire to stand out in a conversation.
2. EXPERIENCE THE MOMENT FIRST
Many people first seek to draw others into the moment before they fully experience it themselves. For instance, when they see a gorgeous sunset, before taking the time to process it, they flip out their phone and take a picture of it for Instagram. Control the temptation to do this next time you experience a deep moment. Instead, choose to enjoy it by yourself. Soak it up for all it’s worth. Keep the moment as a treasure in your memory, not a picture on your phone.
6.2 PRACTICE GRATITUDE
One truth I learned about life is that a successful man is a thankful man. It works like this because when it comes to achieving great things, you must be aware of opportunities, or times you could take advantage of to make a difference. If you are not aware of the opportunities in your life, you have nothing you take hold of and find success.
Practicing gratitude is the secret to acknowledging opportunities and living a more successful life. It helps cultivate a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity.
When stuck in a world of choice, many of us jump to what we don’t have before we even think of what we do have. This sort of thinking stifles us, especially when it comes to accomplishing big tasks. We might think we don’t have enough resources or tools to accomplish something big because we are stuck in a mindset of scarcity. We skip over aspects of our life because we have chosen to not be thankful for them. And as a result, our life is reduced to our small scope, all because our ingratitude stopped us from ever taking advantage of possible opportunities in our life.
As Michael Hyatt, bestselling author of Platform, once said, “we will never have more of what we truly desire until we become fully thankful for what we have.”^^8^^
When we choose to be thankful for what we have, we can use those items to create even more opportunities in our life. But when we are not thankful for them, we don’t see their potential and hurt ourselves in the process.
Jesus perfectly exemplifies gratitude in the face of scarcity when He was faced with a large crowd and just a few fish and loaves of bread (Matthew 15:29-39). Unlike today where we have multiple resources at our fingertips, Jesus encountered true scarcity—a limited amount of food for a large amount of people. Yet, this didn’t force Him to blame God for the scarce resources. This didn’t stop Him from trying. Instead, He chose to be thankful for what He had. And it made all the difference.
He gave thanks, broke the bread, and fed the crowd. He seized the opportunity by choosing to be thankful for it, and He came out on top.
We have this same opportunity. We can spot underutilized specks in our lives, and choose to be thankful for them instead of regret or blame others for them. We can be thankful for them, and in turn use them to create more opportunities.
If we choose to be thankful, we can grow to give others a reason to be thankful. But if we remain in the mindset of scarcity, we will never use the aspects of our lives to bless others.
My advice to you is this: don’t waste your life. It is a real and present danger to shrink your life down to your scope of ingratitude and insignificance. But instead of that, choose greatness. Choose to live like Jesus. His heroic posture of gratitude helped change the world. And by aligning yourself in the same position, you can make a difference as well.
STRATEGY FOR GRATITUDE:
Opportunities are moments of blessing that you can meet with hard work to find the success you’re looking for. For instance, when choosing a job for myself, I saw that one job cut down on travel time, which allowed me to write more in that time. By taking advantage of this free time for writing, I made an opportunity by meeting a blessing with hard work. By spotting opportunities, you are practicing gratitude by taking advantage of what you have rather than defining yourself by what you don’t have. Make opportunities for yourself in what you have, and don’t succumb to the stagnation that comes with a mindset of scarcity. Use what you have to transform your life and the lives of others.
6.3 ACTUALLY LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR
We hear Jesus tell us to love our neighbor, but what does that actually mean? Oftentimes when we try to interpret this ambiguous statement, we filter it through the context of our biases, comforts, and preferences. For instance, we might think loving our neighbor simply means serving at a homeless shelter one day out of the year. But are we doing that to serve ourselves or serve others? Does how we love our neighbor actually represent how Jesus would define this action?
I admit, I don’t want to love my neighbor in the way Jesus does. It’s difficult and uncomfortable.
But I’m convinced that if maybe I start actually loving my neighbor, I’ll feel the depth to life that Jesus had. Yet first, before we actually love our neighbor, we have to investigate what that means.
Here are just a few convicting lessons I learned about loving your neighbor:
1. Loving your neighbor is not about charity as much as it is about being there.
I want to believe that all problems can be solved by giving money. Don’t get me wrong—giving our resources can help turn a bad situation into a better situation. But that’s not the only cure to the world’s deepest hurts.
Sometimes, areas of poverty and despair are stuck in a cycle of pain because of deep spiritual problems. And spiritual problems need a spiritual response.
We need to realize that many problems are remedied by just being there, showing up, lending a listening ear, and being present as Jesus would. Again, money does help, but that’s not the only solution to pain.
2. Proximity matters.
How close you are to the problem affects how you respond to it. And I’m not talking so much about physical distance, though that also plays a part. I’m talking about emotional distance as well. The closer you knit yourself with people in pain, the more you’ll want to truly help and love them.
It’s no wonder that the Samaritan who helped the injured man in Luke 10 is the one who is called the good neighbor. He was the only one who was willing to get close enough to see what was actually wrong. The others just passed by because they assumed the man was dead. They weren’t willing to get close.
Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in the person’s problems. Walk in their shoes. Get close. And maybe, you’ll have a better idea of how to address their problems.
3. Compassion often isn’t without sacrifice.
People often glorify altruism in our society. You see many celebrities and individuals make stories of the times they were selfless. But this is gaining something from our selfless moments, which isn’t really selfless at all then.
True, selfless compassion hurts you. It doesn’t give you butterflies or give you a story to make yourself look awesome. It hurts, and you want it off you.
This isn’t to steer you away from having compassion. Truly, we need these moments to feel the depth of life and to really become the people we’re made to be.
Once we can love not for the sake of a story but for the sake of others, then we can truly say we had compassion.
4. You carry privilege with you.
One of these things we often have to sacrifice to truly love others and stand in solidarity with them is our power. Living in the slums doesn’t mean you’re all of a sudden without power. You still have your passports, the chance to leave the country, your skin color, your bottled water, etc. You have privilege, whether you believe you do or not.
Does this make you exempt from sacrificially loving? Not at all!
Oftentimes, it means a great deal to people that you consciously choose to abandon those privileges, just so you can be close with them. Leaving behind your privilege can oftentimes be the most loving thing you do.
I don’t want to believe this is what it means to sacrificially love your neighbor, but I can’t deny it. It might be uncomfortable, and it might speak against my preferences, but in the end, it does carry more meaning with it. It does carry the divine glimpses of God with it.
So this is how I will choose to love, here, where I am. I hope you will join me.
STRATEGIES FOR LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR:
1. REALIZE IT CAN HAPPEN EVERYDAY
Sometimes when we think about loving our neighbor, we designate it as a “special” time—a time we schedule as outreach or service. It’s great that we have moments of service to our community, but what this thinking does—where we make a distinction between times of service and times of daily life—then we end up distancing ourselves from the idea that we can love our neighbor in all areas of life. Service to others is not something we schedule, but something that’s part of daily life. Everyday we live in a cause. We shouldn’t have to designate special times of service in order to serve.
2. DON’T DO IT FOR THE STORY
We’re not actually loving and serving our neighbor if we do it for the primary reason of having a story to share about ourselves. Compassion built on this self-interest is not compassion, and neither it is helpful to those we serve.
3. LISTEN BEFORE YOU TRY TO FIX
We oftentimes love to solve people’s problems for them. But sometimes, we try to fix a problem before we sit and listen to it. This isn’t loving. This is again serving our own self-interest. We need to develop the patience to sit with a problem and fully understand it before we do anything else. Next time a person is telling you of their troubles, try not to interject with a solution until they ask you for one. Make sure it has sunk into your being before taking action.
By now, you see that living like Jesus often contradicts how others might tell you to live. It doesn’t endorse very popular ideas. It instead works against the grain of how our culture operates. It promotes a life of valuing less, one that’s slower and less stressed. It denies setting short-term goals for productivity and instead values a mission mindset. It markets a leadership that blends beliefs and work. It desires friendships that aren’t convenient. It tells you to control your spending and give to the right things. It helps you establish a healthy rhythm of activity and rest, supported by your habits. And finally, it gives priority to the condition of your heart, not just what you do.
Living like Jesus is different from how others in our culture live, but hopefully by now, you’re convinced that it’s the best sort of life.
With JesusHacks, I am on a mission to redefine personal-development. The language of personal-development today promotes a self-centered lifestyle—a life that reaps money and does little to contribute to the common good. But this type of personal-development does not allow us to live with meaning. Only in living more like Jesus can a deep sense of meaning and personal satisfaction blend with our daily life.
So this is my mission: to redefine personal-development to care more for our internal life rather than just what we do.
In living like Jesus, we begin to arrange our internal life so that it begins making the world a better place. That’s my prayer for you as you finish this book: that your beliefs will begin making the world a better place, just like Christ made the world better with His beliefs.
With that being said, it’s time for you to live differently and make the world better by living like Jesus.
THE HABITS OF PEOPLE WHO DAILY LIVE OUT THEIR FAITH
Living like Jesus means making the world a better place with your beliefs. But as I said earlier in this book, we don’t make the world better with our beliefs if our beliefs are not part of our daily life.
This is why so much of JesusHacks is about integrating aspects of daily life and the life of Jesus.
But I wanted to end this book with a few practical suggestions for integrating your beliefs with daily life. After talking with dozens of people about what it looks like to live like Jesus, I arrived upon these 8 habits. If the information presented in this book is too much for you to process, and you need a simple place to start, just start with these 8 habits that people who live out their faith daily have:
1. People who live out their faith daily have restorative times built into their days.
A pastor I know is an introvert, but with his job, he can easily be with people all day. He knows what he needs for his wellbeing is times in which he is quiet and still—but not times in which he is doing nothing. In this time, he is consuming God’s wisdom and taking the time to let something higher influence his actions.
This is what we all need for a healthy faith. In a time where messages are always being thrown at us, we need the space and quiet to let the right thing speak to us. It’s how we oil the gears of our faith so it can operate daily.
2. People who live out their faith daily don’t see service to others as a special, designated time.
Bob Goff, the author of Love Does, never saw love as something to schedule. He was always acting on his love in whimsical, daily ways. But today, we often designate this kind of service as something special or unique. In our small groups, we set aside time where we work in the soup kitchen. We designate blocked off times to do an act of love. And then we return to not practicing it daily.
We can’t make this distinction with service any longer. Christians are meant to exude this serving love every day, and the more we entertain this perspective of service being something special we do, the more we divorce it from our daily lives.
Love should not be something we schedule. Love should be a reflex.
3. People who live out their faith daily consider character, when everyone else considers outcome.
Christianity gives us an awareness of our internal matters. It allows us to not be blind to how certain decisions affect our heart. But most of the times, we can only be focused on our external success, and how outcomes can make us profitable or not. We can entirely ignore character if we’re not careful.
The people who live out their faith daily always keep an eye on their character. They never wholly follow a decision that leads to a profitable, external outcome. They weigh the heart behind the matters.
So next time, don’t silence the voice that begs you to consider character in a situation. Instead, amplify it.
4. People who live out their faith daily cultivate and sharpen community in all contexts.
I have a friend who intentionally creates community everywhere—even at the job he hates. He’s not concerned about whether or not he can be friends with certain people. He simply gives all people around him the space to be themselves—and that creates, sustains, and sharpens community.
Creating community is about adding value to people’s lives. It recognizes that people are not to be used but loved.
A person who lives out their faith every day is involved in the messy work of creating community because they believe people are in their lives for a godly purpose—not to be wasted for a quick flash of entertainment.
5. People who live out their faith daily honor their roles to the best of their abilities.
I had a friend once have me list out all my roles in life. It was hard for me to think through at first, but he seemed to be able to do it easily. This ease was the result of him constantly being aware of his roles and how he served in them—how he loved as a husband, how he served as an employee, and how he cared as a father.
Oftentimes, we can be blind to our roles. But Jesus calls us to glorify Him in these roles. That means choosing to be excellent in our roles. We can’t let them slip by unnoticed any longer.
6. People who live out their faith daily see the significance in small moments.
Another friend named Bill will not miss the opportunity to chat with the person bagging his groceries about Jesus. He’s aware that small, mundane things can have extraordinary significance. This shift in perspective is honestly difficult for me to maintain. I can’t see every day things as being bigger than what they are. Instead, I think that in order to serve God, I have to fly to a foreign country and play with kids less fortunate.
Bill doesn’t see it that way. Bill sees opportunities to serve God in the small things. And maybe, that’s what Jesus meant when He said to be faithful in the little things (Luke 16:10).
7. People who live out their faith daily suffer in godly ways.
Gentry and Hadley Eddings^^9^^ were driving home from a wedding when a truck crashed into their car, killing their toddler and unborn baby. When the world expected them to shatter in their pain, they transformed their pain into pulpit. They gave the donations given to them to Mission of Hope Haiti, while also forgiving the truck driver.
You see, they didn’t trumpet their pain for pity. Instead, they picked up the pieces and gave a beautiful picture of Christ’s love to the world.
It’s possible to not completely break in your pain. It’s possible to give back in the times you feel that daily ache and pain. But to do so requires that you see the redemption possible in the greatest pain. That’s what Christianity is all about—redemption.
8. People who live out their faith daily talk about spirituality.
And finally, all these people I know talk about their faith openly. Today, we can be concerned about offending someone or making them feel uncomfortable, but really, that’s our fear speaking louder than our love. We talk about the things we truly love, and if we’re too scared to speak about our faith with those around us, we’ll never let it surface in our daily lives.
To sum it all up, the 8 habits I’ve observed of people who live out their faith every day are that they:
Faith was never meant to be something we entertain on Sundays. It is to be exercised everyday.
Once you begin bringing your faith into the fold of everyday life like this, I believe you’ll begin to see how living like Jesus is the better life for you.
Are you convinced that living like Jesus is the best life for you?
If so, I want to give you as many resources as possible to transform your daily life.
Click here for a free course on how to establish a daily rhythm: http://jesushacks.com/rhythm
Or, if you want to learn how you can implement these principles in your workplace, check out my guide at
Neal Samudre began living like Jesus several years ago after leading a movement of students on his college campus. Ever since then, Neal has been pursuing the work that he loves while also discovering how normal individuals can lead purposeful and successful lives.
Neal is also an accomplished writer, speaker, and author. He writes for numerous nationwide publications such as The Huffington Post, RELEVANT Magazine, Converge Magazine, Lifehack, MindBodyGreen, and more with an emphasis on personal development tips.
Neal currently lives with his amazing wife, Carly, just north of Boston, Massachusetts. They love to explore the North Shore area of MA, frequent their favorite coffee shops in the area, and watch Netflix on rainy nights.
Find him at jesushacks.com.
i Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2005), 16.
ii Ibid, 9.
iii Jonathan Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, “Minimalism: An Elevator Pitch,” The Minimalists, http://www.theminimalists.com/pitch/.
iv Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 163.
v “Attention Span Statistics,” Statistic Brain, http://www.statisticbrain.com/attention-span-statistics/.
vi James Clear, “How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science),” http://jamesclear.com/new-habit.
vii Mark Sayers, Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 126.
viii Michael Hyatt, “Perceived Scarcity in a World of Outrageous Abundance,” http://michaelhyatt.com/perceived-scarcity-outrageous-abundance.html.
ix Michelle Boudin, “North Carolina Pastor and Wife Forgive Driver Who Killed Their Young Sons in Car Crash,” PEOPLE.com, http://www.people.com/article/pastor-wife-forgive-driver-car-crash-killed-sons.
Today, many of us turn to lifehacks and personal-development articles to solve our confusion about life. This isn't bad, except that we can sometimes entirely ignore the Bible. To make matters worse, we're told to live like Jesus. We know He is the best model for human life, but if we're honest, we're not sure living like Jesus is practical for everything we do in life other than spirituality. We don't know how to apply the way of Jesus to everything we do, and as a result, we don't lead whole lives as leaders. But JesusHacks is here to change the discussion. In version 2 of the popular first edition, JesusHacks (based on the popular personal-development website, JesusHacks.com), author Neal Samudre reveals practical tips to apply principles from the life of Jesus to your daily. He discusses topics such as: -How to slow down in an incredibly busy world. -How to simplify your priorities. -How to focus as a leader in every sphere of life. -How to apply your beliefs at work to make you more productive and healthy. -How to implement life-giving habits to practice every day. And much more! If you want a resource to change the way you live life every day, JesusHacks 2.0 is a must read.