The Holiday season and the New Year are good times to reflect and then re-purpose the upcoming year. Often, we joke about the length of time New Year’s resolutions last…..generally about a week. But joking aside, it is critically important.
I was sitting with a new acquaintance last night. He had a productive career in the military and subsequently with two firms after his time of service. He’s in his mid to late 60’s and I asked him what he did. With a big smile on his face he said, “Watch TV, play cards, and walk my dog”. When I asked if this was satisfying he said, “Sure is”.
At first I was not sure if he was pulling my leg but I quickly concluded that he was completely serious. After a little more conversation, he did conclude with me that perhaps there were some activities that would be more meaningful and he would consider doing so. At least there was some progress!
Here is the great American dream of retirement: “Have enough money and do nothing”.
Clearly we, and he, need a new way to think about this time when the pay check stops - which is hopefully before the person stops totally. The whole reason, as I see it, to save for retirement is so that you have the freedom and flexibility to connect with your 4th Quarter which I am now calling “Life III”. This is the part of your life that starts in the mid to late 60’s and begins with an intensive re-examination of the question “what is my purpose in life?” and ends with a clear understanding of “what brings joy and meaning to the balance of my life?"
From a Christian perspective, supported by the belief that God really does have plans for our lives, those plans are impacted by what we learn from our past and current experiences. Perhaps we can title this "accumulated or acquired wisdom". It is the ongoing application of this wisdom that allows us to bring increasing value to our family, our associates, neighbors and the world.
When I begin a reflective process that examines important parts of my life, it does not seem to happen all at once or in a short time. Often it starts with some concentrated time spent in Psalms and Proverbs. Next the process moves to the application of what I have read or connected with during my reading. Sometimes it even is impacted by resonating with how the Psalmist felt, not just what he said. It often reflects how I am feeling.
Now is a great time to keep a small notebook by your bed as you may wake up, as I do, with thoughts in the middle of the night. I used to convince myself that they, the thoughts, were such good ones that i would remember them in the morning……seldom happened! But now, I quickly jot down a word or two to jog my memory and I can then rest comfortably and re-discover the benefit of those thoughts in the morning.
What is the reason we first reflect and then develop action plans? It is because this is the way we are constructed. This is the way human beings learn, grow and ultimately serve; reflect and act. Unfortunately, and far too often, we fire first before we get ready and aim. We are out of sequence for wise planning and it results in pain and confusion.
Growth is an iterative process that has both a linear dimension and a circular dimension. Linear in that we learn and move forward. Circular in that we can reflect on what we have learned and apply it to more than one situation.
Earlier today, I spoke to 60 women of the Glen Eagles Woman’s Club here in Colorado Springs. As part of our delightful time together I encouraged them to realize that the accumulated experience and applied wisdom in the room, when properly exercised, could effectively change the world. It is just a matter of harnessing that accumulated and experiential wisdom, being led in the ways it can be applied, and then being willing to put that wisdom into action.
Wisdom and action together are the operative words.
Another value that results from that reflective process is to prepare us to change with the change. One of the few certainties in life is that if you are moving with your heart beating and lungs billowing your next stage of life can and will be different. Life will bring change - guaranteed. How we deal with that change is critical.
So have a blessed Christmas. Pray, examine, reflect and listen; this is good advice as we approach the New Year! As a matter of fact, I think I’ll reach for Proverbs now. Why don’t you join me?
The proverbs of Solomon son of David, King of Israel:
1. for gaining wisdom and instruction;
2. for understanding words of insight;
3. for receiving instruction about prudent behavior, and
4. doing what is right and just and fair;
5. for giving prudence to those who are simple,
6. knowledge and discretion to the young—
7. let the wise listen and add to their learning,
8. and let the discerning get guidance—
9. for understanding proverbs and parables,
10, plus understanding the sayings and riddles of the wise.
The New International Version. (2011). (Pr 1:1–6). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
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