Bishop’s Mantle column by Jim Bishop
Here’s an attention-grabber. Saunter up to someone whom you respect and ask him/her: “What is your number one focus for the future?”
How do you think they’ll respond? Indeed, would they give a ready answer without a lot of hemming and hawing? If you do get a straightforward reply, ask this follow-up: “What do you want to be best at, and how do you plan to reach that objective?”
Pretty basic stuff, yes? But I’ll wager such queries would catch most people a bit off-guard. I know that was the case for me. Yet I appreciated the inquiry, because it forced me to squarely face a basic, essential concern: Am I operating according to a purposeful game plan that includes a framework for achievement or am I a sidelines spectator, looking on, not even sure of the score?
I suspect that persons’ responses would vary in part depending on their stage of life. Someone in their teens, about to graduate, or those who are just launching a career may have a completely different focus than those nearing or having already entered retirement. But either way, the critical issue is to have a primary, specific goal to be aiming at and a navigation system in place to get there.
I’m reminded of a scene from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was the feline’s response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”
If I stop my intense activity, examine the larger picture and listen to that still, small voice within, I have to say that my primary focus, now and for the days ahead, is to maximize my God-given gifts in my daily work and to do whatever is humanly possible to maintain my physical and mental health in order to carry out this mission to the best of my ability.
I like to tell myself I’m making good progress toward this goal. Problem is, I don’t pause often enough and check the road map to better ensure that I have my bearings, or to ask directions if the haunting feeling “bugs” me that “I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.”
The follow-up question: What do I want to be best at? How about: Loving God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength and my spouse, family and neighbor as myself? Is that too specific, too difficult to achieve – or too vague?
I believe I can know to some extent how well I’m succeeding by responses received by these objects of my affection. What’s important to keep in mind, however, is not to either compare myself to someone else in this regard or seek a scapegoat if I experience setbacks while in pursuit of a stated goal. It certainly helps the process if one receives feedback, including constructive criticism and counsel, and some positive strokes while navigating the choppy waters of life’s thoroughfare.
I don’t want to near the end of my allotted time on God’s green Earth and look back with regret on what might have been. Certainly there will be failures, disappointments, missed opportunities along the way, but I can’t allow these “excuses” to paralyze or cause me to wallow in a slough of despondency. That’s why it behooves each of us to encourage each other to press on toward the mark, especially when our path becomes strewn with unexpected obstacles.
Vaya con Dios!
Jim “The Bird’s Word” Bishop is the public-information officer at Eastern Mennonite University.
The views expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect those of management of The Augusta Free Press.