Developing a new direction is similar to an artist staring at the blank page. There is something inside that distracts and protests the effort. Defining this space now seems like an all too impossible task, one best left for someone more creative or experienced. This is the crossroads that defines the next season. Ever wonder why some get by, while others succeed? Why some just want to be, while others must become?
Theodore Roosevelt had been hunting for a year after the end of his Presidency in 1909. He then began a journey that landed him in Paris in April of 1910 to deliver a speech. The French had been a wandering nation and Roosevelt’s diction was very pointed. The “Citizenship in a Republic” speech was extremely impactful but there was an important excerpt that came out of it, now known as “The Man in the Arena”.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
The cost of being in the arena
The most difficult aspect of defining a purpose is the focus it demands. That purpose questions everything you do, it’s a single question that delivers answers. Is this helping me fulfill my purpose? That’s a bit of a struggle because before this was defined, I didn’t have to face daily failure. Now I do. Now it’s not about what happens to me, its only about my mindset and actions. I have no excuses anymore, I must take ownership and pursue my purpose or not. That is the cost of being in the arena.
Paul is an amazing example of this in Philippians 1. Paul’s purpose kept him in the arena, not resting on his external circumstances but pursuing his defined purpose. He was a leader who never drifted from his mission. The example set here is one to emulate because most of Paul’s choices that helped spread the gospel where made for him. Paul defined his purpose first and foremost then made every decision based on it. He then further defined his vision, goals, and areas of focus that helped dictate what he worked on, where he went, and how he acted daily. This is the focus that purpose requires.
Here’s the framework for defining focus once you’ve developed purpose:
- Vision – What does it look, sound, and feel like to be pursuing your purpose
- Goals – What do you want to accomplish as you pursue this vision
- Areas of Focus – Where will you focus your attention while you pursue your goals and vision
Define each of these, one at a time, using your purpose as the North Star. Remember that each of these definitions will change as your life and circumstances change so give yourself some bandwidth to dream big. From there, you can naturally fill in the projects you want to work on and how you want to spend your time daily.
Here’s my personal take and focus:
Purpose: “Pursue wisdom, Lead Strategically, and Inspire meaningful change”
Vision: Become an influential leader where I work, utilize my talents to build the church, and optimize my life to help others
Goals: Earn an officer position at work, start a muse business to generate passive cash flow, lead a growing small group culture, and become mentally, spiritually, and physically efficient
Areas of Focus: My company, expanding leadership role, muse business, spiritual growth, education, small group leadership team, network of mentors, peers + proteges, and developing myself physically
Here are the literal next actions I used to walk through this process. I’d be interested to know how it goes for you.
- Schedule 1/2 an hour to think through the framework considering your purpose
- Take a look at your calendar and how you’ve been spending your time, does it align
- Document your focus framework so its easily referenced
- Write down how you will start to make some changes to align your daily activities and projects to your new focus