Thursday, January 1, 2015

Three Ways to Live a Great Story in 2015

Photo Credit: Jeremy Piehler (Creative Commons)

I don't do New Year's resolutions. They are typically framed as short-term goals set to impossible standards, and they usually don't last past January. Sometimes, the goals we set are somewhat out of our control.

  • Your resolution of "going to the gym" might not work out if you lose your job, or have to have surgery, or move across the country, or can't find an accountability partner.
  • Your resolution of "eat healthier" may be difficult if you develop food allergies, move to a place with unfamiliar grocery stores, experience a season of clinical depression, or simply lack the personal discipline to resist that bowl of ice cream.
  • Your goal of "reading the entire Bible in a year" is likely doable, but made much more difficult with active toddlers or new babies or graduate school or increased work responsibilities or a death in the family.

Instead of making resolutions, choose to live a better story in 2015.

One of my personal values is to live a great story:
Live my story as part of God’s Story. Develop my character. Choose difficult paths intentionally; take the harder-but-better path. Seek obstacles to overcome. Reject any activity or practice that won’t lead to a better story. Look at each season as a chapter in a greater story God is telling in and through me.
What would it look like to live a great story in 2015? Here are three key components:

1. You have to want something. This isn’t about being selfish or conceited. This is about having passion, purpose, direction, and clarity about what is truly important. If you don’t want anything–or if what you want is superficial or temporary–then you won’t live a good story. Wanting a new iPod or a better fantasy football team isn’t a good story. Wanting a lifelong Godly marriage or children who love and respect you is much better. Frame your desires in terms of being over doing, i.e. "I want to be a patient person" rather than "I want to read 10 books this year." Prayerfully discern what you really want; more importantly, figure out what God really wants for you. It turns out that when we want what God wants, our stories take on a far richer and more eternal significance.

2. You need a conflict. It’s not enough to just want something. We need motivation to get us moving. Author Donald Miller calls this an inciting incident. Characters don’t want to change, so an incident–a tornado approaches, a family member dies, aliens invade, etc.–must force them to react in order to solve the conflict. It requires action, movement, and is motivated by that initial desire, i.e. what you want. If you want a great marriage, it will require sacrifices and conflicts in order to make the dream a reality. If you want to be a patient person, you'll have to make disciplined choices about how you spend your time. What are the hard paths in front of you? What are the difficult decisions that need to be made? What are your fears and obstacles? Take heart. Have courage. Go for it.

3. You need time. The best stories are epics. Look at some of the greatest novels that have ever been written: Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, A Farewell to Arms, The Lord of the Rings, etc. They are ridiculously long, detailed, and complex. Think about great movies: Gone With the Wind, The Godfather, Lawrence of Arabia, Schindler’s List, etc. None of these could ever have been adequately told in under 90 minutes. Great stories require significant quality time to be truly epic tales. Characters need a significant span to grow and mature and change. You won’t become the hero of the story in a 30-second montage. Be patient, give yourself time, and make goals that will require discipline and endurance in order to achieve them. This next year of 2015 is just a small chapter in a much larger story. View your life through a long-term lens.

It's a new year. The sun is coming up over the horizon. Let's live a great story in 2015.

Sidenote: After years of delay, I finally set up my personal domain of www.joelmayward.com. Thus, the title of "The Mayward Blog" is now simply "Joel Mayward." Let me know via email if there are any bugs or glitches with the site.

*Some of this content originally posted here.

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