June 14, 2022

Life Is A Gift, Plan For Success

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Life is a gift, in this realm and the next. Your life was given to you. You did not pick the most important factors of your life. You did not pick your parents. You did not select your biological or ethnic make-up. You did not select when you were born. You most likely did not pick your name. You did not pick the most important factors that make you who you are — your life is a gift. 

And, while all of life is a gift, you have an incredible responsibility to make the most of all you have been given. To make the most of our lives, we have been given the privilege of dreaming and making plans — plans for success, plans for an abundant life.

We are given imaginations, so it is not hard to think and dream of how things should be, but we are called to do more than just dream. We must make decisions to move thoughts and ideas toward reality. Yet, even dreams of the heart and decisions of the mind are not enough to bring about meaningful progress — we must also act to make a difference.

The philosopher Dallas Willard taught that all human accomplishment follows the same pattern — vision, intention, and means. Willard believed that even the most important progress, like spiritual formation, can only occur through the grace of God, still follows this same pattern.

To keep this general pattern in mind, Willard liked to use a little acronym VIM (Vision, Intention, and Means), as in the phrase “vim and vigor.” All of us want to live a more fruitful life. Yet, to make significant changes we need the following:

- Vision

- Intention

- Means 

Life Planning is a means to put our intentions into practice, in order to help us achieve our most important life visions

I have been blessed to learn and use life planning tools for the last twenty years of my life. I was introduced to coaching and Life Planning as an executive at First Horizon. The holistic approach of Life Planning transformed my life and gave me a new Christ centered outlook on my role as leader in the workplace, at home, and with my friends and neighbors. I am grateful for the vision Jerry Baker had to offer the Building Champions program, created by Daniel Harkavy coauthor of Living Life Forward, to the leaders of our company. I later became a certified coach to others to plan their lives – receiving even more blessings.

More recently, as we made a transition to a life of full-time ministry, my wife, Kimberley and I did a three day Life Planning process using the Paterson LifePlan with my friend and coach Brian Pitts at The Center in Birmingham. I am a living testimony to how God uses means like Life Planning to help us know Him and catapult us to success (Joshua 1:9).

Here are 12 keys to life planning to guide you on your journey.

Vision

Abundance Mindset – simply means there is enough to share. There is enough time, talent, and resources available both to use and freely share toward what matters most in life. Time is the greatest resource and we have all been given enough time. There is a God who made you and loves you. “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. - Revelation 22:17 

Begin With The End In Mind – in every endeavor, plan to end up where you want to be the most, in every relationship, in life for eternity. Think about how you want to be remembered on this earth and what you want to leave behind for others. It is ok to even plan how long you prefer to live. A vision for the end helps us make decisions and act. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. - Hebrews 12:1

Dream Big Dreams – no one ends up in greatness accidentally. Perhaps some have more help and advantageous circumstances, but we must dream big in order to get a mental picture of possibility. “'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. - Acts 2:17-18

God Is In Control – we are called to dream and have vision, but we can’t do anything against God’s sovereign plan. God’s control over the outcome of the situation gives us freedom to live and work for Him. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.” - Psalm 127:1-2

Intention

Know Your Purpose – understand why you were made and make decisions that are consistent with your reason for being. All relational, vocational, financial, physical, and spiritual decisions should be informed by our purpose. Everything is God’s. “Things which are not in their intended position are restless.” - St Augustine. For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. - Romans 11:36 

Know God – every part of your life, every relationship, every struggle, and every opportunity is given to you to know God better. I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, - Philippians 3:10 

Bless Others – every decision involving people is an opportunity to bless others. We should want for others the same things we want for ourselves. You should intend to help others be successful and know God. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. - Philippians 2:3-4 

Renew Culture – our intention goes beyond blessing others when our actions lead to creating systems that will help renew our communities. You have the privilege of joining God to make all things new - He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” - Revelation 21:5

Means

Use Your Greatest Strength – Christ in you, the hope of glory. Since you are made by and for God, all your power for good comes from God. Jesus wants you to rely on Him to do all things. He wants to help guide you. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:5 NIV

Use A Plan – a plan is a way to organize what is important, formalize decisions, and plot specific next steps and actions. The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. - Proverbs 21:5 

Use Your Gifts – God has given you incredible gifts including talents, experience, resources, and time. Name your strengths — make a list — and strategize how to use them to achieve your vision. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. - 1 Peter 4:10 

Use Spiritual Practices – pray, spend time in silence and solitude, read, meditate and memorize scripture, observe the sabbath, rest, fast, watch for what God is doing, take communion, fellowship, celebrate, and worship the living God. The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind. It is not the dead who praise the Lord, those who go down to the place of silence; it is we who extol the Lord, both now and forevermore. Praise the Lord. - Psalm 115:16-18

Of course, there are more ways to approach making the most of your life, and there is the entire counsel of God to guide you. The main thing is to know that your life is a gift and your response is your worship back to God (Romans 12:1). Find an approach that inspires you to have a renewed vision, purpose filled intention, and wisely uses the means you have been given. And, then you will be amazed as you experience moving from abundance to abundance, guided by the hand of God. 

Join us at the Center as we introduce Life Planning in more detail the rest of this month!

Useful Links

Abundance / Generosity - The Bible Project

There is Enough

Living Life Forward Book

Building Champions

Patterson LifePlan

Talent Use It or Lose It

Share this post
Howard Graham
Howard Graham
Executive Director

Life is a gift, in this realm and the next. Your life was given to you. You did not pick the most important factors of your life. You did not pick your parents. You did not select your biological or ethnic make-up. You did not select when you were born. You most likely did not pick your name. You did not pick the most important factors that make you who you are — your life is a gift. 

And, while all of life is a gift, you have an incredible responsibility to make the most of all you have been given. To make the most of our lives, we have been given the privilege of dreaming and making plans — plans for success, plans for an abundant life.

We are given imaginations, so it is not hard to think and dream of how things should be, but we are called to do more than just dream. We must make decisions to move thoughts and ideas toward reality. Yet, even dreams of the heart and decisions of the mind are not enough to bring about meaningful progress — we must also act to make a difference.

The philosopher Dallas Willard taught that all human accomplishment follows the same pattern — vision, intention, and means. Willard believed that even the most important progress, like spiritual formation, can only occur through the grace of God, still follows this same pattern.

To keep this general pattern in mind, Willard liked to use a little acronym VIM (Vision, Intention, and Means), as in the phrase “vim and vigor.” All of us want to live a more fruitful life. Yet, to make significant changes we need the following:

- Vision

- Intention

- Means 

Life Planning is a means to put our intentions into practice, in order to help us achieve our most important life visions

I have been blessed to learn and use life planning tools for the last twenty years of my life. I was introduced to coaching and Life Planning as an executive at First Horizon. The holistic approach of Life Planning transformed my life and gave me a new Christ centered outlook on my role as leader in the workplace, at home, and with my friends and neighbors. I am grateful for the vision Jerry Baker had to offer the Building Champions program, created by Daniel Harkavy coauthor of Living Life Forward, to the leaders of our company. I later became a certified coach to others to plan their lives – receiving even more blessings.

More recently, as we made a transition to a life of full-time ministry, my wife, Kimberley and I did a three day Life Planning process using the Paterson LifePlan with my friend and coach Brian Pitts at The Center in Birmingham. I am a living testimony to how God uses means like Life Planning to help us know Him and catapult us to success (Joshua 1:9).

Here are 12 keys to life planning to guide you on your journey.

Vision

Abundance Mindset – simply means there is enough to share. There is enough time, talent, and resources available both to use and freely share toward what matters most in life. Time is the greatest resource and we have all been given enough time. There is a God who made you and loves you. “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. - Revelation 22:17 

Begin With The End In Mind – in every endeavor, plan to end up where you want to be the most, in every relationship, in life for eternity. Think about how you want to be remembered on this earth and what you want to leave behind for others. It is ok to even plan how long you prefer to live. A vision for the end helps us make decisions and act. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. - Hebrews 12:1

Dream Big Dreams – no one ends up in greatness accidentally. Perhaps some have more help and advantageous circumstances, but we must dream big in order to get a mental picture of possibility. “'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. - Acts 2:17-18

God Is In Control – we are called to dream and have vision, but we can’t do anything against God’s sovereign plan. God’s control over the outcome of the situation gives us freedom to live and work for Him. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.” - Psalm 127:1-2

Intention

Know Your Purpose – understand why you were made and make decisions that are consistent with your reason for being. All relational, vocational, financial, physical, and spiritual decisions should be informed by our purpose. Everything is God’s. “Things which are not in their intended position are restless.” - St Augustine. For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. - Romans 11:36 

Know God – every part of your life, every relationship, every struggle, and every opportunity is given to you to know God better. I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, - Philippians 3:10 

Bless Others – every decision involving people is an opportunity to bless others. We should want for others the same things we want for ourselves. You should intend to help others be successful and know God. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. - Philippians 2:3-4 

Renew Culture – our intention goes beyond blessing others when our actions lead to creating systems that will help renew our communities. You have the privilege of joining God to make all things new - He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” - Revelation 21:5

Means

Use Your Greatest Strength – Christ in you, the hope of glory. Since you are made by and for God, all your power for good comes from God. Jesus wants you to rely on Him to do all things. He wants to help guide you. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:5 NIV

Use A Plan – a plan is a way to organize what is important, formalize decisions, and plot specific next steps and actions. The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. - Proverbs 21:5 

Use Your Gifts – God has given you incredible gifts including talents, experience, resources, and time. Name your strengths — make a list — and strategize how to use them to achieve your vision. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. - 1 Peter 4:10 

Use Spiritual Practices – pray, spend time in silence and solitude, read, meditate and memorize scripture, observe the sabbath, rest, fast, watch for what God is doing, take communion, fellowship, celebrate, and worship the living God. The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind. It is not the dead who praise the Lord, those who go down to the place of silence; it is we who extol the Lord, both now and forevermore. Praise the Lord. - Psalm 115:16-18

Of course, there are more ways to approach making the most of your life, and there is the entire counsel of God to guide you. The main thing is to know that your life is a gift and your response is your worship back to God (Romans 12:1). Find an approach that inspires you to have a renewed vision, purpose filled intention, and wisely uses the means you have been given. And, then you will be amazed as you experience moving from abundance to abundance, guided by the hand of God. 

Join us at the Center as we introduce Life Planning in more detail the rest of this month!

Useful Links

Abundance / Generosity - The Bible Project

There is Enough

Living Life Forward Book

Building Champions

Patterson LifePlan

Talent Use It or Lose It

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