Knowing where you’re going is important in life. A clear sense of purpose can provide motivation, focus, and energy, especially when things are hard.
But no matter how clear you are on your purpose, there is something that can keep you from getting there. You might not even be aware of it.
Imagine taking a road trip to Chicago from Portland. You want to eat some deep-dish pizza and watch a game at Wrigley field. You’re so excited to get out of town that you don’t bother to check your tires or do any pre-trip maintenance.
In Wyoming, your car starts overheating. By the time you get into Nebraska, your engine is making strange grinding noises. Then one of your worn tires blows out, and you find yourself stranded in North Platt. With a flat tire and a seized-up engine, you don’t have enough money to fix your car, or to get home.
You had a clear destination in mind, but the way you chose to travel took you somewhere else.
How you travel is more important than where you’re traveling.
Task-oriented folks don’t like what I’m about to say. (I’m one, so know that I’m feeling your pain)
How you pursue your purpose in life is even more important that what your purpose is. (Tweet that!)
Even more important? Surely it’s important, but is it that big of a deal? Yes. Here’s why. The way that you pursue your purpose has the power to accelerate you toward your purpose or impede your progress. It even has the ability to steer you off track, so you end up somewhere you never planned.
In our imaginary road trip, you chose to travel in a certain way: Not minding the needs of your car. That’s an attitude. It’s an attitude that was powerful enough to leave you stranded in the middle of Nebraska. Your attitudes have this same kind of power.
For example, if we live with an attitude that external appearances matter most, it’s hard to have an authentic relationship with others and with God. Our need to look good will draw our energy and attention. Eventually, our life will be a hollow shell of pretense with no energy left for real emotional or spiritual growth.
If we live with an attitude that everything is up to us, that we’re the only ones we can trust, real relationships will become increasingly hard to find. Our success will be limited by what we alone can accomplish. Our faith in God will wither. Why? Because faith grows by trusting more and our essential attitude is untrusting.
Your attitude is your way of being.
These attitudes are “ways of being.” They are paths that we choose that shapes our thoughts, actions and relationships. Even if we are absolutely clear about our God-given purpose, these attitudes will undermine our progress.
This is why good intentions don’t help much. This is why well-laid plans are never enough. If you’re going to drive to Chicago, at some point you have to actually start driving. Once you’re driving, a constructive and helpful attitude will make sure you get there.
This change of mind is central for spiritual growth. Paul, the apostle, wrote in Ephesians 4:22-23, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds.”
Part of your transformation is a change in attitude.
Are you carrying any bad attitudes?
In the next post we’re going to look at 5 different attitudes you can choose that will bring greater vibrancy to your journey. They are part and parcel of spiritual vitality. But today, I want you to think carefully about your life.
There are attitudes that can keep you from getting where you want to go. Consider the possibility that some of these attitudes might be embedded in you heart. See if any of these seem familiar:
“Appearances matter most.”
You feel stress when things don’t look right. You find yourself investing energy and time on appearances, even when other more important things need your attention. This could include your personal appearance, but it can also include things like your home, your professional reputation, or even how spiritual people in your church think you are.
“I’m the only one I can trust.”
You live like you’re on your own. In your heart, you feel like others won’t come through for you. Even God seems distant. You maintain strict control of your world because trusting others is too painful.
“I earned this!”
You think that your work, your money, or your talent is the fruit of your own hard work. It’s yours to do whatever you like with. Other people who don’t have what you have must not have worked as hard or been as smart. This gives you a lot of pride, but it also makes it hard for you to accept a gift. Whenever someone gives you something you feel indebted to them, and have to do something in return to balance the scales.
“I must stay in control!”
Maybe you feel the most comfortable when you have a full plan in place. Or maybe you feel most comfortable avoiding plans and living spontaneously. Either way, your secret is that you want to be in control. You don’t want others in control of you. Conversations quickly become power struggles. When plans change quickly, you feel emotional discomfort.
“I’m only worthwhile when I perform.”
For whatever reason you feel like your belonging is constantly in question. The way you prove your value is by how well you perform. The stage you perform on might be your career, your qualities as a mother, or how spiritually mature your peers think you are. You feel an inward drive that never lets you slow down. Failure isn’t just a mistake, it’s an attack on your identity, your value, and your belonging.
Don’t let an attitude undermine your purpose.
Do any of these resonate with you? Attitudes like these have enormous influence over your life. You can have all the things you hoped for in life, but you will still not feel satisfied. You can do all the “right” spiritual things, but you will feel stuck. That’s because your attitudes need transformation as well.
Understand this: These attitudes determine the outcome of your life far more than the choices you make. They can accelerate your journey. They can impede your journey. They can even take you places you never meant to go. To full live into your God-given purpose, you must allow the attitudes of your heart to change as well.