“I shouldn’t bother you with this,” said the man at the bar to my daughter Talia. “But I don’t know where the time has gone. 52 years have sped by and I don’t have anything to show for it.”
Talia responded, “Why don’t you start over and do something now?”
“It’s too late,” he said, “Don’t ever get to the place I am. Do something with your life.”
The man had provided for his family. He gave them a nice home. He’d been a good man, a father and a church-goer. Still, the ache in his soul arose from the question “What difference have I made in the world around me?” He’d actually achieved his goals of success, but lately he’d begun to realize that the goals he had for himself no longer worked – they seemed too narrow. In the big scope of a world spinning out of control, he felt like he had more to contribute. He wanted to move from focusing on success to focusing on significance.
Bob Buford diagnosed the angst that so many people feel as they begin to grapple with how they’ve invested their life in light of eternity. In his book “Halftime,” he talks about going from success to significance. Most of us men are wired to provide for and protect our families, and that’s a God-ordained thing. But many of us also want to do more than that. We want to make a difference in the world. We may well have done all that God had intended for us to do during the first half of our life, but as our circumstances change, we may need to look at our life in new ways. We may have achieved success and the esteem of our peers, but perhaps it’s been dawning on us that the questions we’ve been answering are small ones.
You want to be able to stand before God almighty having addressed the issues that are on his heart. But the question many struggle to answer is “How does one make a a switch like this in one’s career?”
Herminia Ibarra in her book Working Identity
: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career
describes the issues that people confront as they negotiate a transition like this. Too many books emphasize the importance of self-analysis in the process. In contrast, Ibarra details how self-analysis and action must go together. She advocates engaging in a series of experiments to move from one area of endeavor to another.
As you make an experiment, you learn more about the area where you’re feeling called. You give God a chance to confirm what you sense he may be calling you to. You risk less with a more patient and empirical approach. Nor does this eliminate the need for faith; when you have a clear word from God, you need to move. But in the absence of a clear word, consider taking some small faith steps in the direction of a career that my address your inward drive to find a way to make a kingdom contribution. Sit on a board, volunteer, go on a short-term mission trip, or disciple people who are already involved.
You don’t have to jump off a cliff in order to begin making a difference in people’s lives now. And by taking a series of small faith steps, you may just wake up one day having made a huge shift in your life.
For a great story illustrating this principle, check out this blog.