I think it was Plato who receives credit for the saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It’s easy to examine and critique the lives of others, but often somewhat painful when we turn the lens of inspection onto ourselves. Most of us don’t like seeing our flaws or weaknesses exposed; personal examination is, after all, personal.
Over the past several years, September has been my personal reset month. As a youth pastor for almost 17 years, and now working at a camp primarily with students, there is a rhythm to the start of the school year that makes this month a natural fit for evaluating goals, laying out new projections and regaining personal realignment. While January is a great time to roll out those new goals, September has proved to be the best time to evaluate them, and to make sure I’m still on course with the projects God has put on my heart.
Since today is the start of the month, I thought I’d lay out my thirty day action plan for you to see and evaluate. Maybe you, too, feel compelled to make September a month for personal realignment and I’d love for you to share that with me so we can encourage each other over the next 4.5 weeks. Please feel free to ask me how I’m doing and to check-in on my progress.
For the next thirty days, I’ll be working on five areas of my life. I’ve laid out 3-4 targets for each area in order to reset my personal discipline (the summer routine is vastly different than the school year routine) and to realign myself with my January goals. So here we go!
As I continue to work on my health, my primary focus will continue to be taking steps (literally hundreds of thousands of them!) toward being ready to run 13.1 miles in my first half-marathon on October 5th. The byproducts of this kind of training have included much higher energy levels, loss of weight and my wife regularly telling me that I’m looking good (she’s always been generous with her compliments; they just seem to be coming more frequently and that is absolutely inspiring!).
Take supplements twice a day, every day! My wife, Traci, has worked for Usana Health Sciences for over ten years, and as a result, I believe we have access to the best vitamins around. However, lately I haven’t been making sure those vitamins are making it out of their daily packs and into my body. For September, I plan to go 60/60 on my vitamin pack in-take. (Usana makes it easy to order your daily vitamins in customizable morning and even packages, so that I don’t have to sort or count vitamins; I just have to open the stinkin' pack and take them. So I’m going to open and take 60 packs this month!)
Drink my water and take my steps! Another big one for me is making sure I’m drinking enough water, especially during this season of life where I am running a lot. Hydration is another huge aspect of overall health, and it’s really not that hard to drink my water each day, since I have easy access to good filtered water all over the camp property. So here’s to 60oz a day, every day, during September. And since I’ll be nice and hydrated, I should have fewer issues getting out there and running, so I plan to run 3-4 times a week over the next four weeks as Traci and I prepare for our big race day.
No area of my life affects all the others, quite like my spiritual health. When I am staying closely connected to God, I find my marriage is stronger, my parenting is better, I’m more motivated to work on projects and engage people, and regardless of my immediate circumstances, I have a clearer perspective on God’s work. And while there are good (and bad!) seasons of life in my spiritual growth (or lack thereof), there is always room for growth.
Start my mornings with God, first thing. Last school year I had a great morning routine that started each day with God. During the summer, my time with God was often relegated to later in the morning, or squeezed in-between other camp activities. I want to get back to starting my day on better footing, and so He and I will return to our 5:55am meeting time. I am not a morning a person at any level, but that’s the time I can snag with God before I have to wake up kids and get the day going. Many of you are morning people, and 5:55am is almost your lunch hour, but for me, it’s easier to stay up until 5:55, then it is to get up at 5:55. This is a big realignment for me.
Attend church prayer meeting on saturday morning. Our church hosts a Saturday morning prayer service at 7:30am on Saturday. The problem is that our church is 45-minutes away, but for September, I plan to attend each Saturday morning prayer time in order to pray with church family.
Memorize Colossians 3. Several years ago, I set out to memorize Colossians 3. I got about half way and then trailed off and I’ve never gone back and finished. I will finish memorizing Colossians 3 during September.
Here, I am breaking up professional goals into two areas: Overboard Ministries and Lake Ann Camp.
Write something, every day! I have really fallen off the wagon when it comes to this habit and I plan to hit it hard this month. I am going to write something, every day, during the month of September. Whether it’s working on my book, writing a blog, sending out some letters or developing a study guide, I am going to write every day for the next 30 days.
Finish my book. I had dreams of finishing my latest book, Overboard, by July 1. That didn’t happen, and then camp did happen, and now my book is still sitting on my laptop near completion. My awesome editor Michelle has finished her work and is waiting on me to finish mine so we can get this thing published! So get ready Michelle, I am going to wrap this project up!
Implement a new system for tracking inquiries at camp. One of my jobs at the camp is to respond to guest inquiries for camp rentals. The current system we have in place for tracking those inquiries is lacking in several areas, and after 16 months of doing this job, I have a much better handle on the changes that need to be made. During September, a new system will be put in place.
Fill our Youth Pastor’s retreat in February. Traci and I host the youth pastors and wives retreat the camp puts on in February. Last year there were four couples and we had an amazing weekend. This year, however, we want to grow this retreat, and that means laying the ground work now. My goal is to have at least 12 couples here, and so I will contact two dozens youth pastors during September to challenge/remind/encourage them to be apart of this year’s retreat.
During the summer, our kids have the joy of living on a 320 acre play ground with hundreds of adults who know them, keep an eye on them, and invest in their lives. As a result, our family time looks very different for two full months and our kids love the freedom and fun that comes with living on a camp ground. As the school year hits, our family routine is important for all of us, and getting back on track has a big impact on the kids' success at school.
Intentionally connect with each child, each week. We have our family meals and enjoy time in the car going to school (25 minutes each way), going to church (40-45 minutes each way) or driving in to town (30 minutes each way), but that is vastly different than carving out intentional time with each child. My goal is to spend at least an hour, each week, intentionally investing in each child (on top of our regular connecting points). So that might be a Nerf gun war with AJ, reading a book with CJ or playing a game of cards with BJ. Whatever it is, it needs to be at least an hour and it needs to be intentional on my part.
Restore our weekly date night. Traci and I have always been huge advocates of date night, but during the summer, weekly dates are far more challenging since I speak to campers twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. We managed to carve out time for a snack at the lake or for a drive off camp for a quick meal, but in September I want to restore our weekly outings and reconfirm my commitment to my marriage through our weekly dates.
Confirm our Christmas plans. This will be the first year that Traci and I won’t be around family at Christmas since we were married without kids in Seattle. Our kids have already talked about it and are a little bummed about the notion, so Traci and I have been talking about ways to introduce some new traditions and new ways to celebrate the birth of Jesus in our Michigan home. I know planning is one of those things that makes my wife super happy, and she is, without a doubt, the Christmas party animal in our house. So I want to help her nail down our Christmas plans now and kill two birds with one stone: eliminate possible future planning tensions, and score some points with the little lady!
Traci constantly challenges me with her own journey of growth. She just came back from a conference about business, and so much of what she learned is really personal growth that will impact her future business, too. So here are a few areas I want to grow in (or realign myself with) in September:
Get up at 5:55am. Have I mentioned that mornings are hard for me?
Outline daily goals in the morning, evaluate at night. Each morning I want to lay out my daily/weekly/monthly goal list, and then take a few minutes at night to evaluate my progress. It doesn’t make much sense to set these goals if I’m not going to take time to see where I’m at in the process of meeting them. So after my morning time with God, I will take the next 10-15 minutes to lay out the daily goals and to make sure I’m staying on track with weekly and monthly targets. Each night, I’ll take a few minutes to evaluate the day's progress.
Create at least 25 lifetime goals. I recently re-read Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle Maker. At the end of the book, he spends a lot of time writing about lifetime dreams he has, and it really got me thinking. A few years back I laid out some long-term dreams, and it’s been fun to see a few of them come to be (take Traci to Hawaii, write a book) and to realize that I am still making progress on others, while a few have totally fallen off my radar. I’ve already started working on this list and I’ll be excited to share it with you after the list is finished at the end of the month.
Read a book on creativity. I love the creative process and I love how God has designed each of us with our own creative concepts. And while you can’t necessarily teach creativity, you can help people release their own creative juices. I’ve felt a little stuck in this area of my life. So this week I picked up a book on the topic, and during September, I’ll read it and take notes (creatively, of course!).
Ok, there you have it. If you endured this entire blog I’m assuming you have: Questions, input and most importantly, some goals and projects of your own. Share those with me via the comments in this blog or more personally in email at: firstname.lastname@example.org