If you do not know where you are going, you will not know when you arrive. Goals provide purpose, direction, and motivation. Often small (or short-term) goals lead to the achievement of a greater goal. Reaching a goal should be celebrated, and then embellished or replaced. Ideally, the goal will have purpose, and reaching it will not be an end to the quest, but a springboard to continue the journey more efficiently and effectively.
Some people have what they call a “bucket list.” As I understand it, this is a list of things to be accomplished in life before one ‘kicks the bucket.’ Often it includes unique places to visit, famous people to meet – fulfilling big dreams.
Country music great Tim McGraw sings about a man who believed his ‘time’ was near: “I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing, I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu…” The song title puts life in perspective: Live Like You Were Dyin.’
The problem I have with a bucket list is that, in many instances, it focuses only on self-interests. It suggests that before my life is over, I want search for peace and happiness in fulfilling my own dreams and ambitions, and so life becomes all about me. My issue is not with having dreams of personal fulfillment, but with being so consumed with self that no one else matters.
The person in McGraw’s song experienced some things in life for the first time. However, it did not stop there. The song continues, “And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.” His new perspective on life resulted in a deeper appreciation for other people and significant relationships. It changed how he treated others.
I possess certificates and awards and memories of accomplishments in my life that were significant enough to be recognized by others. There are diplomas, high school and college letterman’s jackets, trophies and medals, letters of appreciation, pictures, ticket stubs, and various other memorabilia to verify and remind me of some personal achievements. However, I am convinced that the true mark I leave on this world will be found in the lives of other people.
The tangible memorabilia will mean little to those who come after me, and thus will not survive very long after I am gone. I wonder if there is an island similar to the one Rudolf found for misfit toys; a place where all the meaningless awards are stored once the achievers can no longer possess them.
My life will matter most, both now and then, if I live it loving deeply, talking sweetly, and forgiving often. When I live my life with purpose, I do not need a bucket list. I seek to live and end each day with no regrets, nothing that eternally matters left undone. Maybe that is what it means to “live like you are dying.”
Steven Callis is the minister at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville.