Life is a journey. But it is a journey with a difference. Between the time a person is born and the time a person dies, there is no definite destination. What I mean is that whether you are 14 years of age, 40 years of age or 80 years of age, you cannot say with a certainty that yes I have arrived at where I am going. You cannot say that yes I have achieved all there is to be achieved (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). If that was the case a very successful 30 year old man will simply retire, stop working and stop pursuing any personal interests. Chinua Achebe wrote his most successful book, Things Fall Apart when he was 29 years of age. The book has sold millions of copies, has been translated into several languages and is among the top 100 books published in the last century (1900 – 2000). He however did not say because of that he would stop writing. Even now in his 70s and financially comfortable, he still keeps on writing and lecturing. The same with Billy Graham, the great American preacher who is now in his 80s. Even though now old and he has to move around with walking aid and he can’t stand for too long, he still goes around preaching and ministering to people, something he has be doing for the past sixty years.
What makes a man to continue working and pursuing various interests even into old age? Some would say for money or financial security. But if that was the case, wealthy industrialist John D. Rockefeller who was the richest man during his time and gave away more than $350 million in his lifetime (billions in today’s currency) would not have said “Just a little bit more,” when he was asked how much money it would take to satisfy a man. No amount of money can ever satisfy any man. Money is therefore not a suitable motivation for any worthwhile pursuit in life (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Some others would say because of power. Power is transient. It is temporary. It was Abraham Lincoln, the great American president who said “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power”. Power is a test of character and any man pursuing any worthwhile life interest because of power has already started off on the wrong foot. So why do men either young or old, wealthy or poor continue to pursue various interests when they should be resting or retiring? Is it because of achievement, attaining a certain position, accomplishing a goal, being in the right circle of people or reaching a certain destination? If that were the case Michael Jordan the great American basketball player would not have come out of retirement even after saying he had achieved all he wanted to achieve. He is among the top 100 basketball players of all time.
The reason why men keep on pursuing their various life interests even after achieving certain goals, making a lot of money and reaching old age is because every man has inherent in him a life purpose placed in him by God. We are all created by God for a purpose. God did not place that purpose in us so that we could make money, acquire great possessions, achieve power and build a large network of friends and associates of who is who in town. God placed that purpose in each of us so that we could be of benefit to others. Because that purpose is people-centred and because as long as you are alive you will always have people around you, you will never exhaust yourself of pursuing interests that give you the greatest joy, interests geared towards the fulfilment of your purpose. John Maxwell, the American motivational speaker said “No matter how long you live or what you decide to do in life, you will never exhaust your capacity to grow toward your potential or run out of opportunities to help others.”
In this journey of life therefore, it is important to first and foremost, more than anything else find out and discover your purpose in life. This will enable you to be able to take stock more easily. There is therefore the need to pause once in a while, take a look at where you are, take a look at where you are coming from and take a look at where you will like to go or where you know and are sure you are going. This will enable you to know whether you are on the right track and whether you are doing what you should be doing. This will also enable you to avoid the self-defeatist attitude of measuring your life by something you vaguely hope to be one day instead of something that you are right now.
Taking stock of our lives involves not just knowing one’s purpose in life and what we should be doing but how we are going about doing it or how we should go about doing it. That means on a day to day basis what are the things that we do that enables us to go farther and faster in our lives and what are those things that hinder us. One of the areas that we can do that is in the use of our time. A lot of us have heard the phrase, ‘time management’. The idea it conveys to us is that time can be managed. Time however cannot be managed. The same 24 hours per day that everybody has is what you and I have. The same 24 hours per day that the generation before us had is what this generation has. So in order to have more time to do more things, it is not time that will be managed but us who have to be managed. The more we can manage ourselves, the more we can make effective use of time. Why do we need to make effective use of our time? The better we can make use of our time, the more effective we shall be and the more we are able to achieve. According to Uju Onyechere, a leading motivational speaker and writer in Nigeria, each one of us can actually add more hours to the 24 hours a day we all have. For example if you used to spend 8 hours a day for sleeping, 8 hours a day for work and the remaining 8 hours for recreational, social or personal activities and you have been wondering how you will create time for that book you want to write, that music you want to compose, that painting or sculpture you want to make, that message you want to preach and you never seem to have time to do so; all you have to do is cut short on some of the hours you use for other activities. If you used to wake up at 5.00 am, try waking up at 4.00 a.m. and use the extra hour to pursue that thing that seems to be eluding you because of time. If you used to sleep in the car or bus on your way to work or simply look out of the window, try spending that commute time to read a book or listen to an inspirational tape that you never seem to have time for. If you used to spend your lunch hour to eat and chat at the café, why don’t you try spending it to practise that skill or study for that exam? Not only will you have more time to do more things, you will also avoid burnouts caused by doing too many things in too short a time. Packing several activities into your daily schedule in order to achieve so much leads to burnouts. You can actually lead a more complete life and still look refreshed by managing yourself more and using your time wisely.
A certain child was once asked at school to draw a picture of her family when they are at home. She does so and shows the picture to her father. The father asks her, “Sweetheart, Daddy is not in this picture”. She answered “No, because you are not always at home”. From that day henceforth, he decided to spend more time with his wife and children. Where did he get the extra time from? He didn’t. He simply adjusted himself and his schedule to accommodate his family. We cannot have a complete and successful life without people, most especially our family and close friends around us. Finally, taking stock of our lives involves recognising whether we are making progress or not. Progress not in terms of age, wealth, achievements or acquisitions but in terms of change. Change in your thinking and change in your attitude. Such changes usually reflect in the way you act and relate with others. The more positive change that takes place within you and shows in your outward actions, the farther you will go in life, the more you will achieve and the more successful you will be.