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What Do I Stand For?
But I still wake up . . .
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure, what I stand for
What do I stand for? Oh what do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know any more.
The issue people struggle with most is discovering purpose in life. This is one topic I’m frequently invited to speak on and the one concern for which people often ask my help. In light of this, I’m revisiting a blog from a few years ago that I hope you’ll find practical.
I have no secret formula nor warrant that what worked for me and my family will work for you. Making life easy and eliminating challenge is not my goal. Living out purpose involves inherent trials. What I offer are principles and a process that will facilitate your journey into discovery and could possibly transform your life on different levels. I’ve shared these ideas for many years in different cultures and have witnessed dramatic change.
Let’s set the record straight: resolutions don’t work.
The first thing I ask those who ask for help is, “What’s your plan?” Such as, what is your mission, vision, values, objectives, etc. I’ve never received an articulate first-time response. But when I ask people about their organization’s plan, they’re quick to answer.
The dichotomy is evident. Why would you take the time to memorize and labor to achieve the plans of your organization but not do the same for yourself or your family? The good news: you already possess the tools and experience to close this gap. But it takes time, energy, and determination.
I finished grad school in 1989 with business planning concepts drilled in my brain. My company embraced these concepts, and I knew our execs jetted off to resorts to spend considerable time planning. Market performance confirmed a strong correlation.
For me, the disconnect came in hearing of their struggles on the personal side of the ledger. One particular Fortune article reinforced my thought process: “Why Grade ‘A’ Execs get an ‘F’ as Parents.” Having just started a family and career, I was searching for ways to have success in both.
Could I increase the odds of personal success by adopting business theory?
Our First Family Retreat
The Marx family’s strategic planning adventure began modestly. Short, inexpensive trips away from home reduced distraction and stimulated creativity. These trips morphed into more elaborate excursions, but the focus always remained on strategic planning.
Our first retreat in nearby Estes Park cost us about $100. We worked on a one-page plan that became known as the “Marx Family Constitution.” Originally written in 1990, it has withstood the test of time.
Since incorporating this process, we’ve all experienced dramatic increases in the quality of our careers and relationships. Our oldest, now age 25, had coached his college peers in these concepts. Not long ago, my wife heard our youngest, age 19, encourage her boyfriend to discover his life purpose and come up with a plan to live it out. Julie and I recently celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary and are still twitterpated.
I don’t have the space to share the numerous examples, but I can share the one that had the most impact. My son, age eight at the time, took a ruler and pointed to the values section of our Marx Family Constitution that hung prominently in our family room. “Dad,” he said, “was that honoring mom when you yelled?” Seven months prior, when deciding which six values needed improvement, he had contributed the word “honor.” He called me on it. Accountability!
We aim to live out what Rick Warren calls The Purpose Driven Life. Decisions on how to spend our time, energy, and resources are guided by past retreats. I could go back through 20 years of documentation and show you at least one significant event that happened each year in my career, marriage, and family. Could you?
Keeping it Fresh
Take annual retreats to focus on your plan. Get out of Dodge and spend time in a setting where beauty can inspire. A place free of distraction. As leader, your job is to facilitate.
WARNING: never force your ideas down the family’s throat. Instead, invite them to dream and evaluate. Kids especially need to think for themselves. Review your plan and encourage transparent dialogue about performance. Record the highlights of the previous year. What are the gaps and how do you close them? Include significant others and engage your kids. Teach them. Envision them — but NEVER do it FOR them. Commission them. Then watch them rock not only your world, but also the world around them.
Disney makes for great vacations. Planning retreats make for enabling identity and significance.
Forget resolutions. They don’t work. No organization runs with resolutions. Market share would drop, and eventually you’d go bankrupt.
Schedule your first retreat and prepare to write, because earth-moving ideas existing ONLY in your head haven’t the magic to propel you forward. Write them out. Teach them. Actualize them. You only live once.
There’s nothing worse than going through planning exercises merely to have the plan collect dust. Create a living vision. When someone asks you a career or life question or you face a major decision, your purpose will keep you standing.
What do you stand for?
***If interested in creating a plan for your career, life, etc., leave a comment. I will send you a copy of my one-page strategic plans (personal, career, family). I will include a retreat guide designed to stimulate thoughts and ideas around your mission, vision, values and objectives as you put your plan together.
Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.