How do you know if you’re spiritually healthy? How can you identify areas of spiritual health and wellness in your life? I’ve given these questions some thought and have come up with a spiritual self-assessment for myself and others. If it sounds like something you might be interested in, take a look!
The purpose of the spiritual self-assessment is to feel more inspired to further your spiritual growth. So it’s important to approach it with the mindset “I’d like to continue to grow spiritually, and I want to take a look at where things are now.” The idea is not to give yourself a grade or to feel poorly about how things are going. Nobody will be checking over your shoulder (well, maybe the Holy Spirit).
“He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers.” Henry Brooks Adams, an American historian, said that at the turn of the last century. He was claiming that those who encourage others serve a certain purpose. How true! And I might add that it is a worthy purpose.
One highlight of my life was volunteering as a MDA summer camp counselor during my college years. Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy and Down syndrome limited one of my camper’s ability to compete in team sports. Yet there were no limits to his ability to boisterously cheer on his team during the games, and to support his teammates with sideline hugs.
We all need to feel acknowledged, accepted and appreciated. Imagine a world in which no one ever gave or received a word of praise, a pat on the back, or a round of applause. Imagine attending athletic events and theatrical performances and never clapping our hands, rising from our seats, or shouting our approval. Imagine a world in which no one ever said, “Way to go!”
At the time of my promotion from hospital-based executive to the system office, I asked my CEO for whatever advice he might offer. I was expecting him to respond with something like: “Learn to say ‘no’” or “Prioritize your workload.” Instead, he encouraged me to look for every opportunity to thank those in the local markets for their tireless work on behalf of the people they serve. I have kept his wise counsel in mind and have tried to put it into practice, however inadequately.
To those who make it their “certain purpose” to encourage and thank someone in their home, workplace, school or community today, I say, “Way to go!”
Between my junior and senior year of high school, some buddies and I went on a canoe trip in Canada. Our outfitter and guide instructed us on how to lift, carry, launch, paddle, and otherwise take care of our only means of transportation in and out of the lake-dappled wilderness. His first commandment was never, ever get into our canoes unless they were floating freely in the lakes. That meant walking into the water, which also meant getting our wet feet. With a deferent nod to his instruction, I attempted my first launch without getting my feet wet. It didn’t work. Every morning thereafter I marched right into the water, resigned to the fact that I’d have pale, wrinkly, soggy feet for the duration of the trip. It was an unforgettable adventure… one I never could have had without getting my feet wet.
The idiom “get your feet wet” means to have a mild or modest introduction to a new experience, especially to something that involves taking a risk. It’s such an apt image for that moment when we’ve gone from indecision to decision. We’re no longer standing on the shore thinking about soaking our feet in the cool, refreshing water of the lake. We’re no longer just testing the water with our big toe. We’ve stepped, perhaps even jumped, into the lake. We’ve gotten our feet wet.
What important decision are you facing? What are you wishing to experience for the first time? Do you feel like you are standing on the shoreline of that decision or experience, hesitant to take the plunge? Counselors and coaches encourage us to break bigger, riskier decisions into smaller, manageable steps. So it’s OK to shuffle across the pebbles as we make our way to the water’s edge. Just as long as we keep moving step-by-step toward achieving our goals… toward “getting our feet wet” with the things that matter most in our lives.
One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes is from The Four Loves: “We have been like bathers who want to keep their feet – or one foot – or one toe – on the bottom, when to lose their foothold would be to surrender themselves to a glorious tumble in the surf.”
Oh that we might lose our footholds for the sake of those glorious tumbles!
Most households have one. My family’s home always did. It’s a kitchen drawer in which all the odds and ends are kept, and most often forgotten. The drawer typically isn’t larger than any of the others but it sure holds a lot of stuff. In it goes scissors, balls of string, screwdrivers, flashlights, batteries, needle-nose pliers, receipts, notes, rubber bands, paper clips, jackknives, ceramic paper weights… you name it. If there isn’t a specific place for it anywhere else, it goes into that kitchen drawer. Far more whatchamacallits and thingamajigs go into the drawer than ever come out. The drawer serves as a repository for whatever we aren’t willing to part with yet. Or, seen another way, it’s a treasure box of things that hold no claim to usefulness at present but just might come in handy someday. If something should break, the Super Glue or little nails are in there somewhere. If we should need some Scotch Tape or string, it’s in there someplace. And, if the IRS should ever happen to question our tax deductions, the receipts are crammed in there as well.
There’s a “kitchen drawer” within each of us. And it’s chock full of wisdom and experience. We have the necessary stuff somewhere in the kitchen drawers of our minds to see things from other perspectives, solve problems, overcome challenges and envision possibilities. Yet sometimes we forget what’s in our kitchen drawers. Sometimes we forget that they even exist within us. That’s when it’s good to look to those who are professionally equipped with the training and experience to help us rummage around in our kitchen drawers as internal resources for self-discovery and the determining of our own direction.
Coaches, whatever their specialty, encourage their clients to open up that bottomless drawer and look within themselves. Then they’re there to help sort out the useful stuff, such as authentic desires and aspirations, from the clutter of fears and apprehensions. They’re there to assist with untangling the knots from the string of their clients’ own intelligence, creativity and resourcefulness.
Are you struggling with some aspect of your career or leadership development? Are you feeling stuck? The bottle of “Goo Gone” is in your kitchen drawer somewhere.
And there’s a coach ready to help you find it.
Some time ago I read the story of Ali Hasad, a Persian farmer who was contented because he was wealthy, and wealthy because he was contented. One day he was visited by a Buddhist priest who told Ali that, if he had a diamond mine, he could place his children on thrones, through the influence of their great wealth. That night Ali went to bed a poor man. He had not lost a thing but he was poor because he was discontented, and he was discontented because he now believed himself to be poor. He lay awake all night thinking, “I want a mine of diamonds.”
The next morning Ali sold his farm, collected the money, and went in search of diamonds. After years of wandering in wretched poverty, he came to stand on a foreign seashore. The poor, suffering man could not resist the temptation to cast himself into the roaring sea and drown.
Awhile later the man who had purchased Ali’s farm led his camel into the garden to drink, and as the camel put his nose into the shallow water of the garden brook, Ali’s successor noticed a curious flash of light. It was a large diamond. The man dug around in the white sands of the farm and found many more precious diamonds. Thus was discovered the most magnificent diamond mine in all of history.
There are countless stories similar to this about people spending their lives in search of fame, fortune, meaning, purpose, true love,… when what they really yearned for was before them the entire time. These are great stories, great dramas… great tragedies. They are the makings of great books, movies and plays. Yet I find them quite frustrating because the answer seems so obvious, so crystal clear. I want to scream at the main character, “You blind fool! Your true love is at home while you go traipsing after romantic illusions.” “Loosen the grip on your moneybag, Mr. Scrooge, and your generosity will be rewarded.” “The force is with you, Luke. It’s been inside you all along.”
Are you and I characters in our own life dramas searching for meaning, purpose, happiness, love,… while it would be perfectly obvious to anyone observing our lives that what we are seeking already surrounds us or is within us? Would the observer want to yell at us, “Stop searching! You are surrounded by fields and fields of diamonds.”? If this is true, if these stories have any basis in reality, than we ought to be able to see the “diamonds” right here and right now.
I invite you to take out your wallet, pocketbook or purse. Think about what is inside, as I open my wallet to see if there is anything meaningful, anything of value – any diamonds – in this well-worn leather thing that is almost always with me and as close as my hip pocket.
Driver’s license – Identifies me as a Montanan, a family heritage and lifestyle that I am proud of.
Tattered photograph of Evie and me on our honeymoon, and another of our children and four grandchildren – Trust me, they’re adorable. They are the jewels beyond price in my life. Their meaning is beyond description. These are the extraordinary people of my ordinary life. I realize that I must be vigilant daily in my efforts not to overlook these precious diamonds in the allotment of my time, attention and energy.
International Coach Federation membership card – I derive much pleasure, along with a deep sense of meaning and purpose, in serving others as a leadership coach. And I am grateful for the income it affords my family as well.
Visa card – Makes me very wealthy, not because of my spending limit, but because of the access and convenience it affords. For instance, I can quickly and easily rent a car or purchase a meal. I don’t have to walk miles across a desert for medical care. I don’t have to wait at the roadside for a crowded bus to take me to the village market on Saturday mornings.
I hope that, as I shared the meaningfulness of some of the contents of my wallet, you were able to think about what is in your own wallet, pocketbook or purse and glimpse something of the meaning and purpose that is right here, right now, within you and all around you.
There are fields and fields of diamonds all around you!