Do you have a bucket list? A bucket list are things we want to do or experience before we “kick the bucket.” But we don’t have to be facing death to have a bucket list, in fact, for many people the bucket list becomes the list of goals that we set our sights on and give ourselves to all through life. Here are some of the top bucket list ideas people have: to visit every continent, to visit every state, or to visit every national park in the US. For some people it’s not traveling but experiences they want, so they set their sights on seeing the northern lights, or a full solar eclipse.
For some people the bucket list focuses on relationships and includes things like getting married, having children, reuniting with old friends, or meeting someone whom we idolize. For others it’s to drive a race car, ride a camel (done that!), or step off a 12 story building! (OK, that was not on my bucket list at all!!) The great thing about making a bucket list is that it helps us think about what is important in life. What are our hopes and dreams? It also helps us set priorities and stay focused so that we can accomplish those things that are important.
Today, instead of thinking about a bucket list, I want us to think about a better life list. We can’t search for and experience a better life if we aren’t able to make a list of what a better life would include. What things do we need or want in order to experience a better life? What is it that, for you, would lead to a better life? Think about this for a few moments. What would make your life better? (write them down on the next steps)
Maybe your list includes financial security, job security, a better job, or just having a job. Maybe a better life comes with better health, more meaning or purpose, or a clearer sense of direction for this season of your life.
Many of us also think about relationships when we think about a better life. If my family was healthier, if my marriage was stronger, if I had a better relationship with my kids, or parents, if my real circle of friends was stronger, if I had that special someone in my life… then my life would be better. Relationships are key to experiencing a better life for all of us so our better life list probably has something on there about relationships, but I wonder how many of us included a stronger relationship with God.
In this series on searching for a better life, we are looking at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. At the beginning of his letter, Paul said this was his prayer for the people – Ephesians 1:17-20.
Paul wanted the people to experience a better life by knowing God more. Paul wants our eyes and the eyes of our hearts opened so that we can more fully understand just how important a relationship with God is to every aspect of our lives. This was important to Paul because he believed that when people knew God more they would have more hope, they would understand more of the riches they had in Christ, and they would be able to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit, which was the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
Think about it, if our lives were filled with hope, and if we could see all the riches we have in God, and if we could experience the power of the Holy Spirit that could help us deal with and overcome all of life’s problems – wouldn’t our lives be better? YES! A better life for all of us will be found when we have a strong relationship with God.
The first thing that needs to be on our better life list is a healthy, strong, and growing relationship with God. The first thing we need to do in life is to learn to live at peace with God which only comes by surrendering ourselves to God’s grace and love, and allowing Jesus to forgive us and lead us. The great thing about making peace with God first is that once we get this right, most other relationships will improve automatically.
Look at Ephesians 2:13-14. Once we find peace with God, we begin to find peace with one another because God is working to bring us all together in one body. While Paul is specifically talking about Jews and Gentiles coming together in Christ, the reality is that if we allow God to dwell in us, we will begin to experience peace with one another. We will have to make stronger relationships with one another a priority, and we will have to work at by offering others patience, forgiveness and grace, but we will find the courage, strength, and power to develop these healthier and stronger relationships when we are first find peace with God.
So any better life list has to start with our relationship with God and then we will see improvements in our relationships with others, and once our relationships are strong, we often find many of the other items on our list falling into place. So when you make a better life list this week, put God first, but then add to it the other things that are important to you, the things you know you need in order to experience a better life, I want to encourage you to make this list because it will help us set priorities, and it will keep us focused and working toward these goals. Making these lists is important.
In 1918, Charles Schwab was the president of Bethlehem Steel and while his company was already the largest ship building company, and the second largest steel producer in America, he was always trying to improve himself and his company. To that end, he invited Ivy Lee, a business consultant, to work with his company.
Lee said, give me 15 minutes with each of your executives and I will get more out of your company. Schwab asked how much it would cost and Lee said, nothing. In 3 months you send me a check for what you think my advice was worth. Schwab agreed and each of the company executives met with Lee and were given his simple method of achieving peak productivity. This is what Lee shared:
- Write down the SIX most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow.
- PRIORITIZE these items in order of their importance.
- Concentrate only on the FIRST item before moving on to the SECOND item.
- At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a NEW LIST for the following day.
- REPEAT this process every working day.
Schwab and his company did this and at the end of 3 months he was so happy with the results that he sent Lee a check for $25,000 ($400,000 today). It is said that Schwab made these lists for the rest of his life because he found it very helpful and success.
Whether it is in business or finding a better life, this is a great process for three reasons.
#1 it is simple. Make a list. We can all do that.
#2 it forces us to make tough decisions. We can not put everything on the list so we have to make difficult decisions about what is ultimately important. Then we have to go through this list and set some difficult priorities.
#3 it forces us onto a single task. Too many of us try to do too many things at the same time and regardless of what you think or what you may hear, multitasking is not efficient or effective.
While we can do more than one thing at a time, we can not concentrate on more than one thing at a time. When we concentrate on something, our brain is focused on that one thing, and then when we think about something else, our brain has to stop, shift, and start over again. While we think we are doing this seamlessly, we are not. It takes time for our brain to make these transitions and studies show that it can take over a minute for our brains to make this shift. Multitasking is actually wasting precious time.
So making a better life list, prioritizing what’s on that list, and working it one item at a time can help us experience that better life. Most of the items on our list are not going to be finished and removed by the end of the day, and that’s ok, but we may find success in some areas that means we may need to shift priorities from day to day so that we work on different things.
Now as soon as we make this list, something is going to come along to pull us away from that list. It never fails. Just when you set the date for the family to all sit down to dinner – someone’s schedule is going to change, a game is going to be rescheduled, or an appointment is going to come up that can’t be moved.. Conflict will come along and challenge our relationships and our priorities, so it is in these moments of conflict, and when we have had to give up our list, that we need to come back and Re-enlist.
As important as creating the better life list is, being willing to re-enlist, to turn back to that list when we get pulled away, is just as important. And the truth is that we need to re-enlist day after day after day. In many ways, this is what we talked about last week in being resilient. We stand, we stand firm and when we fail and fall, we stand back up, and standing back up means re-enlisting.
Growing in our relationships, finding success in our jobs, moving forward in our finances is all a matter of re-enlisting and giving ourselves to the priorities we have set, and every time we turn back to that list here is what we need to remember – practice first what is first on the list.
What is ultimately most important in our living a better life? We have to practice this first because it is the key to everything. While in some sense God always needs to be first on that list, there are times when circumstances will come up and we will need to put our family first on the list for a day, or week, because we know we have neglected that or let that slide. Setting the priority for each day is important so that we can practice first what is first on the list.
If you don’t think this method of creating a better life list and then re-enlisting day after day is important, then think about this. How did God help his people in the Old Testament live a better life. They had just been freed from generations of slavery and were headed into the promised land, a better life. To help them achieve that life, God gave them a list, a list carved in stone on Mt. Sinai, a list of the 10 commandments. Let’s take a look at this list.
- You shall have no other gods before Me.
- You shall not make for yourself an idol.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet.
There are two interesting things to note about this list. The first is that everything on this list helps strengthen relationships. Either our relationship with God, our relationship with families, or our relationship with the larger community, but each commandment helps strengthen relationships – which tells us that a better life is really found in better and healthier relationships.
And then did you notice that God put first on the list the things that were most important, our relationship with God. The first 4 commandments all focus on keeping our hearts, minds and lives centered on God because it is knowing God more that leads to a better life. It is knowing God more that helps us have better relationships with those around us and that leads to a better life.
So lists are important, they keep us centered and focused. They help us set priorities and commit to those priorities. To experience a better life we need to not just turn to those better life lists but re-enlist, recommit ourselves to them, again and again.
Searching for a Better Life – Re-Enlist
What is on your Bucket List?
What items have you been able to cross off your bucket list?
What would you put on your Better Life List?
The Ivy Lee Method of more productive living:
- Write down the ______ most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow.
- ________ these items in order of their importance.
- Concentrate only on the ________ item before moving on to the ____________ item.
- At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a ______ ______ for the following day.
- ____________ this process every working day.
This week create a Better Life List that you can commit to.
To help keep a healthy relationship with God first on this list, join the 3 Relationships campaign in October. Use the card in the bulletin to sign up for a group and look for more information in the weeks to come.