In almost two decades of working with people in personal development, I am continually amazed at the lack of proactive behavior exhibited by the "average" individual. Food is consumed almost absentmindedly, mass media programming (movies, television shows, satellite radio, etc.) is imbibed without even a thought (even when it comes to children). Video games are played incessantly. Days, weeks, and often years go by without any intentionality in family interaction. Scripture, worship, and prayer are, at best, reached for only in times of trouble. Relationships are used only for personal gratification and cause shock and surprise when strained and ruptured. And our political freedom is ignored to the point of neglect.
I could go on.
The results of this passive attitude toward life and the living of it are enough to cause despair. Obesity is at an all-time high in the United States, television watching and Internet surfing are through the roof, video game addictions are a reality (especially among grown men!), family units are breaking down and disappearing, churches are either emptying or if full, often full of nothing, meaningful relationships have, to at least some degree, been relegated to "friends" on social networks, and our freedoms are slipping into the history books.
What lies behind all this?
In my opinion, at least part of our sad state of affairs can be attributed to a habitually passive approach to life. The society in which we live seems to accept everything that comes along without scrutiny. Cries of warning are disregarded as prudish, old-fashioned, or simply no fun. But these cries have tremendous merit. We DO need to be vigilant. We DO need to be intentional about how we live our lives. We MUST be discerning when it comes to technology, media, food, relationships, worship, family, and our responsibilities as citizens. If we don't, we will necessarily and summarily suffer the consequences. If ideas have consequences, imagine what ignoring them produces!
Just how can we be more proactive in the living of our lives? How can we stem the tide of mediocrity and passivity that creeps in to destroy us? Here are some suggestions I hope you'll find useful:
1. Organize your categories - this means to give some thought to the many categories in which you live out your life (parent, spouse, child of God, professional, business owner, friend, physical being, political citizen, etc) and write them down.
2. Write down your overall aspiration, highest ideal, or purpose in each category.
3. Next, write down what threatens your achievement of excellence in each category. These are things that are outwardly bad and should be avoided entirely. You might label this column "Overt Attacks."
4. Then, write down the distractions that are possible in each category. These are things that aren't bad in and of themselves, but have the capacity to subtract away from the things that are even better. This is where "good" is the enemy of "great." You might label this column "Covert Attacks."
5. List things about which you've been passive or undiscerning for each category in the past (in other words, when you've failed to produce excellence through pro-activity).
6. List what you could have done to prevent those instances.
7. Set a specific goal for each category.
8. Develop and write out a game plan for how to hit that goal in each category.
9. Put a date for checking up on your progress toward the goal.
10. Make adjustments as necessary.
11. Involve accountability partners and/or mentors towards those goals, as desired.
12. Bathe the whole process in prayer.
Passivity in our lives needs to be rooted out with aggressive pro-activity. Intentionally seeking excellence in every category of our lives may sound like a daunting task. However, clear thinking and intentionality are almost never daunting, instead, they are liberating. When we open our eyes to all we've been allowing to creep in unobserved, we will feel more alive, more in control, and more excited about the possibilities for excellence.
Do you agree or disagree that passivity is a problem in our culture?
What less-than-excellent things have you allowed to passively enter as "normal" into your life?
What victories have you had eliminating these things?
Thanks for reading!