How a new understanding of an old word changed my life for the better
Years ago, I made a decision that changed the course of my life. This decision is what helped me bring my passion into focus and helped bring order out of the chaos in my life. It fueled what has turned out to be a years-long process in personal development; it is precisely where my adventure in personal development began.
I began an exercise in establishing a one-word theme for the year. I touched on it briefly here. One of the fantastic things I discovered in observing a theme for the year is that the previous year’s themes don’t just fade away. They tend to attach themselves to you in a permanent way, kind of like smoke rings on a good brisket. I’m sure there are better metaphors, but the idea is that your themes will collect and there will be a compound effect. Each new word every year will be enhanced by the power of the words from previous years. The result is that every year your words have more power and impact in your life. I can’t recommend highly enough that you engage this practice.
There is one word from a previous year that is of special importance to me. This word was tough to accept at first because of the connotations it carried for me. As a kid who grew up in the church, this word was heavy. I heard it used almost as a weapon from time to time. After I worked through the various definitions and suspended my deeply held feelings on this word, I developed (or discovered, rather) a life-changing principle.
That word is stewardship.
One of the better definitions I found of stewardship is “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” This isn’t the way I understood it.
As a church kid, stewardship had a pretty strong and exclusive connection with money. The implication is that God expects you to treat money responsibly, tithe, and be generous to anyone who asked (especially the church).
The years I spent as a VP of development for a non-profit brought a different set of ideas. Stewardship was still about money, but more about fundraising and building campaigns. At best, it was word used to encourage generosity, investment, or other forms of altruism. At worst, it smelled of guilt and was used to persuade people to contribute.
My life experiences shaped my view of stewardship in a way that wasn’t beneficial for me, so I was more than a little confused when I felt compelled to embrace this word for my theme. In hindsight, I’m so glad this word came to me. I’ve redeemed this word and it has made a tremendous impact that I’m confident will last the rest of my life.
Defining the Stewardship Principle
The year that stewardship was my theme was full of new insights. As I tried, failed, and succeeded in living a life of stewardship, I came up with a succinct guiding principle that helped me communicate my efforts to anyone who was curious about my progress. This principle is not a new definition of the word, but a way to establish a better mindset. There are three points to this stewardship principle.
Everything in your life is a gift.
When I say that everything in your life is a gift, I’m talking about your abilities, time, talents, passions, experiences, opportunities, resources, relationships, even your trials and tribulations. This was hard for me to accept at first because I had a distorted view of myself. Call it poor self-awareness, call it low self-esteem, I’m not sure. I just know that where I used to see myself as an awkward kid with a weird imagination, I now see myself as uniquely creative and curious. Where I once thought of myself as long-winded I now recognize my ability to elucidate ideas and simplify the complex. And the list goes on. I’m thankful for the people in my life who helped me recognize these fundamental qualities about myself as gifts and not burdens.
Gifts are given by a gift-giver for the benefit of the recipient.
Why describe these qualities as gifts instead of traits or characteristics? Simple. I believe these qualities are present on purpose, by design. I believe there is a gift-giver, and I believe it’s God. I believe He made me a certain way on purpose. I will continue learning why and doing my very best to be faithful to that purpose. (Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, I highly recommend you connect yourself with a higher sense of purpose.)
You have an obligation to use your gifts the way they were intended.
Obligation is a word that can feel heavy. For me, in this case, it carries a sense of nobility. When I started to get a better understanding of how I’m wired, a sense of urgency developed with it. It became important that I understand why I have these gifts. I developed this sense of obligation the more I recognized my potential. I can say now, without anxiety or any negative feelings attached, that I am obligated to live up to my potential.
For me, this stewardship principle has become a foundational truth as I continue in my adventure in personal development. It’s why I started this blog. It’s why I wake up early every morning. It’s why I read challenging books. It’s why I make intentional one-on-one time with my kids and regularly date my wife.
I hope you will consider what it could mean for you.
It’s no mistake that you have a knack for marketing or a passion for accounting. It’s no accident that you’re a natural leader or that you’ve acquired an encyclopedic volume of knowledge on SEO over the last few years.
These are your gifts.
You have them for a purpose.
You have a noble obligation to carefully and responsibly manage these gifts.
If you’re ready to start embracing the stewardship principle with me I’d love to connect. Leave me a comment or connect with me here. I’m a firm believer in that old proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.
To your adventure,