What Makes You Come Alive?

So many people … have so much to live on … but nothing to live for.

There are two great moments in your life — the first WHEN you were born — and the second when you realize WHY you were born. Unfortunately, too many people never realize the WHY. They just live their lives and go to their jobs on auto pilot. They never think about WHERE they’re going or IF they should even go there.

It’s like the epitaph I read on a tombstone in England. It said, “Here lies a man who lived and died but never knew who he was.” Possibly the man was insane. But the same epitaph could be applied to many people’s lives. They never figure out why on earth they’re here in the first place.

That’s why I’ve been encouraged by the work being done by many of my clients. Whether it’s my clients in business, health care, education, or government, they’ve been getting serious about defining and then organizing their work around a VISION and a MISSION.

One such person was Eileen Zierman, a supervisor at Fairview Hospital. She said, “Previously I was scared to death when someone mentioned purpose and goals. I ran the other direction. The fear is gone, and now I have goals, and I’m achieving them. What a blessing from God! THANK YOU, Dr. Zimmerman, for giving me a VISION at your JOURNEY program.”

Unfortunately a lot of people just don’t understand this VISION, MISSION, and PURPOSE stuff — even though it’s crucially important in every organization and every life. They don’t understand that the “good life” requires more than earning more money or getting more stuff. As Kevin Anderson says in “Divinity in Disguise,” “Money and possessions are like diet soda — they satisfy momentarily, but they do not nourish.”

By contrast, healthy organizations and smart people realize that success isn’t enough. They notice the signals when something “more” or something “deeper” is needed. Bob Burford talks about those signals in his book, “Halftime.” And he says if you have any of these signals, you may be high on the success scale but low on the purpose scale. Take a look and see if any of them sound like you.

1. The thrill of closing a major deal isn’t quite what it was ten years ago.

2. A younger associate is nipping at your heels, and you respond by helping him rather than trying to stay ahead of him.

3. You spend a lot of time thinking what it might be like to start over or move “down” to a less responsible position that gives you more control of your life.

4. You have a secure position, yet you’re scanning the want ads and openings listed in professional journals.

5. You wonder more about what makes a client tick, instead of how to sell him on a proposal.

6. You envy the guy who walked away from his job to spend more time with his family and the ministry work he’s been dreaming about.

7. You use up all your vacation days and start taking some “comp time” as well.

8. You begin to ask yourself, “How much is enough?”

9. The boss’ hint of a promotion doesn’t motivate you as much as it used to.

10. You’ve been thinking very seriously about starting your own business.

11. Your son says one day, “Get a life, Dad.”

If any of those signals sound a bit familiar to you, if you can identify with some of those feelings, you may need to work on clarifying your purpose. And you need to make sure you’re living your life on purpose instead of by accident.

Paul Schmall, the Vice President and Chief Engineer at the Moretrench American Corporation, says: “The most powerful thing that I brought home from the JOURNEY TO THE EXTRAORDINARY experience was a clear sense of purpose. I now have my purpose written out, and I think of it every day. And I have given your PURPOSE CD to many people. It hits everybody like a ton of bricks.”

Of course you may be wondering, “How do I find … define … or … clarify my purpose right now?” Well there’s no quick and easy answer. That’s why I recommend the CD’s above. It takes a bit of work. But I will tell you this; you start to figure out your purpose when you FIGURE OUT WHAT MAKES YOU COME ALIVE. As philosopher and theologian Harold Thurman Whitman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs — ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

A Cornell University study confirmed that. When they looked at 25,000 World War II POW’s, they discovered that the POW’s could cope with their difficult circumstances as long as they had hope. If they hoped for their release, or if they hoped to be reunited with their families, their hope kept them alive. Their hope gave them life as well as purpose. But if they lost their hope, they were doomed.

Do you know WHAT MAKES YOU COME ALIVE? When you figure that out, your life and work become so much more satisfying. And when your life and work are satisfying you almost automatically make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Such was the case with one little girl. She stood sobbing near a small church from which she had been turned away because she was told it was too crowded. “I can’t go to Sunday school,” she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by.

Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday school class. The child was so happy that they found room for her, and she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus.

Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings of her city. Her parents called for the kind-hearted pastor who had befriended their daughter to handle the final arrangements.

As her little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled red purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside they found 57 cents and a note, scribbled in childish handwriting, which read: “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school.” For two years she had saved for this offering of love.

When the pastor tearfully read the note, he knew instantly what he would do. Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building.

But the story does not end there. A newspaper learned the story and published it. A wealthy realtor read the story and offered to sell the church a parcel of land at a discount … land worth thousands of dollars. When the church people told him they couldn’t even pay his discounted rate, he offered to sell it to the little church for 57 cents.

Church members made large donations. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl’s gift had increased to $250,000.00 — a huge sum for that time around the year 1900. The little girl’s unselfish love had paid large dividends.

When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300. And be sure to visit Temple University, where thousands of students are educated. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of beautiful children, built so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside during Sunday school time.

In one of the rooms of this building you can see the picture of the sweet face of the little girl … whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved … made such remarkable history. Alongside of it is a portrait of her kind pastor, Dr. Russel H. Conwell, author of the book, “Acres of Diamonds.”

Purpose makes a difference, a huge difference in corporate life as well as individual lives. Don’t let this vital area of your life go unattended.

Action:  What makes you come alive? Write down your answer.

And then ask five of your friends, coworkers, or loved ones to point out the times when they see you MOST ALIVE.

From all of the data you gather, write out your answer as to what makes you come alive.