July 16, 2020
Weekly Reflection – Skills are Tools
Skills are tools. Life skills are tools that make life manageable. It is possible to learn and become proficient in the principles of living life effectively. Such proficiency results in “a life well lived.”
I see life as functioning along two axes: 1. Spiritual, and 2. Physical, both are required. Linking the two are our intellect and our emotions. An effective toolbox for life will address both the material and the spiritual. And both are on some level relational i.e., we are all connected to one another. It has been said that we travel in life from being dependent (childhood) to being independent (think of John Wayne), to being interdependent (i.e., mature). This has recently become even clearer to me as I observe the lives of two new-born grandchildren, three grown children, and my own experience at age 75.
Beginning at any age, an enhanced (may I even say robust?) spiritual identity and a stable personal foundation can produce a clearer vision for one’s life; a path to achieving one’s vision and the processes (tools/skills) needed to more effectively navigate the journey (ultimately, a journey to “eternity”). It is said that one can accomplish more with more ease and less difficulties if one first takes the time to strengthen the foundation on which their life rests.
I have come to realize that the world is continuously sending me signals. When I ignore the signals, they become problems. When I ignore the problems, they become crises. Thus, I often create many of my own crises by not listening to the incoming signals and acting on them.
Show me the right path, O Lord; Psalm 25:4
Perhaps an ocean-going ship can serve as an example. Such a ship (be it a luxury liner, a freighter, or a warship) can float on (and sometimes under) the waters and has a propulsion system. Like the bridle in a horse’s mouth, the ship’s rudder tells it which direction to go. The Captain points it in the correct direction. The Captain has been given a destination and the tools to monitor where he is along the route.
Some ships are more efficient than others. If their hull is covered with barnacles, they will go slower. If the engine is prone to breakdowns or unable to put out enough steam, the ship will travel slower. If refueling stations are not ready, the ship will become “stuck en route.” If the hull is not maintained properly, it may develop a rusty hole and begin to leak. And if a leak is not quickly repaired, the ship will sink. Sometimes it is prudent to put the ship in “dry dock” until it can be repaired or upgraded before returning to service.
Note that the ocean-going vessel must also be able to function effectively in all kinds of weather, i.e., the storms and the doldrums of its operating life, in addition to those wonderful periods of smooth sailing. The ship’s owner and Captain cannot control the storms that will surely come their way. However, they can control the route the ship takes in navigating its journey, and they can ensure the vessel is “ship-shape”.
While the ship may be prepared to sail in all kinds of weather, it was not designed to simply float and move on the ocean. It was designed to carry passengers and or freight from one point to another. Do you see the analogy to our lives? We can learn all the practical skills for coping with life, but if we don’t know where or why we are traveling, it can all end up for naught.
Thus, there is the necessity to develop our spiritual axis (the compass of life) in addition to the physical and more practical aspects of daily living. It is critical for one to believe his or her life has a purpose, and that purpose will become clear in time. It is not necessary to know one’s purpose (especially during the younger years), but it is essential to believe that there is one.
Even with the clearest vision and most detailed path forward, one can become “stuck” anywhere along the route, including being “frozen” at the starting point. Don’t become stuck! Relentlessly work on clarifying the vision, following the path, staying on course, and making corrections when necessary. I am told that even a NASA rocket going to the moon is off course 96 percent of the time.
How effective is your personal life’s compass and guidance system? If it’s off course, feel free to contact me, and I’ll try to help you take a look at where you are going and perhaps offer some suggestions on what a course correction might look like.
Blessings and peace,
Read more Weekly Reflections: Chaplain’s Corner