How to Build Your Life’s Work

I love CBS Sunday Morning.

If you’re not familiar, it’s a Sunday morning TV news magazine.  Most of the stories are personal interest, focusing on individuals and groups that have done something interesting or who have built a body of work over the years that make them someone we want to talk hear from.

What I’m attracted to is these very stories of how someone, over time, built his or her life’s work.  As a normal fellow out in the suburbs, I con myself into assuming that building a body of work over time is something only artists, politicians, athletes, and authors do.

But the truth is that we are all building a body of work.  Every day, we add another brush stroke. We write another 1,000 words. We add to our stats.

Whether we realize it or not, we are building something every single day. Slowly. Over time.

The question, really, is not if we’re building a body of work. The question is if we are building a body of work that we’d be proud to have featured on CBS Sunday Morning.  Are you building your life’s work into something that your kids would love to read in the form of a memoir when your time is done?

How do you build a body of wok that you’d be proud of vs. a body of work that looks embarrassingly slapped together, that is unplanned and sloppy at best or hideous, ugly, and frightening at worst?

There are three key elements in building a quality body of work with your life.

First, Identify Your Priorities

What is most important to you?  Who is most important to you? How do you take care of yourself?

The main point here is clarity.

You might be clear on what is important to you. We can normally easily see the people who are important to us – spouse, kids, friends. But we still don’t sit down and name them is priorities.

What is a priority to you vocationally? And we’re not just talking about your job. Over time, you’ll leave a legacy by how you choose to spend your time.  Are you pursuing the things that have been put on your heart?

Without clarity around priorities, we don’t have the raw material for the next step.

Second, Intentionally Pursue Your Priorities

Priorities are like goals.

We can list goals all day long, but until we build them into the ebb and flow of our lives, they are useless.

It’s the same with priorities. If you name your spouse as a priority but don’t intentionally spend time with him or her, how much, really, is your spouse a priority?

The same holds true for your health. If I claim physical health as a priority, yet spend all my time on the couch eating Doritos and chocolatey yum-yums, then is my physical health truly a priority?

Without an intentional, daily plan to pursue priorities, you will be hindering the body of work you’re trying to create.

Third, Invest in Long-Term Persistent Pursuit

Building a body of work is a long-term proposition.

I often engage in these little 30 day health challenges. I always see results. Yet after the 30 days are up, I slowly fall back into old eating or exercise (i.e. non-exercise) patterns.  My positive results slowly fade.

In order for our pursuit of a body of work to be ultimately successful, we have to realize that it’s a long-term project. We are in it for the long-haul. We’re playing the long game. Long. Long. Long.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and all that.

As Stephen Covey talked about in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, we must begin with the end in mind.

If I want my kids and grand-kids to be patting my head and loving on me when I’m on my deathbed, now is the time to invest in them and love them and pour whatever goodness I can into them.

The things that are priorities, must be intentionally pursued throughout our lives.

It’s like laundry – you’ll always have to do it.

Building Your Life’s Work

So… which direction are you going?

Some of these things might come naturally to you. Some of them, not so much.

What hinders your pursuits?

Where do you struggle?

Let’s figure it out and get after it. We got legacies to leave. Let’s leave folks better than we found ’em.


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