Feature Article: “True Priorities” published in Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul II

When I married my husband John, my life was so full, I feared I would have far more to do than time to do it. So created a personal mission statement to define my true priorities and help me determine how to spend my time. I consulted the Bible for guidelines and selected Matthew 6:33, which spoke to me: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

So I wrote: First, the most important thing to me is my relationship with Christ. My success is first measured by how I serve the Lord with my time, talents and treasure. I make decisions based on what Jesus would want me to do, not what I feel like doing. Second, I am a faithful, encouraging, supportive wife and a will be a loving, caring, and nurturing mother, sometimes even sacrificing my own needs to ensure theirs. I work to live, not live to work. Lastly, I take care of myself physically, knowing then I will have the energy and ability to work for the Lord and my family.

I read what I’d written and put it away, feeling good about myself. However, God soon showed me that creating a mission statement and actually living it are two different things. 

I was twenty-six-years old when my first child, Meagan, was born. I traveled extensively with a public seminar company, gaining success and recognition in the marketplace. I was determined to be a wife and mother and career woman at the same time. Nothing would slow me down. I could change a diaper with one hand and type a proposal with another: a good proposal. I wanted to do it all—and succeed. So I arranged for my girlfriend, Angie, to care for Meagan when I was out of town speaking, and when Meagan was three months old, I started traveling again.

I couldn’t see that my life was insane or that I wasn’t following my personal mission statement. I wasn’t working to live; I was living to work, striving to meet the world’s definition of success, completely forgetting the one I’d written.

But then I got a wake-up call…literally.

One late afternoon on the road, when Meagan was fourteen months old, I phoned Angie to check in, as usual. I stood at the pay phone in a hotel lobby. “Angie, hi. How’s Meagan?”

“Oh Laura, we had a wonderful morning. Meagan walked today!”

Thud. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Meagan walked today. And where was I?

My friend went on enthusiastically, “Yes, I just said, ‘Come to Angie’ and she walked across the living room into my arms!”

Sobbing in the lobby of a Holiday Inn in Mansfield, Ohio, 400 miles from home, her words echoed in my ears.

“What am I doing?” I shouted to myself. How could I have missed one of the most important moments in my daughter’s life? And for what? I had no one to blame but myself. I had put my career, my fame, and my success ahead of my child. I had invested my time into things that weren’t even part of the priorities outlined in my mission statement. I was moving so quickly in my career that I hadn’t stopped to weigh the costs. 

I thought of the scripture that clearly states there is no success if the family is lost.

I knew I needed to align my actions with my purpose and make some changes. I vowed then to stop worrying about the quantity of work I was producing and focus instead on the quality of time I spent with Meagan. I was still committed to success—but a different kind of success. 

I started saying “no” to activities that didn’t support my purpose, my priorities, and my mission statement. I started saying “no” to out-of-state speaking engagements and worked on building a local training business in Denver. I figured even Jesus said “no” sometimes when seemingly “good” requests for his time did not fit the overall plan for His ministry. In my Bible I found, “Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent’” (Luke 4:42, 43).

God helped me learn to turn away from the worldly values of fame, greed, and power and discover the true meaning of success. 

Six years later, I knelt in our family room. “Come to Mommy,” I cooed, and our baby Johnny walked for the first time, across the room into my arms.

(C) Copyright 2006 Laura Stack. All rights reserved. 

This article may be reprinted provided the following credit line is present:

“© 2006 Laura Stack. Laura is "The Productivity Pro"® and the author of Leave the Office Earlier. She presents keynotes and seminars on time management, information overload, and personal productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or www.TheProductivityPro.com.”