I started drafting this post with the intention of recommending mind-expanding activities that people ought to do everyday, but merely ten words in, I decided to go beyond pursuits that profit the mind to “life-expanding” habits. I’ve had people tell me that they’re in a slump, going nowhere, neither learning anything new nor experiencing any progress or advancement in their lives. But Christ Himself has said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b). Surely He would not want us to become zombies, going through the motions of daily tasks, obligations and routines without purpose and growth. How do we have life to the full, then? How do we keep ourselves and our lives purposeful and ever-growing? Before drawing any list, the fundamental should be made clear: a life centered on Christ, our Savior and Lord, and anchored on God’s truth as revealed in His Word. This is the foundation on which any life-expanding pursuits should stand. Now for the list:
- Love. Never let a day pass without having expressed/manifested love for another. Even better, express love for someone who will not necessarily love you back. Do you know that God’s Great Commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself? A day spent without love is a day spent as a robot. Or maybe a rock. Meanwhile the more we love, the more we grow into all that God wants us to be.
- Listen. Engage in at least one conversation that has you listening more than talking. We should all have an opportunity every single day to be exposed to another person’s perspective and experiences. Striving genuinely to understand another’s context grounds us in the fact that the world does not revolve around our personal concerns, and that there is a lot more to this world and this life than what we have seen so far, regardless of our age and of how much we think we already know.
- Read. Spend at least a few minutes of everyday reading your Bible. Read a novel, a non-fiction work, a reference material, even if you can only finish a chapter (Just continue the next day, and the next). Give yourself a chance to be in other people’s shoes; to benefit and apply to your life lessons from what others have experienced and learned first-hand; to imagine yourself in other realities. Never ever think that you have read enough, because…well, that is just not possible. Seriously.
- Reflect. Begin your day by praying, meditating on God’s Word and mulling over your priorities. Throughout the day, think before you speak and act and apply discernment when making decisions. Before going to bed, process the day’s experiences, conversations and learning. Take time to consider how your values, life goals and daily preoccupations align. Do not allow yourself to live an unexamined life, or Socrates will come and haunt you.
- Write. Make a journal post. Jot down a quote that inspired you. Chronicle your day. Make a list of things you want to do. Scribble your certainties, insights, questions, doubts. Document your reflections. Writing focuses your mind and helps you distill your experiences. Free yourself of restraint by taking on this mindset:
“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.” (Margaret Atwood)
I myself am yet to be able to practice all the above every single day, but I know that it’s only a matter of distinguishing between preoccupations that really do and do not matter, and acting on this distinction. Which one(s) do you think you can commit to making a habit?