How to Live an Effective Life

Carreer LadderWe all want to be successful in life, right? We all want to have a nice job, a loving family, and to be respected. Essentially, that is the American dream. It is what we, as a culture, want.

Although we may have the same dreams, there is often a lot of confusion when it comes to achieving those goals. How do we get and keep good jobs? How do we build loving families? How can we become respected members of our communities? This is where the division comes.

When it comes to achieving these goals, there are three things that have been proven to be instrumental. The first is character, the second is communication, and the third is the mindset of continual investment. In living an effective life, these three things are invaluable.

Good character is absolutely foundational for living an effective life. Your character defines why and how you do nearly everything in your life. It is the most important of the three facets of effective living.

In the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey argues that in life there are essentially two types of people. There are those that base their decisions upon temporal, changing, environmental factors, and there are those that base them upon unchanging principles. It is easy to become caught up in the first type of decision making paradigm, but it is not healthy for us, or our relationship with God, our family, or our friends.

There are obvious reasons why the first paradigm is faulty. Your happiness, for example, becomes tied to how much money you are making, how popular you are, or how well your relationship with your significant other is going. Instead of always having a default, unchanging place to which your sense of self-worth, your happiness, and your decision making process can turn, you end up being tossed around by something that is outside of your control and that is continually in a state of flux.

People with this kind of thinking are often found trying to manipulate others into their schemes. Instead of allowing people the liberty to do what they want, these people are the people that have a vested interest in all of your decisions because those decisions will significantly affect them.

However, there is another type of person. People that base their decisions upon principles – things like reason, justice, honesty, respect for others, sincerity, kindness, hard work, moral rightness – and these are the people that have stability in their lives.

These unchanging principles were created by God and fit into his ultimate plan. When we live in accordance to these unchanging principles, natural law blesses us. C.S. Lewis once stated that our God is a hedonistic God. He wants us to have pleasure, if it is achieved in the right way. Consequently, when we seek to base our lives upon God’s will, we will be blessed.

It is critical for us to base our decisions upon principles. This is, in short, good character. Having the right values and principles and sticking to them is the essence of good character.

Communication is also incredibly important for living an effective life. From the tone of voice that we use when our boss gives us an extra assignment to the clothes we wear, we are constantly communicating. Being conscious of what we are communicating allows us to alter our communication to best serve us.

In our digital age, we communicate more than ever. We are constantly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, our emails, and countless other forms of online media. What we post on the internet says a lot about us, and employers are watching.

Our words, facial expressions, gestures, social media profiles, clothes, nearly everything about us, communicates messages to our friends, family, teachers, bosses, and everyone else that we interact with. In order to be effective, we need to be mindful of the things we say, the looks we give, the gestures we use, the statuses that we post, the clothes we wear, etcetera.

Even our inaction communicates. When you are listening to someone and you just nod your head and say, “Yeah… Right… Mhm… Yeah…” you are communicating that you aren’t listening to them, that you don’t care about what they are saying. Having good character is one of the best forms of communication, because a person with good character wants to understand, to care, to learn.

Of course, having good character isn’t going to solve all of your communication issues. You will still need to learn when and what to speak, when to be silent, how to market ourselves online, how to dress properly, etc.

Finally, the mindset of continual investment is another thing that is foundational for an effective life. The mindset of continual investment is essentially the mindset that you should constantly build you skill set, grow your relationships, and learn new things. It is the mindset of improvement.

If you get out of college and say, “Yay, I’ll never have to learn another thing,” you probably won’t ever learn how to be a good spouse, employee, or parent. If you change careers ever five years, you probably will never reach a high paying level anywhere that you work. The mindset of continual investment is looking forward, looking down the path and doing what will best help you in the future.

These three things – good character, deliberate communication, and the mindset of continual investment – make for an effective life. They apply to every portion of our lives, and if we can effectively incorporate them into our lives, we can be successful in the things that we do.

It is my request of you that you devote time to studying how to be a person of character, how to communicate effectively with others, and how to constantly build upon what you already possess. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Take that to heart; strive for excellence in life.

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