Tips for Life
Here are four steps that may help in your reflection:
STEP 1: Get to know yourself
Know your likes and dislikes, your fears and your dreams, your hopes and your interests, your abilities and your limitations. Get to know how you work under stress, what kind of leadership you respond to, how much structure you need in your life.
See how others view you in the work situation, under stress or at leisure. Listen to their feedback, including the informal feedback. Reflect on how you view others. Are you able to accept others, to work with them?
As you get to know yourself, accept what you find. You might want to change some aspects of yourself in the future, but begin by accepting yourself as you are now.
Try and keep a journal to record your feelings over a period of time. Going back over this journal and reflecting on changes in your feelings and ideas will give you a picture of the person you are.
STEP 2: Get to know God
Develop a life of prayer, not just in times of crisis, but regularly. No relationship develops between persons unless they listen to each other. Learn to listen to God in prayer and not merely to ask God to listen to you. With God, you have to spend time, listen, and be honest.
Prayer is a highly personal response to a personal love that God has for you and indeed for all humanity. Because you are unique, your prayer response is going to be unique too. Don’t hesitate to experiment with various forms of prayer until you find those which best express your own relationship with God.
Look for the evidence of God’s love in nature, in the circumstances of your life, in other people, especially the poor and the excluded, the mocked and the forgotten. God is active in every aspect of your life.
STEP 3: Decision making
As you get to know yourself more, and as you understand better your relationship with God, prayerfully gather the facts about either the possibilities in your life or even your decision. Consider alternatives. Write out the pros and cons of each alternative. Try to project what effect each alternative will have on you five and ten years from now. Try to project too what effect each alternative will have on the world over time.
In considering religious life, search out information about various religious communities, their work and their lifestyle. Consider other careers which may fit you. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Talk to priests, sisters, brothers, married deacons and to people in other walks of life. Visit religious houses as well as the work situations of possible careers, if that is possible. Try to see yourself as a priest or brother ten years from now and as a married person with a family ten years from now. Through which will you be able to serve the world best? Through which will you touch your heart’s desire best?
As you gather the facts for the alternative life choices open to you, be particularly attentive to your feelings. If you have been open and honest with yourself in Step 1 and with God in Step 2, you can trust your feelings. Choose what appears is best for you, what God is calling you to, what the poor are calling you to.
STEP 4: Confirm your decision
After you have made your decision, spend time in prayer for a while to see if the decision still seems right. If it is, there would normally be a continuation of inner peace and satisfaction. This period of confirmation should go on for an extended interval, several weeks or more, to be sure that the peace you feel is true tranquility and not simply the relief that follows a difficult decision.
You can also be confirmed in your decision by sharing it with others such as a spiritual director or someone else with whom you have worked throughout the process. In fact, sharing your decision with people will inevitably clarify it for you. A vocation is never something private. It is a call from God speaking in the depths of your being, but it will very often come to you through others or at least be confirmed in you by others.