If you could choose, how would you want people to describe you? Your answer just might help you uncover what you really value.
- Imagine you’re eavesdropping on your funeral service. The people you love and respect stand to speak. What do you hope they say about you?
- In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes that your response to the funeral exercise can help you define success. Based on your answers to the first question, choose three words that describe the person you ultimately hope to be.
- Do any of your three words conflict with the personal or professional goals you’re currently pursuing? If so, what adjustments might you need to make?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
What do you want? What do you want? What do you want? Now, we’ve said, this is a really tricky question. It didn’t seem like a tricky question. What do you want? Things come to mind, people come to mind, peace of mind comes to mind, not having to think about anything comes to mind. But it’s a tricky question for this reason. We have all gotten what we thought we really wanted and discovered later it wasn’t what we wanted at all. In fact, some of you got a who you really wanted and then realized later that’s not who I want at all. Some of you got a job you really wanted. You got the car you really wanted. You got the house you really wanted. You got the whatever you really wanted, and then, three months in, six months in, 46 car payments later, you realized, “This isn’t really what I wanted at all.” So this is a tricky question. Now, we said there’s a better question than, “What do I want?” And the better question is, “What do I value? Or what is really, really important?” Because lurking in the shadows, we don’t ever stop to think about it, lurking in the shadows of what you want is what you value or what you consider important. And so, we’ve said for the last two or three weeks this, “That we, you, I, we will never get what we really want until we discover…,” and that’s what we’re gonna talk about today, “Until we discover what we really value.”
Now, it seems like this should be easy, right? We just sit down. We ask the question, “Okay. What do I really value? I know what I want, but what do I value? I know what I want, but who do I value?” I write down what I value and then I’m good to go, right? But we said last week, this is way more complicated than that because, here’s the problem, what we naturally want or what we want naturally, what we naturally want is often in conflict, I’d say almost always in conflict, with what we ultimately value. That’s why when somebody says, “What do you want?” What comes to mind may not be what you really want. It’s why when you’re in your teens, in your 20’s, maybe your early 30’s, what you were absolutely sure you wanted turned out not to be as fulfilling as perhaps you thought it would be.
And every single day, in fact, maybe every single hour, there is an internal conflict inside of me and inside of you between what we naturally want and what we ultimately value. Last week, I gave you a life verse, for those of you who wanna have a life verse, because the Apostle Paul summed up this battle perfectly for us when he wrote these words. You remember these? He wrote, “I do not understand what I do.” That’s us, right? I do not understand what I do. I know what I want or what I value, and once I’ve recognized what I value, I still go after what I want rather than I value. What is wrong with me? He said, “I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do.” And that’s all of our experience because there is a constant, constant, constant conflict between what you want naturally and what you want ultimately, what you want naturally and what you want ultimately.
So, to conquer that, for sure, we’ve gotta be able to zero in on or answer the question, “What is it that we really, really value?” Now, I told you I was gonna tell you a little bit of my story. I stumbled onto all of this in 1989. 1989, the year that “Every Rose Has a Thorn” came out, by Poison.
I just want that song running in the background of the rest of this message, okay? Anyway, in 1989, a very good friend of mine gave me a book that he thought we should read together, that many of you have read. In fact, about 25 million of you have read, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” This is the newest edition. It’s not my original edition, which is dog-eared and marked up, and it’s unbelievable.
I started reading this book because a friend was gonna read it. We were gonna read it together. Now, context, I’ve been married for one year. I did not have any kids and so, in the afternoons or whenever I had time, I would read the book. And I got to page 96 in my copy, or page 103 in this newer edition, and here is what I read. I’m gonna read it to you and then I’m gonna tell you a little bit more of my story. Here’s what I read. Here’s what Stephen Covey writes. “In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music. You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there.
As you walk down to the front of the room, you look inside the casket, and you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life. As you take a seat and wait for the service to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended; children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and grandparents, who have come from all over the country to celebrate your life. The second speaker’s gonna be one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person. The third speaker is from your profession or work. And the fourth is from your church or some community organization where you’ve been involved in service. Now think deeply”, he writes, “Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate? What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you like for them to remember?
Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?” And then he writes this, “Before you read any further, take a few minutes to jot down your impressions.” Now, I like to read, and I read lots of books, and whenever I get to the part of a book where they say “Now we want you to stop reading, and get a pen, and get a notebook,” I’m like “No, I’m not gonna do that.” Because the goal of reading a book is what? To finish the book, that’s right. We don’t care if we learn anything, we like to be able to say “Oh, yeah, I read that book. Yeah, I read that.”
Put a check in that box. “Oh, yeah, yeah, I read that. Yeah, I read that years ago. You just found that book?” Anyway, but on this particular occasion, I actually did what Stephen Covey suggested we do. I actually stopped reading the book. And the next morning
I decided to work through this exercise. I actually got a little spiral ring notebook, I still have it, and I answered the question, “What would I want Sandra to say at my funeral three years from now?” I didn’t have any kids, so I imagined, “What would I want my son to say about me?” I have two sons now. “What would I want my daughter to say about me?” I have a daughter now. “What would I want a best friend to say about me? What would I want someone I work with… ” And I went through six or seven categories. I didn’t do it all at one time, I did one one morning, the next morning. This took me a little over a week and I’m telling you, this is not normal for me, ’cause again it’s like, and let’s just keep this thing going and get through the book. So I spent my morning time writing all this stuff out.
So a week goes by and then I pick up the book, and what he wrote next really was for me, a life-changing, it was life changing. It really was a defining moment. Here’s what he wrote. He wrote, “If you carefully consider what you… ” there’s our word, “If you carefully consider what you wanted to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success.” Now, this was like O-M-G. This was like… I bet we didn’t even have that back then. [laughter] This was like “Are you kidding me?” This was such a big moment for me. He was basically saying off the page, “Andy, now you know what success is for you. You may have thought you knew what it was. You may have imagined that you thought you knew what it was. But now you know with certainty what is most important to you. What your personal definition of success is. In other words, now you know what is most valuable, and now you know too what is most valuable to you.”
And here’s the thing, and this won’t come as a shock because if you’ve ever done an exercise like this, you discovered the same thing, that my definition of success had virtually nothing to do with accomplishment. It had everything to do with my character and how I treated people. Here’s why this was so helpful to me. See, I love progress. Progress is so important to me. I love things to go forward. I’m a terrible counselor because counseling is about the past. It’s like, “Okay, well just stop doing that, okay? And your marriage will be better, okay. Let’s move on.” I am not a good listener. I love meetings about the future. I love to set big goals. I like to build things and grow things. I am so much about the future, and yet when I went through this exercise, nobody in my mind got up and talked about anything I had done. What I drove, where I lived, how much money I made, how many books I wrote, None of that came up. Because as much as I enjoy those things, and as important as those things are… We’re gonna talk about that in just a minute. As important as all those things are, I discovered they are not actually what is most important to me. I had discovered what I really wanted.
The drive to accomplishment, I discovered, is really just a means to an end. So here’s what I did. I realized, “Oh no, I’ve got six or seven paragraphs of stuff.” And my temptation is just to finish the book, and I can’t let this stuff slip by. So I sat down, this is just what I did, and I decided I gotta reduce all this down to something that’s portable and memorable, because memorable is portable and portable is memorable, even that statement’s portable and memorable. Anyway, I needed to reduce it down to some words. So I reduced all of this information down to nine words, that became seven words, that eventually became six words. And then, because I’m a Christian, I decided to try to find a verse for each of these seven things and these six things, which was really more difficult than I thought it would be. And here’s what happened, this was so cool, and this wasn’t on purpose. As soon as I narrowed it down to seven words, seven terms, those seven words became a perimeter around my behavior. They informed my conscience. When I wandered outside the perimeter of those seven things that I wanted to be said about me, my conscience lit up.
And here’s the really odd thing. And this may not even make sense, and if you’re not a Christian, no problem, don’t freak out about this, this is just a Christian thing, okay? Here’s what happened. For me, sin, sin became synonymous with failure. I’m telling you, this was life changing, life changing. Let me tell you what I mean by this. For example, I’m not gonna tell you my list of words, you gotta get your own list. But I’ll tell you one thing on my list that will probably show up on your list if you do this exercise. One of the things on my list was honesty. That I want it said about me, that if Andy says yes, it’s a yes, and if it’s a no, it’s a no. That if he says he’s gonna do something, he’ll do it. And if he doesn’t do it, he will tell you he didn’t do it before you find out. I wanna be known as an honest person. Now, the problem is, honesty is costly. Isn’t it? You can lose a lot of money being honest. There’s a lot of money that you leave on the table if you’re honest.
You have the potential to kinda wreck your reputation with people if you’re absolutely honest. But the thing is, nobody in my funeral exercises, “He said he always won, no matter what it took he always won. Andy was a winner even if he had to lie, even if he had to cheat, even if he had to steal, Andy always came out on top.” I didn’t hear anybody saying that at my funeral. It was all about my character, that he was honest. So, does that mean I had this seven words and now I’m perfect because I stayed with it? No, I’m not perfect. But here’s the other thing I learned. This was even more fascinating. I discovered that owning my failure is actually success. That owning up to the fact that I screwed up or blew it or didn’t say what I was getting, the owning up to my failure was actually success, because I wanted to be honest and I want to be transparent with who I was as a person. Suddenly, it became so much easier for me to apologize. In fact, I got so good at apologizing.
Now, here’s the point, because you may wanna do that exercise, you may not, but here’s the point. If you’re gonna get what you really want, to get what you really want, to get what you really want, you have to discover what you really value. What’s really most important to you.
This isn’t a important versus not important. That’s not it at all. What is most important? Everyday of your life, in fact even while you’re sitting here, in fact, this morning when you decided whether or not to get up, or this afternoon when you decided whether or not you’re gonna come, or when you were deciding whether or not to watch this, in that moment, you were prioritizing values. We do this all the time. There are 20 things that are important, but one of them has to be most important. This isn’t good versus bad, this isn’t important versus not important. This is asking the question, “What is most important?” Because we are constantly prioritizing our values. But here’s the thing, you cannot prioritize what is most important to you until you discover what is most important to you. Again, I value progress. I love progress, but I also value integrity.
This exercise exposed this truth to me, that at the end of the day I actually value integrity more than I do progress. Which means when there is a conflict between getting things done faster, and getting things done bigger, and getting things just moving. When there’s a conflict between progress and integrity, I’m reminded, “Andy, at the end of the day, integrity takes priority over progress,” because nobody stood up in your funeral and talked about anything you had accomplished. Discovering what you value will keep want from getting in the way of really want. You need to discover what it is you really value. What you want most. And I’m telling you, unless you sit down, and unless you spend some time with this, you could spend your entire life and never stumble upon it accidentally. This takes some intention, and here’s why, what was it last week? Because what you want naturally, what you want immediately, what you want naturally, what you want immediately is rarely what you want ultimately. And ultimately is tied to what is really most important to you.
Now, because I’m a Christian, In fact, if you’re not a Christian this may be the most interesting part of the message, even though you think it may have nothing to do with you. ‘Cause everything we’ve said so far, that’s just a ‘thing thing’, it’s not a Christian thing. It’s just, anybody can do that, right? But here’s the cool thing. The Christians ask a better question that leads to a surprising conclusion. And here’s the question that Christians ask, “What does God really want?” Or to tease it out a little bit, “What does God really want for us?” Now, for some of you, this is a scary question, especially if you grew up in church, and you kinda drifted away, and the whole God thing is, “I don’t know if I wanna go there.” Or maybe you don’t even believe in a personal God, or you believe in Creator God, but God’s not personal. Or you may be a Christian and this is a scary question, because you think you are at odds with God over what you want and what God wants.
We assume the real question is this, “What does God want from us?” Right? What does God want from us? Now, let me talk about that for just a minute because this is a big deal. Let me set it up this way. When Jesus was teaching his followers how to pray, remember this? Jesus teaches his followers how to pray. Because they grew up praying prayers, but they didn’t really like the way they prayed apparently, or they thought Jesus prayed better prayers, because they come to Jesus and they say, “Jesus, teach us how to pray.” And Jesus said, “Okay. Here’s how you pray.” And do you remember how Jesus instructed his disciples, and I think instructs all of us to pray? “Our Father.” Now, this is so important. This is so clarifying. If you can just remember that Jesus has invited us to address God as Father, it clears up so much confusion between the Old and New Testament, between passages in the New Testament that seem to conflict. If you can just remember the filter is, God is my Heavenly Father, it brings so much clarity to so many things.
Now, with that in mind, let me ask you this question: What does a good parent… what does a good parent want from their children? The answer is, nothing that’s not a product of our fallen egos. What does a really, really good parent want from their children? Nothing. Good parents want stuff for their children, not from their children, and parenting fore-takes precedence over from. In fact, takes precedence over from. When you see a parent trying to withdraw or extract something from their kids to help their egos, or make them feel better as a person, or a coach, or whatever it might be, that doesn’t feel healthy to us. We’d look at that and go, “There’s something wrong with that.” Because great parents want things for their children, not from. And here’s the great news, your Heavenly Father, your Heavenly Father wants something for you, not from you. We assume there’s a competing agenda, that what I want and what God wants are at odds. What you want naturally and what God wants for you is at odds. But we’ve already discovered, that most of the time, what you want naturally is at odds with what you want ultimately. The whole idea of surrendering to God scares us, because we think somehow God’s gonna leave us unhappy and unfulfilled. Where in the world did that come from? How did God get to be such a bad person and a bad father? How did God get to have such a bad rap? The answer to that question is church and people who do what I do, unfortunately, all right?
But when you read the New Testament and when you listen to Jesus talk about his Heavenly Father and your Heavenly Father, everything changes. And here’s what you’re gonna discover. If you go through that eulogy exercise, the funeral exercise, here’s what you’ll discover, that you are closer, you are closer to wanting what God wants for you than you may have ever imagined before. That the eulogy exercise not only draws us closer to what we really want, it actually hints at what you were created for. We are not as far apart as we might imagine. Here’s a question: What does God want for you? What does God want for you? The Apostle Paul, who we looked at the passages last week, this is so powerful, he says, “If God were to have his way in your life, if somehow God would override your free will… “, he’s not gonna do that, he loves you too much. But if God were to have his way, if you were to get into, as we’re gonna see in a minute, lock-step with your Heavenly Father, here’s what Paul says it looks like, “For the fruit of the spirit… “, you know this, “Is love, joy, and peace.” It’s like, “Oh, oh, no, no, I can’t have any of that, okay? No way, no way. I want an F150, I want a Raptor, I want a garage. I don’t know, I don’t love joy, and peace.” You don’t want her, I don’t want love, joy and peace, I want him, I don’t want love, joy, and peace.”
Listen, look up here, and if you are not a Christian person, I understand this is just so weird, but just bear with me. These three things would solve most of your problems. These three things would definitely solve most of your relationship problems. Love, the ability to love someone who’s unlovable and forgive them even though they don’t deserve it. Joy, to be able to step into difficult circumstances and still have joy. You’ve met people with joy, you thought they were on something. It’s like, “Okay.”
Or that they were in denial, it’s like, “Are you kidding me, your life’s falling apart, your jobs falling apart, your kids are in trouble and you just have this sense of contentment and joy in the midst of this. What’s wrong with you?” Many of you have travelled to third world countries and you’ve met some Christians in third world countries and they have more joy than you’ve ever had, and that’s about all they have. What is that? That is the product of someone who has surrendered their heart and their life to their Heavenly Father. Love, joy, and my goodness, peace. Let’s just… Fine, just be honest, we’re friends, right? Some of you have to get a prescription for this.
And some of you have some subscriptions for this, right?
Because it is not natural. You can’t work it up, you can’t work it out, you can’t find it. Now, think about this, come on lookup here. Your Heavenly Father, your Heavenly Father, wants you to have something you know you want. Peace, contentment, an internal sense of satisfaction that is somehow disconnected, but doesn’t put you in denial of what’s happening around you. This is why I say, when you discover what you really want, when you discover what you really value, you are not as far from your Heavenly Father as you may have imagined.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. See when you get behind this stuff, and you get behind the person, and once you get behind, if she would only… And if he would only… You find yourself in this world. And this is from a guy. Okay, for all of the type As that are worried about, “Okay, if I do that I’ll never get anything done”, just listen okay. This is from a guy who got more done than you will ever get done without electricity, and he never had a shower, okay. So, if you are worried about, “Oh my gosh, if I kinda lean into this there’s not gonna be any progress”, that’s not the case at all. He goes on and he says this, he says, so now he talks about this lock-step idea.
He says, “So we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit.” Now, this is so powerful because he harkens back to something that Jesus said. Because when Jesus showed up and started putting together his band of Merry Men, his original invitation to them, his original invitation to them was not, “Obey.” and it wasn’t, “Submit.” His original invitation was, “Follow.” “I just want you to follow me.” “Where are we going?” “Just follow me.” “Well, I don’t have all the answers.” “Just follow me.” And if you were to say to your Heavenly Father, “Okay, if I follow you, where are we going?” He would say, “Let me tell you where we’re going. We’re going to love, joy, and peace, and patience, and kindness, and gentleness, and faithfulness, and self-control. That’s where we’re going.”
“Will I get anything accomplished?” “Of course you will, you’ll get more accomplished, not less.” Come on, kindness does not impede progress, does it? I mean, self-control doesn’t undermine accomplishment. You’ll get more done. What if all that energy you put into worrying, you put into something productive? What if all the energy you put into covering up what you don’t want anyone to know, was replaced by self-control and you were able to put all of that into something productive? What if all the money you spent on things just trying to feel better, and trying to get your act together, what if you are able… You will be far more productive. And that’s not the point, but I know that’s a fear. Because often times people feel like Christianity is some kind of passive ooey-gooey thing, nothing could… Listen, we would not be here 2,000 years later [chuckle] if that’s all there was to it.
Then he says this, this is, imagine if just the folks in your office got hold of this. Okay, you may not even want ’em to know about this. This will change everything. Look what he says, “Let us… ” Talking about the people in the church, but hey, you can try this at home. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” What if everybody in your company, what if everybody in your industry got hold of this? Oh my gosh, think of the collaboration, think of the progress, think of the efficiency, if there was no more ego, “I don’t care who gets credited, we’re just gonna get it done.” If there was no more provoking, and provoking, and trying to take sides, and I’m gonna play good cop, bad cop. Imagine if there was no more jealousy and envying each other.
Do you wanna know where your Heavenly Father wants to lead you? There. And here is what I know about you. That’s
where you wanna go, that’s where you wanna go. Here’s how I know that. Because you may not latch on to all this personally, even though there may be something in you that’s like, “I don’t know love, joy, and peace. That sounds like… I don’t know what that sounds like, that just sounds awful.” But here’s what I know about you, you value those things. Here is how I know, because you want the people around you to be characterized by those things. You want your son’s future wife to be characterized by those things. You want your daughter’s future husband to be characterized by those things. You hope to meet somebody someday who’s characterized by gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. These are things you value. And because you value them, you need to pay attention to them, because they are lurking in the shadows of what you say you what.
So back to our question. What do you want? What you really want, and what God really wants for you are closer than you’ve ever imagined. And if you keep digging into this question, and you get behind the staff, and you get behind the experiences, and you get behind the money, and you dig, and you dig, and you dig. You keep digging and eventually, you get the things like meaning and significance and legacy, and eventually you may find yourself face-to-face with the will of your Heavenly Father for your life.
But I’m jumping ahead a little bit. First, you gotta discover what’s the most important to you. This week, I want you to think about it, I want you to make some notes. You may even want to do the eulogy exercise. get yourselves some words because, come on, when you discover… You know this. When you discover what you really value, you will be less prone to settle for what you merely want. I don’t want you to settle. I don’t want you to settle for what you merely want, I want you to discover what you really actually value. Because what’s actually important becomes most important. You’re on your way to getting what you really want. But don’t be surprised, if along the way you don’t come face-to-face with the will of your Heavenly Father.