How to Get Things Done in College: Know Why You Are Here

In order to make the right kind of difference in society, we also need to know how our faith and work relate. In our second post with Matt Perman, Director of Career Development, we discuss the "why" behind our work.

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If we are going to be effective, we actually can’t start with productivity tips, techniques, and tools. We have to start deeper.

That’s because personal effectiveness stems from much more than just our techniques and processes. It stems, most fundamentally, from our worldview.

In order to get the right things done (and in the right way and for the right reasons–two components of effectiveness that are often overlooked, but which God cares about very much), we need to above all have the right mindsets and philosophy of life. That is what equips us to make the best decisions among all the options before us. And without that, we are lost, because there is nothing less productive than doing more efficiently what doesn’t need to be done at all.

Further, if we don’t anchor our productivity strategies in our worldview, they won’t last. Our actions don’t come from nowhere. They grow out of our assumptions and beliefs about reality. If we change our behaviors but not our worldview, the old worldview will eventually overpower the changes we tried to make in our behavior, and they won’t last.

Hence, managing your time well doesn’t start with discipline. It starts with vision. It doesn’t matter how fast you are going if you are going in the wrong direction. Alice’s exchange with the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland is instructive here:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—“ said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Hence, you need to know why you are in college. You need a vision for your time and what you are trying to accomplish.

So, why are you here? What is your purpose in being at King’s? If you truly want to be effective, you need to take some time to reflect on this question.

The best answer, I believe, comes from King’s mission statement:

Through its commitment to the truths of Christianity and a biblical worldview, The King’s College seeks to transform society by preparing students for careers in which they help to shape and eventually to lead strategic public and private institutions.

So you are here in order to be equipped, both intellectually and spiritually, to make a difference in the world. You are here to gain the tools, worldview, passion, virtue, and know-how to change the world for the better, in partnership with God and his mission to renew society socially, economically, and spiritually.

Further, this involves not just what you do, but what you are. Character is as important (more important, of course) than accomplishment and is actually what makes our accomplishments matter.

Is this just idealistic thinking? Is it actually possible to change the world? It is possible. If you look at history, you see that Christians have changed the world before, are doing it now, and therefore can do it again. Nobody is saying you can change the world alone. That’s why leadership is required. But many Christians working effectively in light of a common vision, in all sectors of society, that will change the world.

And to be a part of this, you need to be prepared. As it is with an athlete, who can’t just go out and compete without any training and expect to win, so also here. You have to work hard to gain the skills, mindsets, and knowledge base that will enable you to excel. That’s what college is especially for.

But, we might also ask, is it a good idea to seek to change the world? It sounds hard. Is it worth the effort?

Seeking to change the world is not a luxury. It is, rather, a responsibility. All of us are responsible not just for our own success, but to serve others. And that means caring about the common good, the advance of the gospel, and the well-being of society. Hugh Hewitt states this very well in his very helpful book In But Not Of: A Christian Guide to Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World:

Every Christian must consciously commit to impacting the culture. To do that requires influence. Influence is not an automatic gift bestowed on good people. It is earned. It falls to a huge variety of people, most of whom consciously plan on acquiring influence. Christians need to seek influence. They need to acquire it. They need to use it once they have it. But first they must acquire it. This is a book about acquiring influence.

Even gaining influence, though, is not enough. We need to know how to use this influence well. We need to use influence the way Christ used his influence and modeled for us: to serve, not dominate (Matthew 20:25-28 ; Philippians 2:5-11). Using our influence to serve is both the right thing to do and, in fact, actually makes a bigger impact than trying to use it to control.

In order to make the right kind of difference in society, we also need to know how our faith and work relate. This actually takes some of the pressure off. For a right understanding of the Christian view of work means we don’t have to go to work every day worrying that we need to make people uncomfortable by finding ways to force an explicit mention of the gospel into our work. Rather, the Bible teaches that work matters in itself, not simply as a platform for evangelism.

Being an excellent financial analyst, for example, and doing it according to God’s principles and for his glory, matters in itself. Further, as we pursue our vocations with excellence (and, more than that, generosity and a win-win approach to everything we do), it will stand out, lead people to ask us questions about our faith, and create a plausibility structure that gives credibility to our profession of faith so people will want to hear about it.

As Tim Keller has said, “skeptics need more than an argument in order to believe; they need to observe intelligent, admirable fellow human beings and see that a big part of what makes them that way is their faith.” In this way our work serves the common good and the advance of the gospel.

In sum, the first thing to do in order to maximize your effectiveness at King’s is to be clear on why you are here, and keep yourself oriented around that purpose.

So, why are you here again? You are here to gain the spiritual, intellectual, and social preparation to shape the culture through your work and life–not through seeking to dominate culture but through seeking to serve, and to do so in a way that reflects God’s character in your own work.

This is a challenging task, but it is also exciting and adventurous, and the very thing God calls us to.

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