Whatever image springs to your mind when you hear the words “Jesuit priest,” Cyrus Habib undoubtedly isn’t it. At the time of writing, Habib is Lieutenant Governor of Washington State, a Rhodes scholar, an Iranian-American, and the youngest Democrat elected to statewide office in the country. Also, he’s blind.
Habib had a clear shot at becoming Washington state’s next governor. So it took most people by surprise when Habib announced that he was discerning a vocation to the priesthood, a path that includes vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Habib is brilliantly articulate about his choice in this interview, and the whole thing is worth a listen. That said, two things he said really stuck with me.
First, he talked about joy. As part of his discernment process, Habib had spent time thinking deeply about what brings him genuine joy, and it turned out that it wasn’t winning, or status, or even things like freedom and fun. When he reflected on real joy, it was inexorably tied to purpose and connection to others. The priesthood was a way to eliminate the distractions, the advertisements, the cultural voices driving us towards our socially defined version of success, and to stay focused on meaning and ultimately, happiness.
The second thing he discussed was ritual. In the monastic tradition, the religious pray together at specific times of the day. These are moments of community, sure, but they are something else also. They are times to reconnect with values. When I was in college, at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, sometimes I would join the monks for these daily prayers. It always felt a bit foreign to me, trying to keep up with the psalms and never quite knowing whose turn it was to say what. But the moments of quiet and contemplation, even though strange, helped center and refresh me and often changed how the rest of my day went.
Listening to Habib discuss the prayers made me think about the check-ins that I struggled with in the David Allen system. (Read more about check-ins here.) Without a community to be responsible to, I struggled to find the will to pause my task list and take the time to review and really think about my work. As Habib was talking, it dawned on me that the check-ins weren’t just about organization, they were about purpose. Reviewing *why* we are doing what we do is as important as reviewing *how*.
Obviously, the priesthood is an extreme choice. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know a good number of monks and nuns over the years, and the process of discerning one’s fitness for that vocation is years-long and quite intense. And for those who are genuinely called to that life, the vows and the ritual are truly fonts of joy and peace. But priests and sisters are a tiny percentage of the population. What does that mean for the rest of us who are not called to a monastic practice, or don’t even have a religious view of the world?
No matter what you believe about religion, I think monastic traditions hold an example for all of us about how we can think about purpose and our daily activities. People throughout the faith spectrum (including people with no faith) largely value the same things – love, family, community, health, connection, growth. Unlike our monastic friends, we may not take vows to stay dedicated in these areas, but we can nonetheless commit to practices that remind us of our core values.
In particular, taking time to check-in with ourselves is a key practice. Walking through our values to get clear on where we hope to focus is the first step (link). Next, creating space to review, refocus, and reset becomes the ongoing practice. Uzume is designed to make the check-ins as simple and straightforward as possible so that everyone can find the purpose and joy they seek.
If you can, think of it like a vow – a commitment to yourself and those you love to take the time you need to regularly find your clarity and purpose. Over time, these moments will become a source of energy and happiness for you and for all those around you. The monks have shown us the way.