Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Focus on Today

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Happy New Year! Most of us approach January 1st with hope and expectation. The new year signifies a fresh start and new beginnings. Social media is filled with New Year’s resolutions and advice for goal setting. In the midst of the excitement for striving for greatness, I would like to offer a different perspective. Instead of looking ahead to conquer thirty pounds or set action steps to achieve a goal in the next twelve months, simply focus on today.

This may seem odd coming from someone who believes in goals. After all, I’m pursuing a doctorate degree in Strategic Planning. Sometimes, though, the quest for success can suck the life out of us. We get so fixated on the future that we lose sight of the present. Worry, anxiety, and stress rule our lives rather than the peace of God. If you can relate, this blog post is for you. (I am taking these words to heart, too.)

Here are suggestions to help narrow the focus to today.

View this day as a gift from God. There are no guarantees that you will be alive tomorrow. I’m not being morbid or fatalistic. Our days are numbered. Approach the tasks in front of you as a blessing and a chance to be a blessing to others.

Remember that each day is an opportunity for a fresh start. You do not need to be defined by the shortcomings or failures of the past (or even yesterday). Learn from mistakes, but do not be chained to them. This day is a new day.

Identify one thing you can do today to help you thrive. I know there are dozens of things clamoring for your attention. It is better to do one thing important to your well-being than to get pulled in so many directions that you end up doing nothing. It is also more manageable to make wise choices today instead of thinking long term. You can more easily give up sugar today than give it up for the next twelve months.

Open your heart to God’s presence. Don’t allow yourself to worry about possible outcomes in the future, whether at work, with your family, or in your personal life. Stop going down the road of potential worst case scenarios. Acknowledge the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness. Express your trust in Him to take care of challenges.

When we live today, taking opportunities to honor the Lord and love others, it reduces the pressure caused by straining to achieve goals.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never ceases. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT).

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15 NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for this New Year. Help me to live it one day at a time, making the most of each opportunity to love You and love my neighbors. Remind me that You are always near every moment in the midst of every situation. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Servant Leadership, Vision & Goal Setting

Good Leaders Are Not Afraid to Dream

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My husband and I sat together on our love seat, cuddling in the quiet after a long work week. I was still trying to quiet my brain and put away the mental clutter I had brought home with me, when he broke the silence.

“What is your biggest dream?”

His question caught me completely off guard. It should have been an easy one to answer. But my mind scrambled to find something meaningful to say. It felt like my husband had been speaking a foreign language and I had no clue how to respond.

I am an achiever. If you look at any aspect of my life, I probably have goals written down and steps to accomplish those goals. It’s energizing to check off every item as finished on my to do list. I also keep a running list in my mind. Whenever something gets done, it’s rewarding to feel the weight of it lift (for a short time until something else gets added). One of my favorite things is strategic planning, to help figure out where an organization wants to be in three to five years, and then craft action steps for effectively moving that direction.

One of the qualities of a strong leader is vision. A strong leader can take a dream, translate it into vision so that others can see it, and then lead others to take the steps necessary to transform vision into reality. You can’t have vision without being willing to dream.

The requirement for leaders to have vision is challenging for me. You see, I’m not a dreamer by nature. In my younger years I wanted to accomplish goals with perfection. I colored within the lines and worked hard to be noticed for my precision and skill. I sacrificed to get top grades in school and for educators to acknowledge me. I set goals for myself, for my family, and ministry, but they were always goals I knew were reasonably within reach. Dreaming was scary. Dreaming requires imagining the impossible, taking risks, and stepping out in faith, all of which I avoided like the plague.

Nevertheless, the Lord has been stretching me little by little to develop vision. Because dreaming is a precursor to vision, He has also been teaching me to dream. It isn’t as scary as I once thought. Dreaming is opening my mind and heart to imagine what the Lord ultimately wants to do through an organization, a group, my family, or me. It may seem impossible or unlikely given the current circumstances, yet it reflects the Lord’s desires and will. As I continue to spend time with the Lord, the dream becomes solidified into a vision I can share with others.

In Genesis 12, the Lord placed a dream in the mind and heart of His servant, Abram. Although Abram had no children, the Lord called him to leave his homeland and promised that he would be the father of many nations. In Genesis 15, He told Abram to look at the stars in the sky as a visual representation of the dream. In the proceeding chapters, Abram (renamed Abraham) took steps toward accomplishing the vision and trusting the Lord to fulfill His promise. It all started with a dream.

As I have been learning to dream, I have discovered some hindrances to dreaming. One of them is operating in survival mode. It’s hard to imagine possibilities or even think positively when energy is spent to get through the day. Disappointment and discouragement have a way of stripping away faith, and it becomes difficult to see a better tomorrow let alone the preferred future.

Another hindrance to dreaming is operating in achievement mode. We can become so engrossed in accomplishing the next step and reaching the next goal that we forget why we are doing these things in the first place. I was deep in achievement mode when my husband asked me about my biggest dream. We need to keep the vision before ourselves and those we lead. We also need to continue to dream for our organizations, our families, and ourselves, to listen and follow the Lord’s directions, and to be actively engaged in His will.

What are some of your dreams?

What hindrances do you face to dreaming God-size dreams for your life, your family, your job, or other areas?

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4, NIV).

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

Yet [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised (Romans 4:20-21).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for placing me where I am for this season of my life. Help me to see things from Your perspective. Teach me to dream faith-filled dreams for myself, my family, and the various places you have called me. By Your Spirit, may I walk by faith and not by sight, trusting You to complete the work You have started. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Vision & Goal Setting

Hold Loosely to Your Plans

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Our society is enamored with setting goals. We make resolutions at the beginning of the new year. We believe in coaching for success, assisting people to identify action steps and then holding them accountable to follow through. There is powerful statistical evidence for the power of written goals and plans.

Unfortunately the ability to systematically create a plan gives us the illusion that we are ultimately in control. Our neatly packaged blueprint produces a sense of confidence in our own ability to make things happen. Whether or not we subscribe to making a plan for life or business, we (at least in the Western world) seem compelled by a desire to be in control and order the details of our lives. We like the idea that we are the master of our own destiny. We are controlled by the need to be in control.

If I’m pointing fingers, most of them are to myself. I’ve been around the block so many times with this issue of wanting to be in control. I like to know what’s coming next, to avoid being caught off guard by the unseen. I like the security of seeing ahead. In the past I have been emotionally derailed when something came into my life that was unexpected. It did not fit into my well-crafted plan, and I had trouble adjusting my course.

As Christ-followers, our first commitment is to the Lord Jesus Christ, to faithfully follow His will. It is a daily decision to seek His will and not own will. I’m not saying we should ditch our plans. Plans can be valuable tools in moving forward in God’s kingdom. However, our plans must never become the ruling idols in our lives. We need to hold loosely to our plans.

There are times in life when direction simply is not clear. You may know where you are supposed to go but God says, “Not yet.” And so you wait, and wait…continuing to do what you have been doing until He gives you the signal. Or perhaps, a door of opportunity may open to you that you have no desire to pursue, but the Lord confirms it’s where He wants you. Or, you may feel good about an opportunity and all indications are favorable, and then you get a rejection notice or you find out it wasn’t what you thought it would be.

There are so many different scenarios in which we may find ourselves, some brought about by others’ choices, some brought about by our own choices, others brought about by circumstances outside of our control. Each and every day, but especially during times of uncertainty, we must relinquish our need for control and declare our trust in the Lord. He is our source of strength and hope, the only stability in a changing world. Sometimes, by faith, we just need to take another step and believe Jesus will meet us there.

Proverbs 16:9 NLT
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Prayer:
Lord of Life, I offer my life, my dreams, my plans to you anew. Forgive me for the times I falter in my trust of you. Renew my faith in your goodness. Walk with me through times of doubt. Use me to accomplish Your will, whatever it looks like, for Your glory. In Jesus’ name.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development, Vision & Goal Setting

Life Lessons from Disc Golf

This weekend I played disc golf for the first time. Two of my sons have played it for years and have collected quite an assortment of discs designed for specific throws and distances. They have invited me many times to join them, but I have declined for one reason or another. This weekend, however, I had no excuses and I was willing to give it a try.

I enjoyed disc golf so much I agreed to play again with one of my sons early on Sunday morning before church service when others refused. After two times, I am definitely a fan. Please don’t think that I love the game because I am a natural at it. To the contrary, my performance was dismal. I scored way over par. I also looked comical as the lone matronly figure among athletic young men.

To me disc golf is fun, because it is an activity with simple, clear rules. It is done in a pleasant outdoor setting, and it provides a positive challenge. While walking the course with my son in the beautiful sunshine and refreshing breeze, I realized I could apply some life principles to my new interest of disc golf.

Find a mentor. Mentors pass on what they know. They offer perspective on what is good and how to improve. Before this weekend, I knew nothing about disc golf. After just two times of play, I have learned a little about technique and strategy. While I might have been able to figure it out on my own (highly doubtful in my case), I gleaned from the experience of others. I was able to put their suggestions into practice.

Set realistic goals. When first starting out, set short term goals that can be accomplished easily. It is encouraging to meet a goal quickly, and it builds motivation to pursue long range goals. My long range goal is to be able to score par. However, it currently takes me several throws to get my disc close enough to the basket to putt. Instead of focusing on the basket, I set a goal of getting the disc to an intermediate location (the trees at the half way mark). Once I made it there, my next goal was the basket. This method eliminated discouragement and frustration.

Celebrate progress. When achieving a goal, take time to savor the moment and reflect on what got you there. Don’t rush off to the next achievement. Score keeping is a handy tool for reflection. After each basket I thought about how many throws it took, what each throw was like, and then looked over the course that I completed before advancing to the next pole hole.

Avoid comparisons. Looking at the ability of others is a sure way to lose incentive. While we may be in a position of competition, true progress must be measured in terms of our own personal growth. My son, Jason, has sheer power and can drive his disc close to the basket. My son, Joseph, demonstrates grace as he releases his disc to glide effortless through the air to its destination. If I compared myself to them, this fumbling, clumsy beginner would have quit within the first five minutes of the game. Instead I work on improving my own technique, striving to drive the disc a little farther and developing greater control.

Enjoy the learning process. It is important to resist the tyranny of perfectionism. The desire to be perfect creates an inability to be flexible and teachable. Rather than laughing at and learning from mistakes, it cripples us from growing and moving forward. As a young woman and avid tennis player, I used to get so enraged at myself for poorly executed strategy that I would throw my racquet in a fit of rage. Decades later, my response to disc golf was pleasantly remarkable. I made plenty of errors. At times it seemed like my mind and body were disconnected. My mind would think one thing and my body would do it entirely different. Nevertheless, I made adjustments, was willing to experiment with drives and approaches, and had a lot of fun.

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Of the principles mentioned above, which ones do you need to adopt to help you thrive in life and leadership?

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding (Proverbs 4:6-7, NIV).

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend (Proverbs 27:17, NLT).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, be the center of my life today. Teach me how to grow in wisdom and abilities. so that I may thrive in my vocation and relationships. Help me keep my focus on You, the author and finisher of faith, and to glorify You in all things. In Jesus’ name.

Posted in Character, Faith

Be the Leader God Has Called You to Be

I spent an amazing Saturday at “She Leads: Her Voice,” a conference to empower women to lead where they are and release them to become who God designed. I was blessed to be included in the line up of speakers. However, at the end of the day, I felt that I had received so much more than I had contributed.

The Lord took 12 Ted-Talk-style messages, delivered by 12 women with diverse personalities, styles, and experiences (who did not confer ahead of time), and wove them into a tapestry with one common thread—being the leader God has called you to be.

I wish you had been there with me, to soak in the passion for Jesus and authenticity of heart for yourself. In an effort to give you a taste of the rich wisdom imparted through this event, I pass along some nuggets of truth.

  • Authentic leadership requires the willingness to be vulnerable, keeping an open heart during difficulties instead of numbing.
  • Only go where the Lord leads you, and then move forward with courage.
  • Separate seeking affirmation for what we are doing from seeking affirmation for who we are.
  • Stewardship involves more than money. It encompasses everything that we are and have. And, it all belongs to God.
  • Learn to manage God’s call to avoid burn out.
  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. It’s time to take your future back.
  • Learn to trust Jesus with your broken places. Hiding from brokenness creates a destructive emotional cycle.
  • God is concerned with the condition of your heart rather than how you look on the outside.
  • Make it your goal to reflect Jesus, not your expectations of who you should, could, or ought to be.
  • God’s goodness is seen through creation and His plans. The core of His goodness is seen through Jesus. When things are difficult and there are no answers, Jesus is enough.
  • When God calls you to lead, don’t limit His plans by your preconceived notions of what that looks like.
  • “You’re not doing it wrong.” There’s no “right way” to lead. There’s no “right way” to do you.

Be encouraged to lead where God has placed you, using the strengths and passion He has given you.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

The Power of the Plan

The Timekeeper has unleashed a sinister plot, speeding up time at an increasing rate. In league with Tick Tock, they will bring about the end of the world. The Organization of Super Spies comes to the rescue and stops the villains before it’s too late.

This weekend I watched “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World.” I’m not sure who selected this silly, cheesy movie on Netflix, but it had a winsome message: Don’t waste time on meaningless pursuits. Time is a gift to be cherished with the ones you love.

The older I get, it certainly seems that time is speeding up. Now that my kids are grown and I have the great joy of being a grandma, it is much easier for me to realize when “The Big Lie” rears its ugly head. “The Big Lie” says something like this: I’ll keep this frantic pace for just a little awhile. One day (hopefully soon) it will slow down and I’ll focus on the important areas of my life. I have all the time in the world.

The truth is…life isn’t going to slow down tomorrow or next week or next month without making an intentional plan to do so. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NIV). We don’t have all the time in the world. In order to fulfill what God has intended for us, we must manage well the time we’ve been given.

Life is too short to live without a plan.

I highly recommend creating a Life Plan. A Life Plan goes beyond setting goals. It approaches life from a holistic perspective, because every decision you make either adds or subtracts value to every part of your existence. You identify what is most important to you in life and then make steps toward investing in those areas.

There are many excellent online resources to assist in life planning. A life or leadership coach can walk you through the process, helping you discover your ideal future and preferred way to get there. Develop your own structure and style. Regardless of the systems and methods, making a plan is absolutely vital to intentional living.

Powerful Life Plans include the following steps:

Envision your ideal future. What do you want your life to look like in 20 years? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? What do you want people to say about you when you’re gone.

Identify the most important areas of your life. There are many areas that could demand your attention: Spiritual life, marriage, family, career, education, health, recreation, finances, ministry/service, social stewardship, personal development, pace of life, etc. However, you must narrow your focus. Select no more than eight categories and then prioritize them.

Identify supporting goals. For each life category, what preliminary goals will move you toward your ideal future? What objectives are you committed to accomplishing in partnership with the Lord? What action steps will lead you to these goals?

Schedule your priorities. If it’s important to you, put it on your calendar. Make sure all your action steps are included. My devotional time and observing a regular Sabbath are top priorities to me. Therefore, these actions are scheduled first.

Revisit your Life Plan often. Look at it regularly to remind yourself of your priorities and evaluate your progress. It is a living document and should be revised as necessary, based on God-given wisdom and foresight.

We don’t have all the time in the world. But by living intentional, proactive, Spirit-led lives, we can make the most of the time we have.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

Six Questions to Ask About Your Goals

Welcome to March! The third month of 2014 has officially begun. Remember those goals you set at the beginning of the year? How is it going? With two months behind you, this is a great time to pause and reflect on your progress. Gain more clarity and momentum for achieving your goals by answering some important questions.

Are my goals written?
If your answer is “no,” write them down. Whenever I go to the grocery store, even for a couple items, I need a shopping list. I admit, sometimes I lose it before I get there. Whenever this happens, I get distracted by all the bargains. I wander down the aisles, trying to remember what I came for. I end up wasting money, because I buy things I don’t need (after all, it was all on sale), or I waste time because I have to go back for the things I forgot. In a similar way, without written goals it is easy to get distracted. It may even cost you time and money before you get back on track.

Writing down your goals does a number of things.

  • It helps you remember them.
  • It reinforces your commitment to them.
  • It makes you accountable.
  • It gives you focus.

How often should I revisit my goals?
Having a written plan is important, but the power lies in keeping the plan continually before you. Some people begin each day by reviewing their goals. Others review their goals once a week. Decide the frequency that works best for you.

Only a small percentage of businesses that invest in the strategic planning process actually accomplish them. By far, the biggest reason is that, once created, the plan simply sits on the shelf. They continue doing business as usual without referring to their well designed plan.

Next, take a look at each of your goals and re-evaluate them with these questions.

Is this a goal I believe God wants me to pursue?
This really is the bottom line. Does the goal honor the Lord? Does the goal align with the teachings in God’s Word? Would this goal be approved by trusted, mature believers? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you have a goal that is not worth pursuing. If the Lord has indeed put the goal in your heart, He will help you accomplish it.

Is this a goal I am committed to?
It’s important to be honest with yourself. Goals are successfully accomplished through commitment. If you aren’t willing to persevere during challenges, your commitment level is low. In this case, it is better to change your goal to a good idea and focus on something else to which you will commit.

What obstacles am I facing in achieving my goal?
You’re committed to the goal, but you’re still having difficulty. Step back and objectively look at the situation. Identify the obstacles and problems. You may need to enlist support from a coach to ask questions to prompt discovery and learning.

What adjustments do I need to make?
In light of the obstacles, you may need to tweak your plan. You may need to change your time line. You may need to change your approach or take a detour. Ask God for His wisdom. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT).

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
If you can’t fly, then run.
If you can’t run, they walk.
If you can’t walk, them crawl.
But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.

Every choice you make is either bringing you closer to or farther away from achieving your goals. Choose wisely, and keep moving forward.