Posted in Personal Development, Vision & Goal Setting

Sometimes Less is More

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As a young woman, I didn’t need much sleep. I believed that sleep was a necessary evil that robbed me from living an exciting and productive life. I wanted to do great things for the Lord and I packed my schedule from early in the morning until late at night. I aspired to have an amazing marriage, raise fabulous kids, work full time in meaningful ministry, invest actively in my community, build close friendships, and pursue my education, all at the same time. In addition, I wanted to keep a spotless house, cook delicious dinners every evening, have a healthy body, and keep up with my hobbies. And of course, cultivating a growing relationship with Jesus was the top priority. I was definitely ambitious, and coffee was my constant companion.

At some point, though, my body began to rebel against the break-neck pace, and I became allergic to the caffeine in coffee. I can’t seem to remember which one happened first. What I do remember is the frustration and anger I felt at not being productive. Although I hadn’t successfully juggled everything in my life according to my excellent standards, that didn’t matter. Now there was no chance at blazing a big trail of glory for the Lord. After all, isn’t being busy the same as being productive?

You may be laughing or shaking your head at my belief system. The truth is, I didn’t really think about why I did what I did back then. All I knew is I wanted a life that really mattered. It wasn’t until I had to stop and take a step back at the situation I had created that I realized my crazy way of thinking.

It doesn’t seem that our culture has changed much in thirty years in regard to being busy. I know there are people that embrace the simple lifestyle. And, there are Christ-followers who adhere to practicing regular quiet time, Sabbath, and spiritual retreats. But still, what seems to be the most common compliant when you ask someone how they are doing?

“I’m so busy!” Although they lament the fact, they still wear it as a badge of honor.

I have learned and continue to learn that busy does not equal productive, and it certainly does not equal meaningful. Sometimes less is more. This applies to managing our time well.

A powerful strategic business plan will target three to five strategic initiatives on which to focus. Any more than five will dilute effectiveness. In a similar way, if we are going to live powerfully, we cannot spread ourselves too thin. Narrowing our focus to fewer things will increase our ability for real impact.

As I prepare to begin a doctoral program in January, I have been reminded that I cannot add 20 hours of study per week to an already full plate. I need to approach my education seriously and remove some good things off my plate. I haven’t figured out what that looks like yet. Thankfully (hopefully) I have some time.

There are some questions to ask ourselves as we consider how to spend our time.

  • Am I able to spend time on the things that are truly important to me rather than on just the things that are urgent?
  • If I could only spend time on five areas, what would they be? Remember to include relationships.
  • How much room is in my schedule to accommodate divine interruptions?
  • Does my pace of life center on tasks or people? What can be changed to allow more time to invest in others?
  • If my life were to end today, what regrets would I have?

It’s a constant temptation to pack our schedules with good things. It takes diligence to be prayerfully intentional about how we spend our days. Sometimes less is more. Saying yes to less will yield blessings and empower us to be more fruitful.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, teach me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom. Help me to be mindful that each day is a gift from you. Help me to be intentional in how I spend each day. Show me Your ways and Your will, so that I may honor You above all things. 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 Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

The Most Important Step of Effective Goal Setting

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I am all for making healthy and positive changes, but the statistics support my aversion. With a dismal 8 % success rate,1 I have personally committed to begin a new approach either before the year ends or well after the year has begun.

The biggest reason I avoid the New Year as a start date for change is this: New Year’s resolutions are seldom true resolutions based on the conviction and motivation necessary for success. They are typically good ideas based on what we think should happen. Rarely do they reflect a steadfast resolve to achieve something better, but rather are more like wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, January seems to be the prime time for leaders to set goals and engage in strategic planning. Regardless of the date on the calendar, it is crucial to consider your level of buy-in. Is this another good idea or passing fad, or are you deeply committed to doing what it takes to accomplish it over the long haul?

For the Christ-follower, the most important step of effective goal setting is to identify goals that are God-ideas instead of just good ideas. Make sure that your goals align with God’s direction. Books, seminars, and leadership blogs provide excellent tips and ideas. However, they may not necessarily work for you given your context and culture. They may not represent God’s mind for you and your organization during this particular season.

I realize there are volumes written about how to understand God’s will. Even with myriads of advice, it is still a topic that seems mysterious. After all, can we REALLY know His will? How can we distinguish God-ideas from good ideas? Admittedly, seeking God’s will is a faith venture, and I would never pretend to have the definitive answers. However, there are some simple steps that guide the process. I highly recommend keeping notes of your discoveries for easy reference.

  1. Ask the Lord for wisdom. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV).
  2. Pay attention to inspirational thoughts during prayer. Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. Because we belong to Him, we can recognize His voice (John 10:1-16).
  3. Be open to guidance from the Word of God. God speaks through His Word. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105, NIV).
  4. Enlist input from respected, mature believers. Benefit from the wisdom and insight of others. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22, NIV).
  5. Pray for clear direction. Ask the Lord to open doors of opportunity and to close doors that are not potential areas of focus (Revelation 3:8).

Spend time pondering Proverbs 3:5-6, as you seek God-ideas for your plans and goals.

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 (NLT).

When you trust in the Lord and seek His will, He will show you which path to take. He will reveal His goals to you, those God-ideas that are worth pursuing.

 

1. Dan Diamond, “Just 8 % of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It,” Forbes.com. January 1, 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/2/