Sometimes I call them challenges, because people resist the phrase resolutions, but I believe you can make resolutions and actually keep them.
Here’s the thing. I love a fresh start.
Perhaps it’s because grace is the doctrine I’ve needed so much, but there’s something about a clean slate, which motivates me towards achievement.
I’m like this with my desk at the office. I create stacks. Magazines to be read. Notes to be written. Lists to be completed. Bulletins from other churches. (I am always looking for better ideas.) Stacks, stacks, and more stacks. When the stacks are at capacity – I call it organized chaos.
Then one day I’ve had enough of the stacks and I go on a cleaning spree. I sort, file and trash until the top of my desk shows far more wood than paper. And I’m inspired to work again.
I love a fresh start.
I think this may be why I’m one of the people who appreciates New Year’s resolutions. It’s like a line on the calendar, which screams to me: FRESH START!
But, as much as I appreciate the value in them – beginning new things, stretching myself, making my life better – I’m like everyone else. I find it easier to make resolutions than to keep them.
How do we make resolutions we will actually keep?
Because resolutions – even the strongest ones – aren’t going to improve anything if you don’t follow through with them. In fact, they probably just make you more frustrated than before you made them. Who needs more frustration?
So, what can you do? Let me try to help.
First, write them down. This is huge. I’ve heard people say you are twice as likely to keep a written resolution than one you simply state in your mind.
Second, try not to have too many. You will be overwhelmed and give up before you start.
And, then, here are some ways to make the type of resolutions which you can keep. This help me.
5 ways to make resolutions you can actually keep:
Another word might be attainable. The resolution must make sense for you to actually be able to do this year. Saying you want to read 50 books in a year – because you heard someone else does it – and, yet you didn’t read any this past year is probably going to be a stretch. You might be able to do it, but it likely isn’t a reasonable goal.
Don’t be afraid of small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). The key is you’re trying to achieve something, which makes your life better. If you’re successful this year you can set a higher goal next year.
To be successful in keeping a resolution you need some way to monitor success towards it – certainly a way to know when you’ve achieved it. If your resolution is simply to lose weight you won’t be as motivated as if you say you want to lose a pound a week. You can track that goal and see your progress.
Obviously it will still require discipline, but there is something about a measurable goal which – for most of us – drives us to meet it.
This one doesn’t apply for every resolution, but does in many. Ultimately I have found I’m more motivated to reach goals, which change my life for the better over a longer period of time. It’s great to meet those milestone, once in a lifetime type of achievements – such as running a marathon, or writing a book.
And we should have those type goals in our life – and maybe a milestone resolution is reasonable for you this year. The problem I have seen is if we get off track on reaching them it’s easy to simply give up – maybe even write it off as an unreasonable goal. We feel defeated and so we quit making any resolutions.
In making New Year’s resolutions, I find I’m more successful if it’s something which I possibly adopt as a new lifestyle. Some examples would be changing my eating habits, beginning to exercise more often, Bible-reading, journaling, etc – again reasonable and measurable – but something I will sustain beyond the New Year.
This is key. Weight Watchers is a great example here of this principle. There is something about their system, which works, and part of it is the reporting portion – where you have to be accountable to others for your progress.
If you don’t build in a system of accountability – whether it’s with other people or some visible reminder of your resolution and progress – it’s easy to give up when the New Year euphoria begins to fade.
This may be the most important and the least practiced. One secret to actually achieving your resolution may be to find the “carrot”, which will continually motivate you to stretch for the finish line.
If losing weight is a goal it could be a new suit or dress when you reach a pre-determined number. Running a marathon is your goal? If this is a reasonable resolution for you this year it could be you run the marathon in some destination city you can’t wait to visit. If it’s reading your Bible through in a year – promise yourself a new Bible at the end of the year.
The reward should fit the degree of stretching and effort it took to accomplish the resolution. This often serves as a good incentive to helping you reach your goals – especially during the times you are tempting to quit trying.
I hope this will help. It does for me.
I have some daily disciplines in my life now, which started as New Year’s resolutions. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found resolutions can help me start the year with fresh goals, and the discipline towards achieving them helps me have more discipline in other areas of my life.
Here’s to a great New Year! God bless!
The verdict appears mixed among the people I know of whether of not they make resolutions for a new year. And I understand. Many have tried before – it didn’t work – and so now they are like “why bother?”. But I believe we should all think of ways we can challenge ourselves to improve in each new year.
I believe there are probably some principles in place as to whether or not a resolution succeeds. For example, is it reasonable? Is it measurable and sustainable? Do you have accountability in place?
Plus, I wonder if the term itself is a problem for some people. RESOLUTION. I hereby resolve! Sounds kind of formal, almost intimidating, doesn’t it? I hate to say I’m resolving to do something where chances are good I won’t.
However, I strongly believe we should work towards continual improvement in our life, whether this begins at the first of the year or in the middle doesn’t matter as much. But, the new year does provide a nice, clear place to start.
So, I like to offer a spin on the old resolution tradition and offer a new word.
How does that word resonate? Do you ever challenge yourself to do better? It’s easier than saying I resolve to do this. You’re not saying you will – you may not even be able to – it will be a challenge, but you’re willing to give it a try.
Let me give you some examples, some which may be challenges for you want to consider. I guarantee if you meet just a few of these challenges your world will be better. You won’t need to meet all of them, just the ones most “challenging” to you. But you’ll have to trust me in this – meeting them or even improving upon them – will brighten your life.
12 ways to challenge the new year:
Quit trying to be someone else
God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake. The more you live the you He intended the more you’ll enjoy the benefits and blessing. There’s something you can offer this world no one else can. Comparison only leads to disappointment.
Quit trying to carry all your burdens
And the challenge here for you may be to quit trying to carry everyone else’s burden. God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you can do it anymore – and ask for help. In your weakness He is strong, but you’ll have to admit your weakness before He usually allows His strength to kick into full gear.
Start embracing today
You can keep hoping your life improves – that this would happen or that would happen. The Apostle Paul said he had learned “the secret of being content”. I’ve personally defined contentment in my life as “being satisfied with where God has allowed me to be in life – right now.” When you begin to find contentment TODAY becomes a great day – in spite of the challenges it holds. Perhaps your greatest challenge in the new year will be embracing where God has you now and waiting more patiently for what He will bring in the fullness of time.
Let the past go
As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3, “Wherever the tree falls, there it lies.”. So simple, yet so profound! It speaks volumes to me. If the tree fell there it lays. You can’t do anything about it now. It’s done. Finished. On the ground. All you can control now is your response to the tree which fell.
If grief is holding you back by all means grieve. It is healthy to mourn a loss. (Get help if needed.) But at some point you will need to move forward. If it’s regret then reconcile the loss. When guilt, or disappointment, or anger – whatever “it” is from your past deal with it now. Admit the tree fell. It hurt. It stinks. You probably wish it hadn’t happened, but, I challenge you to move forward in the new year.
Accept God’s grace
It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it. Is the guilt of your past keeping you from enjoying all the blessings of being a child of God? Has there never been a time you received the gift of salvation?
Have you been living more like a prodigal in exile than a child of the King? If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. If the Son has set you free you are free indeed! I challenge you to embrace grace in the new year.
Live free of grudges and bitterness
The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness. Someone reading this is holding on to a grudge, some bitterness, maybe anger – and it’s keeping you from fully enjoying life. Every time you hear a person’s name or see them you are reminded of the injury they caused. The reality is it is hurting you more than it is them. Chances are they’ve moved on and you’re still struggling. Isn’t it time to let it go? (Let it go could be a “Frozen” song you need to sing to yourself.)
Remember other people exist
Don’t be selfish or always command your way. People, even the best people, will never perform to all of your standards. Honestly, is it even fair to expect it from them? They may not even agree with you as to what is important. You cannot hold people to unrealistic expectations and not be disappointed often.
And here’s a note to those of us disappointed with the things of this world. As followers of Christ, we can’t expect that everyone sees the world as we do. Of course, there are biblical principles through which we view the world and live, but can we really expect people who aren’t believers to embrace them?
Admit mistakes readily
Sincere humility is an attractive quality and it helps to free you from future regrets or guilt. We all can have “perfectionist” tendencies, yet none of us is perfect. If you want to live with less self-induced stress this year, admit you don’t have all the answers and sometimes you have none.
Giving opens the heart to joy and contentment. Something happens when we give to others which causes us, though we have less, to feel like we have more. And, there are many needs around us. I challenge you to give more in the new year and see how it makes your life better!
Protect your heart
“Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also. Most likely there are activities, or people, or places where your heart is most easily injured. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can be aware so you can “guard your heart”. And when you are aware you may be injured you will build guardrails to lessen the damage.
Take a new risk
The adrenaline of attempting something you’ve never done before fuels you for future success. It could be something you’ve always wanted to try or something you know God wants you to do, but, for whatever reason, you’ve resisted. Especially if it’s God-honoring, not sinful, will make your life or other’s life better, then what are you waiting for? Don’t let fear or thoughts of your inadequacies be your chief motivators in the new year. I challenge you – GO FOR IT!
Think and act eternally
There is more to this life than the world we know today. Thankfully, I might add. Jesus said to “store up treasures in heaven”. Whenever possible, I challenge you to consider the eternal consequences of the decisions, investments, and actions of your life.
Jesus said to live in this world, but not be of this world. How are you making a difference in the world to come by your world today? The more intentional you are the more treasures you build for a future reward.
Which challenge for the new year are you willing to accept?
How do you create more time margin in your week – with an already packed schedule?
Isn’t this a great question?
How do you create more margin – to do the things you want to do and the things you need to do?
Here are a 7 tips to help create more time margin:
Start your day with God.
Of course a pastor would say this, but it is amazing if I start the day talking to God how much it helps me all day. Something about pausing long enough to center my day helps me start in a more productive way.
Prioritize your life.
What do you value most? Without knowing this we find ourselves chasing after many things that have lesser value.
Most of us form bad habits or have unorganized methods of doing something that waste bulks of our time. Make a list of what you spend the most time doing and see if there are places you can cut.
Schedule times to organize.
Spending an hour or two planning the week will make the whole week more productive. Develop some system of calendaring your week. Usually for me this is the first part of my week. As a result I know where I’m headed and my work space is organized for efficiency. That makes it much easier to handle distractions, which are sure to come.
Don’t say yes to everything and carefully use your no.
Be picky with your time allotment based again on your end priorities and goals. And no is not a bad word.
Schedule down time.
Especially when my boys were younger, I would write time on my calendar for them. This allows you to be there and keeps things and others from filling up your schedule. (I still schedule this time with Cheryl – and, it sounds counterproductive, but we get away even more frequently during busier seasons.)
Evaluate your schedule often.
Plans should not be implemented and then ignored. Develop your plan to create margin in your life, then periodically review the plan to see how you are doing and what needs to be changed.
For some people just reading this is laborsome. I especially encourage those of you geared this way to push through the difficult part of this and give it a try. You will be surprised what a positive difference it will have on your life.
Here’s a reality I came to a year of so ago. We have placed so much energy investing in the next generation of leaders that we’ve left a ton of leaders my age wondering how to remain relevant and useful.
Several experiences led to this discovery. Here’s one example.
I am 56 years old and hope to work at least another 15 years. And I said “at least”. If I’m going strong I hope to go even longer.
A chance encounter.
I was at a conference representing Leadership Network. We were doing good stuff working with the next generation of leaders. We had just announced a new initiative with a super-sharp millennial group. I believed in it and was excited about it.
After a session, I was stopped by a pastor about my age. He posed a serious question. He commented on the new millennial group and then asked, “What about me? I’m 55. Who’s going to help me figure out the next phase of my life? I’m not ready to talk about transition. Do I need to get some skinny jeans or what?”
Wow! His question stung a little. He was only semi-joking.
It stung in two ways. First, because we are the same age. Second, he was right. Most of our energy as an organization – and really Kingdom-wide – was/is on the next generation of leaders. Again, I believe in it, but many pastors and leaders our age and older still have an incredible amount to offer.
We could expect them to be mentors now – simply give back – and while they certainly should all of us need people pouring into us – at every age. (And, likewise, we all need to be pouring into others.)
So, I told him to get some skinny jeans. Just kidding. Please don’t.
But that conversation started a new ministry in my mind. I began calling it “Second Wind Ministry“. I actually own a domain by that name.
I’ve helped lots of churches find their “second wind” through church revitalization. Could I actually help some leaders do the same?
Here’s the deal. Many people my age – and older – aren’t looking at transition yet. They aren’t thinking succession yet. We probably should be, but we are thinking more about how to finish strong.
Like my pastor friend, I want to ramp up not slow down.
I was sharing these thoughts with a 70 year-old man in ministry and he said, “Heck, I’m 70 and I think I feel I’m just getting started.” That’s who I want to be in 14 more years.
I’m still getting started with this second wind ministry idea, but let me share some initial thoughts.
Here are 7 suggestions for finding your second wind:
Admit the need.
You’re not as “relevant” as you used to be. That’s okay. In actuality, you’re likely relevant in some ways you can’t even imagine. You have things to offer the world you didn’t have 20 years ago. Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know.
Know who you are.
Don’t try to be anyone other than you. This is a season where you have tested a few things. You’ve had failure and success. What were you good at doing? Where did you stink? Hone your best skills. You were uniquely designed for a definite purpose. You’ve likely taught that principle to others. Discover and live it for yourself.
Keep learning new things.
Always be teachable and always be learning. Even more than ever before, if you’re not reinventing yourself every few years you’re behind. Commit to learn something new.
Personally, I hope to be a life-long learner. I have two masters degrees and am hoping to finally finish my doctoral dissertation in the next year. Then I want to learn to speak another language. Stretch your mind.
Become a people-builder.
You have something to give back. Invest what you’ve learned in others. Celebrate other people’s success. The fact is the more you share what you know with others the more valuable you become to all of us. It truly is your “best life”.
Plan your legacy.
How will you be remembered? More importantly, how do you want to remembered? How close are those answers to each other? If they’re not close enough what changes do you need to make now to bring them closer?
My father made some mistakes in life. He spent the last couple of years of his life intentionally trying to make right all his close relationships. That tremendously improved his legacy in my mind.
Take some new risks.
I said earlier we all need mentors. One of mine is 82 years old. He is still going strong. When he was 80 he was talking about a new business he wanted to start. He’s still “working on it” today. He sat with me recently and asked what we could do radically different to impact the Kingdom. That’s who I want to be when I grow up someday.
Leave when it’s time.
This is the hardest one to write, but sometimes we stay too long. I can’t tell you how many stories I know of pastors and leaders who think they should have left a few years earlier.
By the way, that doesn’t mean they should do nothing. It could mean they do something their whole life has prepared them to do. They couldn’t have done it without the years of experience – success and failures – that have shaped them into who they are today.
Second wind ministry.
I know there’s a need. If my coaching/consulting can help you think through finding your second wind – at your church or personally – please let me know.
Today I officially begin working for myself. It’s not the first time I’ve stepped into an unknown (I actually think we are supposed to throughout our life), but it seems a bit more daunting in my mid-fifties. (And I realize I’ve got nothing on Abraham or Moses.) Still, I’m totally excited about the days ahead.
Follow THIS LINK if you’re just now reading about this season of transition and want to read more of our story. Basically, we felt we had finished our work and were ready for something new. Plus we really want to be closer to family and community again.
I have to be transparent, this is totally a self-serving post. I’m not sure I’ve ever done a post quite like this one, but I sat on it for several weeks. The fact is I’ve been asked frequently over the last couple months how people can assist me in this new transition Cheryl and I are entering. I love that I have a network of people through this blog, my ministry and our friends who want to support us and don’t take that lightly.
I greatly appreciate the question, so I thought I’d share a few ideas.
Here are 5 ways you can help:
Pray. Timing is critical in all this, especially for the first quarter of 2020. December wasn’t the best time to enter something new. Most of my future “clients” were busy with Christmas preparations during the month and it was not the best time to sell a house. But this is the way the Lord worked in our life and His timing is always perfect.
We need to sell our house in Dallas, find a place to live in the Nashville area, and I need to book enough work to pay the bills. It’s that simple.
Again, we have done this before and know God will provide. We have already seen incredible evidence of how He is already working. I have a long list of prospective opportunities, but need discernment in processing them. God’s timing is perfect, but we know He responds to the prayers of His people. Thanks in advance for your prayers.
Engage with me on social media. As I always told our church, the power of social media is huge. It might seem like a little thing, but it’s actually not. In this new season it is going to be even more important that I have an active online presence. You could help me greatly if you would connect with me on LinkedIn, “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Signing up to receive this blog post by email will also help.
Order my book The Mythical Leader. I have been amazed at the positive feedback I have received from this work. I was so engaged in my job as a pastor when it was released that I didn’t promote it as well as I should have. It would be great to get new traction on it now. And, if you’re so inclined, leave a nice (5 Star) review on Amazon.
I think I have more books in me and selling more of this one would be an encouragement. You can actually find my Amazon page here with a few other resources. I plan to add more soon.
Hire or refer me. If you are leading in a church or organization and think I can help you, I would love to talk. I have experience in business, government, nonprofits and church – including church revitalization and planting.
I’m best when we are strategic-thinking, brainstorming, and creatively generating new ideas together. That could be helping to develop you and/or your team. I could even add capacity to your team as an “adjunct staff member”.
You can also refer me to your church or organization. Someone asked, “If you could do anything, what would you do.” I think I would spend more time helping leaders, churches and organizations succeed. I prefer to be onsite when possible so we can use a whiteboard and dream and plan together.
If you know of somewhere I might be able to help, please pass my name along. (You can email me through this blog or contact me through any social media site.)
Send me your ideas. I’ve been amazed at the number of people who have taken the time to send a note of encouragement or offer some idea of a way I can help the Kingdom. That’s huge for me. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. I shared some ways in the announcement post, and I have a number of others, but I’m confident there are things I’ve simply not considered.
I told you this was a self-serving post. Thanks for reading and, even more, thanks for being a friend to Cheryl and me during this season of transition. We couldn’t be more excited about the days ahead. God is faithful and we look forward to what He has for us in the days ahead.
Blessings and Happy New Year,
I’ve always been considered a fairly disciplined person. There are certain disciplines that have made me who I am today.
In especially busy or stressful times of life, however, I do not always feel as disciplined in each area of my life. I may excel in one area, but not in another.
The only solution I know to remedy a lack of discipline is to add discipline. I also know that if I repeat a discipline long enough, it becomes a habit – part of the DNA of my daily life. This process has worked for me before. With that in mind, I’m adding some discipline to my life. I’ve done this before and it forms healthy habits I carry on throughout the year.
For the next 90 days, I’m attempting to improve in seven areas of discipline.
For the next 90 days, I plan to add these 7 personal disciplines:
Eat – I am what I eat many times. When I over-eat or eat the wrong foods I gain unnecessary weight and don’t feel as well as I should. My goal here is to average eating between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day and to monitor the type foods I eat.
Pray – I know prayer is a life source. I’ve seen the results of prayer. Prayer doesn’t always change things the way I’d want them to be, but prayer always changes me. It gives me strength, comfort and confidence. Why don’t I pray more? My goal is to pray throughout my day, recognizing God is with me always.
Read – I need to be regularly reading my Bible and supplementing it with Christian and leadership books. I can be legalistic about Bible reading, but the discipline I need is to read it for relationship (with God), not just for education. Part of being discipled by others happens as I read other work. My goal here is to always be reading through a Bible book I’m not preaching about, journal about my Bible reading and to read at least one chapter of another book every day.
Write – I’m introverted, so I process information many times by writing. I’m fairly disciplined with my blog, but I have some larger projects I should be working on. My goal here is to average one hour extra writing time per weekday. I may do that in a couple days per week, but want to maintain that as a total hours each week to write.
Exercise – I know this is a secret to my productivity. My goal here is to do cardio 4 days per week minimum and exercise with weights 2 days per week.
Sleep – Through my life I haven’t usually needed a ton of sleep, but that has changed as I have gotten older. My goal here is lights out by 10:15 and to take short power naps as needed – and not feel guilty about them.
Pause – Anyone who knows me well knows I have a hard time staying still long. I do take a “Sabbath” and believe everyone “rests” in their own way, but this is a discipline to have some time during the week where I do absolutely nothing. My goal here is to have a 2 to 3 hour time each week when I pause from all activities. (I can assure you this will be the hardest discipline to complete.)
I’m excited about living a more disciplined life.
Do you want to join me? Would you commit to disciplining yourself in each of these areas over the next 90 days?
You can change the details of each discipline, you may need more calories or less, you may choose a different exercise, etc. (For example, the graphic I used is from when I did this several years ago. I no longer run like I did then. I’ll likely do this time on the elliptical or with fast walking.)
The key is to be disciplined in 7 critical areas of your life.
And don’t be legalistic about it either. This is not meant to bring another burden to your life. It is meant to help you be relieved from some – eventually. If you mess up one day just begin again the next.
Who is with me?
Which of this will be hardest for you to do?
I’m a reflective person. This time of year, when we start to see all the “best of” reflections online and in the news, I like to do my own personal reflection. How was the year? What can we learn from it? How can I do better next year?
I think its a great exercise.
Perhaps you need a little help getting started. Take a couple hours over the next week or so – get alone – and reflect.
Here are five questions to get you started:
What was great?
List some of the highlights of your year. What gave you the most pleasure in life? Make sure they merit repeating – sin can have an immediate pleasure – but plan ways to rekindle those emotions in the new year. Most likely they involve relationships. The new year is a great time to plan some intentional efforts to strengthen relationships – spend more time with family and friends.
Maybe you enjoyed the times you spent writing. Take some intentional steps to discipline yourself to do that more. Remember how good it felt that day you served people less fortunate than yourself? Well, now you know something you need to do more of in the new year.
What wasn’t great?
Think of some things that are draining to you personally. Again, it may be some relationship in your life. It could be a job or a physical ailment. It could also be that whatever it is that isn’t great has been around for more than a single year. But chances are you’ve never taken the hard steps to do something about it. Sometimes recognizing those things is the first step to doing something about them. (Your answer may be that a relationship has ended – and there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe this is your year to move forward again – even in spite of the pain.) Could this be the year?
What can be improved?
Sometimes it isn’t about quitting, but working to make something better that makes all the difference. Intentionality can sometimes take something you dread and make it something you enjoy. I’ve seen couples who appeared destined for divorce court turn into a thriving marriage when two willing spouses commit to working harder (and getting outside help if needed).
I was out of shape in my mid-thirties. I’m healthier today in my 50’s than I was then. The change began in one year – one decision – one intentional effort. Conventional wisdom says a new habit begins in 21 days, but some now believe it may take as long as 66 days to really get a habit to stick. But would it be worth it if you really began a daily Bible reading habit? Or the gym really was a part of your life more than just the first couple weeks in January? Maybe this is your year to get serious about improving some area of your life.
What do I need to stop?
Maybe you need to stop caring so much what other people think. Maybe you need to stop overeating. Perhaps you need to stop worrying far more than you pray. It could be you need to stop believing the lies the enemy tries to place in your mind. Maybe you need to stop living someone else’s life – and start living the life God has called you to.
Perhaps you need to stop delaying the risk – and go for it! Most of us need to stop procrastinating. Do you get the idea? Sometimes one good stop can make all the difference. What do you need to stop doing this year, so you can reflect on this year as your best year ever? Start stopping today!
What do I need to start?
Think of something you know you need to do, but so far you’ve only thought about it. Maybe you started before but never committed long enough to see it become reality. Often, in my experience, we quit just before the turn comes that would have seen us to victory. Is this the year you write the book? Is this the year you pursue the dream?
Could this be the year you mend the broken relationship? What would the year be like if you finish the degree? Is this the year you get serious about your financial well-being – planning for the future? Maybe this is the year you surrender your will to God’s will – and follow through on what you know He’s been asking you to do? Perhaps getting active in church is your needed start this year. Start starting today!
When I’m answering questions like this, I like to apply them to each area of my life – spiritual, physical, relational, personal, financial, etc. Reflect on your life with God, with others, and with yourself. This can be a powerful exercise.
Try answering some of these questions and see how they help you start your best year ever!
I remember the day God said something to me!
Well, one of the days. Thankfully I’ve had a few powerful days when I sensed the Creator spoke clearly.
But I’ll be honest, as someone who is supposed to teach others how to have a relationship with God, and to actually hear from God, I’m always somewhat startled when He chooses to speak directly to me. (To be clear, most of the time I have heard God speak it has been through His written word and I know whatever I think I’m hearing would never contradict His word.)
Anyway, a number of years ago, He said something to me that I try to remember in life and leadership.
Let me set up the scenario for you, so you’ll understand the context.
On this particular week I was at the beach. My oldest son, Jeremy, was getting married and our youngest son Nate was his best man. I got to perform the ceremony. How cool is that? It was one of my all time favorite moments as a dad.
Anyway, on this morning I went for a morning run. As a runner, when I was out of town I normally ran farther, because the scenery changed. I had run 4 1/2 miles before I realized how long I’d been running. I decided to stop, buy a cold drink, and sit and look at the beach for a few minutes before running back. (Oh how I wish I could still run 9 miles in a day.)
As I was sitting there, I became enchanted with the size and power of the waves. I watched a little boy running away from them, and nearly get knocked down by one. I saw a couple walking the beach get splashed unexpectedly. Mostly, however, I just saw the beach being pounded by wave after wave after wave. I have been to the beach many times and I never get tired of watching the ocean display God’s glory. In that moment, I did as I’ve done so many times before sitting at the beach – I bragged to God about His handiwork.
I prayed something like this, “God, this is so majestic, so powerful, and You made it all. Every powerful wave I’m seeing today was hand-shaped by You! You are a mighty God! You do huge things! You are so incredible and worthy to be praised! What a mighty God I serve!”
Have you ever had such emotions flood you when you see God’s creation?
Anyway, as I was praying, I sensed God say something else. It was almost as if He said, “Hold on Ron, (I always love that He knows my name) you’re talking so fast and thinking so big, you may have missed something.” I paused to listen to God and it seemed I heard Him say:
“In the process of thinking big, don’t forget to think small.”
I sensed it was Him, because I recalled the verse in Zechariah, which says, “Do not despise these small beginnings”. I also know God counts hairs on our head and He notices the sparrow. He apparently took time to “paint” the tiny spots on a Lady Bug also.
Then this passage came to my mind:
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. Psalm 139:17-18
Instantly, I looked down and noticed the sand all around me. I was reminded that God made every grain of sand. I’ve been told that no two grains of sand are the same. And my God knows each one of them. The Bible seems to indicate God may know how many grains there are. (Or at least He could count them.) I think He does. He’s all-knowing.
I don’t know exactly all God was teaching me in that moment. I know I’m a big thinker. I always have a new dream. I was currently in a season of planning big things – good, hopefully God-honoring things. It is one of my favorite things to do.
I don’t think He was telling me not to think big. He gave me my creative mind. I’ll obviously never out-think Him and He tends to stretch us towards bigger dreams in His word (“No eye has seen, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared”).
I think He may have simply, kindly and gently reminded me that “In the process of thinking big, don’t forget to think small.”
I think He may not want me overlook the smallest moments of life, such as holding the hand of the one I love, or hearing a baby giggle in the coffee shop, or the glance at a picture on my desk that reminds me of my wonderful family – or turning on the faucet and getting clean water to fill my glass. Sometimes in leadership I can be so focused on the overwhelming problems and obstacles we face that I fail to notice and celebrate the small steps of progress we are making.
You could add your own small things you shouldn’t take for granted.
Sometimes the small things ARE the big things.
How are you doing at enjoying the “seemingly” small things of life?
I love working with young leaders. I have to say it’s one of my favorite parts of leading. I have two incredible young leaders as sons. (The picture with this post is with them years ago – taken the day we moved from Tennessee to Kentucky.)
Occasionally, when I am talking to a younger leader something becomes apparent. They often think what they are experiencing is unique. And perhaps more surprising, they think their struggle is no longer mine – like somehow I’ve “outgrown” their struggles as a leader.
After experiencing this numerous times, I was prompted to write a post. These are simply some things you need to understand to be a leader long-term.
Here are 10 realities every young leader needs to know:
At times you will feel overwhelmed.
You know the feeling, right? Like you can’t get it all done and you’re not sure you know where to start. Those feelings don’t ever leave you completely as a leader. There will be seasons where they are stronger than others, but if you’re doing anything of value you will occasionally feel overwhelmed. These times are a part of life – and work. Something you’ll never completely outgrow.
You’ll not always know what to do.
You don’t ever get to a point in life where you’ve learned everything. You get better at some things. Okay, lots of things. Obviously, wisdom and experience has its benefits. But, regardless of your age, if you’re doing anything productive you’ll learn something knew everyday.
Seldom will you be 100% certain.
Whenever you’re making decisions – like the really big decisions of life – you’ll seldom be absolutely, without any reservations, fully convinced it is the absolute best decision. You’ll always have an element of risk in your life. You will be forced to move forward by faith – based on the best information you know at the time (from your own experience and the collective wisdom of others) – then trusting God with what you don’t know.
And this is a good thing. It keeps you grounded and on your knees before God.
Sometimes it’s just for the learning experience.
And this is huge to understand. Perhaps it’s a job you don’t particularly like. Maybe you put all your effort into a project and it doesn’t work – or its not as good as you thought it would be. You might try a new business and the business fails. It’s easy to get frustrated – even to lose hope. But the process will teach you something if you allow it to. And the value of the learning experience may prove to be life-changing for you in years to come. Never miss the life principles intended for you.
You’ll many times feel under-appreciated.
There will be lots of things you do that no one will notice. You may be doing great things – trophy-deserving things. It may appear at times like no one noticed or even cares. And this may not be true. They may simply be living a full life like you are – overwhelmed like you are – and they simply didn’t take the time to let you know how much you are appreciated.
Plus, the more you do something well, the more it becomes expected and the less recognition you receive for it. But all this can leave you feeling under-appreciated if you dwell on it too long. Like all leaders who last, eventually we have to find our reward in the knowledge and personal satisfaction of our work well done as much, if not more, than the public recognition of our work.
People are watching.
If you position yourself to lead in any way, you become a target of spectators. What you do, what you say, and what you post on social media – people are watching. Some will agree. Some will not. Some will agree just to get on your good side, but disappoint them and they will leave. Some will not agree because they are jealous of a leader with an opportunity.
All this said, don’t shy away from people. This never the right response. Just be aware. Be gentle as a dove and wise as a serpent. And, while you have people watching, lead them somewhere noble – better than their current reality. This is what great leaders do!
Learn the words of successful leadership early.
The words of a leader carry great weight. Don’t make it “my” team or your leadership won’t be very successful and no one will buy-in to the team except you. A leader’s words should always be inclusive rather than exclusive. Become a fan of words like “we”, “us” and “ours”. The more you include people, the more they’ll feel included (see how simple this is) and they’ll be more likely to suffer with you for the win. Great teams are shaped by leaders who value the input of everyone on the team.
Sometimes, if we believe in something strong enough, we have to be willing to stand alone.
This a hard reality in a world which tries to force sameness and is critical of anyone who doesn’t follow whatever is “in” at the time. But if you do anything of value – or believe anything strongly enough – sometimes you have to stand single until others catch on or until you find supporters. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to advisers. You should. You should have mentors and be open to constructive criticism. I never make major decisions without the input from others. But don’t give up what you know to be right – especially those things you sense God is calling you to do – because it isn’t popular. Always be willing to admit when you are wrong. Be very humble – never arrogant or self-serving – but stand with courage when you know in your gut you’re right.
Great things start with humble beginnings.
“Do not despise these small beginnings…” (Zechariah 4:10) Don’t be afraid of starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. This is still a viable option – and the reward feels greater when you build something the hard way. The greatest reward often comes when there has been plenty of sweat, tears, and times of waiting.
And never underestimate the power of a moment. One moment can easily change a life.
You have to discipline yourself to decompress.
It’s not usually built-in to the system. During the busy seasons of life – when there’s plenty of work to do and time is of the essence – which is most of our life if we set out to be leaders, you’ll have to discipline yourself – to rest, to re-calibrate, to refocus and to rediscover the passion which once fueled you.
Perhaps to re-connect, if needed, to a deep intimacy with God. You have to discipline for these things. You’ll seldom have a leader above you or a system in place which forces this upon you. And it’s life-essential. Don’t neglect your soul. Never neglect your soul.
These are obviously random, but in my life they’ve become realities. For some of these, if you don’t understand them, you may think something is abnormal about you. Although, I guess another reality I have learned, is there something abnormal about all of us. Enjoy the abnormal part of you also. God makes no mistakes.