Friday, August 26, 2016

It Comes Down To A Simple Choice, Really

It's personal comfort.  No build up.  No suspense.  It's simple and it's true.  Your desire for personal comfort is the single biggest roadblock to you following your God-given passions and achieving your goals.  How do I know?  Because I've fallen into the same trap.  

The last time I was in the trap was 2013-2014.  During 2009-2012, I put myself way out on a limb following a dream and I fell.  I failed and it hurt.  It hurt me and it hurt my family.  And it took a long time to dig out of the financial and emotional holes I had dug for myself.  What I craved more than anything was stability.  Finally, in very late 2012, I got a good job and it's gotten better ever since. About a year later, Sara got a new (and much better paying) job. By the end of 2014, we had achieved the stability we craved so much.  But, do you know what I realized?  I wasn't fulfilled by that stability. While it felt good to be stable, it wasn't fulfilling.  I gained weight. I felt frustrated.  I didn't know what to do next.  It was only after I stepped back, assessed my life, set some goals and got to work at the beginning of 2015 that my fulfillment and drive returned.

While stability is a basic human need, it's not a good end goal.  Now, stability is necessary to be the springboard to launch you toward your next goal, but stability most certainly should not be the goal.  But, we make it the goal way too often. And then we get stuck.  How many people do you know who make good money, have a good family, seem to have no reason to be unhappy, but are still unhappy? Plenty, right?  Are you one of them?  It's pretty easy to figure out why. You were created for some reason.  And that reason is not to just live a boring life of comfort, ease, and stability.

Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) said it best in "The Shawshank Redemption", "I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really.  Get busy living or get busy dying."

There is no such thing as stability in the human existence.  We are at our best when we live in the tension between what is and what could be.  Don't fall for the lie that tells you maximizing your comfort will maximize your fulfillment. The truth is that living out your God-given passion will maximize your fulfillment.  Get busy living.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Most Courageous Decision Is . . .

I don't know about all cultures, but in our Western culture, courage is highly revered.  It's the stuff heroes are made of.  We tend to think courage is a lack of fear and our heroes must be impervious to self-doubt, but it's not true.  Quite the opposite. Courage is choosing to step in the right direction, despite the fear you feel.  And guess what?  You don't have to be a hero to choose the courageous path.  In the last couple months, I've had some conversations with three different friends who have made or are in the process of making courageous decisions. Although I'm thinking about three separate men, who made three separate decisions, they all had to face the same truth and embrace the same statement about themselves. "I'm not the guy for the job."

In the case of my three friends, they all felt like they were no longer the guy for the job that God had clearly called them to. Can you imagine this?  How do you reconcile a perceived God-given calling and then have the courage to walk away?  Two of my friends were pastors and one pulled his name out of the running for a job he wanted very much at a company he wants to work for. Why?  Because they knew what we all know, from time to time.  I'm not the guy (or girl) for the job.  

You've felt it.  We've all felt it.  The problem is that not all of us have the courage to face it and it's implications.  I know this because I once had to face such a reality and the implications that went with it.  Once upon a time, I was a church planter.  I left a steady and stable life in Pennsylvania to start the next world-changing mega-church in Oklahoma.  It was a move full of unknowns and risks.  There was no doubt that it was a God-given calling. But, what I learned is that not all God-given callings are destined to finish the way I think they might.  Below is an excerpt from a book manuscript I'm working on.  It chronicles an experience I had in a coaching group I was part of.  This was the moment I realized and then faced the fact that "I was not the guy."

~ We broke for lunch and afterward did some work on our own.  We took the work from our timelines and needed to break all that information down to one or two key learnings that we would take away from that day.  Of course, all of the learnings carried implications.  This was a difficult truth to begin facing.  As we came back together that afternoon, we shared some of our takeaways from the whole timeline exercise.  What had we learned?  And a better question yet, what would that mean to our future?  When it was my turn, I was terrified.  I knew what I needed to say.  What I didn’t know was how would these guys around the table react.  “As all of you guys would agree with, for any church or organization to function up to it’s potential, we all have to have the right people on the bus and have those people in the right seats.” I said.  Everyone around the table nodded. “It has come to my attention today that I’ve got someone on my team who is in a very wrong seat and that person being in the wrong seat is literally killing our church and killing that person.”  The room was silent and every eye was on me as I finished my revelation to the group.  “It seems that person who is in the wrong seat is me.”, I said through a few tears.  It was a hard realization and even harder to share out loud.  After a few seconds of silence, every guy in the room affirmed what I was saying.  Maybe they all knew I wasn’t cut out for the lead pastor role.  Maybe they were just being supportive to their friend.  No matter the motivation, it felt good to know they were there to walk whatever journey may ensue with me.  ~

Perhaps God had other plans for those things He called me to?  Perhaps He has other plans for the things He's called you to?  We'll never know, unless we gather the courage to make that hard statement.  I'm not the guy.  I'm not the girl. I'm not the one to take this any further. 

Being years on the other side of the fence, I can tell you the things that follow.  Pain.  Struggle.  Healing.  Growth.  New opportunities.  A total reinvention of yourself.  If you're in the place of knowing you're not the one, I want to encourage you to do three things today.  

1)  Find someone who can coach you through this process.
2)  Take courage and face it.  
3)  Refuse to get bitter and embrace the new.

You may think you're avoiding pain by side-stepping the hard decision, but you're really just robbing yourself of all the possibilities on the other side.  So maybe you do have to be a hero to face this courageous path.  Or, maybe choosing the courageous path is what makes a hero.  Be that hero.  You can do it.

Friday, August 5, 2016

1 Big Mistake You're Making Setting Goals

Are you mad yet?  Are you thinking what I would be thinking if I saw a blog title like this one?  "Who's he think he is to tell me my goals are wrong?  He doesn't even know what my goals are!"  So, before you string me up or burn me at the stake, hear me out.  I know your goals are wrong for the same reason my goals have been wrong.  I'm no goal-setting expert (if there is such a thing).  I've just made the mistake and I know what the consensus is out in goal-setting land, so I know you've probably made the same mistake when setting your goals.

So, what's the big mistake?  

The mistake is, quite simply, making the goal the goal. Remember, we don't set goals just to reach them.  We set goals to propel us toward a preferred future.   Instead, you should be making the habits that will lead you to the goal, the goal.  Sound like I'm splitting hairs here or like they're the same thing?  Well, I'm not and they're not. Think about it with me.  "I want to lose 30 lbs in the next six months" may sound like a good goal - even a S.M.A.R.T. goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely).  But it's not really the right goal.  Why?  Well, you tell me.  What happens when you reach it?  What happens after you change your eating habits and bust your butt in the gym for six months and meet your goal?  You celebrate by eating a whole cheesecake and sleeping in past gym time.  The roller coaster ensues.  

What if you adjusted the goal to, "Over the next three months, I'm going to implement a sustainable system of tracking my nutrition and exercise, with personal accountability built in."  It's still a SMART goal, but this one serves you for life and still leads you to lose those 30 lbs and probably more.  The only difference is that this one changes your habits so you keep the weight off and stay healthy.  

One more example.  "I want to get promoted to general manager at work by December" could be re-worked into "I will work with a mentor or coach to learn and implement new personal growth habits and new habits at work by December."  Version one might get you the promotion, but then what?  Version two transforms you into a person who's promotable for the rest of your life.  

Of course, this assumes you care enough to take the time and make the effort to set goals in the first place.  If that's a problem for you, you can read this article I wrote a while back.  It may be a good start for you.  Hey, I hope you've got goals and I hope you're making daily progress building the habits that will get you there. You can do it.  Nothing, but you, is standing in your way.  Go!