So, how was 2013 for you? Did it live up to all the promise and hope you felt this time last year or did 2013 take a wrong turn somewhere along the way? Maybe 2013 left a little something to be desired. Usually, we start our years with a sense of excitement at what could be, but we don’t always see things materialize over the course of the year. Kind of like we start off excited about getting tickets to a great football game, only, when we get to the stadium there’s just some crappy circus going on. That guy juggling the flaming swords is pretty cool, and that one clown will probably be kind of funny; it just isn’t the game we were expecting. Of course, maybe you like the circus a lot more than I do and I totally lost you with that analogy – sorry. The point is that the sense of hope and promise that January brings isn’t always fulfilled by December so we get all amped up at the turn of the calendar thinking this will be the year when it all turns around… But too often, we just get stuck repeating the cycle of last year.
Whether 2013 was great or terrible for you, here are a few ways to make sure you don’t get stuck…
- Stop only talking about the problems and difficulties you’ve had. Whether it’s in business or ministry or just life in general, it’s important to talk with the team that’s on the mission with you, especially when it comes to discussing difficult issues that threaten the health of that mission. But it’s not enough to just talk about the issues, we need to also take action that can realistically change something. Then we need to follow up with each other on the results of those actions.
- Take action instead of only being intentional. This really is the mindset behind #1, but I thought I’d give it its own slot anyway. Being intentional is deceptive, so we have to be careful not to get tripped up on our own good intentions. You can hold on to intent for a really long time and as long as you keep talking about it, people around you will keep hoping things will change, too. But intent alone is not enough to change anything without putting your intent into action. You can set your New Year Resolutions and make your list of lofty goals, but unless you take some concrete action, 2014 will probably end up a lot like 2013. Are you ok with that?
- Work at something new instead of just working harder. This one’s a little tricky because it feels like if we work harder, things should improve, right? The problem is when we work harder at the wrong things. As long as we keep doing the things we’re doing, we can do them a little bit better without actually changing anything substantial. We’ll keep getting basically the same results and 2014 won’t really be any better. But what if we tried something that we hadn’t tried before and worked hard at that? That’s the stuff that will change a year.
- Don’t hide. A few weeks into the year, when the initial resolve has worn off, you might feel like resigning yourself to one more year that’s mostly like the last one. You might be tempted to close yourself off in an office or a cave or an unused circus tent somewhere and pretend everything’s fine. Please don’t. The world doesn’t need another pretender, it needs you to live life brightly. Share your life and your struggles with a few trusted friends who can walk with you through the difficulties of growth. Change for the better isn’t easy and we all need a team working with us to grow.
There are always things beyond our control, circumstances that hit us right in the throat and make it hard to even breathe. But they don’t have to be allowed to make a crappy circus out of your life. You can’t change some of the things that are happening around you. Let the circumstances hurt you, grieve while you need to, but please don’t stay down. You can decide how you’ll respond to the chaos of life. Will you hide or show the true color of Christ alive in you? Will you continually analyze what might have been and talk circles around the problems or will you take action to gain strength from resolving them? Will you keep banging your head against the same wall, or will you do something different that will be like a good blast of C-4 to take the wall out completely?
I vote for C-4.
Quick note: Sometimes, we get stuck because we forget what we’re all about. One of the things that’s helped me recently to refocus on my mission is the quick video project I posted a few days ago. Check out the video and have fun with the life trailer exercise.