Recalibrate Your Life
Each spring, I can't help thinking about a fresh start. In his book, Heart Shift, John Trent retells his conversation with a NASA engineer about tolerances in the trajectories of rockets headed for the moon. The engineer said, "Be just two degrees off from when you blast off, and roughly taking into account the time and distance traveled,?and you'll miss not only your point of orbital entry, but you'll miss the moon by a measly 11,121 miles."
Somehow, in the course of a year, it seems those two degree shifts happen in my life, and I find myself somewhere I didn't intend to be. It seems a good time to "recalibrate" both as a leader and as a follower of Christ.
In spring, it seems there are many days ahead that are full of opportunity for something new. It's a good time to consider where I am personally and where I'd like to be. Without some adjustments or wholesale changes, I run the risk of being in the same place next year. If, however, I don't get past the "thinking about it" stage, the changes that I inevitably want to make remain only ideas. The same principle applies whether I'm thinking strategically about my leadership or more personally about my character. To ensure that I get to real life change, I try to engage in each of these four steps.
1. Evaluate where you are. There are several ways to engage on where you are. First, is to pray and reflect. Ask, Where am I now? Psalm 139 says, "Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." A mini-personal retreat can be helpful. As we pray for insight into areas of growth, the Lord is sure to answer us.
Do some kind of personal audit or inventory in the important categories of life. I am motivated by this comment made by J. Oswald Sanders. "I ask myself every three months: Sanders, are you more like Christ than you were three months ago? Are you more loving? More kind? More patient?" His concern there was Christ-like character. Steve Moore, in his book, The Dream Cycle, has great resources for evaluation, as well as building a growth plan.
Ask others how you're doing. This can be a conversation, or a more formal process with an objective tool. This is beneficial in helping see aspects of ourselves that we can't see on our own. It can be as simple as asking someone, "What strengths do you think I should develop? What weaknesses?"
2. Identify goal areas and determine what "success" will look like. Ask, What changes do I want to make? I find it best to limit the number of goals to a manageable level. Change takes energy. If you try to change too many things at once, you can end up not feeling good about any of it. Usually, I try to build a strength area at the same time I'm giving attention to a weak area. That way I have some energy from my strength area to build momentum in developing my weak area.
I like being able to finish this sentence: "I will know I have grown in this area when?.." A mental picture that goes with your goal will help you be able to mark progress as well as celebrate when you reach your growth objective.
3. Build a plan. There's more to personal development than identifying your goals. You need a plan to support your desired changes. A key in building your plan is being aware of how you learn. Do you prefer to learn by yourself or with others? Are you a reader, or a hands-on learner? Consider resources you already have at your disposal, potential reading material, seminars that would be helpful. Sometimes the best way to learn is from someone who has real strength in your growth area. Look for a mentor or model. A personal development plan gets traction when you commit yourself to some experience or challenge will help you be accountable to practice what you're learning. If you want to take steps to get in better shape, schedule yourself for a 5K and walk or run it. If you want to improve as a speaker, set up the practice opportunities. A good plan will bring structure (when and where), content (what), and accountability (who) to your growth goals.
4. Create the right environment. Creating the right environment for your own growth is critical. Praying for yourself, asking the Lord to produce his own character in you, is essential. So is depending on the Lord moment by moment for his motivation, strength, wisdom, and power. It goes without saying, but sometimes in not saying it, I can tend toward my own efforts. Along with that intimate spiritual life, pursuing personal life or leadership change requires support. You need people around you who will help you when your motivation is lagging. You need trusted people who will hold you accountable in your goal areas. You need trusted friends who will cheer you on in the journey. And you need to check in with them often.
With those four steps, I have a much better chance to have enough fuel to break out of the gravitational forces that pull me toward my current behavior and move me toward something new, something fresh, something more like Christ.