Leading Change in the World: How Much Do You Mean It?
Do you ever have one of those weeks? Nothing's working out as planned. You're being pulled in too many directions. You have too much on your mind. Everybody wants something from you. There aren't enough hours in the day. You don't have time to do anything right. You're flying on a wing and a prayer. Your vision for the future takes a back seat to your everyday to-do list.
You wonder if you're crazy. You wonder if you're stupid. You wonder what anyone ever saw in you. You wonder what you ever saw in yourself. You wonder if God's trying to tell you your plan is not part of His plan.
But what if He's just asking you if you really mean it?
If you don't believe in yourself, you'll quit the first chance you get. And if that's the case, then you might as well never start to begin with.
How do you like that? Are you discouraged? Are you a little peeved? Are you going to go click on another link somewhere? Or are you nodding your head and smiling because you know you're one of the ones who don't quit?
Nobody wins at trying to achieve goals they don't believe in. Sure, material success is out there for the taking, but if you're not doing the work that makes your heart sing, you're not going to become the you who brings joy to the world.
And no matter how sharp and savvy we become, no matter how successful we appear to the rest of the world, we still need to get up in the morning, every morning, face our mirrors, again, alone, just us, look ourselves in the eye, again, and keep going, another day, again.
If you're doing what you're doing because someone says you have to or because you feel like you should - if your heart really just isn't in it, for whatever reason - then it will never fulfill you, and you will never become the full you. Do the work because you love it; if you don't love it, it won't work.
This is only if you have a dream, of course. If you don't have a dream, it doesn't matter.
A long time ago, author friend Brian Keene wrote about prioritizing and finding time to work. Something about his post really tugged at my heart strings, because in it, Brian talked about the sacrifices. And if you've come far enough along on your own dream road to be reading what I'm writing right now, then you already know what I'm talking about. If you've come to the point where things like vision and direction and purpose matter to you, then you've already had to make some real-world choices about what's really important to you. Maybe by now you already know a little too personally about what you'll do to sacrifice for the dream and what you won't.
If you believe in your work, then you're intimately familiar with those not-so-glamorous, everyday stresses and sacrifices. The byproducts of ambition. The inconveniences, the challenges, and the trade-offs. The gut-deep commitment that all those bystanders admire so much and that our loved ones often resent so much. The drive that, if genuine, alters our very life patterns, as Brian describes the life of the writer:
Maybe you get up extra early and write before heading off to your day job. Or maybe you write in the evening, after you’ve come home from that day job. Or maybe, like me, you’re already writing full-time, and are just struggling to balance that with your other obligations.
I used to do all of those things for my writing. Now, at this stage of life, I do all of those things for my online education. I'm a professional by day and a student by... well, every other spare moment I can find. I work full-time, and I go to school full-time, and I'm a wife full-time. And people ask me all the time, How do you do it?
Well, I get up at 5:00 a.m. every day (yes, even on the weekends). I put in two hours of studying and homework time before I head off to my eight-hour day at work or commence my plans with my family for the weekend. Couldn't I just do all of my homework on the weekends? Couldn't I wait to do it after I get home from work? Sure, I could. But I get up at 5:00 a.m. every day so that I can dedicate my evenings and weekends to my husband and our family and our service commitments. Because I have come to the point where I know what I will sacrifice for the dream and what I will not.
Then, after I've been present in a meaningful way in the lives of my family and friends, after everyone else has been tucked safely into bed at night, I head back to my computer and put in another hour or two hours or however many hours it takes to get my papers written and my assignments done on time. And the next day, while I'm still at work, more often than not, I spend all of my break times in a corner somewhere on my smartphone, participating in online classroom discussion while I eat lunch and have my afternoon coffee, because that's what it takes to keep up with my course load.
Is it worth it? Yeah. I've carried a 4.0 GPA for more than two years - not because I feel any particular need to prove myself academically, but because God has given me the ability to and so I can. When I begin my master's program this fall, my tuition reimbursement through my employer will depend on my grades, and then the value of that daily discipline will yield even more practical rewards.
Normal people don't do things like that, though. Normal people do things when they have time, or they do them halfway, or they don't do them. We creative types? We leaders and dreamers and visionaries? We do things like that. We make time. We find time where no one else wants time. We do everything to the best of our abilities because we know no other way of doing things. We really are different. We really do have something not everyone has. God has given us that something. It's called a calling.
And yes, sometimes, when the going gets tough, it can feel like more of a curse than a blessing. Sometimes, it can be easy to take our skills and our talents for granted, no matter how many years it's taken us to develop them. Sometimes, we get used to being us, and we forget the value of people like us. Sometimes, without even meaning to, we can get caught up in the mundane and lose sight of the vision... or start doubting ourselves... or find ourselves asking what's the point... or let others pull us away... or just get tired. Man, we get so tired.
Believing in yourself does not mean never doubting or fearing or questioning again. It means doing what you know you need to do, exactly when you're doubting and fearing and questioning. It means trusting God for what Sun Stand Still author Steven Furtick refers to as audacious faith. Sometimes, as Furtick tells us, acting on that kind of faith means acting, even if you're only 55% sure you're taking the right action.
And yeah, that's scary. That's the kind of fear that can freeze your guts and paralyze your ambitions. That's the kind of doubt that can leave you looking around and asking yourself, "Who the heck am I, anyway? What ever made me think I could pull this off?"
If you're not quite sure yet whether or not you really, truly, to the core of your being, believe in God's call on your life, then that's the moment when you'll find out. It'll be easy to tell. Either you'll straighten up, lift your chin, and say, "Because I can," or you'll quit.
God doesn't grant us visions without the power to carry them out. If you're hitting a bunch of speed bumps along the road to your dream, if you're starting to feel like this vision just isn't worth it, then maybe it's time to stop. Maybe this really isn't the right path for you. Maybe you really aren't going in the right direction. Maybe there's a different way to get to where you're going. Hey, maybe you're completely wrong about everything.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's just a matter of how much you want to get there. Maybe the obstacles are in your path so God can show you they won't stop you.
So, how much do you mean it? How much will you regret it later if you don't do it?