From the time I entered college, I’ve always had a plan for myself. There was a piece of me that had to prove my worth. I wanted to show the world exactly what I was capable of. Although it began egotistically, the years have given way to strong mentors in my life who have helped guide and refine me. I’ve aligned myself to helping and inspiring others while pursuing my gifts, but my detailed plans remained. I was in college when I met my wife, got married and we made the decision to move us to Chicago. We were supposed to be on a short assignment and be right back in Columbus Ohio the next year, but my plans changed. Since that time, every other large decision has been well articulated and thought out. I’ve laid out a plan of purchasing a home, re-modeling that home, and selling the home to buy a bigger home. This while trying to build the foundation to my career. By the grace of God, that all worked out seamlessly. My plan was realized and we moved into our dream home. But what happens when your plan becomes so rigid, that you can’t see God’s direction?
Sometimes you need life to save you from what you want to give you what you need
This is slightly flawed. I don’t believe in the ethereal and proverbial ‘life’. I think that assigning purpose and design to the ‘universe’ is lazy. What I can wrap my head around is that sometimes you need God to save you from what you want to give you what you need. Regardless of your beliefs, the statement is true. No one has a perfect plan and can determine the trajectory of a complex world. In our cognitive perception, this world may seem complicated but limiting the scope to facilitate comprehension is flawed. A plan is a fragile system in a world that celebrates flexibility. That’s never more apparent than when you have an opportunity or event that significantly alters your outlook or situation. The plan breaks; so now what?
In order to have, you have to do. In order to do, you must be
I’m lucky to have some of very influential and bright mentors in my life. We recently walked through a large decision together that began with the first half of a decision framework. From there, I was able to frame a conversation with them to help guide me through the second half of a decision framework. All said and done, I could not think of a better way to develop flexibility as opportunities, risks, or forks in the road present themselves. It all begins with be. To be is a constant and a foundation. It’s only when you are, that you can become. Only when you define the foundation, can you do and ultimately have what you are looking for.
Foundation – Security
When presented with a decision, it’s important to walk it back and find your foundation. This corresponds to your purpose as well as truth. The significance of this first step is paramount. You can’t move forward unless you master this. Outside of the need for food, water and shelter, security is the most important need in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. To sum up what happens when this step is ignored, here’s Tom Brady. His last statement says it all, “I wish I knew”. If you are not confident in two fundamental truths, you’ll never define the security necessary to feel satisfied with your decision.
Loved – Confidence that you are loved. God loved you before you were born and loves you no matter what. It’s independent of what you do.
Anointed – You are in the family. God’s anointed you as one of His own.
Desire – Fulfillment
Once you have certainty on your security, you can evaluate your desires and what will bring you fulfillment. It’s possible to be fully aware that you are known and loved, but not be fulfilled. Your desire to do good work is determined by the natural yearning for accountability and dependency. Although we are conditioned to think otherwise, we were built for work and purpose. The pinnacle of success isn’t working hard to lie on a beach somewhere. Success is a life spent fulfilling your purpose and the hard work that it takes. All the whole realizing that it’s a never ending journey. With your foundation set, there are 2 things you must understand about yourself.
Gifted – What gifts do you have to share with the world.
Called – How are you supposed to use them.
Head – Heart – Gut
Now comes the decision. The hard work of defining is over, not its fact finding time. Use the three decision points to develop your choice.
Head – Go find and define what you know. Facts, figures, data. Lay it out and make it make sense.
Heart – What do you feel is the right way to move. This requires emotional intelligence and listening to the feelings you and others have.
Gut – Through prayer and focus, what’s your gut say to do?
This framework has an entire background to refine your understanding. However, at its core, it’s simplicity lights the path.
Here are the literal next actions I used to walk through this process. I’d be interested to know how it goes for you.
- Lay out the deviation from plan and the details around it.
- Write a list of at least 3 people who are your active mentors or that you know and trust.
- Walk through this framework above.
- If you have it, give yourself as much time as you need to know your gut
- Remember that regardless of what you decide, your foundation is unchanged.