Being Your Best in 2016

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by David Godzwa, ACLAME Chairperson
We’re missionaries. That means we disciple; we model; we encourage, we persuade, and we counsel. As mentor, coach, teacher, or trainer, we expect the best from our students, ministry partners, and colleagues, but also from ourselves. To reach this objective, we’re aware that stagnation is not an option. Growth is essential.

Never are we more aware of our need for development than at the beginning of the year. If you’re like me, you tend to reflect on the past, taking stock of both progress and setbacks, but also look forward to the future with hope. Like the pages of a blank journal, the New Year has yet to be written. It speaks of a new beginning, a fresh start.

Of course, that is our feeling as we look through frost-paned windows on a crisp holiday morning. With the scene shifting now into the second month of the year, and the holiday season reduced to an album of digital photos shared on Facebook, that feeling of hope, perhaps, has faded.

We might have started things off with good intentions, but reality has set in, and the relentlessness of our routine has, maybe, sucked the energy out of our resolve. What in January seemed so achievable, in February now seems less possible. We may even be tempted to give in to inertia and determine that survival rather than success will be our new goal.

If you’re among the many who lose their way along the path from resolution to reality there is still hope to make 2016 your best year yet. The following are some tips that have been curated to help you get back on track.

 

Set yourself up for success

9739828346_4507c5edf1_oTo begin, you need to set yourself up for success. Intention is not enough. Planning is, in fact, just as necessary if not more essential to reaching our goals as the action that we take along the way. To begin, we need ask the age-old question, “What’s my motivation?”

Find your “why”

From starting a new habit to shedding a few pounds, correctly answering the question why we are undertaking the endeavor in the first place may be the key to actually seeing it happen, and the more intrinsic (natural to or belonging to the process) the motivation, the better.

As reported on the NPR Podcast, The Hidden Brain[1], a study of 10,000 West Point cadets[2] found that those who had high intrinsic motivation such as a desire to serve their country or to become an officer, had a higher success rate than those who had instrumental motivation, or those who saw the academy a means to a free education or a higher than average paying job.

The takeaway for us is that we should be pursuing our goals for the right reason. A better motivator for a plan to exercise and eating right would be better health and vitality as opposed to looking better in the mirror. Whereas, committing to a deeper study of the Bible would be better motivated by a desire to increase our intimacy with God and insight into His nature rather than as an attempt to gain recognition for our expertise.

Choose SMART Goals

Nevertheless, the proper motivation is only a piece of the puzzle. We need to ask ourselves if the goals themselves are SMART. A reason many fail to reach their goals is because the goals they choose are too unspecific or unrealistic. For example many people make a resolution to lose weight or to pray more. These unspecific goals are often abandoned because they’re just too general. A key to making those resolutions stick may require just a bit of tweaking. SMART turns out to be an acronym to help us in our fine-tuning process.

SMART Goals are described by a Virginia University Human Resource paper[3] are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic and
  • Time bound

So, instead of trying just to lose weight in 2016, losing ten pounds by April 30th might be a better plan or instead of determining just to pray more, we could decide to build our current prayer routine gradually by ten minute increments until we’re praying an hour a day by Easter Sunday.

 

Take action

Still, planning for success will only get us so far. If we are to achieve what we set out to do at the start of the year, we must take action.  We see this encouragement throughout the Bible. Our faith is one of urgency, our religion is one of action.

  • Today is the day of salvation!” exhorts the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT).
  • Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” preaches Jesus in Mark 3:2 (ESV)
  • “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” challenges Joshua in Joshua 24:15 (NKJV)

A key for growth and success in 2016 is to allow this sense of urgency, this carpe diem to invade our everyday.  The question is, “How can we do it?” Perhaps swallowing amphibians could be the answer?

Eat a live frog

Mark Twain once said, “if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”

Business consultant and personal development coach, Brian Tracy, takes an interesting look at this quote and how it can help us beat the procrastination bug. The frog, he says, is the biggest most important task that we have, the one on which we’re most likely to procrastinate. The solution is to take action on that task. Swallow that frog first thing. Your time immediately becomes more productive.[4]

The ONE thing

If swallowing frogs grosses you out, perhaps Gary Keller has a solution that might be a bit more palatable. He encourages us to “find and do the one thing that makes all other things easier or unnecessary… The perfect, uninterrupted day is impossible. [Achieving success] is about figuring out what matters most, and when you’re doing that ONE Thing, eliminate distraction.”

He continues, “When you time block your most important work and treat it like going to movies —you make a stand around avoiding distractions— amazing things happen.”

“Success,” he says, “is sequential. It happens one thing at a time…What you’re trying to do is set up a domino run in your life. You want to line things up with the end in mind.[5]

Certainly, if we’ve created got the right motivation and smart goals in mind, a single-mindedness about accomplishing it will help turn those resolutions into results.

 

Embrace the mess

One last word, especially for those of us who live in that imperfect world and deal with a seemingly unending string of crises, delivered daily to our email inbox. That is to embrace the mess.

In a recent TED Talk[6], economist, Tim Harford, talks of jazz pianist Keith Jarrett who faced a seemingly insurmountable problem on the stage of the Cologne Opera House in 1975:  The piano that he was provided failed to meet his specifications. Certain keys were sticking. The felt on the hammers of the upper register had become worn, producing a harsh tinny sound and the piano itself was too small to fill the space. He was resolved to cancel the concert if a new piano couldn’t be produced, but there was no time to arrange the swap.  In fact, it was only through the pleading of a young event coordinator that he even went through with it at all.

What resulted, however, wasn’t the subpar concert that he had expected. The inferiority of the piano brought out of the musician a creativity and vitality that a superior instrument might not have demanded. Instead of a less than stellar performance, the audience was treated to a masterpiece whose recording has gone on to become the best selling piano and solo jazz album ever recorded.

Yes, difficulty and challenge can conspire to derail our process or it can collaborate to help us create our best work. It’s all a matter of perspective and perseverance.

Dallas Willard, in his book The Divine Conspiracy, states it this way: “Let us be perfectly clear. Your life is not something from which you can stand aside and consider what it would be like had you had a different one. There is no you apart from your actual life. You are not separate from your life, and in that life you must find the goodness of God. Otherwise, you will not believe that he has done well by you. and you will not truly be at peace with him.[7]

No, you’re not too late to ensure that 2016 is your best year yet. There is still time to get on track toward growth and development, both personal and professional. Yes, effort is required, but we have strategies at our disposal to guide us on our way. We can set ourselves up for success through the evaluation of our motives and the selection of our goals. We can prioritize tasks and cultivate focus that will lead to the accomplishment of those goals, and we can choose to change our perspective as we face the less than ideal situations that are sure to come our way. As we do we will make progress.

Do you have thoughts to share about being your best in 2016? What are some ways that you are looking to make progress? Do you have additional or alternative strategies that might be helpful? Post a comment and contribute to the discussion.

 

Photo credit: “Motivation” (https://www.flickr.com/photos/125228566@N05/galleries/72157644721442608/)  by Arya Ziai (https://www.flickr.com/photos/aryaziai/) is licensed under CC by 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

            [1]“Why It’s Not Too Late To Make A New Year’s Resolution,” hosted by Shankar Vedantam, Hidden Brain, NPR, January 19, 2016, http://www.npr.org/2016/01/18/463220298/why-its-not-too-late-to-make-a-new-years-resolution.

            [2]Amy Wrzesniewskia, Barry Schwartzb, Xiangyu Congc, Michael Kanec, Audrey Omarc, and Thomas Kolditza, “Multiple types of motives don’t multiply the motivation of West Point cadets,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America, Accessed 02/15/2016, http://www.pnas.org/content/111/30/10990.full.

            [3]UHR Employee Development, “Writing SMART Goals,” Human Resources, University of Virginia, Accessed 02/15/2016, http://www.hr.virginia.edu/uploads/documents/media/Writing_SMART_Goals.pdf

            [4] Brian Tracy, “The Truth About Frogs,” Brian Tracy International, Accessed 02/15/2016, http://www.briantracy.com/blog/time-management/the-truth-about-frogs/

            [5]“Gary Keller: How to Find Your One Thing,” Dan Schwabel, Forbes: Entrepreneurs, Accessed 02/15/2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2013/05/23/gary-keller-how-to-find-your-one-thing/#62dbc3928da1.

            [6]“How frustration can make us more creative” Tim Harford, TED Global, London, September 2015, https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_harford_how_messy_problems_can_inspire_creativity#t-226832.

            [7]Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), 340.

8 Replies to “Being Your Best in 2016”

  1. Dave – excellent article. As for embracing the mess, I’d like to think that I’m the pianist, making a beautiful album. Instead, I find that I am the piano with more than a few sticky keys. Oh that God would use what’s left to make something beautiful.

  2. Thanks David! Fantastic and well-researched article that invites us onward! As to vocabulary, I particularly enjoyed your use of “inertia” in this context.

  3. Blessings to you Dave for an insightul, well researched, nicely illustrated and skillfully written contribution. Any of us will benefit from these principles you have highlighted and applied for us. Thanks for the effort and hard work of illuminating our year with this challenge. May the Lord help each of us to practice these principles.

  4. I’m blessed to see that this article struck a chord for many of you.

    Bill, I appreciate the alternate perspective that you give. Certainly, for those of us who recognize our shortcomings, God’s work in our lives is all the more beautiful.

    David, I like the word inertia as well. It can either hinder and help. It all depends on momentum. The key is getting things moving.

    Rosemarie, It’s my pleasure. Glad to have been of benefit to you.

    Quentin, That’s high praise from a man who has done so much to improve our communication as teachers. May the Lord indeed be our help as we “spur one another on toward love and good works.”

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