Way back in the dark, cold Alaskan winter of 1990, my then-fiance and I made what seemed like a very grown-up decision to become product distributors for a little multi-marketing business called Amway.
Maybe you've heard of it?
Terms like product pick-up, SA-8, Artistry and 'going direct' became part of our daily vocabulary as we joined hundreds and thousands of other hopefuls on a journey we believed would ultimately free us from the drudgery and mediocrity of what Amway referred to as the J-O-B.
By April 1991, we were out. With sighs of relief and our eyes opened wide, we determined there had to be a better way to succeed that didn't involve awkward, manipulative presentations with trusting friends, surrender to up-line whose 'Biblical' standards were frighteningly similar to a cult, and the intense pressure to always be more, do more, dream more, sell more.
We were 19 and 20 years old. Truthfully? We wanted nothing more than to hang out over dinner at Clinkerdagger's on a Friday night (back when this amazing, old-world restaurant was still standing in our little college town and I always ordered their to-die-for Burnt Cream), then stop by Box Office Video on the way home (leaving Fireman's little black Toyota running so it wasn't rock-hard-cold when we came back out. Yes, it's that cold here) without the guilt of not hitting up our friends over the weekend to "show them the plan."
Among the several red flags we discovered during our short-lived Amway experience, we obviously still had a lot to learn about commitment, personal discipline, sacrifice, and what it means to be truly successful in life.
BUT. And this is a huge BUT....Both Fireman and I, 25+ years later, will forever look back on that dark, cold, disillusioned Amway experience as one of the most valuable seasons we've ever shared.
Without a doubt, this single event in our very young lives ultimately taught us the life-changing principles of goal setting, positive thinking, and the tremendous power we individually possess to determine, to a large degree ~ through making a plan and then working that plan ~ the trajectory of our personal lives.
We quite honestly have never been the same, nor have we seen this world the same way since.
Together we read books like The Magic of Thinking Big and The Magic of Self Direction, both by David Schwartz, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, The Tongue ~ A Creative Force by Charles Capps, and The Choice by Og Mandino. We listened to hours of the famous motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.
Over the years we added to our stash of books with titles like Today Matters by John Maxwell, Success is Not An Accident by Tommy Newberry, Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund....among many others.
Do we still have what the critical but mostly well-intentioned Amway crowd called a J-O-B? Yes, we do. But it has not turned out to be the drudgery and prison-sentence we were then led to believe it was. Instead, over the years, it has looked a lot more like Opportunity to partner with God in a bigger plan for our lives, to obediently serve Him by walking in the steps He has already planned for us to walk (Ephesians 2:10).
It has looked a lot more like pro-actively writing down specific, measurable goals in the areas of Finances, Personal Growth, Education, Spiritual, and Recreation, and then humbly surrender them to a God who daily pursues a love relationship with us and ultimately orders our steps (Proverbs 16:9).
Now here we are today, preparing to congregate as a family and write down new specific, measurable goals for 2016. Individual goals, and maybe a few family goals as well. It is an exercise we perform not only at the New Year, but often at the beginning of the school year as well.
In pondering this upcoming goal-setting exercise, three specific thoughts are shaping and directing my personal goals this year. I would like to share them with you in the hopes that they may shed some light on your own goal-setting/resolutions/dreams for 2016.
1. Goal Setting is Important, But My Calling is TODAY.
As followers of Christ, and I am SO guilty of this!, we become easily consumed with a desire to do exceptional things for God. So intent are we on determining His plan and discerning His Calling, we quite literally waste years of fruitful living because we get so caught up in the searching. We are afraid to set goals for fear they may not line up with God's ultimate plan for us, and mercy, where would we be then?
But here's the bottom line: God's ultimate plan, God's ultimate Calling on my life is this: To love Him, and to love others.
That's it. For me and for you, That's IT.
If you're doing those two things TODAY, then you are in His plan, and you are living your Calling.
In his book Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby puts it like this: If you do everything Jesus tells you to do one day at a time, you will always be in the center of where God wants you to be.
Does that truth declare freedom to you as it does to me? I sure hope so. No more time spent worrying about missing His plan, about discerning my Calling, or about doing exceptional things. All I need to do, and all I have before me right this moment, is TODAY. And Lord, help me do everything you tell me to do TODAY.
2. Working toward future Goals is Exciting, but Supernatural Power is for TODAY.
I will simply let Oswald Chambers take this one for me as there is no way I can express it any better:
We do not need the grace of God to stand crises,
human nature and pride are sufficient,
we can face the strain magnificently;
but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live
twenty-four hours in every day as a saint,
to go through drudgery as a disciple,
to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence
as a disciple of Jesus.
It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God;
but we have not.
We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things,
to be holy in mean streets, among mean people,
and this is not learned in five minutes.
My Utmost for His Highest, October 21
Ugh. Does the truth of this passage hit you as hard in the belly as it does me?? The bottom line is, we can set goals and make plans and work like crazy people tin 2016 toward achieving every.single.written.goal. But if we are missing out on being exceptional in the ordinary, daily tasks of loving God and loving others, often and usually unobserved and uncelebrated, we are completely missing the point.
3. All That Being Said, SET BIG GOALS.
For the first time in years, I wrote out a list of goals for 2016 that I am really excited about. Although I've written goals down the last few years as well, they have often seemed ho-hum and expected. Not very exciting. This year, though, my goals have a buzz associated with them that, were I not so practical, I swear carries its own energy.
So why the difference this year?
Because something rose up within me a couple weeks ago, stomped its foot, and declared these three words:
(If you have not seen this video of Shia LeBeouf, stop right now and go watch it. It may be just the thing you need, too.)
I also read a sentence about a week ago that resonated within me and caused me pause:
Big ideas and big plans are often easier
~ certainly no more difficult ~
than small ideas and small plans.
The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz
I'm sure there were several other precursors that prompted my change of perspective and motivation this year....I've learned that God is like that when He's working on us: Messages end up looking like radio talk shows, conversations with friends, sentences in books, sermons, flukes of nature.
So, this year, I dared to set a few big goals. Goals that cause butterflies in my tummy when I read them aloud. Goals written down in my own handwriting that make me think, is it okay that I actually wrote that down in REAL LIFE?
Yeah, those kinds of goals. Goals that require belief. Goals that require action. Goals that give me a determination and a thrill and an oh-my-goodness-this-will-be-SO COOL-to-pursue-even-if-it-looks-different-on-the-other-side motivation.
SO, here's to a beautiful, life-changing, daily disciplined and committed 2016. A year that, although may end up feeling exciting as can be, will more often look a lot like daily, ordinary tasks of servanthood and obedience.
But deep in our post-Amway heart of hearts, I think Fireman and I have learned to be content with that.
Labels: Faith, Goals, Master, Reflection