Before Attacking Problems: Pray – 3 Reasons Among Many

Pray First

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I wrote earlier this week on my Productive GRACE system.

  1. Get serious about the vision
  2. Required resources
  3. Author a plan
  4. Consistently execute the plan
  5. Effectively adapt to changes

This is the way that I attack problems in everyday life.  The system is scalable and works for long term goals and short term goals alike.  I’m following it up with a few posts that dive in more specifically.  However, there is a pre-step.  The pre-step is prayer.  Pray First!  Prayer is a great gift that believers in Jesus don’t fall on enough.  It almost seems silly to write a list of reasons why we should pray about problems, but I think sometimes we all need reminders and at the very least I need the reminder (and this is my blog).

3 Reasons to Pray First

 

1) We are commanded to pray

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4.6)

When we are anxious, which is what I am when a problem arises, we are told to pray.  I’ve often heard this verse summarized in this way, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything”.  Pray about the thing that is on your mind and heart.  A loving father wants to hear from his children and specifically about those things that are making their hearts worry.  Pray.

2) Prayer brings peace

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Talking to my loving Father who also is the Sovereign God of all creation brings peace.  This peace goes beyond our mental capacities to understand, but it is truly there.  The next time you are anxious about some problem or goal, pray about it.

3) Prayer puts things in perspective

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

When we pray about our anxious moments we are reminded that there is something greater than our worries or goals.  There is God’s Kingdom.  Those goals and worries shouldn’t be our first priority.  God’s Kingdom coming is the thing that matters most.  We need to capture perspective.

 

Next we’ll deal with what to do when there are problems.  However, before we talk about attacking problems why don’t you spend some significant time praying about those problems.  Let me point you to Philippians 4:4-7 and Matthew 6:25-34 for some further reading and study.

Productive Grace: 5 Steps To Attack Any Problem

Productive Grace

The grace that saves us also sanctifies us.  That grace also makes us productive.  Remember 1 Corinthians 15:10:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

Over the next several blog posts, I’m going to share my scalable system to frame up and attack any problem.  It is just as applicable to long range, multi-year goals as it is to attacking daily scheduling issues.

 

The Origin of My System

I became a Christian when I was 16, a week before my 17th birthday. I started a bible study at my high school. Through that I felt called into ministry.  I told my parents, they told me they disagreed. The next year, my senior year, we started the bible study again and saw 30 people cross the line of faith and connect to a church. I talked to my parents again about going to pursue a bible degree and they relented.  They said I had to go to Bob Jones University. I didn’t know anything about the school, but was just excited to go.

When I showed up on campus for freshman orientation I was given a student handbook, no big deal. Every place has rules. Then I got the dorm handbook.  I thought sure there are extra rules it’s a Christian school. Then I got a society handbook, then we got a sports handbook then we got a chapel rules sheet then another rule book for student government.

Then I learned that I was accountable for all the rules before classes started. That’s when demerits would start. I asked what demerits were. They explained the what happened.

  • 75 Demerits = Socialed.  Essentially, no contact with the opposite sex on campus.
  • 100 Demerits = Campused.  Students at this level weren’t allowed off campus except for church or approved ministry.
  • 150 Demerits = Expelled.  If you got to 150 demerits in a semester you were out.

 

Time to Get Serious

That’s when I got serious. I needed to get out, but needed the degree.  I figured my shelf life there may be 4 years but more likely I’d blow up by then. So one Friday night I sold out to the idea: I must graduate in 3 years. I sat down with the course books, an outdated idea today, and started looking and working.  I went through multiple iterations, but by bed time (yes that was a real thing) I’d worked it out.

I started in the fall of 1999 and in June of 2002 I graduated with a BA in Bible na double minor in Counseling and Computer Science without any debt. How?  I learned the importance of envisioning a goal and attacking it.  Since then I’ve developed a way to attack any problem.

 

The Productive GRACE system for problem solving and planning

The grace that saves us also sanctifies us.  That grace also makes us productive.  Remember 1 Corinthians 15:10:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

1) Get serious about the vision

  • Ask: What is the preferred reality?
  • Write out what it looks like.

2) Required resources 

  • Ask: What resources do I need to accomplish this vision.
  • Assemble the named resources.

3) Author a plan

  • Ask: What does this look like specifically.
  • Write down a specific plan.

4) Consistently execute the plan

  • Ask: What do I need to DO right now to make this plan move forward?
  • Keep asking this question repetitively.

5) Effectively adapt to changes

  • Ask: What are the changes that are taking place that could change my plan?
  • Things happen.  Change is going to be necessary along the way.

 

Over the next few posts I’m going to break down each of these pieces to look long range and also short term.  Check it out frequently.

Excited to be on the Battle Cry Revival Podcast on March 27, 2017.  We’ll be talking about my book Proliferate, church planting, and general Life Hacks.  Release date will be posted soon.

Date: March 27, 2017
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Appearance: Battle Cry Revival Podcast
Outlet: Battle Cry Revival
Location: Alvin, TX
Format: Podcast

Goals Need to be RELEVANT

Tips to help make your goals relevant

Relevant

You may want to watch every new movie on Netflix, but unless you are a internet TV blogger it isn’t relevant to your personal growth.  Your goals need to be relevant to who you want to be over a lifetime.

You need to have goals that are relevant to your station in life and your own growth. When you write a goal it needs to be relevant to some greater purpose that you have. It has to have meaning behind it.  The goal needs to hold meaning for you.  When a goal is relevant then you have motivation to keep pushing towards it when the excitement has worn off.  I love this quote by Viktor Frankl

“Those who have a ‘why’ can bear with almost any ‘how’.

Tips to help you clarify

  • Where do you want to be in 10 years? 5 years? 3 years?  Does the goal help you get there?
  • Why is this goal important to you?   Should it be?
  • What are the benefits of this goal for your long term growth and development.

 

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

Goals Need to be TIME BOUND

Tips to make your goals time bound

time

Goals have to have a definite starting point and ending point.  I work really well with a deadline.  I want to know when something needs to be completed.  Time matters when it comes to writing goals.  Most of the goals I’ve talked about are annual.  They could all have an end date of 12/31 or if you are following the way I do my goals then 1/31.  Time bound is essential for working through the progressive necessity of goals.  You may want to lose 30 pounds by the end of the year, but you aren’t going to come to December 30th and see how you’re doing on your weight loss goal.  Set monthly and weekly time bound sub goals that help you attain your goal progressively.

 

Tips to help you clarify

  • Is your goal an annual goal?  Should it be a 2 year goal or longer?
  • What are some milestones associated with your goal?
  • How can you break it up into quarterly, monthly or weekly chunks?

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

Goals Need to be TAILORED

Tips to tailor your goals

 

tailor

After you’ve written the goals and evaluated them for yourself and shared them. Now you should tailor them or tweak them.  Take the input from your personal evaluation and the input from others and rewrite your final draft of your goals.  Write them clearly for the year.  Then write out the subgoals that will get you to those major goals.  Make sure those subgoals also carry the markers of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

Tips to help you tailor your goals.

  • Write the goals down and put them in a very visible spot.  You need to be reminded of what you’re working towards.
  • Put the goals and subgoal deadlines on your personal calendar.  I need deadlines.  This help me see tangibly how much time I have left before a goal is due.
  • Get organized.  I use a two primary tools to help me write out my goals and track them.
    • Evernote – This is my brain.  I send clips and snippets of everything that relates to my goals here.  Motivations, ideas, websites all go here.  Everything is easily uploaded and easily systematized.  They have a wonderful free version.  I upgraded though and am so happy I did.
    • Omnifocus – This is my primary project management and task tracker.  Every goal and subgoal goes into Omnifocus.  I set annual goals as folders and subgoals as projects within the folder then I write tasks that correspond to those subgoals.  This software is a tad pricey, but I’ve found it to be superior to the other task and personal project management apps available.

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

Goals Need to be SHARED

Tips for sharing your goals

 

share

Once you’ve evaluated your first draft of your goals you should share those goals with others.  Share them with close friends, your spouse, mentors, and coaches.  Tell them why you are trying to get more serious about setting and completing goals.  Ask them to take a look at the 5-7 goals you are working towards.

When it comes to sharing your goals with others the benefit comes in two areas.

1) Input

You’ll be able to hear what others think about your goal’s attainability and benefit to you.  One of the hardest things to do is to open yourself up to others in this way.  Let them see your goals, maybe even give them a couple days to think about them, and then ask for HONEST feedback about them.  The eyes of others on your situation is a gift.

2) Accountability

Others will be able to know what you are working towards and ask you about it in the future.  Make sure these people are close to you and will ask you about them on a fairly consistent basis.  This community around your goal will help you push forward when you want to quit.  Give them the freedom to ask specific questions.

 

Tips to help you share your goals

  • Who should you share your goals with?
  • Do you have a coach or mentor?
  • What barriers might you find in sharing your goals.

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

Goals Need to be EVALUATED

Tips for evaluating your goals

evaluate

Once you’ve written SMART Goals you need to take them to the next level, you need to make them the SMARTEST goals you’ll ever have.  That means you need to do the difficult work of Evaluating, Sharing, and Tailoring your goals.  Over the years I’ve discovered that when I write my goals I’m either too high on what I think I can achieve or too easy on myself.  These next three steps help me get further.

When it comes to evaluating goals you need to take the 5-7 goals that you have already written and set them aside for a couple of days.  The excitement needs to be tempered a tad and you need to think about the reality of the goals that you have in front of you.  If you’re like me you’ve written down the great aspirations of your life.  You can’t get there in a year.  You can get there in a lifetime.  Evaluate carefully and contemplate carefully.

Tips to help you clarify

Look at each of them and ask yourself the basic SMART questions:

  • Are these goals specific?  Are they clear?
  • Are these goals measurable?  Are they associated with numbers?
  • Are these goals achievable?  Are they realistic?
  • Are these goals relevant?  Do they matter to my future?
  • Are these goals time bound?  Do they have specific start and end dates?

 

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

Gospel-Centered Goals: 3 Mindsets to Ground Our Goals in the Gospel

Mindset

3 Mindsets to Ground Our Goals in the Gospel

If you’ve read any of my previous posts (Annual Goal Planning, 5 Keys to Writing Annual Goals, Write Your S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals, Setting Life Changing Goals) you’ll probably see that I really love planning, setting, and achieving goals.  Doing those things are wonderful and every year when completed I have a sense of satisfaction.

However, if I’m not careful an acceptable feeling of satisfaction very quickly morphs into pride.  When brainstorming, writing, and achieving goals it is important to keep the gospel at the center of our goals.

 

 

1.) “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” – (James 4.15)

You can set your goals.  You can make them the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. goals you’ve ever had.  You can create a plan with sub-goals that move you forward and you can carefully and diligently work at them.  But, when all is said and done, the outcome is ALL in the Lord’s hands… it is not in your hands.

 

 

2.) “All things were created through him and for him.” – (Colossians 1.16b)

Everything in heaven and earth and under the earth was made through Jesus.  Everything.  It exists by Him and FOR Him AND that includes me.  That means that my purposes must line up with His purposes.  If my goals don’t line up with His goals then He has the right to change them.  I don’t exist for me. I exist for Him.

 

 

3.) “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” – (1 Corinthians 15.10)

I am proud of my work ethic.  I work really, really hard.  My wife calls me persistent.  Typically, I don’t give up until something has been finished.  This moves me to think that it’s me.  This verse says that it isn’t true.  I work by God’s grace.  God’s grace in me.  God’s grace through me.  Goals aren’t achieved through my hard work, they are achieved through God’s grace.

 

 

These mindsets help me while I’m thinking about my goals and especially as I complete them.  I don’t want to fall into the trap of believing that I’m the cause of my own success.  That’s why I chose the picture that leads this post.  It reminds me of something very important: I am unbelievably small and yet unfathomably loved by someone utterly beyond me.

 

 

How do you remember the gospel while working out your annual, monthly or weekly goals?

Annual Goal Planning: 7 Steps to Begin Your Goal Year

Goal Planning

As I’ve shared in a previous post I deviate from what is typical when it comes to planning my goals.  Similar to how companies and organizations will set a different fiscal year, I set a different “Goal Year” (February 1st – January 31st).  This weekend I’m getting to see the fruition of 4 goals that I set at least a year ago.

That means it’s time to celebrate!

It also means that it is time to work through my process to write new goals. Every year I work through this process as I prepare to get off the ground quickly in my new Goal Year.

1. Examine the previous year’s goals

In January I look back at what I accomplished (and didn’t accomplish) in the previous goal year.  As I’ve gotten better at goal writing and planning I get to see a lot of successes.  This wasn’t the case for the first several years where I would frequently bite off more than I could chew.

At this time of year I look back on my list of goals and the sub-goals I set to get there.  Where I accomplished the goal I want to understand why.  When I failed to achieve the goal I want to see where I tripped up in planning.

It is more fun to look at success, but the most important part of this exercise is to understand what caused you to fall short.  Were there unaccounted for obstacles? Should the goal be a more long range goal than an annual one? Hold yourself accountable and ask why you missed the mark.

2. Look at long range goals (3, 5 and 10 years out)

Your annual goals should align with longer term goals.  In 2016 I completed my doctorate.  That was the completion of a 3 year goal when I started coursework in 2013.  My goals for that doctorate were annualized (i.e. get an ‘A’ in this seminar or write chapter one of my dissertation).  Each of those annualized goals led towards the completion of the doctorate in 2016, but graduation wasn’t the goal for 2013, 2014 or 2015.

3. Consider my contexts

This is something I got from Tim Challies in his book Do More Better.  Everyone has different roles like husband, father, leader, or student.  When writing goals you need to think about accomplishing goals in terms of your context.  I have 5 contexts that I work within:

  • Personal – Typically spiritual and fitness goals.
  • Family – These are things like leading devotions for our kids, financial goals, and have regular date nights with my wife.
  • Church – I lead a church and every year I set a couple big goals for CityView Church.
  • Business – I consult, coach, and speak a little.  I write goals to help keep me on track in these areas.
  • Student – Leaders are learners and this is where I examine how I’m learning whether it is a book list, certification to acquire, or language to learn.

4. Brainstorm where I want to be in a year

This is the fun part.  Ask yourself where you want to be at this time next year.  I LOVE WHITEBOARDS.  I get alone in my office and I write all over my two large whiteboards.  I think about dreams I have.  Everything that comes to mind goes on the board.  Like my second grade teacher told me, “there aren’t bad ideas in brainstorming.”

5. Analyze patterns in the brainstorming

While brainstorming patterns begin to emerge.  Group similar items together. Ask yourself how the items relate to each other. Frequently, during this step I find sub goals that will lead to a larger goal.

6. Decide on no more than 2 annual goals per context.

Too many goals and you’ll quit. Too few and you won’t be challenged.  Typically, when coaching people in goal development the issue isn’t too few goals, but too many. This is my favorite phrase – focus is your friend.  You can achieve a lot in a year… if you focus.
This is my process and it certainly isn’t perfect. I’d love to hear your thoughts or critiques. Do you have a process? What elements matter to you?