Here we are at the start of another new year. It’s hard to believe that it’s 2024 already. It’s amazing how quickly a year goes by. It seems like it was just yesterday that we welcomed 2023.
The unknown of a new year can be scary. Wouldn’t it be great if we could look forward and know exactly what the future holds? It would be nice if it were that easy. The problem is that there would be no need for faith or to trust God if it were all mapped out.
The best way to prepare for a new year is to be intentional in what you want to accomplish.
So, how do you prepare for the unknown?
I think the best way to prepare is to look back at the past, at what you’ve learned up to this point. Reflecting on the things that went well and the things that didn’t. With this information you can make wiser, more informed decisions going forward into the new year.
As you look back through the past year, I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at how many of the things you wanted to accomplish…you actually did!
The next step is to look forward. What do you want to accomplish in 2024? This is where faith comes in. You can set some pretty big goals for the year, but they need to be realistic. I could set a goal of owning a NASCAR team in 2024, but that’s not very realistic.
However, this doesn’t mean that I can’t begin taking steps in that direction this year. We’re told in Mark 11:23-24 that we shouldn’t be afraid to dream big. Luke 1:37 says nothing is impossible for God. So we need to have faith.
The other part of this is…
Our dreams and goals need to be in alignment with God’s plans.
There have been a lot of new things happening at Tisdale Church throughout this past year. We disaffiliated from the UMC. We got an amazing new Pastor. We’ve seen an increase in attendance.
Looking forward, we have some pretty big dreams and have set some big goals for 2024!
We can’t see the future, but if we align our plans with God’s, have faith, and do the work…He’ll take care of the rest.
This brings us to the remaining piece of the puzzle.
Learning from the past is good. Looking to the future is good. The thing we need to be careful with is not getting stuck in one or the other.
We need to remember to live in the present.
This can be hard if we dwell on the mistakes of the past or are only looking forward. This leaves us missing out on the important things around us every day.
This past Sunday, Pastor Lisa had everyone randomly draw an individual word for the year. These words, specific to each of us, should help us to bring all three areas together. This word is something that we can use to help us learn from the past, look to the future, and live in the present.
I’m excited to find ways to incorporate my word of the year.
Most of the Time it’s Because We Aren’t Focused on the Target
Why is it that we can so easily lose our focus? There are a few reasons for a lack of focus. It could be the millions of things that surround us every day that are working extra hard to get our attention. Or it could be because we’re bored, tired, wired, or busy.
Focus can be hard but it’s vital for accomplishing your goals.
Too often when we are about to accomplish our goal, we lose our focus and quit. Focusing and persisting can be hard but it’s worth the effort.
“A sailor who fearfully watches stormy seas lash his vessel will always steer an unproductive course. But a wise and experienced captain keeps his eye firmly fixed on the lighthouse. He knows that by guiding his ship directly to a specific point, the time spent in discomfort is lessoned. And by keeping his eye on the light, there never exists one second of discouragement.”
If you’ve ever come close to achieving something but didn’t quite reach your goal, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Close, but no cigar.”
Have you ever stopped to think about this phrase? And why a cigar?
The expression, “Close, but no cigar” means that a person fell slightly short of the desired outcome and therefore gets no reward.
The phrase most likely originated in the 1920s when fairs, or carnivals, would hand out cigars as prizes. At that time, the games were targeted towards adults. Yes, even in the ’20s most carnival games were impossible to win which often led the owner of the game to say, “Close, but no cigar” when the player failed to get enough rings around bottles or was just shy of hitting the target.
It’s easy enough to see why it’s hard to hit a target when playing carnival games where the odds are stacked against you.
But real life isn’t a carnival game.
In real life we can hit our target if we align our goals with God’s
Too often we think we have it all figured out only to find out later that we don’t, like Nicodemus the Pharisee in John 3:1-17. He was a smart Jewish leader and should have known what the Scriptures said. He said to Jesus, “You could not do miracles unless God were with You.” And Jesus replied, “You must be born again before you can see God’s Kingdom.” Nicodemus asked, “How can a grown man ever be born a second time?”
Jesus replied, “Everyone who has faith in the Son of Man will have eternal life. God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life.”
Close, but no cigar, Nicodemus.
When we disregard Scripture and live our lives contrary to its teaching, we will miss the target. There is a difference between knowing of God and KNOWING GOD.
Live your life so that you don’t hear God tell you…close but no cigar.
God held nothing back in His love for us, not even His Son! We should hold nothing back in our focus on the target.
Too Often Once the Goals Are Planned…We Forget the Achieving Part
This is like having plans to build a building and once you get the blueprint drawn…you stop. You have a picture you can hang on the wall, but the building never gets built.
Having a plan before you start is good, but it’s not enough. If you don’t dig some dirt and drive some nails, nothing is accomplished.
Accomplishing anything requires action and action requires decisions.
This book gives us Seven Decisions shared with David Ponder while on his travels bout how we should live our lives. I review and contemplate these decisions daily.
We’re nearing the end of another year. The closer we get, the more we beat ourselves up because of the things we didn’t get done. It’s easy to get caught up in the things that we didn’t accomplish and overlook the things that we did. We all have visions of what our dream life will look like. This can be frustrating and depressing when things don’t turn out like we planned.
We need to remember that we can’t change the past, only the future. The key is to not give up.
Giving up is like dying while you’re still alive. Don’t give up!
Last week I wrote about how we can use urgency to accomplish more. Urgent things become a higher priority. This moves them up higher on the list. As an example of how this works, let me tell you a story that happened just this morning.
As Katie (my awesome assistant) and I were working on some website things, I realized that I couldn’t log in to the Solution Building site because I had waited too long in setting up my two-factor authentication. This is something that Stacey (my amazing IT person) told me to do a month ago.
This meant that I wasn’t going to be able to publish this week’s solution until I got this taken care of.
As it is with busy people…I kept putting it off to do other things. The level of urgency ramped up though when I couldn’t get into the website. I had to decide what I was going to do. At that point, it became the highest priority.
We all deal with these kinds of choices. The key to accomplishing more is to decide early on what is important and what isn’t. No matter how clear we are on our life and business plans, things are going to happen. Some are within our control, and some aren’t.
The more answers we have to big life question, the easier the smaller questions are to deal with.
Ultimately achieving goals comes down to decisions and deciding is up to us.
As I think about life and decisions, once again, I’m brought back to Andy Andrew’s book, The Traveler’s Gift. I know, I refer to this book a lot. As I was thinking about goals and decisions, I was reminded about the profound impact this book had on my life as I recovered from my concussion.
The Responsible Decision
I accept responsibility for my past. I control my thoughts. I control my emotions. I am responsible for my success.
“THE BUCK STOPS HERE.”
“If decisions are choices…and our thinking dictates our decisions – then we are where we are because of our thinking.”
President Harry S. Truman
The Guided Decision
I will be a servant to others. I will listen to the council of wise men. I will choose my friends with care.
“I WILL SEEK WISDOM.”
“God moves mountains to create the opportunity of His choosing. It is up to you to be ready to move yourself.”
The Active Decision
I am courageous. I am a leader. I seize this moment. I choose now.
“I AM A PERSON OF ACTION.”
“My future is immediate. I will grasp it with both hands and carry it with running feet. When I am faced with the choice of doing nothing or doing something, I will always choose to act!”
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
The Certain Decision
I will not wait. I am passionate about my vision for the future. My course has been charted. My destiny is assured.
“I HAVE A DECIDED HEART.”
“Truth is truth. If a thousand people believe something foolish, it is still foolish! Truth is never dependent upon consensus of opinion. I have found that is better to be alone and acting upon the truth in my heart than to follow a gaggle of silly geese doomed to mediocrity.”
The Joyful Decision
I will greet each day with laughter. I will smile at every person I meet. I am the possessor of a grateful spirit.
“TODAY I WILL CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY.”
“Our very lives are fashioned by our choices. First we make choices. Then our choices make us.”
The Compassionate Decision
I will forgive even those who do not ask for forgiveness. I will forgive those who criticize me unjustly. I will forgive myself.
“I WILL GREET THIS DAY WITH A FORGIVING SPIRIT.”
“Forgiveness is a secret that is hidden in plain sight. It costs nothing and is worth millions. It is available to everyone and used by few. If you harness the power of forgiveness, you will be sought after and regarded highly. And not coincidentally, you will also be forgiven by others!”
The Persistent Decision
I will continue despite exhaustion. I focus on results. I am a person of great faith.
“I WILL PERSIT WITHOUT EXCEPTION.”
“Great leaders – great achievers – are rarely realistic by other people’s standards. Somehow, these successful people, often considered strange, pick their way through life ignoring or not hearing negative expectations and emotions. Consequently, they accomplish one great thing after another, never having heard that something cannot be done. God may have been waiting centuries for someone ignorant enough of the impossible to do that very thing!”
Achieving our goals comes down to decisions.
Starting by deciding what our priorities are.
Deciding to be responsible. Deciding to be wise. Deciding to take action. Deciding to believe in ourselves. Deciding to be happy. Deciding to forgive. Deciding to persist.
As I was going through the goal portion of my morning routine a few days ago, I realized we are rapidly approaching the end of 2022 and we are not where we need to be to accomplish our goals.
As I thought about this, my sense of urgency became elevated. We are going to need to start pushing extra hard to even get close to those goals.
This is where urgency, as a negative, begins to set in. One of the things that often happens in a situation like this is, you start running around like a chicken with its head cut off and no clear direction.
Or you can take control of the situation, choose to make the decisions needed and start moving forward.
Another part of my routine is to narrow the overwhelming number of things that need to be done down to the first next thing. This is a part of how I prioritize. What is the first next thing that needs to be done? One of the ways I do this is by reading through this list of eleven actions.
FIRST NEXT THING
Start with prayer
Get off my “BUT”, stop making excuses
Put it on the calendar
Don’t be afraid to ask for help (delegation / accountability)
Take goals seriously (create a sense of urgency early)
Maintain positive forward momentum
Don’t overthink it
Break the goals down into brick size pieces
Make goals about giving and not about getting
Review progress regularly, and be accountable
#5 Take goals seriously (create a sense of urgency early)
As I read through this list I was thinking about moving forward with our goals. When I got to #5, take goals seriously (create a sense urgency early) I remembered where this came from.
Before I started Timber Creek Construction, I was a partner in another construction company. My role in this partnership was production management.
One of the things that seemed to happen constantly is that as we got nearer and nearer the completion date, the sense of urgency picked up. And with that, productivity picked up. I was amazed at how much more got done as the deadline approached.
That’s when I realized that if we would create that sense of urgency early, it would increase productivity throughout the entire project and the company. Now that was easier said than done.
The tricky thing is how to consistently create that sense of urgency early.
Just like our company is behind on our goals and the sense of urgency is ramping up…
I should have created the sense of urgency EARLIER.
I can’t go back and change the past, but I can learn from it and change the future.
It’s Time to Do the ONE THING that is the Most Important
Doing the “One Thing” sounds great, but how do we do it?
This would be so much easier if somebody else would just tell us what to do. Not to mention, it would give us someone to blame if it was the wrong thing. The problem with letting someone else tells you what you should do is that it will be more about fulfilling their dreams…not yours.
We make determining the “One Thing” more difficult than it needs to be.
Making things more difficult is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. What if I do the wrong thing, was a question that I asked a lot. This would keep me from doing anything.
We need to do something…even if it’s not the perfect thing.
I will explain this with something I heard Dave Ramsey say referring to the Debt Snowball process. People often are scared about making paying small payments to debtors, but may be necessary to get out of debt. To put it in perspective he said, “What’s the worst thing that can happen…because they can’t kill you.” (This is assuming you don’t owe money to the mob)
The same thing is true for making a wrong decision when trying to determine what to do first.
Doing something is better than doing nothing!
I’ve referred to the book, The One Thing, over the past several weeks as I’ve been implementing its suggestions into my life plan. The main point of this book is that you can only do one thing at a time. So, it becomes imperative that you get clear on what’s most important for you to accomplish and take actions that will move you toward that.
I’ve determined that my one thing is –
Build God’s Kingdom by helping people find solutions for building their dreams through better business systems, quality construction projects and life lessons.
I do this by having core values that align with this purpose. Next, I need to make sure that the different areas of my life and my big someday dreams support it. Lastly, I need to decide…
Which one of the millions of bricks that it’s going to take to build this Kingdom I’m going to lay now?
Last week I shared my big long-term dreams and told you that this week we would go deeper.
To do this let’s take one of my big someday dreams and use it as an example.
Big someday dream (6-year goal – 2027) –
Remodel and renovate our existing home that was built my Great grandfather in 1916 and has been our family through three generations. This project will consist of a two-story addition with a basement added to the existing home and remodeling the existing home to the level of new, giving us more space to live and entertain while honoring and building a family legacy.
One year goal (end of 2022) –
Have preliminary floor plan and design agreed upon including rough sketched drawings and preliminary budget
Monthly goal (end of February) –
Have two preliminary lists of things to be included in the project, one from me and one from Debby
Weekly goal (by Sat. 2/5/22) –
Have lists started
Daily goal (1/29/22) –
Explain to Debby what is needed from her list and give her a deadline
Start my list
Right now –
Make a note on my to do list so that I don’t forget
Now go through this process for all your big someday dreams. In my case this is seventeen dreams. Some of the dreams will be a higher priority as they relate to your “one thing” or your present situation.
Once all my dreams have gone through this process, I can look at the RIGHT NOWs for each one and decide which is the highest priority RIGHT NOW and do that thing RIGHT NOW.
After that thing is done, I do the next most important one…always determined by what is most important RIGHT NOW to accomplish my ONE THING.
None of your dreams will ever be fulfilled if you don’t make a DECISION and take ACTION.
How Do I Know Which Thing, is the Right Thing, to do First?
This is the million-dollar question…literally.
I think this one question costs us more time and money than any other. Especially as entrepreneurs and business owners.
Last week I wrote about the millions of bricks that represent all the small pieces that our dreams are made up of and the difficult decision of choosing the one from the millions.
When there are millions of things to choose from it can be overwhelming.
As a recovering perfectionist I struggle with indecision. This indecision comes from a long list – lack of clarity, it won’t be good enough, fear of failure, fear of success, and a multitude of other insecurities.
This indecision is the one thing that costs me more than anything else.
It’s frustrating having dreams and them not becoming reality.
Dreams are the subliminal ideas, thoughts and images occurring in our minds. I believe this is how God shares His ideas of our purpose and a direction for building our lives.
This means that when we’re not taking actions to move us toward those dreams, we’re ignoring God.
Dreams are critical to living the life God intends for us.
In the Certain Decision, from the Andy Andrews book, The Traveler’s Gift, he says, “A person without a dream never had a dream come true.” This is what happens after we’ve had dreams that haven’t come to fruition. We give up on those dreams and just drift through life without a plan. We get stuck between dreaming and results and just stop dreaming.
I would have all those big dreams, but for some reason I couldn’t get from dreams to results. I could figure out a plan and get the dreams turned into goals but would struggle to get to the results that were needed to turn those dreams into reality.
How do I get my DREAMS to become RESULTS?
The missing part was the ACTION. This needs to be actions specific to achieving the goals. Not just actions that make us feel good about being busy. They need to be specific to accomplishing the goals that lead to the “one thing”.
This Huge Gap is What Keeps Most People from Achieving Their Goals
Most of us have…or at one time had…some really big dreams of what our lives were going to look like. All the amazing things we were going to do or have. These dreams started when were young and full of excitement and imagination. Before we experienced some of life’s setbacks.
Early in my life I had big dreams of owning and running a huge farming operation with Dad. Later I added the dream of owning and operating a big construction business also. These were a part of my big dreams.
Then life happened.
This is not to say that the things that happened weren’t my fault…because most were. My young inexperienced decisions came back to bite me. Forty years later, I’m still recovering from some of those bites. Hopefully I’m smarter now and can avoid getting bit.
The last several years my learning, experience and life lessons have helped me move in a direction of cleaning up those mistakes.
As I have been working on goal setting and planning for the future I’ve experimented with several different systems. Most of them had similarities with some differences sprinkled in.
As I used them, I would mix and match them trying to get to the system that worked best for me. Some parts I would keep, some I would replace. Each time getting closer to what I needed.
I could see the big dreams out there but struggled with getting from here to there. Something was missing.
Getting from here to there isn’t hard to understand. If you want to earn a certain amount of money or own a certain house or have a specific job…it’s simply a matter of figuring out what you need to accomplish each year to get there by the target date.
The dilemma is getting from the daily routines of living life to the big dreams out there in the future.
Imagine standing in front of a huge pile of a million bricks that represent one of those big dreams. This would be a pile of bricks 40’ across and 40’ high. It’s your job to figure out which one of those million bricks is the first one you need to lay to get that dream built.
This is where the real problem lies.
Which one is the one I should lay first? What if I lay the wrong one? These questions and a lot more bombard us daily and the next thing you know…another day as gone by without any bricks being laid.
Add to the first pile another for every additional dream. Depending on the dream the size of the piles will vary. Some bigger and some smaller, but all will still be huge piles.
As I stand here looking at my thirteen huge piles of bricks…which brick in which pile should I start with?
This isn’t to say that there is only one right brick in those millions of bricks. What it does mean, is that we need to be clear on what it is that we’re building and focus our daily brick laying on that building.
One thing for sure. Nothing will get built if we don’t lay some bricks.
Next week I will give you some practical, real-world examples of how I choose bricks for building my dreams.
The topic of spending time is nothing new. It’s a topic that is written about a lot. My search online for “spending time” uncovered 289 million results. Just so you know, I didn’t read them all. 😊
As I’ve been working on setting my goals for this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what and where I should put my focused intensity. I struggle with this. What things should be in what order.
Earlier this week I heard a Business Made Simple Daily from Donald Miller entitled How to Know What is Worth Your Time. Notice it doesn’t say “what your time is worth”, but “what is worth your time”. Donald uses the example that his truck tags had been expired for several months, but he chose to spend his time on other things he determined to be a higher priority.
This conversation about time reminded me of how in his Hero on a Mission course for goal setting and life planning starts out with writing your obituary. This form of starting with the end in mind makes the point that for each and every one of us…life is over at some point. As we race through the routines of our daily lives, we just don’t think about time from a finite aspect.
We tend to approach life as if we have all the time we want. This isn’t the case!
So, if we accept that time is limited, what do we do? Determining “what is worth my time” is a good place to start.
This is the hard part for me…there are so many great things that I want to do.
One of the problems with time is that we we’ve been given it. You’ve done nothing to earn the time you have. It isn’t like money. You can’t go earn more time. You can’t put time in the bank and save it for later. Time is being spent constantly and we take it for granted!
Once time is gone you can never get it back. Don’t waste what little you have!
Each of us spend time differently. The important thing is to determine where it is that you are going to spend yours.
Back to goal setting and how time relates.
As I have been listing out all the things I want to accomplish this year, I realized many of them were on the list last year and the year before that…and the year before that. I see a pattern here.
Maybe I’m trying to do too much?
The more I worked through the list the more lost in the fog I got. How can I figure out what is worth my time?
I decided that if I was going to do this, I needed to take the limited time thing seriously. To do this I determined that a good place to start would be to figure out how much time the things on the list would take and compare that to the amount of time available to spend.
Those of you that know me, know how I’m going to this…a spreadsheet, of course.
I’m now going to go get to work on my time budgeting spreadsheet. I’ll let you know how that goes in a future post.
Some people would argue that there was very little about the year 2020 that was great. 2020 was certainly not what I expected or had planned for. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t great.
Often, when asked how my day’s going, I will pause briefly, review the day and answer, Good, but then…
Every day is good. Some are just better than others.
While writing in my journal yesterday morning, I was enjoying the fire burning in the wood stove as I looked out at the falling snow. It was so peaceful and quiet. I don’t think life gets much better than this.
Not everyone would agree with my assessment of the snow. This is fine, we are all made different. The important thing about any situation is to look for the blessings. Just as some are not fans of cold and snow, I’m not a fan of heat and humidity. But in every situation, I work to find things to be thankful for.
The focus of this journal post was my annual life planning. Reviewing the past year and looking forward to the new year. As I thought about the coming year, I wrote…
2021 is going to be a great year, but then…every year is great. Some are just greater than others.
As I wrote this, I realized that this mindset was the same years as it was for days.
The new year is a natural time for stepping back and reviewing the past and planning for the future. It’s common for new year’s resolutions to be made and then be abandoned once the busyness of our daily lives takes over. This annual process is great, but it needs to be done more often if it’s going to be anything more than a fleeting resolution.
It needs to be done more often than just annually. It also needs done quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily. This is hard to maintain. We get into daily routines that become weekly, that become monthly, that become quarterly and the next thing you know another year has gone by.
We look up and realize we didn’t accomplish the things we wanted.
Several years back I broke my year down into these smaller increments as an effort to not loose track of my year’s goals. It worked really well until the past few years when I gradually neglected to keep it up. It’s up to me to not let this happen.
And the Importance of Me Incorporating It Going Forward
The world is full of amazing, exciting and interesting things which are constantly fighting for our attention. Now more than ever we are bombarded by things requesting our time. The difficult part is sorting through them and determining which ones we should spend our time and energy on.
I constantly struggle deciding what to and what not to do. What makes one thing better than another? I realize this is an issue that ultimately comes down to me deciding for me.
We’ve all been given talents and interests, designed to fulfill a specific purpose.
The fact that we are different means there is no “one size fits all” answer to the question of what you should do. What’s important to one person isn’t to someone else. The crucial thing is that you figure out what your purpose is and are true to who you were made to be.
We are never going to be perfect this side of Heaven, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t constantly be working to build a better life. An important part of this is self-reflection. Looking back at things we did well and things we need to improve on.
Incorporate learning from the past as a part of your plans looking forward.
As I work on my life plans for the new year, this year I decided that I would incorporate a theme for the year. Something that will serve as a building block in the foundation of my life. Knowing that I struggle with clarity when making decisions I’ve decided that my theme for 2021 is… FOCUSED INTENSITY.
As I thought about and researched different themes, I chose FOCUSED INTENSITY because I think it’s a building block that will make my foundation stronger. It strengthens places I’m already doing well and supports the expanded building in the places where I’m not.
The existing foundation that FOCUSED INTENSITY supports:
Honor God in all that I do
Make all I can, Save all I can, Give all I can
Spend time wisely, there is a limited amount
Pay attention to detail
Never be satisfied with mediocrity
Find and maintain the balance in everything
Move the mountain one shovel full at a time
Remember that I have two ears and one mouth
Take off the blinders, be more observant
What is FOCUSED INTENSITY?
Focus – is the central point of attraction, attention and activity. It is concentrating and directing one’s attention and efforts.
Intensity – is the quality or condition of being intense. It is a lot of energy, strength and concentration applied to specific activities and thoughts. It is a high degree of emotional excitement.
The purpose of this building block is to provide the needed support for building my best life.
Next week I will show you the mortar that will be used to adhere this building block of FOCUSED INTENSITY to the foundation of my life.
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