Know Where You Are Going
August 19th, 2013
Today is a New Day
If you don't know where you are going almost any road will take you there. That was counsel I received in childhood. The point is that there is no use in being granted the gift of a new day, of avoiding procrastination or of reducing our busy-ness if we have no idea where we are heading next. (See the past three blog postings for consideration of these ideas.)
What is your next goal? (What's at the top of the stairs for you?) What is the next objective on the way to the goal? (What is the next step to move you closer to the top of the stairs?) Goals are as varied as the people who have them. Short-term goals in particular are dependent on current circumstances. What screw-up do we have to fix before we are cleared to move on? What is the most appropriate timing? With whom do we need to talk before the next step is possible?
Here are suggestions for ways to know where we want to go next.
Build on the past
Don't live in the past. Because we have always done it this way is a really poor reason to continue to do it the same way. As much as we respect what our parents did with their lives, the family business may not be for us. My Dad was a master carpenter; I admire his work and cherish his legacy. I can't drive a nail. Probably his line of work is not for me. His work ethic, integrity, attention to making sure every detail led to his vision of the finished product--those are all things that I can use to build my own dreams into reality.
UCOM has considered it a strength to change to meet the differing needs of our community at various times in our existence. When homework help for public school students morphed into a literacy program into a coaching program for math and science and then back to reading and English skills...our programs have changed respectively. When other agencies began to teach English as a second language, UCOM began to refer our students to those programs. We concentrated on Financial Skills in Spanish and are the premiere program in that arena. When emergency and supplemental food distribution became truly a safety net rather than a life-style, UCOM began to branch into providing personal gardens and gardening instruction for people. The number of active urban gardeners has doubled in this program each year for three years. We anticipate having 300 such gardens in 2016. What's next?
Foundations are what they are
There are two kinds of foundations, strong, healthy, forward-looking ones and ones that need to be repaired or demolished and rebuilt. Don't forget to salvage what you can from the foundations that need to be razed.
If the foundation of your personal life or the agency you want to see succeed is unstable, do an honest evaluation. Is there anything worth saving? Are some of the values appropriate to the present and to the next goal? Like cleaning out the basement or attic, don't let nostalgia or romanticism cause you to hold on to something that will ultimately block your progress. Hoarding is just as dangerous in our minds and goals as it is in our homes.
When the foundation is strong, just keep building
What does better look like?
Bigger doesn't always mean better. As our personal needs change we may find that being less busy, less stressed, less activity-addicted is better than spending more time and money doing stuff--even good stuff. It may be that as we age, we feel a stronger need to accomplish a particular personal or professional goal before a pre-determined time, retirement for instance.
The same is true of community agencies. What new needs in the community beg for different methods? As an advisor to churches for more than 30 years, I have always urged that the church grow with the times so that the congregation and the vision of the church look like the community around the physical structure. In years to come will we need a physical structure at all? Should that time come, may we be ten years ahead of the curve (at least in our planning) rather than 100 years behind.
The burning question for people or agencies is not "How can we maintain the status quo?" The appropriate challenge is, "How can we have more impact for good than we have had before?" If our mission is to be a catalyst for change, then let us begin that change with an honest look at what we are accomplishing now and what needs to be accomplished. Then we can begin to plan how we get to that point.
Inertia never brought positive change
What are you going to do or what are you doing to move on into a more productive you?