Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
- Monday, April 13, 2009
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Andy Stanley's new book, The Principle of the Path: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, (Thomas Nelson, 2008).
Whether it’s a struggling marriage, a mountain of debt, or a dead-end job, you never meant to be where you find yourself now. You had the best of intentions. So how did you end up in such a mess?
Decision by decision, you followed a certain path that ultimately led to your current destination. But the good news is that if you don’t like where you’ve ended up, you can change direction to start heading toward where you want to be.
Here’s how you can get from where you are to where you want to be:
Learn the principle of the path. The principle of the path says: "Direction – not intention – determines our destination." You’ll win or lose at life by the paths you choose, and each daily decision you make points you in a certain direction.
Identify the paths you’ve chosen so far. What decisions have you made that over time have led you to either right or wrong paths? When have you followed paths that have headed in the right direction for you to fulfill your values, goals, dreams, or commitments? When have you followed paths that led away from what’s most important and taken you to places that you didn’t want to go?
Make connections. You need to connect your desires with your direction in life. Ask yourself: “Are there disconnects in my life?”, “Are there discrepancies between what I desire in my heart and what I’m doing with my life?”, and “Is there alignment between my intentions and my direction?”.
Choose specific paths with specific destinations in mind. Since today and tomorrow are connected, look as far down the road as possible when making decisions. Ask yourself: “In light of my past experience, and my future hopes and dreams, what’s the wise thing to do?” Pray for God to help you see trouble coming before it arrives, the wisdom to know what to do when you see warning signs, and the courage to do it so you won’t have regrets later.
Tell yourself the truth. Simply following your heart is dangerous when making decisions, because your heart can’t be trusted. In this fallen world, you’ll always have the ability to lie to yourself, act on those lies, and defend the lies with excuses. Come clean with yourself about the uncomfortable truth behind your choices so you’ll be free to move from where you are to where you want to be. What’s the real reason you moved in with your boyfriend or girlfriend, filed for divorce, ran up credit card debt, drink so much alcohol, quit going to church, etc.? Keep your heart in check. Ask yourself: “Why am I doing this, really?”, “If someone in my circumstances came to me for advice, what course of action would I recommend?” and “In light of my past experience, and my future hopes and dreams, what’s the wise thing to do?”
Submit to the One who knows where each path leads. The key to finding the right path isn’t information; it’s submission to God, who sees the whole picture and knows what’s best for you. When considering options, trust God rather than your own understanding. When conventional wisdom conflicts with biblical truth, choose what the Bible has to say. When your emotions conflict with God’s law, harness your emotions and lean into God’s law. Acknowledge the limitations of your own knowledge, as well as the fact that God knows everything. When you wrestle with submitting all your decisions fully to God, ask yourself: “Why do I hesitate to give God full access to every part of my life?”, “What do I fear will happen on the other side of that decision?”, and “What is the most difficult area of my life to yield control?”
Consider the story your life will tell. What kind of legacy will you leave after you die? When people look back at your life, will it tell them a story you’re proud of, or one that you regret? As you face every decision, keep in mind that you can never accomplish God’s will by breaking His law, violating His principles, or ignoring His wisdom. Ask yourself whether or not God has already spoken on the matter you’re considering by searching the Scriptures about it. To figure out if the options you’re considering violate one of God’s principles, ask yourself: “What outcome am I expecting from this decision?” and “Does the option I’m considering now naturally lead to that outcome?”
Tap into the wisdom of others. You have certain limits to your own personal experiences and knowledge, but you can always learn something valuable from others. No one ever gets to the place where he or she no longer needs wise counsel. So find people you trust and admire – those who are good influences on your life. Who has the kind of marriage you’d like? Who seems to have done a good job of managing money? Who has a family life you’d like to enjoy yourself? Ask people for their advice, and heed it.
Pay attention. Whatever you give your attention to influences the direction of your life. So consider whether or not you’re giving your attention to the right people and situations. Is there something that’s distracting you by drawing your attention away from what matters most? Who or what do you need to start paying more attention to, instead of making excuses: your kids, your health, your spiritual growth, your savings account? Ask God to reveal what your priorities should be and to give you the strength you need to discipline yourself to keep those priorities in mind when making daily decisions. Pause before devoting your attention to anyone or anything; pray about your decision first. Then be sure to give your full attention to whoever and whatever deserves it most.
Deal with disappointment. Unfortunately, some destinations are unreachable because dreams won’t come true. If you find that you can’t get to the place you’d like to be, don’t despair or try to make something happen anyway, since that won’t lead you any closer to your desired destination. Instead, go ahead and mourn the loss of your dream. Then place your trust in God. Tell God that you want His will for your life rather than your own. Keep believing and keep following in the direction that God leads, which, even though you may not have chosen it, will ultimately lead you to the right destination.
Adapted from The Principle of the Path: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, copyright 2008 by Andy Stanley. Published by Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
Andy Stanley is a pastor, communicator, author, and the founder of North Point Ministries, Inc. (NPM). Since its inception in 1995, North Point Ministries has grown from one campus to three in the Atlanta area, and has helped plant 14 strategic partner churches throughout the United States. Each Sunday, more than 20,000 adults attend worship services at one of NPM’s three campuses. Andy’s books include It Came From Within, Communicating for a Change, Making Vision Stick, and The Next Generation Leader. Andy lives in Alpharetta, Georgia, with his wife, Sandra, and their three children.
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