STEP 6 – Evaluate.
Effective life leadership requires that we take time to evaluate our lives and our progress. Every Christian needs to periodically take a spiritual “stocktake”. We need to bring ourselves to account, to see how we are really doing.
It is very easy to live by the “clock”, focusing on working faster, harder and even smarter. However, going faster is not helpful if we are heading in the wrong direction. We must regularly take out the “compass” and ensure that our lives are aligned with our Mission, our Role and our Goals. There is often a gap between our ideals (what we say is important) and our present reality (how we’re spending our time). The urgent so easily squeezes out the important.
Unless we focus on our Mission and our Goals we will be easily distracted by many other things (Prov.4:25). Evaluation helps us to see where we have drifted and allows us to make course corrections to get back on track so that our daily actions reflect what we say is truly important to us.
Sometimes we’re trying to do too much and we need to say “No” to some things, even if they are not bad things. We must know what our priorities are and then infuse them with a sense of urgency so that they are not pushed aside by the many unimportant things that so frequently scream for our attention.
Climb a Tree
There is a big difference between leadership and management. Management tends to focus on “doing things right” while leadership focuses more on “doing right things”. Here is a good story to illustrate this difference. Imagine a group of people cutting through a jungle. The managers are right there, making sure things are going smoothly – organising rosters, providing sharp machetes, arranging regular rest breaks, ensuring adequate first-aid facilities, etc. The leader is the person who climbs a tree, looks around and yells, “Wrong Jungle!” But the managers respond by saying, “But we’re making such progress!” Yes, they’re making progress, but go fast in the wrong direction is not true progress.
Life can be a bit like a jungle. There’s so much to do, so little time to do it in, work can be hard going most of the time, and the pressure can become intense. I have found great benefit in scheduling a regular “Climb A Tree” day. I have been doing this monthly for many years now and it is one of my favourite habits of effectiveness. What I do is schedule one day for each month of the year where I “retreat”. I spend it totally by myself and I try to get out of the office (either go for a drive in the car or a walk in a park).
I spend the day reflecting back over the previous month and asking myself some key questions such as, “Father, what are you saying to me right now?” “How am I doing … as a husband, father, pastor, leader …?” “What’s going well?” “What needs to change?” I then look forward to the coming month and do some prayerful planning and preparation for the future.
I also may take time to review one or more of these following items (which we’ve covered over the last few weeks in our Life Planning exercises): my mission statement, my core values, my personal vision, prophetic directives, my personal shifts, my roles, and my goals. These things, together, become like a personal ‘constitution’ that provide direction and foundation for my life, so I don’t just drift from day to day.
As I reflect, I record my thoughts in a notebook or journal. Writing things down helps you to focus (your mind can’t wander when you’re writing) and it also gives you a record of what God says to you so you can review it later on (I usually review my journal from the previous month as part of this day).
The accumulated years of regularly doing this month after month give you a sense of continuity and progress as you see God’s work in your life. I come away from these days rejuvenated and with a clear fresh mind ready to face the coming month. By the way, I discovered that this is a Biblical concept. Not only were there weekly Sabbath rest days in Israel. Every New Moon was a special holy day or festival, like the Sabbath, for God’s people (Num.10:10. Psalm 81:3). They were not to work on these days but were to offer special offerings and I imagine they took time to reflect on the previous month and get ready for the next one. Hey, God thought of it first!
Climbing a tree every now and then makes sure you don’t get lost (or eaten!) in the jungle. Take time to think about how you are going and where you’re heading. Jesus did this regularly and I believe it was the key to his focus and his effectiveness. After all, at the end of only three and a half years, he was able to say, “It is finished!” Wow, wouldn’t that be great! He didn’t do everything that could have been done but he knew what he was called to do and he did that alone.
If you can, set aside a day each month for things such as evaluation and reflection. If not, you may be able to set aside just a few hours. Either way, it will be a valuable investment of your time.