Later this week I will be reviewing the book that currently lives on my night stand. But the book has spurred a thought that will not really fit into the review. So, you get it now!
Each chapter of this book ends with an assessment and a series of questions. The assessment works like the standard personality test, guiding readers to evaluate their current relationship status on a number scale. The questions take that information, combine it with principles presented in the chapter, and encourage the reader to make a definite plan. A closing prayer cements the plan.
Reading the book has opened my eyes to a truth about myself. I take in some great information. I ponder it, marveling at its profound nature. And, I truly do desire to implement what I learn. But I frequently miss one important step.
I fail to make a plan.
Ironically, I am a planner. I hate going into anything without a plan of some sort. I want to know what each step will entail so I can know what to expect and balance my time along the way. That’s just the way I work.
What I have realized, though, is that I only plan when a deadline is involved. If it is something open-ended like incorporating new truths into my life, I often do not even think about making a plan. I guess I expect it to just seep into my life.
May I share a little secret? It doesn’t work that way!
Nothing just happens to seep into our hearts and minds. Habits do not form accidentally. Lifestyles do not change randomly. There must be a driving force behind a developing life. There must be a plan.
So, what are the steps to making a plan?
Pray. What a critical first step! If we do not start here, we plan and act without guidance. Oh how wasteful our effort is if we do not have a desperate need for the Lord’s guidance through the process!
Evaluate. It’s easy to miss where we are right now. Often, we are not doing as well as we think. Sometimes, though, we might surprise ourselves with the realization that we are doing more things right than we thought! But we know that there is still a problem. There is still room for improvement, and an honest evaluation of where we are shows exactly what areas need focused attention.
Focus on specific areas of improvement. We cannot do it all overnight. We cannot even do it all together over the course of several months. We have to narrow down the most important steps to take next. What are two or three specific areas that need work right now? What has challenged us the most? Let’s identify those and tackle them first.
Make a plan. What are two or three actions we can take right now to work in those areas we’ve identified? What is one habit we can change? What is a thought pattern we should attack? Identifying the problem is only a portion of the battle. The rest comes when we actually create and implement a plan of attack. We must be intentional.
Make a commitment. There have been times I have identified problems, worked out a plan, and had grand designs for getting the plan accomplished. But I have skipped another important step. I have not shared my plan. “It’s between me and the Lord,” I have piously told myself. But in truth I haven’t even really consulted Him. I skipped step one. So at step five I have no interest in accountability. But oh how desperately we need accountability! The prayer of commitment should be two-fold. 1) It begins with a prayer, both of thanksgiving for the teaching and of repentance over past behavior. 2) We then move on to a request for guidance. This is where we ask that the Lord provide every tool and resource we need to complete the plan He has guided us to create.
And now, it’s time to act. But oh how much easier it will be to act now that we are not just hoping that these new lessons will fall into place. We have a plan!