Quick Review: You can’t accomplish much in life if you’re double-minded about your goals and dreams. So make a decision and stick to it. Keep your eyes on God, not your problems. Stay focused! And, to avoid being pulled in multiple directions, prayerfully evaluate the needs and expectations of those around you. Continue to honor God by helping others, but maintain a sensible balance. It’s okay to say “No” to unnecessary or unreasonable requests.
Do you have trouble saying “No”? Then you need to re-evaluate your priorities and learn to set boundaries. Again, we never want to get so focused and bent on our own agendas that we neglect the precious people God puts in our paths. But it’s okay to tend to our own needs — and to pursue the dreams God has placed in our hearts. Balance is key. Unfortunately, many of us never mastered the balancing act. Instead we try to juggle too many tasks and requests; and generally end up dropping the ball (or several).
How do we maintain a balance?
- Make time for yourself. Don’t get greedy — but be kind to YOU. God expects us to give and to serve, but He’s certainly NOT a taskmaster! In fact, He reassures us, “…The teaching that I ask you to accept is easy. The load I give you to carry is light.” (Matthew 11:30 ERV)
- Stop feeling guilty. You cannot meet every need or live up to every expectation. This may come as a complete surprise to you, but we have it on good authority that you’re only human. Besides, even our Lord Jesus Christ was careful to take time out from His mission on earth. He taught the truth, fed thousands, and healed the sick; but He also scheduled times of rest and recreation: dinner and fellowship with a friend; and retreats with His Heavenly Father. Jesus maintained a balance and never felt guilty about it. Why would He feel guilt? He was without sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
- Learn to discern between a genuine need (that only you can meet) and a want (which can often be selfish, unreasonable, unnecessary, and even frivolous).
- Regardless, ask yourself: “Is it time for someone else to step up to the plate.” By not taking on more than your share, you can silently help your brothers and sisters be accountable: “Help each other with your troubles. When you do this, you are obeying the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to do this, you are only fooling yourself. …You must each accept the responsibilities that are yours.” (Galatians 6:2-5 ERV)
- Distinguish between what’s urgent versus what’s important. President Dwight D. Eisenhower used this principle to guide him through a major war and two terms in the White House. He once stated, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” Confusing?
Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, explains: “Urgent tasks are tasks that have to be dealt with immediately. …Things like phone calls, tasks with impending deadlines, and situations where you have to respond quickly. Responding to an email, when you have to do it, is usually an urgent task. Important tasks are tasks that contribute to long-term missions and goals. …Things like that book you want to write, the presentation you’d like to make for a promotion, and the company you plan on starting.”
Got that? No? Well then … we have a coupon for a free bar of soap, but it expires at midnight. We need to go to the store RIGHT NOW! Please stop what you’re doing and drive us — so we can pick up our free soap and save seventy-nine cents!
- Recognize that there will always be demands on your time. Meet the ones which are truly important.
- Set boundaries. Christian authors Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend explain in their book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, “Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what is not.”
We always want to be loving, accepting and helpful, but there are some problems we can’t fix, some needs we cannot or should not meet. And even when we can help solve things, we need to remember that we’re only human and that our time and resources, as well as our physical and emotional energies, are limited. “If we fail to set some boundaries, people can even keep us from doing the work God wants us to do! So, drawing the line is not being selfish. To the contrary, the “…Goal of learning boundaries is to free us up to protect, nurture and develop the lives God has given us stewardship over.” (Boundaries, p. 285)
Sad to say, life is full of needy people (some who are well-meaning, but also some who are just “takers”) who will try to hog your time, abuse your willingness to help and serve, invade your privacy, manipulate your emotions, exploit your gifts — basically control your life! If allowed to, these people (especially the takers) can pull you way off course. Whether unintentionally or not, they can keep you from achieving your own everyday goals and, ultimately, fulfilling your dreams.
- Realize that every time we say “yes” to something, we’re automatically saying NO to something else. And, if you’re a true servant and/or giver, don’t be surprised when people start lining up at your door. The world desperately needs more Barnabas people who are willing to lend a helping hand. Therefore, once a friend, relative, or coworker discovers one, they’ll want to “dip into the well” as many times as possible.
But nobody’s well is inexhaustible. So, before yours runs completely dry, start setting limits. If we fail to set boundaries, someone will always have us jumping at their every whim and cry, and we’ll end up constantly stressed out and frustrated with life. Eventually, we burn out!
- On that note, STOP TRYING TO BE A PEOPLE-PLEASER! You cannot be all things to all people. Nor can you ever hope to meet all their expectations. You’re not here to win a popularity contest. And in regards to your life, dreams, and creative pursuits, you don’t need the approval of men — so seek God’s approval instead. The Apostle Paul writes, “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:10 NLV)
Don’t waste time wondering why someone doesn’t want to hang out with you — or support you in the pursuit of your dreams. Obviously that person is not part of your destiny. Not to worry, because Jesus experienced the same thing. Many of the religious leaders of the day snubbed Him, but God supplied our Lord with plenty of genuine friends who fully supported Christ’s mission on earth (and with no strings attached). Jesus never had
to play politics or buy their devotion. He simply shared His great dream and stayed focused, thus changing the world forever. Let’s do likewise!
“…I am single-minded: …Reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize….” (Philippians 3:13-14 NET)
Next: Stay Motivated (Friday)