By Dr. Jonathan Beck, First UMC Executive Pastor
Do you feel perfectly satisfied at work and home? Everything easy, peasy, lemon squeesy? Most of us feel a pinch from reality that reminds us that something is not quite right: uncomfortable situations, difficult relationships and seemingly unbreakable habits. We often blame others, but occasionally will get that flash of insight of Dean Martin, “Wherever I go,
there I am!” WE are the common denominator to all our situations and relationships. WE are the primary actors in the stories of our lives.
If we feel the ‘pinch’, then why don’t we just change? In Immunity to Change Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey describe three mechanisms that hold us back. The Change Prevention mechanism is the aversion to any change. It thwarts any challenging aspirations we may have by throwing out all the difficulties and downsides. The Feeling System tries to maintain tranquility and will seek to reduce anxiety by downplaying counter information that insists we need to change. Few people enjoy stress and other feelings that change evokes. Finally, our Belief System filters new information to fit our preconceived ideas and reinforce our positions, attitudes and stories we tell ourselves. “Don’t confuse me with the facts! My mind is made up!” When we know these dispositions and tendencies to protect ourselves, we can take them into account when we are faced with change.
Change Is Possible. In fact, Jesus gives us direction and hope for change. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Jesus, Matthew 7:7-8
First, ask… Why does Jesus tell us to ask? Asking creates larger base of knowledge. It helps us fill in gaps from our own lack of knowledge and blind spots. Asking gives other people a chance to share their perspectives and interpretations of the facts. This is important for a couple of reasons. It enlarges the pool of knowledge. It also ties people together as they commit to mutual purpose and design strategies and solutions together. A great way to begin asking more is working in a peer group of friends who will help encourage you and give good insight. When we ask, our individual and corporate knowledge increases and lifts our vision so we can aspire to greater heights.
Second, seek… Did you know that 80% of people who are in jobs they don’t like will NOT do anything to change their situation? We tell ourselves, “I’d rather face the devil I know than the devil I don’t.” So we try to make do and not stir the waters. Jesus encourages us to seek – new opportunities, new experiences. Who knows what we might learn if we embrace experience as our teacher?! We can seek new experiences by following this simple model: 1) study your situation and ask what it teaches you about yourself, 2) why do you behave the way you do? 3) what assumptions are you working from that drives your behavior? 4) Are those assumptions accurate and how can I test them? The next time you react to change ask these questions to help you respond rather than react.
Finally, knock… There is an alternative to the 80% who are dissatisfied but afraid to seek other opportunities. You can take initiative. You can knock and see what doors open. Seth Godin writes in Poke the Box: If you sign up for the initiative path and continue on it when others fret… you will ultimately succeed. The crowd won’t stop worrying, because worrying is what they enjoy doing. But that’s okay, because you’ll be making a difference and using your newfound leverage to do more and more work that matters.
I’ll never forget when Godin spoke at a leadership conference and said, “Don’t wait to be picked. Pick yourself!” When faced with uncomfortable situations, we too often withdraw into a corner than use our influence and initiative to be an actor who shapes the outcome. Len Schlesinger, President of Babson College, views challenges as an adventure to embrace rather than to fear, uncertainty something to explore. Speaking about dealing with business and life challenges, he says, “We are explorers like Indiana Jones.” It is through exploring and engaging our world that we make the unknown known and reduce both uncertainty and fear. As I like to say, the only way forward is forward. What we don’t yet know, we will figure out as we go. Knock on doors, and when one opens, step on through.
I like the story of the father who asked his boy to clear out the rocks in the back yard area so a lawn could be put in. The boy worked for hours until he came to a large boulder he couldn’t lift or leverage. He tried until dinner time when his father came out. He said to his father, ‘I’m sorry, Dad. I’ve tried everything but can’t move this boulder.’ His father replied, ‘Son, you haven’t tried everything. You haven’t asked for my help.’ With that, they went out and finished the job together. We are not alone in the world. God and others will help you learn and grow. There is no way of knowing how much we can accomplish and how far we can go until we ask, seek, and knock. Our Father will help you!
“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:8
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