Looking Back, Moving Forward

There are a lot of famous people from the past that I admire, but they like all of us, are a mixed bag. Not ‘all’ their qualities were admirable, not all the decisions they made were perfect. We have the tendency to examine their lives and decide we would not have made the same mistakes. Psychologists call that hindsight bias; it’s how we as humans have the tendency to overestimate our ability to predict an outcome.  That being said, for most people the default setting is to expect the worst case scenario to happen rather than the best. We are sure we will ‘not be able to do something’ or that ‘we will fail’. We assume the end before we even begin. Our parents and teachers would say “Can’t never could.” With that in mind, what God sized dreams have you shut down by your own hindsight bias? What personal ambitions have you delayed because you’ve predicted the outcome before you’ve even begun? In the year ahead, what will you attempt for God? How hard are you willing to work to reach your goals? 

In her book “Grit”, Angela Duckworth writes of Benjamin Franklin and how diligently he worked to accomplish his goals. His hardwork and determination allowed him to accomplish more than most people ever realize in two lifetimes. Franklin wished to improve his writing skills so he would read and reread the best essays in his favorite magazine. He would take notes, then put away the original writing and attempt to rewrite the essay. Franklin compared his work against the original to reveal his faults and then he would focus on those weaknesses and spend hours improving his skill.
 
Most of us want to be exceptionally good at something, yet we want it to be without effort on our part. We want it to be ‘natural ability’. I’ve adopted this saying: “Potential is God’s gift to me, what I do with it will be my gift to God.”
 
When asked if we want to be closer to God, we generally respond with a resounding “yes”, but we don’t want to put the work into studying and reading His word, neither will we discipline ourselves to be faithful to church each Sunday. Equally, we offer up a ‘no’ when asked to fill a need because we decide before we try, that we won’t be able to do it. 
 
Let 2018 be the year you work harder at the spiritual disciplines; show up for church each Sunday–prioritize your attendance. Start a bible reading plan and discipline yourself to stick with it.  Schedule daily prayer and study time instead of waiting for it to be convenient. This is the same advice you’ve heard before, the difference will be what you do with it. A dream without a plan is just a wish.
 
Look back to learn, but move forward to improve. Examine your weaknesses when they reveal themselves. Instead of shutting down with discouragement, focus on those shortcomings and intentionally work hard to get better. This is how we cooperate with the Holy Spirit. It’s a both/and approach to spiritual growth. The apostle Peter explained it well, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” (II Peter 2:2). Likewise, the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy to be diligent to study the scriptures, even telling him to give himself fully to this task (I Timothy 4:13-16). There are no shortcuts to spiritual growth, nor can the process be rushed. Start today, lose your excuses and hindsight bias. Yesterday’s failure does not determine today’s success–unless you allow it to.