When was the last time you chose hard work over the easy path? Living in the day and age of hacks, shortcuts, fast gains, and convenience, with apps, gadgets and tools that can help us gain efficiency, we seldom consider what long-term benefits we might be missing out on if we were to add a certain level of desirable difficulty to our day-to-day life.
Who, in their right mind, would ask for more difficulty? Why go through additional pain or headaches? Why put in extra effort and go outside our comfort zone? The short answer... to grow.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” — James 1:2-4 MSG
Align Your Priorities
Our utmost priority should be to serve God. As we seek Him, every other consideration in our life, whether it be our family, our church, our job, our career, our dreams will fall in the right place. As these areas align, we can gain the right perspective from which we can set God-sized goals for our everyday life.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” — Matthew 6:33 NIV
Set Your God-Sized Goal Sprint-by-Sprint
Oftentimes long-term goals fail because timelines are set too far out. Instead of focusing on the large task at hand, try breaking down the goal into bite-sized portions you can tackle, one day at a time. Key considerations to keep in mind include:
“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
As you remain focused on the tasks at hand, your daily wins add up, little by little and, over time, amount to long-term gains. This is where perseverance comes in. “So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.” Instead of giving up, trust the process. Continue to do what you had set out to do. Daily discipline will build resilience and what seemed impossible before will eventually feel easier. As your capacity stretches, set a new baseline.
“...he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge...”— Isaiah 33:6 ESV
Hold a Retrospective
If you don’t want to live a life of déjà vu all over again, and most of us don’t, it’s good for you to periodically do a retrospective to get a better perspective.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” — Isaiah 43:18-19.
The writer isn’t suggesting we forget our lessons learned, altogether. Instead, he extends an invitation to reflect and let go of those things that prevent us from moving forward. By taking stock, you can proactively determine what works, what doesn’t and what adjustments need to be made to establish more effective ways of tackling our day. That way you can make sure history doesn’t keep repeating itself, making way for “a new thing.”
Focus on the essentials to do what needs to be done now, and as you do so you develop your tomorrow while living a much more enjoyable life today. The difficulties you invite in will allow you to slow down, learn more and, ultimately, shape your trajectory.