I love my Tacoma. She’s a gorgeous piece of workmanship. A reliable, practical, and dependable companion, she gets me safely from point A to point B, under two conditions:
I need to have an actual point B in mind; and
I need to shift out of Parking gear and start driving.
The general rule of thumb, most of the time, is that condition 1 precedes condition 2. But on occasion, these steps occur in reverse order: the gear shift moves, and the wheels begin to turn before a point B is fully known. The story that follows is just such an occasion.
When I first joined the ranks of my fellow 17:20 brothers in the fall of 2019, I was intrigued as I heard veteran group members talking about their “vision boards”. I was familiar with the idea of a vision board in the business world and had participated in numerous working sessions at work to develop team vision, values, and goals. But a vision board for my life?This was a new concept for me. And as I learned over the next few months, this was going to be both a painfully challenging and immensely rewarding journey for me.
Week after week in our 17:20 group, I watched the men who would become my brothers and fellow kings begin to formulate and unpack their own visions, and to take real steps toward bringing these visions to life. One evening in early December, it was my turn to create my vision board and defend it to my brothers. Before I describe the process and the outcome, let me explain something about myself.
I am a business analyst by trade. This means that whenever an initiative surfaces to explore an opportunity, I’m the guy who shows up to the party with a long list of questions that “must” be answered before proceeding with any sort of effort. You know, the annoying questions, often considered by the more technical minded to be unnecessary “fluff”.
What is the underlying business problem we’re trying to solve?
What is the current process, and who are the individual players involved, and have we met with them all?
How does this initiative fit into our overall vision and strategy?
(No joke, I have seen my fair share of eye-rolling in business meetings.) With my analytical mindset, it is not uncommon for me to get stuck in a state of “analysis paralysis”. This is a particularly unpleasant cycle that goes like this:
I come up with a list of questions. --> I chase these questions upstream for answers, as far as I can go. --> I identify more questions. --> I pursue answers. --> New answers surface and spew forth additional questions. --> I tirelessly pursue each new question to produce further answers and more new questions.
Without some level of intervention, this cycle can and will spin to oblivion. And I get stuck there, looking for the ultimate final answer. Have I answered every question on my list? Is my documentation complete and organized? Do I have a plan of attack for moving forward? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then I had better dig in and further hash out the details.
Now add to this effervescent cycle one more factor: I have ADHD. (I seriously think the inside of my head looks like a combination of Dave and Busters, Disneyland, and Cracker Barrel on a Saturday night.)
This is my brain. And this is the mindset I carried into my journey to unearth a vision for my life. As I watched key elements of my brothers’ respective visions snap into place, I put on my business analyst hat and looked at the puzzle pieces of my own life. The answer had to be in there somewhere, underneath all the questions, clutter, and amusement park rides in my head. I wrote down some components that I thought were surely going to be the best, most inspiring starting point for a life vision.
And then I got stuck. Analysis paralysis state kicked in. Like a steady stream of bats emerging from a cave, the questions began pouring through my head. What were the things I cared about? What God-given gifts and capabilities was I aware of? How did my experiences up to this point shape me, and how might I use this to decipher a vision for my life? What process was I going to take to crystalize this vision? What if I forget the important things before I can get them onto paper? And then…What if I can’t figure out a vision? What if I’m just not meant to have a vision? What if I get it wrong and head off in the wrong direction? Can’t I just ask God to tell me what He wants me to do instead? What if He doesn’t answer? The business analyst had shown up, and he was well on the way to crashing the vision board party.
For weeks, I waited for the day I knew would ultimately come: the day I would be asked to create and present my vision board to my brothers. And I had no clue what it was going to look like. The night finally came. Our group leaders showed up with some basic instructions and a list of thought-provoking questions to help launch the vision board activity. Here we go, I thought, ready to spend most of the night staring at a blank page. The ever-present bats of hyper-analysis awakened. And then my brother Dustin made a statement that sent them right back into the cave (and I’m pretty sure put most of them into an indefinite coma): Your vision may or may not be clear to you right now. It may even change as you step toward it. The important thing is that you step toward the horizon. Nothing will change if you don’t do this.
In that moment, the analysis paralysis was broken. The bats were stilled. I made a conscious decision to take my first step toward the horizon, and I started to work on my vision board. As I discarded the analytical questions, a steady stream of images, words, and ideas began to flow through me. And I knew what my vision board was going to look like. Throughout the evening as I identified visual representations of my vision, and throughout the next week as I prayed daily over each of these images, the beginnings of a life vision emerged. Without defining where I was going or how I would get there, I had taken the first step toward the horizon—and the distant fuzziness became a shade clearer. I didn’t have to define, answer, document, or organize an exhaustive list of questions; I didn’t have to have a clear vision in mind before starting the work. The vision surfaced, and began to take shape, as I took my first, then second, then third step toward it. I just had to break the paralysis and step toward the horizon.
(Incidentally, one of the elements of my vision board involves writing. This piece, my first blog entry, is one of these steps toward the horizon.)
Abraham spent his first 75 years of life in Harran, the land of his ancestors. One day, God spoke to him: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1, NIV, emphasis mine). Generations later, the Israelites spent many years in the wilderness, waiting to enter the land God had promised them. After Moses’ death, God spoke to Joshua, “Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses” (Joshua 1:2-3, NIV, emphasis mine).
In both cases, God’s people were told to start moving, without having an exact indication of where they were to go. They were told to hit the road before knowing the destination. They stepped toward the horizon, trusting in God. And He met them there, His presence guiding their journey.
Each one of us is on a journey, whether we acknowledge it or not. We may be going 90 on the interstate toward an assumed Point B. We may be sitting in the Tacoma parked in our driveway, staring at the dashboard and waiting for an inspiration, a whisper, or something to give us an idea of where we should go. The horizon is out there. It’s real. Maybe you are actively sprinting toward it today. Keep on running toward it. Maybe you are living among the bats, waiting for someone—anyone—God, your friends, a life coach, a horoscope, your Mom—to tell you what to do. Don’t use this as an excuse to remain immobile; we will become stagnant and stale if we are not moving towards something. Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle.
Whatever the case, step toward the horizon. God will meet you there.