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Drift, Drown, or Decide
By Dan Vis
April 23, 2017
Comments: 31

Part of what makes life so interesting is the amazing amount of options before us. We can go a thousand different directions, work on a thousand different projects, spend time in a thousand different ways. And tomorrow there will be more choices still!

Going back a generation or two, choices were fewer, options more limited, and as a result, life was simpler in many ways. Today, the broad range of decisions we are forced to make can be staggering. And they are more complicated and difficult than ever before. Worse, the rate at which these choices come to us seems to be accelerating!

To deal with this exploding range of options, people often default to one or more of the following basic approaches:

Habit: Act based on regular routines and do what you've always done.

Compliance: Do what others expect of you or tell you do.

Escapism: Spend time in activities you enjoy to avoid tough situations.

Impulse: Act on the spur of the moment and do what you feel like.

Assimiliate: Blend in and do whatever other people normally do.

Procrastinate: Put off making choices as long as possible.

You can probably think of other approaches as well, but they all have one thing in common: they avoid personal decision-making. Rather than taking active responsibility for life's choices, they involve defaulting to some other more passive process.

We all do it. It's part of how we cope with the massive range of options we experience today. Unfortunately, every time we abdicate the decision-making process, we abdicate control of at least some aspect of your life.

Take a moment to reflect on your future. What do you really want from life? Do you have dreams? Important life goals? A desire or longing to do something specific? Has God put something special on your heart?

How are you going to get there? It is not going to be by saying wistfully, "If only I had time to..."

“To do anything important requires countless small choices, all in the same direction.”

Click to Tweet

Actually, accomplishing something important is not usually a question of available time at all. Or of ability. Or resources. Or talent. Rather, it is primarily a matter of making countless small choices all aligned in the same direction. Or to put it differently, it is about taking charge of our decisions. Taking responsibility for our choices. To fulfil our purpose, we must retake control.

Control starts with planning. Planning brings the future into the present by connecting goals in the future with decisions you are facing in the present. Rather than indulging in what is easiest or simplest, we use planning to choose options that move us toward our goals and objectives.

Planning requires the ability to break large goals into smaller projects, and those small projects into even smaller individual tasks. It's being able to identify the right actions, and their right order. It involves projecting a clear path from where we are to where we want to be.

Planning requires us to prioritize options. Knowing what is most important, becomes the filter through which we evaluate our choices. Those decisions which align with our purpose are squeezed into our schedule. Those which do not, are trimmed out and excluded.

“Without life planning, the direction of our life is left to happenstance.”

Click to Tweet

Most people plan rather haphazardly. They may plan a special event or program, but then go weeks or months without any significant life planning. As a result, our events and programs go off without a hitch, but the direction of our life is left to happenstance. The kind of ongoing, detailed planning necessary to assert control over our time and shift the direction of our life is rare. But there is no other way to fulfil God's highest purpose for our life.

As one old time management guru put it, we ultimately have just three ways to deal with the choices of life: we can drift, drown, or decide!

Comments

What about you? What is your default approach to the complexity of life's choices? What approaches to planning most help bring direction to your life? How do you bring God and eternal realities into your planning? Share a thought or two below.

Posted by Ian on 04/28/17
I think escapism is the new god of Western society. Ubiquitous entertainment (on TV, the Internet, smart phone, multi-user games apps) so that you need never waste a single minute not being entertained and distracted. If Christians spent as much time on their faith as 'escapists' spend engaging in entertainment, talking about their favorite TV shows and making sure that they don't miss an episode, we would be faithful indeed.
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/28/17
Cool. Thanks for always checking out the mobile skin. More than 50% of our users are mobile, and I rarely even look there... :)
Posted by Qing Ling on 04/26/17
🐣🐤*chirp* I don't have a tweet account. I'll just do it the good ol fashioned word of mouth way haha.
But yes I see those buttons have appeared!!! :) wow it really emphasises those key phases on mobile skin 👍🌟
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/26/17
I just added a click to tweet feature to our site, Qing, and added a couple to this post--including one with part of the line you liked. Happy tweeting!
Posted by Qing Ling on 04/26/17
It seems many of us are facing similar challenges, Dan...
I'm looking forward to the Life Focus System too!
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/26/17
Thanks for lifting that line out of the article Qing. That was one of the key thoughts that came into focus for me as I was pulling the ideas for this article together. I'm generally quite goal oriented and strong in life planning, but have lagged a bit these last few years due to a heavier load of responsibilities. Looking forward to resetting my life planning skills during the coming conference.
Posted by Qing Ling on 04/25/17

I use all those methods of avoiding personal decisions!Habit could also be called staying in Comfort zone. :P
I loved this bit of the article: As a result, our events and programs go off without a hitch, but the direction of our life is left to happenstance.

That's so true!!!when our events/activities run to 'plan' ...we think we are doing great...but we are doing great only perhaps in terms of time management, but not so much in regards to purposeful life direction that we have consciously made a personal choice in, in partnership with God.
This brings to mind the conversation about how there are many good things we can spend our time on, but just because it's good doesn't mean it's where God wants us specifically to be spending our time right at that moment. Right?

Posted by Rhonda D Coleman on 04/25/17
I'm a procrastinator and I've struggled with this for years. I pray to God to help me "redeem" the time and guide me so that I can accomplish more in a day, especially, things that matter most.
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/25/17

Let me see if I can work on that today Dorothy Vance. Just a small detail I've been meaning to fix for awhile. I assume you are using the mobile version...

From all the comments, looks like there is going to be great interest in this challenge. Please feel free to share an invitation with friends and family!

Posted by Dorothy Vance on 04/25/17
Is there a way to make the comment box narrower so I can see my whole comment at once rather than only part of it? It seems like it would make it easier to check for errors before posting.
Posted by Dorothy Vance on 04/25/17
I am a master procrastinator! I'll do it tomorrow morning when my mind is sharper or when I have a longer time period available. I get to the end of the week, surprised that it's Friday already. Good please help me to plan the work then work the plan. Time is life, and I don't want mine wasted.
Posted by Wendelina P Deligero on 04/24/17

Amen ! I do escape often to my own world. Those were wasted times. God is so good to remind us we're drifting and picks us up , this time through you Dan Vis.

God be praised!!!

Posted by Suzi Woods on 04/24/17
This is my area for greatest improvement! Looking forward to our upcoming class!
Posted by Jacqueline on 04/24/17
Lillian I am with you
Posted by Jacqueline on 04/24/17
Kilian I am with you I also use escapism and procrastination. When it is really difficult at home hard to focus and keep on track. Finding out there lot of pepole struggling with there situation. Working quite a bit next month slowing down maybe time to work on organization of my place... so many projects...
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/24/17

Hi Clarissa! Great to see an old friend! Say hi to Dave...

Pam, I think you are right. With clear goals it is difficult to make good decisions. Focus is so important. One of my favorite quotes is in the book Education: "Success in any line demands a definite aim". That's focus. And it's a key theme, obviously, in our Life Focus System. Glad you will be participating!

Posted by Pamela Kendall on 04/24/17

I have struggled with decision making for a long time. I have often used procrastination and escapism to avoid decision making or to avoid unpleasant or difficult tasks - (and after procrastinating or escaping I often feel disgusted that I have wasted lots of time and not really accomplished anything!) Habit and compliance have also played into my decision making.

Part of the problem is lack of a clear goal for what I should be doing with my time. Too many options can be overwhelming - and lack of a clear goal makes it more difficult to weed out the less than optimal choices. It is easier for me to make no specific decision and just float along - but I know that is not God's best plan for me.

I am very much looking forward to the Time Management class. I know God can help me learn to make decisions and manage my time more productively and in a more God-honoring way. Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Posted by Clarissa Fiedler on 04/24/17
I appreciate Jill and Carole's thoughts. It is possible to get so focused on our good goals and reaching them, that we can miss an opportunity, need, or even responsibility God may have for us that day that reaches someone, or tweaks our character to be more like His, but doesn't seem to fit in our plan. God's plans are always broader than ours are. Staying in tune with Him always is so important.
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/24/17

Should have added that to the list as well! Planning can indeed be one way to avoid action. Good observation Ann. I wrote an article on that entitled The-priority-of-action. It was actually one of my first posts.

As for interruptions and distractions, I'm reminded of a quote from our education course which says true education creates men who are "masters and not slaves of circumstances". Not an easy balance between this and remaining flexible. But I believe it's one we should strive for.

Posted by Dan Vis on 04/24/17

Great comments, Carole. We will be called to give a stricter account of our time than any other resource! How important then, that we invest it intentionally, under God's direction?

Sherry, you can sign up at any point during the month of May and still participate. And it only takes 6 days to complete. Actually, if you are in the Journey you can take this at any time--but it's more fun if you can find some slot to do it with the rest of us! Hope to see you inside... :)

Posted by Ann Lavenburg on 04/24/17
I have a tendency to procrastinate over certain tasks and to use planning as an escape from actually doing the task. :) We do need to plan but as so many have said already, we need to be flexible enough to allow the Holy Spirit to redirect us into another path. Right now I need to clean out a room. Before I can do that I actually need to file some things. I HATE to file but always appreciate being able to find things easier, the goal of filing. The next rainy day is filing day!! Today is nice outside so I'm going to work outside, UNLESS someone has an emergency that I can help with. In that case all plans are set aside for later.
Posted by Sherry Olson on 04/24/17
I find myself being a procrastinator and hating it, but not sure how to change it sometimes. I also tend toward compliance, putting of what I need to do to accommodate someone else's desires. I have gotten better at checking my schedule before I commit to something and not allowing myself to feel guilty over it. I am terrible at setting goals and time management. I need to take this challenge, but I am gone to the summer range for 3 weeks of May with no internet access, no phone, etc. So I will have to take this another time I suppose :(
Posted by Carole Bliss on 04/24/17

This is one of the most meaningful messages.
We have to give an account for our time, our talents.
It shows we need to pray over our day, what do I do today Lord?
We can plan, but, we need to check in with HIM.
I have set things for the day, but, often, things come up, and I have to decide
what do I do now, so at the end of the day, there is less regret. I had too much of that when I was younger. Time is short, I need to make the best of each day.

Carole

Posted by Dan Vis on 04/24/17

Thanks everyone for sharing. Always enjoy the insights. In the Life Focus challenge we'll be looking at the quote Jill referenced and the verse Stella Tigere brought out. We'll talk about how to make sure are plans are aligned with God's will, and how to commit those plans to Him as we are counseled to do.

Also appreciate the verse brought out by Lillian. It is important not to worry about the future as we can waste a lot of time fretting about things that never come to pass.

One of the best ways to minimize worry, of course, is to have clear plans and goals. As the article put it: we can drift, drown, or decide. Choosing to bring good decision-making to our lives, is the least stressful of the three! To learn more, be sure to sign up for the challenge, May 1!

Posted by Christine Godfrey on 04/24/17
Hmm habit and compliance seem to describe my situation. I seem to be always putting aside or rescheduling my plans for the demands of others, sometimes its ok but I really believe I need to say no more than I do. My well planned day seems to get blown out of the water all to frequently. It can be hard to discern sometimes because there is the extreme end of the spectrum where one can become quite selfish and resent helping others. This is not Christ like. Then we can go to the other extreme of not planning and allowing ourselves to be controlled by the whims and fancies of what ever is going on around us. I'm always asking the Lord to order my day. I really need Him to do that.
Posted by Marsha on 04/24/17
Stella Tigere, I couldn't agree more! I'm going to add this scripture as my motto for the time management class :-)
Posted by Colette Guthrie on 04/24/17

Lillian I am like you were, a mixture of habit and compliance. Of late am even seeing some escapism. As a child I learned procrastination is the thief of time.

I am looking forward to the upcoming course.

Posted by Lillian E. Cepeda on 04/24/17

I have​ been a mixture of habit and compliance.
Now that am retired am a procrastinator.

I am learning to follow Jesús' counsel in Matthew 6:34Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof..
I am taking one day at a time. It's the only way I can function better in the situation am living right now

Posted by Stella Tigere on 04/24/17
Proverbs 16:9A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps. I am learning to live with this text. Praying seeking wisdom and tender my plans to God. I thank FAST because of lately I have learnt to utilise every bit of opportunity especially on scripture memory. Not waiting to plan and have a designated time for this but memories while your work.
Posted by Cristina Bastos on 04/24/17
Good point, Jill! Managing time is something I found quite tough, but I trust the Lord to help me to improve and I'm hoping FAST will cooperate in this!
May the Lord help us all to make the most of the best with Him!
Posted by Jill Macgillivray on 04/24/17
We can plan, but as Jesus did we can lay our plans at His feet, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate.

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