I had a two-hour conversation today with a friend. We identified big problems, discussed big projects, dreamed big ideas. Of course the tag lines of where to start eating the elephant and taking the first steps were spoken.
So what exactly keeps us in a state of inaction, never moving from identifying/discussing/dreaming, in essence a state of paralysis?
- We think we have to have all the answers?
- We think all the details have to be worked out prior?
- We think since we aren’t the experts then we are disqualified?
- We think someone else can solve/accomplish/tackle/produce/promote better than we can?
- We think failure is more likely the outcome than success?
- We think too much?
Is it possible that the answer to our inaction and paralysis is found in the ridiculous pressure of the pronoun “we”? To be more personal, “me”?
Is it possible that all we need to do is take the obvious first step, which may be the only one God has given us right now, and just trust He also has the next step?
Is it possible that we’ll forever be paralyzed without knowing more than the first step?
If only we could talk with Abraham or Noah or Nehemiah or Esther or Daniel or Mary or Paul.
Or better yet, if only we could follow their example and just start walking, just give up accepting paralysis, just take the first step.
Who doesn’t want peace and contentment? For some reason, it seems some people are better peace dwellers and contentment finders than others. If that doesn’t describe you, maybe these three steps will give you some direction.
Stop dwelling in the past and/or worrying about the future. Both of these fixations cause emotional paralysis and can lead to depression. If you are a past dweller, consider the contentment that may be found in forgiveness, often the healer of the past. If you are a future worrier, consider the contentment that may be found in releasing control, often the peacemaker for the future. Reluctant forgivers and control freaks can both find contentment through deepening their relationship with God, which leads to step #2.
Look to God. He knows the feelings of regret (see Genesis 6 and 1 Samuel 15). He knows also the feelings of releasing control. His gift of free will to man illustrates He practices releasing control every second of every minute of very hour of every day. Whatever feelings are leading you away from contentment, God has dealt with them and therefore can assist you with them (see Hebrews 4:14-5:10). Looking to God should release lack of contentment pressures, which leads to step #3.
Reduce your self-induced pressure. This pretty much happens between your ears. Find ways to control your mind rather than it controlling you. For example, instead of worrying how you’re going to pay for your son’s college education, seek financial advice to determine what you need to start doing today, telling your mind there’s a plan in motion. Or instead of replaying that destructive conversation with your sister from seven years ago, reach out to her today and say you thought about her and prayed for her, telling your mind you have taken a step toward reconstruction. Take the first step; don’t worry about step #54. Reduce the pressure a little bit today.
Stop. Look. Reduce. If you have to, repeat these steps several times a day. Contentment is a learned discipline. Start practicing and be on your way to becoming one of the others.
Share what steps you take toward contentment. What tends to be a common barrier and how have you addressed it?