A belated Merry Christmas! That is, unless you celebrate the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas, in which case it’s not belated at all. This is my favorite time of year, and even twelve days of celebration is too few in my book.

One my favorite things about the holiday season is the food, and my wife is an excellent cook!

But that wasn’t always the case. When she left home for college, Rachelle knew very little about cooking. Her decision to embrace her culinary greatness resulted in a multi-year journey of reading cook books, watching cooking programs, asking questions, cooking with friends, and experimenting.

Today, Rachelle cooks masterfully and I am the happy beneficiary of all her effort.

She improvises recipes, and adds herbs and spices with names I can’t pronounce by taste and smell alone. Frankly, Rachelle makes cooking look very easy. I know better, however, because I witnessed the process of her learning and growth.

Interestingly, the process of learning and growth is generally the same in almost any area of our lives. This is true for everyone! Therefore, we can rationalize the process and apply it broadly – and doing so will help us make the most of the year to come!

Embrace the process of learning and growth!

As we discussed last week, real change always happens from the inside out. There are no exceptions or exclusions. If we want to reach our full potential, we must embrace the two-stage process of learning and growth.

Fortunately, anyone can do this!

In fact, we all have the opportunity to experience this process many times throughout our lives, and it always starts with a ‘kairos’ moment.

 

“In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high.” 

– Henry David Thoreau

Last week, we learned to distinguish between ‘chronos’ time and ‘kairos’ moments. Once we recognize the opportunity inherent in each ‘kairos’ moment, we can be more intentional about engaging the process of learning and growing. As a result, we can train ourselves to learn lessons more quickly, avoid pitfalls more frequently, and make strides toward reaching our full potential.

Think of the process as two stages, with three parts each:

The first half of the process is ‘learning,’ which consists of:

1) Observation

2) Reflection

3) Discussion

The second half of the process is ‘growth,’ which consists of:

4) Planning

5) Answering

6) Acting

Recognize that both halves of this process require equal engagement on our part. Notice also that both halves of this process require the involvement of other people! This may come as a surprise, but you cannot reach your full potential alone. Real change may always happen from the inside out, but it generally requires external support, as well.

Let’s discuss each step of the process in context:

1) Observation – Once we’ve recognized a ‘kairos’ moment, we must take the time to stop and observe what words or actions contributed to it. This can be difficult because ‘kairos’ moments are never neutral. They are always positive or negative, and thus exciting or uncomfortable. Consequently, it can be difficult to honestly acknowledge our role in bringing a ‘kairos’ moment about.

2) Reflection – Observation lays the groundwork for deeper consideration. In other words, we must process the facts of the situation holistically. We’ve observed the words and actions, but what about the triggers? We must consider the ‘whys’ underlying our action or inaction. This is where we explore the internal implications referenced last week. Reflection provides the opportunity to consider deeper motivations such as pride, fear, or insecurity, which conspire to undermine our potential and rarely dissipate by chance. I find this step to be intricately bound up in prayer.

3) Discussion – After we’ve taken the time to frame the situation and flesh it out introspectively, it becomes appropriate for us to invite others into the process with us. Here’s where having a ‘Personal Board of Directors’ becomes crucial. This is also where having a tightly knit group of intentional, transparent friendships allows people to serve as ‘armor bearers’ for you. These people can provide you with encouragement and objectivity, and help you see aspects of the situation you may have overlooked.

“The goal of collaboration is not collaboration, it’s much better results!” 

– Morten Hansen

4) Planning – Experience of a ‘kairos’ moment alone will not change us, nor is reflection and discussion sufficient. We must move beyond understanding to action, and the first step is developing a plan to solidify our resolve. We’ve identified the internal change we’re hoping for, so now we begin the process of externalizing it by identifying strategic steps we can take to address the deeper triggers we have identified, which led to the ‘kairos’ moment. This is another place it’s helpful to tap your ‘Personal Board of Directors’ and armor bearers for insight.

5) Answering – Once we have a plan in place, its important to have other people hold us to it. Generally, ‘kairos’ moments, especially negative ones, result from our weaknesses, insecurities, and temptations. Don’t attempt to face these alone! Change doesn’t happen in private. The next time the situation arises, these factors will conspire to undermine our resolve! If the plan is to be effective – if we’re to externalize our internal ideal – we’ll need help. Again, resort to your ‘Personal Board of Directors’ and your armor bearers. Let them serve as your reservoir of strength and determination to stay on course.

6) Acting – With all the pieces in place, the last step is to simply act on the plan. At this point, you’ve made an intentional decision to change your behavior in response to certain stimuli. That decision is the internal change. Acting on the related plan with a little help from your friends is the external manifestation of that change. The change has happened from the inside out.

“A person’s will is embodied in the actions of the whole person. I cannot give up my will – I must exercise it, putting it into action.”

– Oswald Chambers

Here’s a quick example of this framework in action:

Let’s say your credit card debt has finally escalated to a point of crisis. You’re presented with a ‘kairos’ moment and a significant opportunity for learning and growth, albeit a negative and uncomfortable one.

  • Start by observing what attitudes and actions got you to this place. When are you busting out the credit cards, and why?
  • Next, reflect honestly on your situation. What motivates your spending? Are you buying things to impress other people out of a sense of insecurity? Are you buying this for other people out of a sense of guilt?
  • Third, discuss your observations and reflections with trustworthy people in your life. Don’t go to other people who appear to have a similar problem. Go to people who seem to have this area of their lives figured out. How does your approach to personal finance differ from theirs? What have these people noticed about your spending habits that perhaps you have not?
  • Now, make a plan. What practical steps can you take to mitigate your spending habits? Maybe you can develop a budget or switch to a cash system? If you’re serious about addressing your debt, it might be appropriate to cut up the credit cards.
  • Fifth, ask your friends to help you. Make sure they know the specific details of your plan, and figure out how you want them to participate. Do you need them to check in on you, or is that unnecessary and annoying? I know an individual who submitted his personal finances to a friend every month for more than a year. That was a long time ago, and today this man is very wealthy. It’s very likely he would not have become so successful absent his willingness to engage his friend so transparently.
  • Finally, act according to your plan. You’ve determined how to maximize your ‘kairos’ moment, so do it…

And Don’t Take Shortcuts!

Most of us feel a strong temptation to shortcut this framework because ‘kairos’ moments are often uncomfortable and acknowledging our responsibility for them is often unpleasant. However, shortcuts short out the process. Skipping ‘observation’ or ‘reflection’ prevents us from understanding all the constituent factors. Skipping ‘discussion’ or ‘answering’ excludes our support system.

Scrap inadequate New Year’s resolutions, and make 2013 the best year yet!

When a ‘kairos’ moment comes along, force yourself to move through the entire process outlined above and you will be glad you did!  You’ll mitigate weaknesses and insecurities, further develop and build upon strengths, and be pleasantly surprised at how much you learn and grow.

Here’s a toast to real change from the inside-out, and making 2013 the best year yet.

Happy New Year! You have a lot to look forward to.

“Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

– Golda Meir

Leave a Comment: In your opinion, what is the most difficult part of this process, and why? What step would you be tempted to skip?

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