Have You Broken Your Resolutions Already?

Whether you make resolutions or not, most of us experience a sense of newness as the year launches. January is a time leaders often think, NOW I'm going to do this: get the desk clear, spend more time with staff, launch this or that back-burner project.

And then: life intrudes. A crisis erupts. Or the day-to-day routine gets in the way of doing anything new. All our time is eaten up. And we think: It's only January, and I'm off track already. I'm distracted, and I'm never going to get focused again.

The practice of quiet, meditative prayer can teach us a lot about how to deal with distraction. It instructs us always to pay attention to the breath, or to the prayer word or phrase (such as Jesus, or The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want). If you find your mind wandering (as I do, every single time), gently come back to the breath or the word. The approach is not: this meditation is a failure because I got distracted. Rather, the task is to notice the distraction, and come back to focus, again and again.

As leaders, the same approach can help us. Can we notice the ways we have gotten off track, and come back to our focus, lightly and gently? I notice there's a pile of papers on my desk again: let's see how quickly I can deal with them. Not, I failed at keeping my desk clean. I notice I was overly critical with that staff person again. Can I discipline myself not to comment next time? Not, I failed as a supervisor yet again.

Using resolutions, or any goal, as a punitive tool against ourselves helps neither ourselves nor those we lead. When we can use our goals as a guide not a weapon, we can enjoy the process of leadership, and will find ourselves more able to be present with our followers.

In my own practice of meditation, I can see that I am, most days, better at focus than I used to be. In my own growth as a leader and as a human being, I can also see that I can get back on track more quickly, most days. I am a little better at noticing it and moving on to the way I really want to be, and also at noticing my "failures" with grace and humor. It's a long process of growth, not a quick turn of a switch, like most of life.

Get the free mini-course, "Five Ways to Avoid Burnout in Ministry" at http://margaretmarcuson.com/.