Courage Is Calling | Part 3
BookRemarks are not book reviews, but topical posts inspired by books. This post was inspired primarily by Ryan Holiday’s Courage Is Calling and Timothy Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek.
Part 1 of this series led us through defining our dream and identifying the fear keeping us from pursuing that dream. Part 2 helped think through our fearful objections and prepared us to take action. Part 3 will get us started on pursuing our dream.
If your dream is truly God-given, then it’s not only your privilege to pursue it: it’s your duty.
Speaking in a broader (and not specifically Christian context), Ryan Holiday puts it this way in Courage Is Calling: “We each receive our call. If we don’t answer it, then we deprive the world of something” (page 100).
From a Christian perspective, Rick Warren echoes this idea: “If you don’t make your unique contribution to the body of Christ, it won’t be made” (page 239).
But how do we proceed and actually bring our dream to fruition? As always, remember to write down your answers to these questions as you go.
6. What is the first step you need to take to get started on pursuing your dream?
In the book of Proverbs, Solomon says, “Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes” (19:2, NLT).
So, while we might now be champing at the bit to take off running, we should first make sure that we have a good plan. For example, Jesus recommends we count the cost of a project before we start it (Luke 14:28-30).
But what if we’re not sure how to proceed?
First, think about what the apostle James tells us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (1:5-6, NIV). If your dream is God-given, then He will help you figure out how to proceed; just ask Him.
Second, remember this sage advice: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22, NIV). We can ask people we trust for advice: family members, friends, church leaders.
God often uses others to confirm His will for our lives. After all, if our dream is to pastor a mega-church, but our voice puts even our mother to sleep… well, honest people who love us can probably point out the unlikelihood of our success in this area. Other Christians can help us determine if our dream is a personal ambition, or one given to us by God.
And although it can be difficult to hear hard truths, we should ask for honest feedback. The book of Proverbs says a lot about truth; let’s look at a couple verses:
“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips” (24:26, NIV).
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (27:6, NIV).
The truth can sometimes hurt, but we should treasure it. Good advice can prevent us from making mistakes.
When we have identified what we believe God wants us to do, we shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the task. We can break big dreams into smaller, achievable goals. Think about the SMART goals framework. A goal should be:
“I’m going to lose weight” is measurable, but it isn’t specific. “I’m going to lose 100 pounds this month” is measurable and timed, but it isn’t achievable. We need to have the right type of goal.
Also, if a goal isn’t relevant to us and what we want, we’re not going to do it. For example, if we don’t really want to run a marathon, we shouldn’t make that a New Year’s resolution.
Finally, we need to put a time limit to our goal – give ourselves a deadline. Otherwise, Rick Warren’s “‘One of these days’ is ‘none of these days,’” comes back into play.
Here’s a SMART goal: “In order to improve my health, I am going to lose 15 pounds over the next twelve months by exercising three days a week and eating a whole food, plant-based diet.”
This goal is Specific, Measurable (“15 pounds”), Achievable, Relevant (“In order to improve my health”), and Timed (“in the next twelve months”).
When it comes to achieving goals, scholars also stress the importance of our mindset.
In Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about the difference between saying, “No thanks, I’m trying to quit” and, “No thanks, I’m not a smoker” (page 32). “Good habits can make rational sense,” he says, “but if they conflict with your identity, you will fail to put them into action” (page 35).
So, to become the type of person who can conquer our fear, we need to change our identity. Instead of thinking, “I could never do that,” we need to start thinking, “I’m exactly the type of person who would do that.”
We should also remember, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, EHV).
But then we need to do it – or, at least, we need to start doing small actions that build up to what we want to accomplish. We need to let our mind see that we are moving in that direction.
And these initial actions don’t have to be very big ones. When it comes to building up our confidence, as Jane McGonigal notes in SuperBetter, “Frequency of success matters more than the size of the success” (page 217).
Clear continues: “The more evidence you have for a belief, the more strongly you will believe it…. We change bit by bit, day by day, habit by habit…. Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become…. Ask yourself, ‘Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?’” (pages 37-39).
Also, make a Fail Plan by thinking back over the scenarios you identified in the questions from last time. What if your business venture fails? Well, you would need a cushion of cash to get by until you can find a new job – okay, then save up an emergency fund of 6-12 months’ expenses before quitting your current job to pursue your dream.
People say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” but we could put a new twist on this old cliché: planning for failure is one of the best ways to prepare for success.
And while it is important to get certain goals in mind, it is worth remembering some more words of wisdom from Clear’s Atomic Habits: “Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations” (page 18).
Therefore, we should establish systems that will naturally lead to achieving our goals. If our goal is to run a marathon, we need to become a runner by establishing a daily running habit. If our goal is to write a novel, we need to become a writer by establishing a daily writing routine.
Remember, this is your God-given dream. Although it will take work, it’s something you should enjoy: “Be delighted with the Lord. Then he will give you all your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him to help you do it, and he will” (Psalm 37:4-5, TLB).
What habits will help you become the type of person who can accomplish your dream? What are the first steps you will need to take?
7. So, what are you waiting for?
We better not be waiting because of fear. At least, not anymore. Remember Ryan Holiday’s words: “Fear always votes for hesitation, it always has a reason for not doing and so it rarely does anything” (page 65).
We’ve defined our fear, and we’ve developed plans that will allow us to overcome it. There’s no reason to hesitate.
And don’t try this old excuse: “Now isn’t the right time.” In The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss, the man behind the original version of these questions, flat-out states, “The timing is never right” (page 33).
In fact, Ecclesiastes says, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done” (11:4 NLT).
The time to act is now. Make some plans first, yes, but then put them into action.
Earlier we talked about changing our mindset. Let’s work on changing one other element of our thinking: our perspective.
Holiday suggests we turn our fears around: “If fear is to be a driving force in your life, fear what you’ll miss. Fear what happens if you don’t act. Fear what they’ll think of you down the road for having dared so little. Think of what you’re leaving on the table. Think of the terrifying costs of playing small” (pages 55-56).
Or, as Ferriss says, “Inaction is the greatest risk of all” (page 47).
It can be risky to take Bible verses out of context, lest we lean on “promises” that don’t relate to us – but there are some verses that, perhaps, can bolster our faith and confidence when it comes to acting on our dreams. These verses are said to God’s people or to his church, so perhaps they can also be applied to us, as well:
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:12, NIV).
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, NIV).
“I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8, NIV).
“I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power” (Philippians 4:13, TLB)
We should also remember that Jesus often suggested that our faith impacts what God can do in our lives:
“Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would’” (Matthew 8:13, NIV).
“Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you’” (Matthew 9:29, NIV).
Let’s consider one last proverb from Solomon: “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper” (13:4, NLT).
One thing we know: our past inaction has brought us nothing. Some people define insanity as doing (or not doing) the same thing over and over and expecting different results. As Holiday says, “There is no chance of success if you do nothing, if you don’t even try” (page 110).
Doing nothing is no longer an option. Don’t focus on the potential risks, but on the potential benefits.
God tells us that those who work toward something are fully satisfied. I also like how Tony Robbins once put it: “Progress is happiness.”
You know what God has put on your heart. You know that God is waiting for you to take action. You know that God can work all things for your good, even if you mess it up.
So, what are you waiting for?
What will be your first steps in pursuing the dream God has laid on your heart? Feel free to share in the comments below…