>>Growth-Focus vs. Goal-Focus
Life is a journey, a daily process towards change, growth, and betterment. Results are not the only or primary aim. I want to present a broader perspective to you of growth-focus. We live in a culture that focuses almost exclusively on goals and results. Achieving a goal does give results which at times are needed. But if setting and achieving goals is the only way you proceed with your life, you will often get discouraged and quit. Goals have their purpose within the growth-focus, but your eyes must be focused on the growth, not the goals.
Goals usually have an expiration date on them, and though your goal may have been met, there is often a greater need for further growth. Therefore, your pursuit of growth is the greater purpose. To focus on the goal, the step in front of you alone does not create sufficient energy to sustain you on your life-long journey. Goal-focus gives you a narrower view, whereas growth-focus widens your perspective and gives you greater purpose, as well as a deeper, ongoing commitment for your growth and betterment.
>>Some Examples of Growth-Focus
Here are a few examples of what I mean by growth-focus. In marriage, you may choose for your growth-focus to develop a strong marital connection. Some of your specific goals or steps to journey towards that growth-focus might be to daily express love-communicating behaviors (whatever you decide those are), setting aside a weekly date time, intentionally listening to each other face-to-face, validating each other’s feelings, affirming strengths and behaviors, or solving problems together. The primary focus remains on a strong marital connection, not the steps themselves to achieve it. Or perhaps your growth-focus is improving your physical well-being. Therefore, your steps may be more exercise, better nutrition, good sleep, or stress management. If intimacy with God is your growth-focus, then you may choose to be intentional in developing your “sit place with God,” studying the Word of God, or you may commit to praying for others, forgiving others, taking time to worship God, or sharing life in community.
Over the last 30 years, I have discovered eight valuable companions needed to successfully journey with an emphasis on growth-focus—to finish the race and complete the tasks you and I have in the kingdom of God. I have already discussed two—truth and grace—and now I want to share with you six others: perseverance, tenacity, resilience, perspective, support, and endurance. Here is how I define them.
Pressing forward, pushing through the challenge is the essence of perseverance. Perseverance is often needed when you want to break a habit or you are desiring something greater for your life or family. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4, NKJV). To have a healthy marriage and family, for example, you may have to push through saying no to drinking and yes to shared times with family. Many families are broken and separated due to alcoholism or other addictions.
To never give up, to hold firmly to the truth, and to stay on task will demand the strong companion of tenacity. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58, NKJV). Many relationships are unhealthy due to a lack of boundaries. It is important to never give up when a healthy boundary can offer good in a relationship, even though it would be easier to give up or give in. For example, if you are a person who allows others to take advantage of you or get involved in your world without your permission, it is important to communicate your thoughts with them face to face. Share with them what they can and cannot do. Tell them friendship is important to you, but you want them to ask you versus assuming. Keep communicating your yeses and nos. It will produce healthier relationships with those who value relationship with you.
When the forces of life knock you down, resilience is needed to stand tall and strong beside you, to help you up, to complete the God-given task before you. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace (Acts 20:24, NIV). For example, if you are pursuing financial freedom and you feel knocked down when your car needs major repairs beyond your budget, get back up and challenge yourself to work with your monies and trust God to provide what you don’t have.
Life was not meant for us to journey alone. Support is another powerful companion. God reminds you He is with you always and will never leave you on your own. He also encourages you to support one another, to come alongside each other in your joys and struggles. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts (Colossians 3:12, 16, NIV). For example, a husband whose wife has died needs the support of other men to spend time with him in social settings, to pray for him, and check in on him regarding his daily needs during this time of transition. Another example is a single woman desiring marriage. There is much value in married women spending time with her to encourage and pray for her as well as enjoying social times of games, movies, or dinner together.
The role of perspective is two-fold. It is essential to see your present situation as one part, one step, or one season of your life story. And, secondly, it is important to see your present challenge from God’s viewpoint, from the beginning of your life to its end. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28, NIV). For example, many women who are in a “waiting for marriage” stage of their journey have to keep focus on their present season of growth as God speaks it to them as well as being reminded that their life does move from season to season. This season is not their entire life.
Lastly, and definitely not the least of the eight, is endurance. It is defined as going the distance for as long as it takes to fully and completely experience growth in one part of your journey in order to be prepared for the next step of your journey. Visualize this as a door opening to a long passageway that, if traveled well, opens to another door to another life passageway. Each contributes to specific growth, but linked together, they build on each other. God works all your experiences in the mix of your past, present, and future to grow and develop you. As you journey well, not perfectly, but in agreement with Him, you are able to encourage others to travel alongside you as you pursue being an example to others. Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever (Psalms 125:1, NIV).