Have you ever wound up in a conflict with a member of your team, and not known why? Oftentimes, when we wind up in disagreement, it may be an issue of having divergent goals.
Words and Actions
When we discuss goals, there are two important aspects to consider: What we say and what we do.
We need to keep a close watch on ourselves. It’s easy to say you have a goal or support a team vision, but it’s our actions that reveal our true intent. Many are the corporate vision statements that fall short in the company’s culture.
The very definition of a corrupt company is Enron, having ruined lives and sent the economy spinning in the early part of the millennium, through a series of deceptive and illegal practices.
Yet their corporate value statement was “Respect, Integrity, Communication, Excellence.”
What we say and what we do, can work to different ends.
As we consider this discussion of knowing your true goals and plans, I’d encourage you to think about your goals for life holistically. Ministry goals are very important and a large part of our life goals, but to discount the other parts of your life, such as family, career, health, etc., does not draw a complete enough picture to truly understand your individual motivations and goals.
When trying to find how our words and our actions differ, or differ from those of our teammates, it helps to be honest, and discounting the impact of things like family on your goals could prevent you from being honest with yourself.
As Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of Life.Church, said in Episode 24 of his podcast, “People have an unlimited capacity for self-deception.” Reveal your actions, and you’ll have a clearer idea of your goals.
To help peel back layers, here’s a technique developed by Jordan Peterson to help explore your thoughts and actions. Rather than thinking in general concepts, the goal is to draw out the precise, real-world actions. For example, if you say your goal is to "be Holy and get to heaven," what do you, in your opinion, need to be or do, to be holy?
Holy = Obedient + Loving + Good + etc.
Now continue to expand on each of these in the same way:
Good = Community Leader + Loving Husband + Successful Career
Each word should create its own branch. Let's continue down a single branch:
Loving Husband = Provider + Companion + Helper
Helper = Does some chores + Parent + Confidant
Does some Chores = Cuts lawn + Grills dinner + Cleans shed
We’ve unearthed the first layer of action. But we could keep going further: To cut the lawn, I need to make time to do it. I need to service the mower. I need to get down on my knees to pull weeds. Pulling weeds, therefore, is an action I do in part as it supports my identity as a good husband, which is an element of being a good man, which is an element of being holy and going to heaven.
We are always making a tradeoff. Assuming your own model looks like this example, when we choose to go to the movies, instead of mowing the lawn, we may be acting against our own goal. While we might find the movies relaxing or need time to unwind, if we must mow the lawn to be a good husband, we’re trading off achieving our goal for the downtime.
In the larger sense, if you are extremely career focused, you may need to spend more time away from the family to be the best provider you can be, thereby sacrificing a bit of your home life.
We often sacrifice money to get something done quickly, like hiring a painter. But we can also sacrifice time, in order to stop and plan to do it affordably ourselves. Even still, we may not have the skill of a professional. It’s difficult to have it all in all areas, especially in the dimensions of time, quality and money.
Seeking to learn your true goals and which actions support these goals will reveal both inner conflicts and the conflicts with the world around you.
Benefits of a Goal
First, a goal establishes guardrails in our lives. Things that completely and obviously undermine of our goals exists outside of those guardrails.
When we encounter the people, circumstances and attitudes beyond our guardrails, we are immediately uncomfortable, stressed, and anxious.
For example, a vacation can be stressful, if your mind is still at the office, as the stated goal of relaxing actually works against your real goal of completing a project and getting a promotion. This exact case is often an unhealthy attitude, but at least understanding and admitting the problem, will allow you to begin to deal with it.
This exploration very rarely shows you as completely goal-oriented and flawless. It should show you contradictions, especially when attitudes and stated goals, meet our real-life actions and choices.
As you travel through life to your goal - objects, events and people will appear in your life, standing between you and what you want. How you respond to them depends how they orient with your goals. If it helps you toward your goal, then you found a friend. If it proves to be a distraction or goes against your goals, it's a pest. Thankfully, most things are the third option: completely irrelevant to your plans.
Be careful not to ascribe significance where there is none. Most things neither stand in your way or help you, they just need to be sidestepped or ignored. Do not elevate the unimportant to the status of a friend or foe. They don't require you to deal with them.
This is where you may find conflict with the people in your life and on your team. And again, what we say as a church may come into conflict with our actions. There are certain phrases we find in many of our church vision statements: “Bring people to Jesus,” “Reach out to the community,” and so on. But these words can look very different in action, relative to different people trying to support them.
Take “reach out to the community.” For some churches, that may mean creating a soup kitchen ministry. For some people, that’s starting home groups across town. For some, that will be presenting the best worship music. For others, that might mean creating a perfectly stylish and welcoming lobby that removes any objections, before they can hear the preaching.
Is it uncommon that all these people would come to the same church or be on the same staff? Maybe the soup kitchen is led by the outreach director and the home groups by the adult ministries team. Maybe the music is special to a key volunteer, and the lobby important to an important donor.
Maybe they can all exist harmoniously most of the time, as is often the case.
What happens, though, when two of these goals come into opposition? For example, when there is only budget to upgrade the PA system or the lobby? Perhaps the soup kitchen leaves a smell that lingers in the lobby the next Sunday morning. Now there is a test of which goal is actually better suited to “Reach the Community.”
Actions Create Traction
If small actions are connected to bigger goals, petty arguments may just be acting out these bigger picture concepts. Did you ever have a dumb argument about where a table goes in the worship hall? “Why was everyone so strangely passionate about such a trivial detail,” you thought, as you walked back to the car. It could be that someone was envisioning the best flow to the altar, but someone else was hoping that the pamphlets on the table would be in the best spot for people to take, as they leave.
Bigger agendas being played out through small actions, even subconsciously.
Musicians have a reputation for being combative. We’ve all seen musicians argue, sometimes passionately, about how a song should be played. Is it just musicians being musicians?
Often, each member wants genuinely to do their best, they just have different ideas about what the best should sound like. When this sort of conflict arises, remember the stubbornness comes from a good place. Asking “Why do you think we should do this?” can change the tone of an argument.
Seeing our big picture life goals with sober judgement and honesty, reveals both our strengths and our flaws. That information can be used to explain any stress of negative emotion. Furthermore, it orients the circumstances and people in our lives.
Taking the time to look honestly at who we are, what we say, and what we really do, is a time-consuming process. With the lens of biblical foundations, it can bear much fruit for your effort.a