5 Strategies to Move Beyond the Status Quo
There’s a lot to be said for maintaining the status quo. It’s comfortable. And familiar. It is a great place to be when things are going well in life.
But what if things are not going so well? When your car breaks down, you take it to a mechanic to fix it. When medical ailments arise, you see a doctor and explain the symptoms. When your marriage is rocky, you might confide in a counselor or clergy member.
I do not know your particular struggle today. But I know you have one. What are you going to do to fix it? Is it even something you can fix?
The serenity prayer is beautiful because it helps us recognize that some things are outside of our control.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Today, let us focus on the things within our control. God gives us free will and choice. With any problem, you have two options:
Stay within your comfort zone and hope that the issue will naturally resolve itself, OR
Proactively work towards a solution and be willing to fail
The first option appears easier because it requires minimal effort on your part. If you value order, routine, and continuity, you probably choose option 1 in most circumstances. You are the peacemaker who does not want to rock the boat. You are generally content and can “go with the flow.”
People who gravitate towards option 2 are typically perceived as challengers or risktakers. They see a wrong and want to make it right, even if it means falling flat on their face a couple of times. Most entrepreneurs and missionaries are part of this group.
Change is Possible
Much of my childhood and young adult life was spent squarely in Group 1. I played by the rules and safely stayed within the confines of my comfort zone.
Then, after a life-changing event in my late 20s, my perspective shifted. I grew closer to God than ever before and consciously began looking for clues of His plans for my life. My personality profile shifted from mainstream to INFJ “The Advocate.” Here’s a detailed description:
The INFJ personality type is very rare, making up less than one percent of the population, but they nonetheless leave their mark on the world. As Diplomats (NF), they have an inborn sense of idealism and morality, but what sets them apart is the accompanying judging (J) trait – INFJs are not idle dreamers, but people capable of taking concrete steps to realize their goals and make a lasting positive impact.
God called me in 2013 to quit my secure job in wealth management and be more present to my family. During my husband’s unemployment three years later, Jesus invited me to start WorthyNest®, a fee-only financial planning and investment advisory firm for Christian parents. Most recently, the Holy Spirit inspired me to publish a book.
Throughout each of these dramatic life changes, there were two common elements: faith and flexibility. God opened the door of possibility, but He never clearly showed me an exact path. Faith in His plan continues to push me in entrepreneurship and daily life. Flexibility is the other crucial element because stepping outside your comfort zone often entails failure. How do you grow if you never make a mistake or learn from it?
The vast majority of people live in group 1 and maintain the status quo. You avoid confrontation and struggle because you think it makes your already busy life more difficult. You live in the same community, associate with people just like you, eat the same foods, and may even work in a job you dislike because it pays the bills.
If your family life looks great as you maintain the status quo, by all means keep doing it. But I’ve got to believe that very few of us actually have a picture-perfect life. There must be at least one aspect of your life that you want to dramatically improve – whether it is your marriage, relationship with kids, job, physical or emotional health, or all of it!
What would happen if you choose courage over contentment today? How would you, your family, and the world benefit?
Is fear of failure holding you back? Is it the effort required to make a change? Analysis paralysis?
Get Out of the Rut
Before taking a path less-traveled, I’d encourage you follow 5 key steps:
Steven Johnson’s book Farsighted succinctly describes the art of decision-making:
“Over millions of years of evolution, our brains developed a predilection for running through imagined futures, anticipating the emotional reactions of people close to us, sketching out the potential consequences – all in the service of making better decisions in the present.”
Dreams help us consolidate memories, resolve conflicts, and regulate our moods. Daydreams can be beneficial as we simulate important decisions and see how they impact those around us. You cannot predict the future with absolute certainty, but you can play out scenarios in your head and anticipate potential consequences of an action.
2.) Explore More Than Two Alternatives
Deciding between two possibilities is limiting, especially if you are married and you and your spouse must jointly decide. He wants one thing, you want another. You both think you are right. Brainstorm and propose a third solution – potentially a compromise – that reaps the benefits of each initially proposed solution.
3.) Find the Truthtellers in Your Life
Whether it is a spouse or best friend, there is someone in your life who is unafraid to speak truth. You do not want to confide in a person who will unequivocally agree with you – even when he or she has reservations about your proposed solution. Explain the issue and be open to new perspectives.
When you have children, your decisions do not just impact you. They affect your entire family. If your child is old and mature enough to be included in the decision-making process, let him or her have a vote.
4.) Start Small
Our daily and weekly habits have incredible power over bigger outcomes. I recently listened to episode 119 of the In This Together podcast, hosted by Dr. Josh & Christi Straub. The guest Justin Whittle Earley is a mergers and acquisitions attorney, author, and dad of 4 boys. Justin openly shared his personal struggles with anxiety and eventual transformation by implementing four simple changes to his routine. Proof is in the pudding: you do not need to relocate or change careers to experience life-changing results.
5.) Trust in God’s Timing
A risktaker may try to accelerate decisions without always considering the ripple effects. Or he may already have made up his mind but needs to get another family member “on board” with the decision. God presents opportunities for conversion, but you may be in a season of life where it would be foolish to make a drastic lifestyle change. Know that His timing is perfect.
We face hundreds of decisions daily. For the decisions that matter most, I leave you with two final questions: How do you want others to remember you when your time on earth is done? What kind of legacy do you want to leave?