To my fellow dream chasers and go-getters: Sometimes our offerings to God can get entangled with distractions.
What started as an honest response to his call can become counterbalanced by all the shiny things this world has to offer. Several months ago as I pursued this journey of traditional publishing, two wise friends offered the same words: “Focus on impact over numbers.” The first person went on to add that focusing on numbers was a losing battle.
Whenever I hear the exact same statement in a short span of time, I know God is speaking. So, I hid those words in my heart as I pressed forward, going back to them often.
Protecting our hearts against chains that threaten to diminish life is an ongoing battle.
We must make the conscious effort to be on guard, day in and day out. Yesterday, a poignant piece from a fellow Christian author reminded me how easy it can become to lose our focus and obsess over man’s definition of success rather than the Creator of it.
This author, whom I respect, has decided to stop writing books. For her, the pull to measure success, obsess over numbers and strive for more was too heavy a burden. The grief to her soul too much. So, after much seeking and searching, she chose a different path. No less beautiful, but a stark change from the course she saw for herself when she began.
I reflected over her words all day and asked myself, “Is there a way to prevent this sorrow from happening?”
This person had spent years attaining the goal to become an established writer, and given up much to make a hard decision. While there were many unique details, such as personality and experience, which contributed to this outcome, I know many other writers who’ve experienced the same tension, myself included. They’ve grieved over what they couldn’t control asked whether or not it is worth it.
The pressure to perform is not unique to the writing world, but it the ways it presents itself are front and center. It can stifle the creativity right out of you. Amazon rankings, platform sizes, and rejections can all factor into feelings of doubt, failure and frustration.
At this point in my journey, writing still brings me more joy than pain. But I’m also aware of the fact that I must protect my heart as I take each step. There’s a constant lure to seek accolades and to evaluate my progress against others. If I’m not careful, this lure replaces joy and life with despair.
When we chase after dreams, we must be honest with ourselves and with God about our desires, our motivation and what snares us. Our walk will never be perfect, but there are a few ways to keep our hearts in check as we pursue the dreams the Creator has entrusted us with:
1. Focus on your unique journey, not someone else’s.
When we go after our dreams and goals, the temptation to compare is great. Social media, rankings, and even face-to-face conversations with others make it easy to envy someone else’s path or their point on the course. A straightforward word of advice: Don’t do it. Easier said than done, I know.
Here’s what I know is true. God’s path for each of us is one of a kind, and no one else can fulfill the plans he has for each of us. If social media causes you to fall into the comparison trap, take a break. Better yet, cheer a sister on. It may surprise you how effective it is in taking the focus off yourself.
2. Hold your dream loosely, and remember God loves to surprise us.
This exhortation is the hardest for me to follow. But the more I get to know God, the more I see his plans are far better than my own. Case in point: when I began receiving offers on my book proposal, I had my heart set on one particular house. For months I prayed the acquisitions editor would express interest. While there was interest in my writing, my topic was shot down. I was heartbroken and even began doubting the book idea I spent over a year developing.
Months down the road, I see God’s plan was much better than mine. The house I ended up with is the perfect fit and feels like a family to me. Moreover, he continues to work through details I didn’t foresee at the time.
3. Remember there is always another rung in the ladder of numbers-based success.
If we’re pursuing a dream God’s given us, he determines our success, not the world. Not book sales or lists. And while it’s important to set attainable goals and to be accountable, we also have to remember we will never reach a magic pinnacle of stardom. There’s always more. Whether you’re a speaker with an audience of thousands or leading a small group in your living room, what matters is the heart behind it.
As Paul expressed in Galatians, are we seeking to serve man or serve God? (Galatians 1:10) This question should be the driving force behind everything we do.
I am not naïve in thinking this tension we goal-chasers face will ever resolve itself in this lifetime. It’s an ongoing battle. But I do believe we can take steps to safeguard our walk. We can take an honest evaluation of where we are, and where we’re going.
Let’s keep pressing toward the prize to which Christ has called us. And let’s reach out a hand of encouragement to help others along the way.