Chapter 2 - Focusing your vision

Copyright © 1996 Wayne Grovenburg

Battle Star

If you were only going to read one chapter of this book, this is the one I would recommend. The other chapters are effective and meaningful only if there is a vision or a goal that you are pursuing. The purpose of this chapter is to get you to set goals or evaluate the ones you have already set.

Would you risk your life for no reason? Most of us would probably risk our life for the right reasons. But, would any of us risk it for no reason at all? Of course not, we all think. But, are we? Alan Lakien makes the assertion in his book, How to Get Control of your Time and your Life, that time is, in fact, one way of measuring life. Each day that passes is gone forever. You are one day closer to your end. You can not relive a day or get it back if you did not use it wisely. What we make of our time is largely up to us through decisions we make or default on. We have many freedoms of choice in this life; whom we marry, where we work, where we live, etc. In the face of eternity, we have precious few days to live. To the extent we risk our time and how it is used, we are, in fact, risking our lives. It is like each day a sum of money will be drawn from your bank account and spent. Only it is not money. It is your time and your life. You can decide how it is to be spent, if you choose. But if you don't decide, someone else will decide for you. Your life will be spent each day, every day, until it is all gone. So to the extent we do not decide, we allow others to spend it for us. That is certainly not all bad. We just need to be aware of what is going on and take control when necessary.

I freely give control of much of my time (life) to my family. I want to spend time with them. I want to do things they want to do. I enjoy them and I invest in them. Also, I give up control of a piece of time to my employer. I do what he wants me to do and he pays me to do it. In both these cases I have exchanged control of pieces of my time (life) for things I need and want. Without a conscious awareness of my goals and purpose, I might give up control to people and things in areas that would not prove healthy. If I let the advertising and entertainment media set my direction, I might go get the fast car, several fast women in Calvin Kleins, plenty of "more taste, less filling" brew, a mansion, a cellular phone, and . . .I think you get the picture. But just think, all they want is my money.

Many people in our society go through life with no goals or direction. They "go with the flow". They are like a twig on a river. They go where ever the current of the river of life takes them. Maybe it turns out great. Maybe it doesn't. They are, in fact, risking their lives.

So, how about you? What is your vision? What are your goals? Do you have any? Or are you drifting along with the rest of the world? You don't have to think long on this one. If you have goals that you are truly pursuing, ones that are affecting the way you live now, you'll have them either in writing or on the tip of your tongue. If you are stumped by this question, then I doubt you have any. You may be drifting along through life right now. Please don't take me wrong or be offended. Lack of goals and direction does not make you unique. In fact, that probably describes the majority of folks in our society. But the first "Charging the Battle Line" principle is:

You must have a focused vision of where you are going, if you are ever going to get there. The bigger the vision, the more you will accomplish in life.

That isn't all that profound, now is it? Most folks know this, but don't do much with it.

Goals and vision give you a reason for living each day and can make the most mundane of tasks rewarding and fulfilling. How do you feel about Monday mornings? Most folks go, "Oh my gosh, it's Monday. (groan). I have to go to work. An entire week ahead of me. Oh woe". And then comes Wednesday, "Well, it's hump day. We have made it half way. It's all downhill now." And then the glorious Friday finally gets here and folks are smiling, and singing, and bouncing around. "TGIF. Thank goodness it's Friday. Wa-Hoooo!!!! Yipppeee!!!" Why are they so happy? Because the next day is Saturday and they have the day off! Free from the drudgery of w-o-r-k..

Have you ever heard such stuff? Have you ever said such things? We have all heard it and to the extent people are just making conversation, this is OK, I guess. But what about all the folks that really feel this way? They dread what they do 40+ hours per week? They can hardly wait to leave it behind. Quite honestly, I feel sorry for them. Life is too short to waste and it is completely unnecessary. These folks may be lacking goals and vision for their life.

Several years ago, I was in a conference room in Chicago. I saw a message on a poster that has stuck with me.

A vision without a task is but a dream.
A task without a vision is drudgery.
A vision with a task is the hope of the world.

If we have a vision, but no plans for making it happen, we are merely dreaming. That is fine. The dream is an excellent place to start. If we have a task with no vision, life can seem like slavery. Do you remember classes you had in school where you could not see how or why you would ever use the information? Do you remember how hard it was to study and work in them? The task with no vision can lead to the Monday Blues and the TGIF responses as we survive life. But, a vision with a task gives you hope and a "why". No matter what the task may be, if it supports your vision, it makes sense and can be rewarding. I know from experience that relating your everyday life to your vision brings meaning and fulfillment that makes every task more rewarding, no matter what that task may be. So, if you have no goals, you may not only be risking the outcome of your life, you may be merely existing each day in the process. Your life does not have to be this way!

As you set your goals, how can you be sure they are the best ones for you? After all, everyone is unique and free to choose. A good way to evaluate how you are spending your life is to start with a view from the end. I invite you to play the Time Machine Game. Here's how it works. Pay attention. I don't want you to get hurt.

Pretend you get into a time machine which carries you into the future to the last day of your life. You are 142 years old and you know without a doubt you will not wake up in the morning. You are about to go from good health to a painless and gentle "passing to the other side" in your sleep. (Hey, you've lived for 142 years. It's about time to go, so don't get melancholy about it.) Imagine being at that moment on that day. Look around your life right then and ask yourself, "What are the three most important things to me at that moment? What do I hope will be true of me and my life on that last day?"

This is not intended to be a morbid exercise, but an eye-opening one. It certainly was for me when I first did it. I want you to stop reading now and take at least a few minutes and play the game with me. I am about to tell you what I came up with. I want you to think about you first, and then we'll compare notes. Mark your place. Put this book down. Pick up a pencil and paper and write. What is really important to you on the last day of your life?

STOP! WHOA! Please, do not read on until you have written down your response.

OK, here's what I came up with. The most important thing to me on my last day was : Where am I going to be tomorrow? My most important thing was not only my eternity, but the eternity of my wife, children, grandchildren, friends and loved ones. Yes, I believe in heaven and hell. I believe there are only two possibilities waiting for us all after the grave. And I want to go to heaven in a crowd! I want this more than anything else in the world!

The second most important thing was my relationship with my wife, kids, grandkids, great-great grandkids, etc. (When you live 142 years, the family gets pretty big!) The single most important relationship is that with my wife. I will have been retired for 80 years. We'll be spending a lot of time together. It is important for it to be good.

The third most important thing was financial security. I do not want to be a burden on my family or society, so I'll need retirement funds for 80 years. I don't want to be filthy rich. Just a small yacht will do. I could go on, but here you have my "Big Three". Now your "Big Three" may not match up with mine and that is OK. This is your life we are talking about. You are the one who will have to live with it. Not me!

And now for the next part of the Time Machine Game. You are still playing, aren't you? Now get back into the time machine and return to the present time with your list. Take a look at your life right now. Take a look how you are currently spending your time, effort, and money. How are you spending your life? What lasting effect are you having on others? Is your life, right now, consistent with what you have written down that will be most important on your last day? Are your current priorities consistent with your vision? Is the expenditure of your life, right now, moving you towards the place you have decided you wish to be? Or are you actually wasting time, working against your self, or serving someone else's vision? You may need to think about this one for a while. I certainly did.

When I did this in 1977, I discovered that I was spending 99% of my life in service to the third most important thing on the last day. I was climbing the ladder, striving for the next promotion and the next raise, at the expense of everything else. I was merely paying lip service to my family; a very costly mistake that many make. And the thing that would be the most important to me on my last day (my soul's destination and that of my loved ones) was getting absolutely none of my life. (oops) It took me a while to get things straightened out, but I did. If you find disharmony in your life, you can do something about it too. Recognition is the first step.

Now let's assume you are convinced that you want to set goals and a general idea of what yours should be. How do you set meaningful and effective goals?

First, goals need to be specific, not general. One of my heroes and inspirations, Zig Ziglar, talks about the "wandering generality" and the "meaningful specific". The "wandering generality" doesn't know how close they are to their goal because they are vaguely aware of where it is. The "meaningful specific" can tell you exactly how far they are from their goal and when they will arrive. When at all possible, we should set goals we can quantify and measure. "I am going to lose some weight!", you may proclaim. "How much?", I reply, "An ounce, a pound, ten pounds? And how fast will you do it?". "I am going to make more money next year!", you may say. I will reply, "How much more? A dollar, a hundred dollars, a thousand dollars?" Without measurement of quantity, time, etc., the goal is still vague and possibly only useful as a conversation piece or day dreaming. Would you start running a race not knowing how far you were to run? How would you know when to stop or who won?

Second, goals should be BIG! A little piddly goal isn't going to motivate anyone. You want your goal to create some excitement and intrigue, don't you? You want it to be something worth part of your life, don't you? It is going to cost part of your life and your life is pretty valuable, isn't it? Sure it is! Well, spend it wisely. The "bigness" of the goal is where many folks short change themselves because the "bigness" certainly affects the outcome. What happens when a runner crosses the finish line? He or she stops running, of course. At least in that race. What happens when people reach a goal? They stop reaching, at least for the time being.

Sometimes the smallness of a goal actually works against us because it creates a mental barrier that we will not cross. Until 1954, athletes believed that running a mile in less than four minutes was impossible. They were told the human body could not stand the stress. They believed it and it "psychologically" constrained them. In a track meet at Oxford, on May 6, 1954, Sir Roger Bannister successfully defied the barrier as he ran the mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. He did not let the word "impossible" stop him. Since he broke that mental barrier, trained athletes have been running a mile in under four minutes ever since.

In 1916, at the age of 7, Glenn Cunningham and his older brother, Floyd, were badly burned in a schoolhouse fire. Floyd died and the doctors told Glenn he would never be able to walk again. Imagine a 7 year old boy in that situation! Glenn chose to prove the doctors wrong. Through years of hard work and therapy, one day Glenn did walk again. Not only did he walk, but he ran! Not only did he run, but he ran fast, long and hard. Glenn overcame the "you'll never walk again" message and ran in the 1932 and 1936 Olympic Games in the 1500-meter race, winning a silver medal. In 1934, at the age of 25, Glenn Cunningham set a new world record that was unmatched for 3 years when he ran the mile in 4 minutes 6.7 seconds.

Roger Bannister, Glenn Cunningham, and my father, Bill Grovenburg, have something in common. They don't let the smallness of other people's thinking confine them. My dad once gave me a definition for the word "impossible" and he has demonstrated it with his life. Dad told me that:

A task is impossible if its doer believes it can't be done. The same task is possible if its doer believes it can be done. Therefore, impossible is merely a state of mind that keeps great things from happening.

Stop and read that again. I don't want you to miss it.

We often limit our potential with false ceilings we actually place on ourselves or we have allowed others to place on us. For example, my dad showed me this puzzle. Connect all the dots below with only 4 straight lines, never lifting the pen from the paper. Give it a try! (Before looking at the text beyond.)

. . .
. . .
. . .

I could not do this the first time I tried. In fact, I couldn't do it until Dad removed the unwritten rule that I had assumed: to stay within the outside perimeter of the nine dots. When you open your mind to "coloring outside the lines", you can then figure this out.

Many things in life are the same way. You can do more and go further by recognizing and renouncing the false barriers and setting BIG, EXCITING goals. I imagine that few people back in the Wright Brothers' days believed that man could make a machine that could fly. But Orville and Wilbur thought they could.... and they did. I imagine most people thought Thomas Edison to be a little crazy for trying to make an electric light bulb. "It is impossible" they may have thought, "He has tried and failed 10,000 times!". Thomas, on the other hand, had just successfully discovered and dismissed 10,000 ways that did not work. He just had to invent only one way that did work. Thomas thought he could.... and he did. The list goes on and on, but the important application is there are many things that you can accomplish in your life, if you would first believe that you could.

Third, the goal must be mentally visible. Seeing it in your mind's eye is essential to success. Your goal has to be something you can see yourself capable and worthy of achieving. Visualizing the goal acts like a self fulfilling prophecy, so you need to be careful to visualize what you really want to happen.

Disney World in Orlando opened after Walt Disney's death. On opening day a crowd was marveling at it and someone said, "My, what a magnificent place. I sure wish Walt Disney could have seen it". One of the employees of Disney Studios replied, "Walt did see it. That is why it's here". Isn't that why most good things happen? Because someone somewhere saw it before it happened. Someone believed it could and would happen. Walt's vision was fulfilled even after his death.

In my teenage years, I participated in a "junior golf" program. I played just about every golf course in Las Vegas. The municipal course had a "junior" green fee and it was close to where I lived, so I played quite a bit in high school. After I went to college and got married, I left golf behind and did not play for 20 years. During my "mid-life crisis", I decided to take it up again. I bought a brand new set of clubs, balls, glove, the works. And off I went to the local course. The point of this story is what happened at the first water hazard.

In the old days, when a ball cost more than my "junior" green fee and water danger loomed directly ahead of me, I would either take extra strokes to go around it or I would pull out a "water ball". Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with a "water ball", let me explain. It looks like any other ball, except it is old, beat up, hardly worth having around. When there was imminent danger of losing a ball in a pond, my habit was to hit a "water ball", so I would not be risking much. Well, now I had a problem. I had all new stuff and I did not have a "water ball". At first I panicked, and then I decided to "go for the gold." After all, I had been telling others to "visualize success" and to "think positive", so why shouldn't I practice what I had been preaching? So I stepped back and visualized my arm and body movement swinging the club and I "visioned" the ball on the green before I really swung the club. Four times that day, I bravely, deliberately shot directly over water and hit the green every time, first in my mind, and then with my club. Then, a major realization hit me.

For years in my youth, I had been hitting balls into ponds directly in cooperation with the vision I had already seen. I had expected to hit the ball in the water. Then and there it became apparent that if I were to ever have a ball I would consider a "water ball", I should promptly throw it into the nearest pond and not let it affect my golf game. I am not saying this eliminated all my bad shots around water, but it dramatically improved my game around water. Now I always aim my best ball directly over the water, first in my mind and then with my club. My point to you is this:

Many people go through life hitting their "water balls" right into disaster after disaster, by design and intent. They "know" that nothing is going to work out for them and they expect the worst and then they get it. No surprise! They know they can't get the project done, so instead of working on it, they work on the excuses and proof why it could not be done. This applies to the class they can't pass, the promotion they can't get, the business they can't secure, the lesson they can't teach. How about you? Are you carrying water balls around your life, your job, your marriage, your church? Do you vision and plan to fail? Well, throw away your water balls and be free from them. Vision success, expect the best and enjoy the difference it makes.

I wish I could report that the Western Warriors picked the score before the game. We did not vision that specifically. If we had it to do over again, we would. We did, however, vision a tremendous lopsided upset. It was big and it was mentally visible. The outcome was in our hearts all week as we prepared for this last game of the season.

I have had the honor and privilege of addressing many groups on the subject of this book since I began public speaking in 1982. On every occasion that this material was presented "locker room" style before an athletic contest, I have asked the team to decide ahead of time what the final score would be. In every case, they came extremely close to making that score a reality and always blowing their opponents off the field. Their thoughts and hearts rallied after each score with "that's not enough. We've not made our goal yet". And the few times the opposition scored, their response was, "and that's all they're getting. We'll allow no more". Visioning is very powerful in athletic competition.

Goal setting is also very powerful in battle. Going back to the story of the Philistine giant in the first chapter, the army of Israel never produced a champion to face Goliath. A visiting shepherd boy named David volunteered for the fight. A shepherd boy with a very specific vision of the end result. The end result he visioned was "...and I'll strike you down and cut off your head." You can't get much more graphic and specific than that! And that is exactly what happened.

Specific goal setting is also powerful in business, church and personal life. When everyone is tuned into the same vision, they let that goal guide all decisions and investments of time, money and efforts. The result is always dramatic.

What about you? What are you striving for as a business person, a Christian, a parent? Do you know where you are going? And do you know how far you are from it?

I believe the Apostle Paul knew where he was going. I believe it kept him going in tough times.

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(NIV) Phillipians 3:13-14

Paul sets an important example for us in this scripture. No one had a darker past than Paul, but he did not let it hold him back. And neither should we! We can't spend our life looking back on a imperfect past of mistakes and troubles. Yes, we should learn from our past, but we should not be controlled by it. Our vision must focus on the future and the road ahead of us.

One of my most compelling "visions" came to me years ago. When we lived in South Carolina, I worked for a software company with many clients all over the country. As a trouble shooter, I often went places to face "trouble". Sometimes I shot it. Sometimes it shot me. My goal was always to fix the system and get some unhappy customers to be happy. I had spent a tough tour of duty in Chicago one winter week and the city suffered a great fog on that Friday afternoon. When I got to O'Hare International Airport, I learned that no more flights were landing. The airport was "fogged in". I was about the fiftieth person in line to find out if I would be leaving that evening. Only those with seats on planes that had landed before the fog set in would be departing. All the area hotels were full. Thousands of people were stranded. After a long and agonizing wait I learned that my plane was indeed on the ground and would be taking off as soon as they filled every seat.

Talk about jubilation! I worked my way through an unhappy crowd toward my gate. Some folks were beginning to stake out floor space in the airport for bedding down later. I clutched my boarding pass tightly as I hurried along.

After a considerable delay, that huge aircraft, fully loaded, rose from the ground. Mentally and physically exhausted I sat in my chair with my "seat back forward and tray table in a fully upright and locked position." The roar of the jet engines was a soothing noise droning in my ears. It was early evening as we ascended through a foggy, cold, dark blanket that covered northern Illinois. If you have flown before you can relate to the sight I am about to describe.

As we popped up through the clouds, the plane was filled with the radiance of a brilliant sunset over the top of a vast expanse of billowy white cotton. The sight was magnificent and such a contrast to the dark, dank surrounding we had left on the ground. I thought about how relieved I was to be in such beauty and peace and on my way home. It was at that moment that I recalled the words of the apostle Paul, writing to the church at Thessalonica about the coming of the Lord.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
(NIV) 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

I had a specific vision of the Lord coming again and me being up in the clouds without a plane; leaving the cares and struggles of this earthly life behind, knowing that the day of the Lord's return would be far greater than the total exhilaration I felt at that moment. Oh, I want to go to heaven more than I have ever wanted anything. I want to meet my Lord in the air. As this feeling was swelling up in me, the old gospel song, "I'll Fly Away" started running across my mind and under my breath. With tears of joy and hope I quietly sang,

Some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly way.
To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away.
Just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away.
To a land where joys shall never end, I'll fly away.
I'll fly away, old glory, I'll fly away.
When I die, hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away.

The stewardess came asked me if I was alright. I smiled and said, "I am unbelievably alright!". That is just the first part of my vision.

My mind went back to all those folks back on the ground. Many would be sleeping on the floor in the airport. They were stuck, without a ticket on the right plane. With them in my heart I came back to the meeting with the Lord in the air and it shook me hard. You see, everyone will not be meeting the Lord in the air. There will be those who have not gotten their soul into the right state to take off to heaven. Only for them, it will be far worse than spending a sleepless night in a cold airport terminal. It will last for eternity. Hell will be far, far worse than the Chicago O'Hare International airport.

My vision, my goal is not only for me to go to heaven, but for you to go, too. Along with all my friends, loved ones, acquaintances, and anyone I have an opportunity to influence. I want to go to heaven in a huge crowd!

That vision is the single most powerful motivator I have. My goal is big, exciting, and specific. It was so visible on that plane then; and here, now, as I write these words. I offer that vision to you. Set your sights high in every area of your life. It will make such an impact everyday, all the way to that so important last day when "the Lord himself will come down from heaven".

I hope I'll see you in the clouds, too.

Copyright © 1996 Wayne Grovenburg

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