How to Mind the Gap Between Now and Next

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[vimeo id="162715674"] We live in an instant society. I’m not saying it’s all bad. I like just having to flip a switch to turn the light on, instant microwave meals when I’m on the goal, and pre-packaged protein drinks after a long workout at the gym.

But having instant access to everything does come at a cost, especially for leaders. It means we risk losing patience we often need to endure (“the dip”) that Seth Godin talks about for the organizations we lead, the relationships we invest in, and the success we envision for ourselves. This lack of patience has, I believe, stunted our ability to enjoy the present and learn as much as we can from it.

Leaders have the ability to envision a better future. Great leaders also know that what they see in their head doesn’t happen in a day. (If it does, it’s not a big enough vision.) Instead, they recognize the need to be patient and accepting as they, themselves, along with the organizations they lead move toward that vision.

If you were to ask me a skill that every leader needs to master it would be the ability to patient and resolved in the midst of the tension between now and next. Now I’m not suggesting that there aren’t moments of accountability and moments that require us to lunge forward. Those times will come. But just because you say it, doesn’t make it true … yet. The better you are at developing patience as a leader, the sooner you will bring into reality the vision God has placed in your heart.

My best advice is this: If you want to go fast, go slow.

Here’s why:

  • Life is not a series of calculated steps. It zigs, zags, and starts all over again many, many times. Without patience, you could give up just before you experience a breakthrough.
  • We won’t learn everything we need to know in a classroom, sermon, or book. While all three are very important vehicles employed to transfer important ideas, they often fall short of the human experience that patience and perseverance can bring to the table.
  • Learning is a “push and pull” experience. Every day presents a series of challenges, victories, and setbacks. Wherever you are, be there. Be in the moment. It’s your best chance to tackle what will keep you from your goals tomorrow. If you ignore the present and live exclusively in the future, you won’t have the strength or focus you need to attack what’s in front of you.

How do we learn to lean into the tension that naturally exists between now and next? It begins with the recognition that life is not a series of predefined steps that quickly lead to a predictable set of outcomes.

The human experience is not on-demand.

We learn, grow, and change over time. Being present teaches us to become comfortable with unresolved tension, challenges, and questions. We will never grow or become more complete beings if we refuse to wrestle with God through the tough things just like Jacob did in Genesis 32.

I really like the book, (From Wilderness to Wonders), by Katherine Ruonala. She believes that life is a journey. I agree. We must wander through the desert before we find the Promised Land. Only that doesn’t happen once; it happens again and again and again.

Her message resonates with me because that’s been my experience. My journey from a sports broadcaster in a major market to a university president was not a straight line. And I desperately needed patience along the way to get me through the twists, turns, and setbacks along the way.

If we accept the fact that the wilderness is just as important as the Promised Land, then we can begin to embrace the tension of uncertainty, doubt, and fear. Instead of seeing these as obstacles, we begin to recognize them as catalysts for the change that God wants to bring about in our lives.

There is a gap between your now and your next. GET OVER IT.

The truth is there will always be. And as along as we recognize and “feel” that gap, we’ll remain open to how we are being positioned and prepared for what’s next. What you are doing today is vitally important to setting you up for what’s next.

You can’t do what’s next UNTIL you master what’s now.

The discipline of being present offers you and me the best chance for success in the midst of our becoming all we were created to be, do, and accomplish. The distance between now and next can be a scary, lonely, and even dark at times. But you can’t get to the Promised Land without going through the desert. There is no Easter without the Crucifixion. And there will be no personal growth without the dissatisfaction and discomfort of today.

Successfully navigating the gap between your now and your next will ensure you stay “in the game” long enough to see the change you want to bring about in the world. It will also ensure you are ready when what’s next is right in front of you. Perseverance is the name of the game. There is no such thing as the “overnight success.”

Action Required: Leaders need to learn patience and practice being present. What can you do to develop patience and be more present with yourself and those you lead today?