Detachment and Reflection to Gain Perspective

What have you learned in the past 12 months?

Two of the best disciplines we can adopt are detachment and reflection in order to gain perspective and make plans going forward.

Yesterday the church cabinet staff had our regular meeting. Our cabinet is comprised of pastors and ministry leaders representing about two dozen ministry areas of the church. We were asked a reflective question that can help shape the future of our ministries. I think this question is applicable life, family and business as well as ministry.

Here’s the question:

What have you learned in the past 12 months?

My process for answering the question…

So much has changed in the last year. I invested more time reflecting and praying than planning. Some would argue that focusing on the future and moving ahead are more important than reflection. I am a contrarian and argue that detaching in order to assess events, changes in the ministry environment and taking an honest look at the good and bad are keys to planning. I’d say that the more complex the issues and events of the past, the more important reflection becomes.

I intentionally employ a slowed-down version of the OODA Loop.

The OODA Loop is an acronym that stands for:

Observe
Orient
Decide
Act

The OODA Loop concept was put forth by the great military strategist Colonel John Richard Boyd, United States Air Force. Simply put, it is the decision-making that occurs in a recurring cycle of observe – orient – decide – act. An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage.

To put it another way, “(The OODA Loop) explains how individuals and organizations can win in uncertain and chaotic environments.” – Tyler Pearson

You and I run through the OODA loop thousands of times per day. Next time you are driving somewhere, you’ll stop at a red traffic light (hopefully). Your act of stopping at that light was acheived by the process of the OODA Loop. You observed an intersection ahead and saw a red light. You oriented yourself in proximity to the intersection and the vehicles around you. You decided that you were going to stop at the red light (smart move). Finally, you took action and applied the brakes and stopped your car at the intersection. You just experienced the OODA Loop. When the traffic light turns green, your loop begins all over again. Check out the video below this post to learn more…

Observe Slowly:
In my reflection, I take time to observe what has happened and how all that has happened is effecting current conditions and how past decisions (good and bad) have shaped current conditions. This must be an honest assessment of self and my decision-making. Honest feedback must be gathered from trusted partners. This is where the organizational hierarchy is allowed to be flattened where all team members are on the same level with the leaders and everyone has a seat at the table to provide input.

Orient Carefully:
I take in information I have observed and start to carefully orient myself and get my bearings. I’ve had some experience and training in land navigation (Land Nav). “Land navigation is the discipline of following a route through unfamiliar terrain on foot or by vehicle, using maps with reference to terrain, a compass, and other navigational tools” (Wiki). Honestly, I am terrible at it. However, I understand the most important exercise in Land Nav is ascertaining my current position on a map. If I don’t know where I am on a map, there is no way I’m going to reach my destination. The same goes for orientating myself in the current moment in time in order to decide or plan for the future.

I learned two major lessons in the last 12 months in ministry. It struck my how these lessons apply to life, family and business.

1. BE FLEXIBLE: There is a great line from Gunny Highway (Clint Eastwood) from the film “Heartbreak Ridge” where Highway is addressing his platoon of misfit Marines. He said that in facing adversity on the battlefield a good Marine will, “improvise, adapt and overcome.” In other words, we must be flexible. In the last year of ministry, I had to learn to be flexible due to changing conditions and challenging situations in ministry. Our 2019 pre-COVID plans were often set aside, particularly in regard to events. Therefore, we had to improvise and adapt ministry operations in order to overcome obstacles and accomplish our mission. COVID never changed our mission but our means of achieving our mission changed dramatically.

2. BE DEPENDENT ON GOD: Another lesson I learned was not to hang on to anything too tightly. Due to challenging circumstances and changing conditions, I learned a deeper dependence on God. He reminded me that He is in ultimate control and He would see to it that His purposes would reach completion. Sometimes God puts us in a place of desperation where we come to realize that He is the only one who can make things happen. And sometimes God accomplishes this in surprising ways. Therefore, I learned to be open-handed with my plans and projects knowing that God could step in at any moment and change things. There is a kind of freedom in that experience.

What does all this mean for you?

I believe that if you take time to detach, reflect and observe how things have unfolded and decisions you made (good and bad) in the last 12 months, you can orient yourself. Then, you can make plans and decide how to best move forward. Finally, you can act (completing the OODA Loop).

Remember, being flexible is key to success in an ever-changing environment in ministry, business and in the home. At the end of the day, remember that God is in charge. Your responsibility is to pray, plan and walk in obedience to His Word and purposes. Leave the results to Him. His plans and ways are higher than yours. Be open-handed with your plans and projects knowing that God owns it all and loves you. He will surprise you beyond your understanding.

(Comment and share your thoughts below)

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