Usually the New Year is a time to set the direction for the next year. As a company, we did. At our recent company retreat, we set priorities, goals, concerns—essentially the direction we’re going in 2007 and beyond. We do this in business life and most of us do this in personal life. And by setting the direction we hope to end up at the right place. But we don’t always end up there, do we? We get off course.
In my youth, I was a competitive swimmer. I remember a certain swim meet when I was 12 or 13. I was competing in the backstroke event, which is a race where you swim on your back and can’t see where you’re going (sounds like a great idea). The gun went off and I was doing fine, blindly paddling my way to the other end. That wasn’t so bad—the lane was wide and sectioned off by lane lines.
But no pool goes on forever; at some point there comes a wall and you have to do something about it. The flags at the end of the pool mark the impending wall. The idea is to see the flags and begin counting your strokes and at the right time, turn over into a turn, push off the wall and start another lap, all the while maintaining your speed.
Usually it goes off without a hitch, but not with me: I saw the flags, counted my strokes, turned over into a turn, pushed off the wall and came to the surface…into the other lane, which was occupied by another swimmer. Confused why the view was different and why someone else was in my lane, I realized what I did, that I was off course. I swam under the lane line and was back on my way. But since this wasn’t the Goofy Olympics, I didn’t win the race.
God wants us to stay on course. In the book of Philippians, he says, “Do not be anxious about anything…” The word anxious in its original language means “to be drawn in different directions or to be distracted.” Anxiety gets us off course from our original aim; it steers us away from our intention, from our purpose.
Have you ever noticed how anxiety makes a situation worse? It rarely makes a situation better. We start off on our way, doing whatever it is we do—performing an online demo, responding to customer concerns, trying to understand a complicated project—and then anxiety sets in. We can easily react to the anxiety (sometimes it speaks VERY LOUD)—spending time, money and energy on the wrong things—rather than pursue our original purpose.
When we are tempted by anxiety, it’s good to ask, “What is my real purpose here? What different direction is this anxiety trying to draw me to? How am I being called off course?” Then, we can adjust accordingly. If we understand how anxiety operates—in getting us off course—we’ll be better equipped to resist it and stay on course.
And that’s not goofy at all.