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Trading Frustration for a Different Focus

by Ryan Stigile

Regardless of position, leaders rarely find themselves satisfied by status quo. Except for the few who lead at the very top of an organization, the problems many see are outside of their control. Discouraged by their inability to make every necessary improvement, many church leaders choose to withdraw from the change process entirely. This “all or nothing” thinking places them in maintenance mode.

Recently, a business professor introduced me to three simple questions asked by managers seeking improvements to their production processes. Applied by church leaders, they can be very revealing about the things we choose to focus on . . .

  • What can I directly control?
  • What can I influence?
  • What is out of my control or influence?

Unfortunately, the things outside of our control or influence often absorb the majority of our focus. We recognize that we cannot affect them yet continue to develop unvoiced solutions in our minds. Rather than do what we can with what God has entrusted us, we allow ourselves to be distracted by the areas He has not.

Three unfortunate outcomes result from a focus on areas outside of our control or influence . . .

  1. We increase our own frustration. I am convinced that a focus on the uncontrollable is one of the greatest contributors to burnout. Nothing is more frustrating than investing significant energy that yields no results. Once we convince ourselves that we have solutions for others, we are sure to be frustrated when they do not see things the same way.
  2. We create frustration for others. The areas we focus on are likely to be the areas we attempt to speak into. When our areas of focus include those in which we lack control or influence, we create frustration for those leaders who are actually responsible for them. We have each been entrusted with specific roles in our churches. One of the best ways to gain influence with other leaders is to show faithfulness and skill within our own roles.
  3. We miss an opportunity for faith. Scripture is filled with examples of God’s ability to act in areas outside of our control. From Daniel in a lion’s den to Paul and Silas in a Roman prison, God has continually shown His power in the midst of man’s limitations. When we focus on things we cannot control, we miss the opportunity to have faith in the one who controls it all.

Rather than being distracted by those things that cannot be controlled or influenced, we should be diligent in focusing on the areas we can. In the areas we control, we should develop and implement plans for improvement. In the areas we influence, we should begin to carefully expose problems to create conversations for solutions. And in the areas beyond our control and influence, we must choose to trust God. Doing anything but will only lead to frustration.