Here we are, already more than a week into 2019. How many times have you already been asked about your New Years' Resolution? I'll bet more than a few people have brought it up. Every new year presents a natural opportunity to break old habits, form new habits, and make yourself a promise or two for how you'll become a better person over the next 12 months. That's the dream, right?

A few years ago, I stopped making resolutions. Why? Well, research overwhelmingly shows that when it comes to following through on resolutions, the vast majority of people don't last very long. I've always been squarely in that group.

Instead, I started setting goals for the year. You might be thinking, "What's the difference?" Well I'll tell you.

As a student of leadership, I'm always on the lookout for ways to grow and better myself for the benefit of the people I lead. I've always heard it said (and I believe it's true) that good leaders are readers.

The problem is, I've never been a good reader. Like many people, I have a bad habit of starting a book, making it a few chapters in, and then losing interest and moving on. I've started into dozens, maybe hundreds of books in my lifetime with good intentions, but rarely do I make it to the end.

I want to increasingly use my time wisely and productively, so this past year I decided it was past time to change that pattern. I set a goal of reading 24 books cover-to-cover in 2018. In the end, I actually wound up reading 39 books this past year (more on that in a future post).

Everybody feels inadequate sometimes, right? Yesterday was one of the worst days I can remember. I just couldn't shake this feeling of not being good enough. This morning, I woke up still in that rut. I wasn't reading my Bible or doing anything spiritual...I was brushing my teeth when a thought came to mind. I suddenly thought of a story from John 21. It's one of my favorites. I've blogged about this story before, about how sometimes the best miracle God does in our lives is simply that He holds us together. But this time, a different thought came to mind.

The responsibility of teaching is one that should never be taken lightly. Every time I speak to or teach my students or any other group, I make the following promises:
    1. I will always be honest. I won't sugarcoat the facts or shy away from the truth. I won't attempt to present things in a false light just to avoid controversy. I won't abuse my position by twisting the truth in order to gain or profit anything. I will always be as honest and real as I possibly can.

Writer's Note: Something I'm passionate about is helping leaders last in the positions of leadership God has given them. As a young leader I've learned a few lessons the hard way and I welcome the opportunity to share my experience with others to hopefully help other young leaders avoid some of the same traps I've been caught up in. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to occasionally write for a series called "Leaders That Last" with the purpose of helping leaders last (maybe survive is a better word for some of us) through the difficulties of growing and living as an intentional leader. While this series is intended for leaders, there maybe something that's helpful to you even if you don't consider yourself to be a leader. I hope that you find something inspiring or beneficial.

 "You made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its place of rest in you."

I read those words for the first time about 3 years ago. I was in the middle of probably the most physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausting season of my life and a friend recommended that I should set aside 5 minutes a day and read through Confessions of St. Augustine. That quote was on the first page of the first section, titled Confession of the Greatness of God. I kept reading, but those words echoed in my mind. At the time, I was working an average of 55-60 hours a week, balancing all the same various aspects of life that you are probably trying to balance. I was playing with fire, lingering on the edge of burnout, and I didn't even know it. All I knew was that I felt constantly tired. I felt numb; I didn't experience normal highs and lows...just a consistent state of exhaustion. My spiritual life was hanging by a thread.

To be successful, every organization, church, or business needs a clearly defined mission and vision. (Tweet this) Without defined goals, processes, and systems, nothing can be measured or evaluated. No progress can be made. The challenge for leaders young and old is not understanding the power and importance of these two vital identity components. The challenge is understanding their basic function and how they relate to each other. I often see churches that have two mission statements, but no vision. This is so common it's actually the norm. Churches have catchy, clever, and carefully crafted slogans that they call a vision but that represent little meaning to the actual operational direction. As I train our team at First Christian Church Student Ministry, and as I coach other leaders to develop and implement strategic vision within their organization, I explain these concepts in a simple, clear way. Here's what it looks like:

The first time I dreamed that I was drowning, I was actually surprised to wake up. It was so real and so vivid that I actually believed that I was dying. I don't know if you've ever dreamt you were drowning, but it's terrifying. I was even more surprised because I don't normally dream, or if I do I don't remember them when I wake up. But this one felt more like real life than a dream, and even a few minutes after I woke up, I was still breathing heavy and my heart was beating fast. That night a few years ago is one I haven't forgotten. It came in the middle of a time in my life when I had some big decisions to make and didn't know what to do. Things were good at work, but I was feeling pressure to succeed, and for someone like me who struggles with not tying my identity to my achievements, this was crushing. I was finding that I didn't know how to do what I needed to do to keep things moving forward, and my bag of tricks and easy ideas was running out.