Shoelaces Untied


I like to think that I am good at a lot of things. But, it’s highly likely that I’m bad at way more things than I am good at. Discipline in one of those things that I don’t excel at. For me, discipline falls in the same category as golf, basketball, poker, curling, dancing and and whole lot of other things.

The last time I had a conversation about discipline, I attempted to clarify where I stood by comparing myself and how I struggle with discipline to a pair of shoelaces. I start out tied tight and neat but, as time goes on, I get looser and looser until I become a hazard to myself and need to be retied.

I’ve come to the conclusion that working on my discipline is a never-ending job — especially when it comes to self improvement and to things that relate to my relationship with God.

I am a walking example of entropy — always moving toward maximum disorder. That’s why I need to periodically stop and “re-tie” the laces.

A couple of week ago, I finally tripped on my untied laces. No permanent injuries (hooray)but it became obvious that it was time for a re-tie. This time, I took a different approach by asking myself three important questions.

Q1: What’s My Mission?

If I don’t know where I’m going, I’ll never get there. I don’t think that this is anywhere in the Bible but when I asked myself this question, it became apparent that I didn’t have a personal mission statement that I could clearly understand. Without this mission statement, it could never be clear if what I was doing was moving me toward a place where I would be at peace with what I do on a daily basis.

I thought about this and came up with the following “mission”:

Whatever I do, it should:

  1. Build up my relationship with God so I can understand what He expects from me and how to live in His world.
  2. Encourage a good relationship with my wife and family
  3. Keep Shalom (peace) in my life and my household
  4. Encourage good, important and deep relationships with other people

Simple and obvious? Sure– but trying to “boil the ocean”never works. Rather, if I can focus and evaluate what I do and who I am against these four things, I hope that I can move toward who I should be.

The beauty here is not necessarily the questions but that I have something simple and straightforward that I can use to evaluate what I do.

Q2: How Come I Never Seem To Have Enough Time?

God gives everyone the exact same amount of hours in a day. I am responsible for choosing what to spend that time on.

Past experience has taught me that If I let discipline slip, my time gets filled with what I want to do and what I like to do, not things that help me accomplish my mission. No, not every little thing I do is 100% focused on my mission. (I do occasionally watch an episode of Bosch on Amazon Prime.)

I always have enough time. I have the same amount of time that everyone else has. Not having enough time means that I am making the choice to to use my time on things that dilute my mission.

Q3: What (Specifically) Should I Be Doing?

There are millions of opportunities during the day where our culture and others bombard us to ‘do this or do that’. Advertisements, friends, and work supply a never ending stream of “to-dos”.

My challenge is sifting through these things to decide which of these demands fit into my mission and which don’t. My goal is to find some less than overwhelming number of items I should be doing on a regular basis and discard the rest of the incoming noise.

To help me figure out this list, I made a simple chart that looks like this

Move Away From Doing These Move Toward Doing These
Time Wasters How To Fix Time “Good” Things How To Encourage
 …  …  …  …

Putting things in this order helped me identify what I could be focusing on (Time Good Things) and most importantly what things I should be doing to encourage myself to move in this direction. It also helped me identify those things that I should not be doing — figuring that not doing these things would leave me more space and time to focus on what I should be doing.

This helped me build up specific things that I should be doing (and should be avoiding) that will help me keep focused on my mission.

I also made a chart that looked like the following:

I am Dissatisfied With These Things How to Make Them Better
 …  …

I didn’t make this list to discourage me, I made it so that I could have some specific tasks that I could start to focus on. Knowing that this list will expand and contract, I purposely kept the first version of it small and concise. Remember, I’m not trying to boil the ocean here — just re-tie my shoelaces.


A few pieces of wisdom I have collected over the years that help me:

  1. It’s OK to say no: As I said before, every day, we have a lot of “asks” coming  our way. The people who are asking have no idea what your mission is. They. Just. Ask.One reason that I keep my mission list close by is so that I can evaluate if what I am asked is in line with, or will distract me from my mission. I get an email or a text and I count to 10 before answering. In that time, I evaluate the request against my mission. If it doesn’t fit, I respectfully decline. I let my “yes be yes and my no be no”.
  2. Wage war on noise and distractions: In my latest round of self evaluation, I discovered that a lot of my time was being taken up by my on-line and app addiction.I took a look at how I was using my time and was amazed at how much of a distraction the apps on my phone were. Alarms that buzzed when an email arrives, checking Facebook, reading news, checking Reddit were all things that sucked time, distracted me and filled my head with noise.To fix this, I just deleted these apps from my phone. And guess what, I’m still alive! I am surviving and I have more time to think and interact with the world.
  3. Take advantage of things that will help you focus on your mission: Others have struggled in the same way I do. I didn’t have to invent anything new!Bible reading programs, time off of work spent with your family, meeting a friend for coffee on a regular basis, participating in a life group are all opportunities that people were handing me. All I need to do is to take advantage of them.However, I only said yes to things like this if I could clearly understand how they help me keep a focus on my mission.This doesn’t imply that you have to be “programmed up” or that you can only get more disciplined by buying and reading self-improvement books, it’s just an admission that some people are better at being disciplined than I am.
  4. Mark your calendar: To help me keep my mission in focus, I am going to make sure I review it and my lists every three months or so. I put a reminder in my calendar to set aside an hour or two and ask if the things in my lists and in my mission statements still make sense.If they don’t, I’ll make changes. My lists (like life) are not static. Situations change and hopefully I am getting smarter and better at doing things.

At least I hope I trip less over my own laces.

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