I was on staff at my church two and a half years ago when they brought in a consultant to help us navigate through the rapid growth we were experiencing. I was on maternity leave at the time but I attended the two day session anyways because I’m a leadership nerd and love that kind of stuff. I brought my nursing six week old baby boy with me. While he vacillated between sleeping and screaming, I asked myself a question I asked often during those days of parenting a three year old and an infant, “Why do I even try?”
As I planned my exit, our lead pastor leaned over and said, “Relax.” I took a deep breath and settled back into my seat. As I relaxed, so did my son. I’m so thankful I stayed that day because I learned a tool for taking a current inventory and leading change that is so powerful, so versatile, and so simple that I use it at least once a week in all aspects of my life.
The consultant asked us the following four questions about our church and staff team and filled a white board up with the answers:
Then he had us narrow it down to our core issues, the ones we were going to address immediately. After some research I learned that these questions are called “The Four Helpful Lists,” created by Tom Paterson. Since that day I’ve lead myself through this exercise countless times concerning:
- My freelance writing business
- My blog
- To debrief a speaking engagement
- My parenting (a separate list for each child)
- Our family
- Our home (how it functions, organization, cleanliness, meals, schedules, etc.)
- My Spark group (a women’s group I host and lead weekly though my church)
- Our marriage (on a napkin during a date night!)
I’ve even stopped to ask myself these four questions about my life in general when I’ve simply felt “off” or “out of sorts.” This exercise never fails to bring clarity and direction to situations and has helped get me unstuck more times than I can count.
These four questions have brought so much value to my life that I love sharing them with others, from mamas in the trenches (it’s how I begin my workshop, So Long Survival: Going From Barely Surviving To Living With Purpose ) to faith-based event planners. I recently wrote this article for Connect Faith, 6 Steps to an Effective Post-Event Debrief. Read it for more details on how to implement this tool in your own personal or professional life and let me know in the comments if you try it. I’d LOVE to hear the outcome!