You face them every day you are always reacting to them–positively or negatively.
Think about it. What circumstances in your life do you wish would change right now?
A different work environment that doesn’t suck the life out of you
A happier marriage
A closer connection with God
A more understanding boss
I mean I get that. Few of us look over our life and pronounce things perfect.
But far too many people—and far too many leaders—make this one critical mistake in how they handle their circumstances.
The worst part is we do it without realizing we’ve done it.
The Critical Mistake
Far too often, we look to our circumstances to determine what’s going to happen next.
Today (and every day), you will tempted to let your circumstances define you.
It shows up innocently enough:
Well I can’t because…
That’s awesome for them but you need to understand my situation…
I’d love a chance at that, and yet…
I was going to do it but…
Well sure I would have more success if X wouldn’t be true…
I used to believe that was possible…
So what’s the critical mistake you and I will make over and over again unless we see it and address it?
You’ll let your circumstances define you. And….
If you let your circumstances define you, they’ll defeat you.
They will defeat you. I promise.
In fact, your circumstances will generate an excuse factory in your mind which will produce a thousand reasons why you can’t make the progress you were hoping to make.
They will convince you that you can’t change, that you can’t solve the problems you’re facing, that you need surrender to an inevitable fatalism.
Let that happen, and you will lead more poorly. You will live more poorly.
If you let your circumstances define you, they will defeat you.
A Strange Recipe for Greatness
The story of God’s people is always a story of God’s hope prevailing among tough circumstances.
The only time circumstances were close to ideal was in the Garden of Eden, and somehow we managed to mess that up.
Otherwise God has chosen to use:
Dysfunctional families (have you read the story of Joseph??)
A stammering prophet (Moses) who had to go up against the world’s most powerful king
Whales who love to eat humans
Death on a cross
Prisons and persecution
I always think if I was in one of those circumstances, I would wave a white flag and conclude God had abandoned me.
Which is exactly why you should never let your circumstances define you.
In each of these cases, God was writing a story that was bigger than any of those circumstances.
And leaders who realize that truth manage to transcend their circumstances to move into a better tomorrow.
Try to think of a great leader in biblical history or history as a whole whose legacy was a product of their circumstances.
That’s right. You can’t.
Because none of the great leaders we admire were made by their circumstances. They refused to let their circumstances define them. Instead, they overcame them.
They transcended them. They led in spite of them.
They also led around them and through them and overcame them.
That’s what makes for greatness.
Don’t Let Your Success Seduce You
Of course you know circumstances don’t always work against you.
Sometimes everything’s going your way. Some of you are in that situation right now. You can’t imagine things lining up better in your favour.
Which is exactly why you should still never let your circumstances define you. Because they will still defeat you.
You will stop working hard. You will stop dreaming about the future. You will be tempted to let your circumstances guide you there.
And they will, for a season. And then you’ll run out of momentum.
Ask every company that has to reinvent itself after a decade on top. Ask any happily married couple that hit cruise control only to discover they started drifting toward the ditch.
When you stop working on it and let circumstances define you, those same circumstances will eventually defeat you.
In fact, you will realize what every leader sliding down the far side of a success curve realizes:
The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.
If you don’t constantly fight against your circumstances and seek to transcend them, they will defeat you. Even the good circumstances.
So What Circumstances Do You Need to Fight Against Today?
Well the short answer is, all of them. At least at some level.
That’s why leaders are never content with the status quo. Progress requires we kick hard against the status quo, trusting all the while that if we follow hard after God and his truth, we will find a better tomorrow.
So how would you characterize your circumstances?
What do you hate (or love) right now that you can surrender into the arms of a loving and all-powerful God?
You will lead better.
You will live better.
And your circumstances will no longer define you or defeat you.
What are you learning about circumstances?
Leave a comment!
By the way, join me and over 5000 other leaders next month in Atlanta at the Orange Conference.
I’ll be speaking along with Andy Stanley, Mark Batterson, Perry Noble, Jeff Henderson, Derwin Gray, Ron Edmondson, Geoff Surratt and many more.