Pursuing Structure, Finding Freedom

by Nancy Austin

Welcome back to school! This is one of my favorite times of year, a fresh start mid-year. The return to routine is somehow the perfect counter-balance to the unrestricted days of summer. This was really clear when I was a classroom teacher, not just in the obvious change in schedule but in the smaller intricacies of the classroom. The first week of class was predominantly about setting the tone and establishing expectations for the year.

I think we can all see the value in that. We’d be appalled to find our kids enrolled in a free-for-all classroom with little thought to goal-setting and the steps needed to get there. So why is it, do you think, that as adults we so often do life that way?

Let’s Talk

Every personality assessment I have ever taken tells me that I am a rule-follower. I like order. I value systems. I prefer to have a plan. I am a lifetime subscriber to the notion that outer order contributes to inner calm yet I’ve recently come to realize that with structure comes freedom.

They say only three adults out of 100 write down their goals. For some people, writing out goals seems too limiting: life is spontaneous and unpredictable, they don’t want to be tethered by written goals. For others, goals setting just takes too long: there’s always another hill to climb, another task to conquer, some new challenge to be had, they don’t want to stop long enough to write their goals down. My hesitation came from a different arena: I was afraid I would fail. My argument went something like this:

If I don’t write the goals down, I can’t fail to achieve them,
therefore no written goals = no failure.

As part of being coached I was tasked with writing a vision statement for each area of my life: spiritual health, family health, financial health, physical health, and professional health, then crafting actions that would move me toward that reality. Here’s where my aha moment came…

We were working on the family health chapter and I was drafting some steps I would take to move from my current reality toward the reality I hoped for. In my ideal world, I am always the wife that encourages and empowers her husband. In reality though, I am more often the wife that piles on and asks-one-more-thing-from-her husband, who is already worn down by his other tasks and responsibilities. Since my husband is an introvert, encouraging and empowering him look a lot like allowing him some guilt-free alone time and then just getting out of the way. So providing that space became my Faith Step. It changed my outlook so that instead of thinking about how I wished he would __________________, I thought about what I could do to make that space possible for him.

Et voila! God changed my heart to follow my thoughts. Instead of feeling hard-done-by, I felt empowered. Instead of feeling short-changed, I felt freed.

The structure of writing out a vision statement in combination with the exercise of considering what actions were required to move me toward that reality, became the tool God used to free me to become the wife I wanted (want) to be.

The structure of coaching allowed me to narrow the gap between my reality and my intention.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3

Before You Go

Freedom and structure seem antithetical but, like so many things, God designed us to need both. In fact, it’s difficult to have one without the other. Back-to-School is the perfect time to consider: where have you pursued structure and found freedom? Where do you need to?!?

Want to find out more about Coaching? Email our Coaching Director, Tom Hurt at coaching@thepacificconference.com for more information or to get signed up.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Excellent post Nancy! Thanks for the reminder to write down/up-date goals.


  2. Bill Vermillion says:

    nicely done Nancy!


  3. Jana Hill says:

    Oh Nancy, stop it! That made perfectly good sense and a very good idea. Darn, argh. Well, first thing I will do is read this great article again! Thanks!


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