I am reading a great book. Actually, I am nearly always reading more than one great book. This one in particular is likely to influence future Purpose & Now entries; it certainly inspired my thoughts today and it inspired an earlier post by my friend, Jared Vogel. The book is Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God by Mark Batterson. I am nearly finished, but my thoughts today are inspired from the book’s beginning. Batterson writes about how, too often, people find themselves taken into safe havens, away from risk, where struggles are mitigated and the danger removed. Sound tempting? Actually, what I might call “safe haven syndrome” scares me and it concerns Batterson, a church pastor among other things, because it creates what he calls “caged Christians”.
I believe all of us are borne into a life of adventure, yet end up spending too much of our lives avoiding adventures with safe homes, safe neighborhoods, safe churches, safe jobs, safe communities… We become risk averse and ill-prepared to deal with struggles in a world filled with opportunities for adventure. I am not advocating unsafe communities or unwise risks, by any means. I am advocating an adventurous and purposeful life.
For example, parenting is tough. Perhaps the toughest part of parenting is allowing my sons’ adventures, allowing them to take risks, make mistakes, learn, succeed and and even allowing them to fail. Certainly, I want to equip them to make good decisions about the paths they take, but I also encourage them to explore new paths which by their very nature are dangerous and risky. I dread that they must deal with the consequences of bad decisions. My biggest fear is that they might take an all-too dangerous path and fall off a figurative cliff. So my most important role as parent is not protecting my sons from dangerous paths, but preparing them to choose the right adventures and survive or conquer hidden dangers. Otherwise, like so many of the youth and adults I work with as a coach – my sons might end up “caged”.
What cages us in? Batterson lists six cages that keep us from living the life of adventure and purpose meant for us. They reflect the very same obstacles that I find are holding back my clients from pursuing their God-given dreams and goals. They are the very same obstacles that hold me back from time to time.
The first cage is the Cage of Responsibility. Those endless “to-do lists”, overflowing schedules and “crackberries” ringing and vibrating at all times can bury us in responsibility. Less important responsibilities displace important ones. We find our ourselves getting a lot done, but little of it truly brings us alive. This is productivity without purpose. When your “should do” list takes precedence over your “must do” list; when your responsibilities become excuses for not pursuing your passion – you may be caged by responsibility.
The second cage is the Cage of Routine. Now there is nothing wrong with a good routine. I am the first to suggest that healthy habits breed success. But when our daily routine becomes too routine, it’s time to disrupt the routine. Try something different; mix things up a bit. Otherwise, as Batterson aptly puts it, “sacred routines become empty rituals that keep us caged.”
The third cage is the Cage of Assumptions. Batterson describes this cage as when we start living out of memory rather than imagination and stop believing and start assuming. Hope springs from belief in possibilities. When we assume our possibilities are limited, so are our choices and we become caged by these assumptions. What assumptions might be caging you in? I’m too old. I’m too young. It will cost too much. It will take too much time. Someone else will do it. I’m not qualified. I had no choice. Assumptions cage us into what has been rather than what could be.
Another cage is the Cage of Guilt. This one saddens me the most. I’ve known people with “neutralized spirits” who remain focused on their regrets. Guilt changes our reflexes from hope and possibility to dread and reactionary. As long as we are focused on what we have done wrong in the past we have little energy to dream and take right actions for the present and future.
Fifth is the Cage of Failure. Sometimes our efforts must fail in order to learn or, as Batterson wisely writes, “…in order for God’s plans to succeed.” You may be familiar with the story of Thomas Edison, who believed he had to fail “a thousand times” in order to get the light bulb right one time. Failure becomes a cage when we come to believe it is the only possible end result.
The last cage Batterson describes is the Cage of Fear. You know what F.E.A.R. stands for? False Expectations Appearing Real. Our adventures get derailed by fear of what might happen, what others might think, and countless other fears. I always say there are at least seven obstacles to every goal; fear is nearly always one of them. The world needs more daring people with daring plans for daring adventures. Why not you?
All six cages require a reconditioning of spirit, action based on noble values and openness to new possibilities. A life of adventure keeps us out of these cages, but we must constantly seek opportunities to live in the world in new ways. One new question, one new thought, one discussion, one action, one step outside of the cages you live in can change everything for you. Everything.
“Life is either a dangerous adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller