Have you ever been worried that something you plan will be a disaster? When you plan something you want it to turn out well, but how can you be sure that will happen?
I tend to be a scatterbrained creative type person. By that I mean it’s like someone let loose a million Ping-Pong balls in my head at once. Each is an idea bouncing around until I decide to pursue it or hit off the table. Many times I feel like my life could be a “Good Idea, Bad Idea” segment (If you know that reference is talking about without the following explanation, please comment!)
“Good Idea, Bad Idea” was a recurring segment on my favorite cartoon series from the 90’s, Animaniacs. I highly recommend watching every episode on Netflix multiple times, at least until you can sing the theme song word for word. This 20 second segment always featured a “Good Idea” and a slight variation that made it a very “Bad Idea.” While hilarious, I realized they drive home a good point. (I may have just spent the last ten minutes watching a compilation of every “Good Idea Bad Idea” on YouTube. I call it “research.”) Often, the difference between something being a good idea and a bad idea is something very small. Perhaps it’s timing (skiing in the winter is good, skiing in the summer is bad) or maybe just the setting. (Like playing a piccolo instead of a piano in a marching band.)
Sometimes we get so laser focused on what we think is a good idea that we miss one detail that makes it a bad idea. The small detail could be the difference between gliding down a hill or crashing into rocks.
This one verse is something I frequently remember when I’m faced with a decision:
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22 (NIV)
Now, I’m not suggesting you run a poll on twitter about what you should have for breakfast every morning, but there is value in hearing the input from trusted people. You need to be careful who you let be your counsel. Even close friends or family members may not be the best people for the situation. Likewise, a total stranger may not be the best person either. Consider two things.
First, how well does this person know the topic of your decision? If you need swimming lessons, you probably aren’t going to your local coffee shop. Sure there may be a barista who could show you some basics, but you need a swimming instructor. Likewise, if you want a really good cappuccino, you don’t want a lifeguard handing you a cup of pool water. Both may be great people, but their area of expertise is different.
Second, consider how well the person knows you. This can work both ways. Sometimes people close to us aren’t the best advisors. They can be too emotionally invested or they may see your strengths while overlooking a weakness that could be something vital to consider. Other times, you just plain clash. From the time I could pick out my own clothes until today, my mom and I have a joke when we go shopping together. There is usually one item I’ll pick up and she just looks at me and says “that’s not my style, but if you like it go for it. Don’t ask my opinion on it.” We often clash on style.
I’m in a phase in my life where I’m having to make many decisions that will impact my future. Some are small and actually fun, but others a huge and will have big consequences if I choose wrong. Just a few days ago I wanted some advice on something small, but important to me. I let 4 people have input. One is a professional and a friend who is giving me options. Another, my mom, predictably said “that’s not my style but if you like it, go for it.” My father told me he noticed some nice subtle details. My best friend analyzed every option I showed her. She knows me. She knows my story and my dreams. She also has an eye for how others will perceive this. She’s my chief tribal council member. If necessary, she will tell me what option needs voted off the island if I’m too blind to see it. The decision is still 100% mine, but her input helps me refine and know where to focus.
There is a flip side to this verse I often overlooked until recently. Sometimes when we seek advice from others, their input while valid, may not be accurate. That can be very valuable. Now if someone is giving constructive criticism, we need to listen, but sometimes those holes they find are things we can fix or we need to consider. They help us count the cost of the decision we’re making. They might not think it’s a good idea to sacrifice a large amount of time to a project, but after seeing their point of view, you realize it’s a sacrifice you can and want to make. It makes you more sure of your decision, because you’ve weighed more options. Now please, don’t take this as an excuse to ask someone for advice knowing you are going to disagree, looking to rebel, or have an argument. I’m talking about real, honest advice that lets you see the big picture.
Even if you’re alone with no other person to advice you, you’re not really alone.
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)
Jesus is our Counselor. He listens like no other and gives perfect advice.
Making decisions isn’t always easy. Even decisions about something fun can cause tension and stress. God promises with the right counsel our plans will succeed. For success to come, we may have to actually take the advice we get and change our plans, but the success is worth it. Following God’s plan is always a Good Idea.
I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever thought you had a good idea only to realize it was a bad idea when you asked for some advice? What did people say to you that helped you make the right choice?
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